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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks before the New Atlantic Initiative Conference
The Mayflower Hotel
Washington, D.C., February 9, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

Blue Bar

As Delivered

NATO Expansion

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much. Goodness, I hate to begin this by denying a compliment, but it’s not quite true. I think there was great support for expanding NATO, before I came on the scene. It’s very hard to get up here and say, "I loved your introductions, but it’s not true."

Christopher, thank you very much; and let me welcome my colleague Foreign Ministers Geremek, Kovacs, Mikhailova and Sedivy to Washington. And let me thank John O’Sullivan, Jeffrey Gedmin and everyone at the New Atlantic Initiative for all you have done to strengthen America’s partnership with its friends and allies in Europe, old and new.

As I was thinking about this speech, I remembered a chart of European organizations that I actually asked to be created that’s making its rounds around the State Department. It consists of not two or three but 13 colored overlapping circles, with the names of countries grouped according to the institutions to which they belong. There’s NATO and the EU; the Council of Europe and the Council of Baltic States; the Central European Free Trade Association and the Nordic Council; the Partnership for Peace and the EAPC; the NATO-Russia PJC and the Southeastern European Cooperative Initiative; the NATO-Ukraine Commission and the Western European Union. And then, of course, there is OSCE, which includes them all.

Now, here I am addressing the New Atlantic Initiative; I’ll probably have to throw in something about the New Transatlantic Agenda, and I guess you want me to explain how all this Euro-architecture fits together. Unfortunately, I have concluded that you have to be either a genius or French to keep it all straight.

(Laughter.)

Which reminds me of an inscrutable comment a French diplomat actually made once in response to an American proposal: "It will work in practice, yes. But will it work in theory?"

(Laughter.)

In all seriousness, the development of these old and new organizations in Europe is part of a truly hopeful global trend that our country has done more than any other to shape. In every part of the world, we have encouraged the growth of institutions that bring nations closer together around basic principles of democracy, free markets, respect for the law and a commitment to peace.

America’s place – and I believe, correctly -- is at the center of this emerging international system. And our challenge is to see that the connections around the center, between regions and among the most prominent nations, are strong and dynamic, resilient and sure. But it is equally our goal to ensure that the community we are building is open to all those nations, large and small, distant and near, that are willing to play by its rules.

There was a time not long ago when we did not see this as clearly as we do today. Until World War II, we didn’t really think that most of the world was truly part of our world. This attitude even applied to the half of Europe that lay east of Germany and Austria. Central Europe and Eastern Europe was once a quaint, exotic mystery to most Americans. We wondered at King Zog of Albania; we puzzled about Admiral Horthy, ruler of landlocked Hungary; we laughed with the Marx Brothers as they sang "Hail, Hail Fredonia."

Jan Masaryk, the son of Czechoslovakia’s first president, used to tell a story about a U.S. Senator who asked him, "How’s your father; does he still play the violin?" To which Jan replied, "Sir, I fear you are making a small mistake. You are perhaps thinking of Paderewski and not Masaryk. Paderewski plays piano, not the violin, and was president not of Czechoslovakia, but of Poland. Of our presidents, Benes was the only one who played. But he played neither the violin nor the piano, but football. In all other respects, your information is correct."

(Laughter.)

It took the horror of World War II and the Holocaust to get across the message that this region mattered; that it was the battleground and burial ground for Europe’s big powers; that the people of Paris and London could neither be safe nor free as long as the people of Warsaw and Riga and Sofia were robbed of their independence, sent away in box cars, and gunned down in forests.

President Bush certainly understood this when, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, he inspired us to seek a Europe whole and free. And President Clinton understood it when, in 1993, he set in motion a process that would bring that ideal to life.

Part of our challenge was to adapt NATO to master the demands of the world not as it has been, but as it is and will be. This meant adopting a new strategic concept, streamlining NATO’s commands, accepting new missions and asking our European allies to accept new responsibilities. It also meant welcoming Europe’s new democracies as partners, and some eventually as members, in a way that preserves NATO’s integrity and strength. For NATO, like any organization, is defined not just by its mission, but by its makeup. The preeminent security institution in an undivided Europe cannot maintain the Iron Curtain as its permanent eastern frontier.

And so last July, after three years of careful study, President Clinton and his fellow NATO leaders invited three new democracies -- Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic -- to join our alliance, while holding the door open to others. This month, Canada and Denmark became the first NATO members to ratify the admission of our future central European allies. On Wednesday, President Clinton will send the instruments of ratification to the United States Senate.

The strategic rationale for this policy is straightforward. First, a larger NATO will make us safer by expanding the area of Europe where wars do not happen. By making it clear that we will fight, if necessary, to defend our new allies, we make it less likely that we will ever be called upon to do so. It is true that no part of Europe faces an immediate threat of armed attack. But this does not mean we face no dangers in Europe. There is the obvious risk of ethnic conflict. There is the growing threat posed by rogue states with dangerous weapons. There are still questions about the future of Russia.

And while we cannot know what other dangers might arise in ten or 20 or 50 years from now, we know enough from history and human experience to believe that a grave threat, if allowed to arise, would arise. Whatever the future may hold, it will not be in our interest to have a group of vulnerable, excluded nations sitting in the heart of Europe. It will be in our interest to have a vigorous and larger alliance with those European democracies that share our values and our determination to defend them.

A second reason why enlargement passes the test of national interest is that it will make NATO stronger and more cohesive. Our Central European friends are passionately committed to NATO. Experience has taught them to believe in a strong American role in Europe. They will add strategic depth to NATO, not to mention 200,000 troops. Their forces have risked their lives alongside ours from the Gulf War to Bosnia. Without the bases Hungary has already provided to NATO, our troops could not have deployed to Bosnia as safely as they did. Here are three qualified European democracies that want us to let them be good allies. We can and should say yes.

A third reason to support a larger NATO is that the very promise of it has given the nations of Central and Eastern Europe an incentive to solve their own problems. Aspiring allies have strengthened democratic institutions; made sure soldiers serve civilians, not the other way around; and resolved virtually every old ethnic and border dispute in the region.

I have been a student of Central European history, and I have lived some of it myself. When I see Romanians and Hungarians building a real friendship after centuries of enmity; when I see Poles, Ukrainians and Lithuanians forming joint military units after years of suspicion; when I see Czechs and Germans overcoming decades of mistrust; when I see Central Europeans confident enough to improve their political and economic ties with Russia, I know something amazing is happening. NATO is doing for Europe’s east precisely what it did for Europe’s west after World War II.

I know that there are serious critics who have had legitimate concerns about our policy. We have grappled with many of the same concerns. Some revolve around the cost of a larger NATO, which will be real. But NATO has now approved estimates which make clear that the costs will be manageable, that they will be met, and that they will be shared fairly.

I certainly understand the concern some have expressed about Russian opposition to a larger NATO. But as Secretary of State, I can tell you that Russia’s disagreement on this issue has not in any way hurt our ability to work together on other issues. On the contrary; we have made progress on arms control; Russia now has a permanent relationship with NATO; it has improved its ties with the Baltic states, even as those nations have made clear their desire to join NATO. Russia has a better relationship with Central Europe now than at any time in history; and the differences we still have with Russia would certainly not disappear if we suddenly changed our minds about enlargement.

We need to keep Russia’s objections in perspective. They are the product of old misperceptions about NATO and old ways of thinking about its former satellites. Instead of changing our policies to accommodate Russia’s outdated fears, we need to concentrate on encouraging Russia’s more modern aspirations.

Others have argued that we should let the European Union do the job of reuniting Europe, or at least tell Central European countries that they cannot join NATO until they join the EU. I want the EU to expand as rapidly as possible. But the EU is not in the business of providing security; NATO is. And we saw in Bosnia what a difference that makes.

As for tying membership in one institution to membership in another, it is not in America’s interest to subordinate critical security decisions of NATO to another institution. We are a leader in NATO; we’re not even members of the EU. The qualifications for joining the EU are vastly different from the qualifications for becoming a member of NATO. Forcing the two processes to move in lockstep makes no sense, neither for the EU nor for NATO.

Others ask why we need to enlarge NATO when we already have NATO’s Partnership for Peace. When the Partnership for Peace was established in 1994, I went to Central Europe with General Shalikashvili and with my good friend, Charles Gati, who is with us here today, to explain its purpose. I can tell you the Partnership was never intended to be an alternative to a larger NATO. On the contrary, it has always provided both the opportunity to cooperate with NATO, and a program for preparing to join. That is why so many nations have participated in it so enthusiastically, whether they aspire to membership or not. If we want the Partnership to thrive, the last thing we should do is to tell some of its members that they can never be allies, no matter how much progress they make.

NATO is a military alliance, not a social club; but neither is it an in-bred aristocracy. That is one reason why today every NATO ally agrees that NATO doors must remain open after the first three new allies join. Let us be clear -- we have made no decisions about who the next members of NATO should be or when they might join. But let us also have some humility before the future.

How many people – even in this room of experts -- predicted in 1949 that Germany would so soon be a member of the Alliance? Who could have known in 1988 that in just ten years, members of the old Warsaw Pact would be in a position to join NATO? Who can tell today what Europe will look like in even a few years? We should not erect artificial roadblocks today that will prevent qualified nations from contributing to NATO tomorrow.

This Administration opposes any effort in the Senate to mandate a pause in the process of NATO enlargement. This would be totally unnecessary, since the Senate would, in any case, need to give its advice and consent to any new round of enlargement. It would also harm American interests by surrendering our leverage and flexibility, fracturing the consensus NATO has reached on its open door, and diminishing the incentive Central European countries now have to cooperate with the Alliance.

Some critics have said NATO enlargement would draw a destabilizing dividing line in Europe. A larger NATO with an open door will not. One round of enlargement with a mandated pause would. President Clinton and I will keep on addressing these concerns, and others, in the days ahead. The debate has been joined, and it will continue.

But already an extraordinary coalition has come together to say NATO enlargement is right and smart for America. It includes American veterans, who do not want their country to have to fight another war in Europe; American business, which understands the link between security and prosperity; American labor, which aided freedom’s victory in Europe and wants it to endure. It includes every living former Secretary of State, a half a dozen former National Security Advisors and five Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs.

The debate about a larger NATO might easily have provided an opportunity for skeptics to praise isolationism. Instead, it has given the American people and the Congress an opportunity to bury it. And I have confidence that is what will happen.

If the Senate says yes to a larger NATO -- and I believe it will -- that will be a vote for continued American engagement in Europe. It will be a signal that America will defend its values, protect its interests, stand by its allies and keep its word.

We’ll need that same spirit to prevail when the Congress faces its other foreign policy tests this year. For example, the President and I are asking the Congress to pay what our country owes to the International Monetary Fund and to the United Nations. At issue is a very simple question. Will we stand alone in the face of crises from Gulf to Rwanda to Indonesia, asking American soldiers to take all the risks and American taxpayers to pay all the bills? Or will we support organizations that allow us to share the burdens of leadership with others? This is not least an issue in our relationship with Europe. When we challenge our allies to meet their responsibilities to us, it hurts our case when we are seen as not meeting ours.

Another important choice before the Congress is whether it will support continued implementation of the Dayton Accords. I trust the Congress will agree that our mission in Bosnia is very much related to our goals of NATO enlargement. For NATO could not have credibly set out on an effort to prevent future conflict in Central Europe had it not acted decisively to end the very real bloodshed it encountered in the Balkans.

Our effort in Bosnia has met with growing success. Multi-ethnic institutions are beginning to function. Economic growth is accelerating. War criminals are being arrested. Refugees are slowly beginning to return. A new Bosnian Serb government has acted swiftly on its pledge to start implementing Dayton. Far from the endless quagmire some people feared, we have been able to reduce our troop presence as the peace process has taken hold.

I know this region all too well to have any illusions about the difficulties that still lie ahead. But I also think it is time for the skeptics to be a bit more humble, as well. After all, a few years ago they were sure NATO could not stop the war in Bosnia. They were certain NATO could not implement Dayton without taking massive casualties. They knew for a fact that Bosnian Serbs would never choose leaders committed to peace. They have been mistaken so many times, I think we should at least give them an award for consistency.

My message to the Congress and to the American people is that we should be consistent, and persistent, in our support for those in Bosnia who are taking risks for peace. For the evidence is growing that peace will be sustained if we sustain the effort that has brought us thus far.

America is strongest when our leaders focus not on partisan differences, but on unifying concerns. We have seen that strength increasingly in our effort to help build a new structure for the security and prosperity of Europe. And we see it today in US policy towards Iraq.

The Administration does not agree with those who suggest we should deploy hundreds of thousands of American troops to engage unilaterally in a ground war, aimed at goals that could not be achieved during Operation Desert Storm. But we do agree fully with the bipartisan leadership of Congress that Iraq cannot be allowed to get away with its flagrant violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

Our approach to Iraq begins with the knowledge that Saddam Hussein is an aggressor who has used weapons of mass destruction before and, if allowed, would surely use or threaten to use them again.

When the Gulf War ended, the UN Security Council established a Special Commission, or UNSCOM, to ensure that Saddam would not have this opportunity. But from the outset, Iraqi officials concealed information and did all they could to evade UNSCOM’s requirements. UNSCOM nonetheless accomplished a great deal, destroying more weapons of mass destruction than were demolished in the entire Gulf War.

In recent years, as UNSCOM has learned more about Iraqi methods of concealment, we have seen develop a high stakes game of cat and mouse. UNSCOM has become increasingly creative in its inspection strategy, and therefore more threatening to Saddam. And as UNSCOM has moved closer to discovering information that Iraq wants to hide, Baghdad has grown more belligerent -- repeatedly blocking inspection teams, challenging UNSCOM’s authority, and refusing access to dozens of suspected sites. Iraq now threatens to eject UNSCOM altogether if UN sanctions are not lifted.

Clearly, if UNSCOM is to uncover the full truth about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs, it must have unrestricted access to locations, people and documents that may be related to those programs. But as UNSCOM’s Chairman Richard Butler attests, Iraq is making it impossible for the Commission to do its job.

Saddam’s dream is the world’s nightmare: to gain the lifting of UN sanctions, without losing his capacity to build and use weapons of mass destruction. In pursuing this fantasy, Saddam has thwarted efforts to resolve the crisis diplomatically and made military action more likely.

During my recent meetings in Europe and the Gulf, I emphasized that we cannot tolerate Saddam’s continued defiance. The threat posed by weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein is too real. The risk to our friends and allies, and to our armed forces in the region, is too high. And the danger that others will emulate Saddam’s example if he does not pay a penalty for his actions is too great.

I have been heartened by the support our position has received. In almost every part of the world, there is a determination that Iraq comply with the UN Security Council resolutions and that it provide unfettered access to UN weapons inspectors. There is agreement that responsibility for the current impasse and its potential consequences rests with Iraq alone. And there is an understanding that, unless Iraq’s policies change, we will have no choice but to take strong measures -- not pinpricks, but substantial strikes to reduce significantly Saddam’s capacity to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems and to diminish the threat he poses to Iraq’s neighbors and the world. Do not doubt; we have the authority to do this, the responsibility to do this, and the means and the will.

It may seem to you that my comments about Iraq have little to do with the earlier part of my speech, but that is not true. I wanted to talk about Iraq in part because the Central European Foreign Ministers are here today. Their countries were once on the outside looking in when the great powers responded to global crises. They will soon be on the inside, looking forward with us. The Iraq crisis has long been their concern. And I’m pleased to announce that in my meeting that concluded just ten minutes before I came here, they quickly responded to my request for their support, subject to relevant consultations with their governments. As we, they would prefer a diplomatic solution. And in the Security Council, through the years that I was there, each of them stood with us to maintain sanctions. They all said they are ready to support us, as appropriate, should military action become necessary.

It is my great hope that Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic will be part of a transatlantic partnership that is not only broader, but deeper as well; a partnership that is a force for peace from the Middle East to Central Africa; a partnership that has overcome barriers to trade across the Atlantic; a partnership strong enough to protect the environment and defeat international crime; a partnership that is united in its effort to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction, the overriding security interest of our time.

However old or new the challenges we face, there is still one relationship that more than any other will determine whether we meet them successfully, and that is our relationship with Europe. The transatlantic partnership is our strategic base -- the drivewheel of progress on every world-scale issue when we agree, and the brake when we do not.

In cultivating that partnership and extending it to those free nations that were too long denied its benefits, I pledge my continued best efforts, and respectfully solicit all of yours.

Thank you very much.

(Applause.)

MR. DEMUTH: Secretary Albright has time for just two questions. If any in the center group would like to address questions to her, please just step to the microphone in the center.

QUESTION: I would like to ask you what America is going to do if some European states hesitate to give their – to agree with NATO expansion; maybe Turkey or Greece, because they like to play their own national interests by hesitating.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I answer many questions this way, and I’m pleased to answer this one. I think it is a hypothetical question, because I do think that in the meetings that I have been in with all NATO partners, they understand that no matter what specific national interest issues they may have, the expansion of NATO is in everybody’s national interest. In the internal discussions that we have had, I think there has been broad-based support.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the Slovak Republic was not among the first countries to be invited to join NATO in the first round. Do you think one of the reasons was that the Slovak Republic is not a qualified Eastern European democracy? And if so, can you explain why? Thank you.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think it is a cause of sadness to many people in this room that the Slovak Republic was not part of the original group of first invitees. I think that the reason it was not, the determination was made that it had not met a number of the criteria that have been looked at, or guidelines that have been looked at for membership in NATO.

And among those are a functioning market system, a functioning democracy, the control of the civilian over the military, and generally a set of guidelines that we had all looked at, all NATO, in terms of who was qualified. And the determination was made that at this time, Slovakia was not.

Thank you all very much.

(Applause.)

[End of Document]

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