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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks and Question and Answer Session at
Vilnius University
Vilnius, Lithuania, July 13, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman in Prague, Czech Republic, July 14, 1997
U.S. Department of State

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Remarks as delivered

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you Dr. Pavilionis. It is a wonderful opportunity for me to be here and I want to thank you for making that possible. As an ex-professor, I am always very happy to appear in university settings. There is no university in the United States that can live up to your longevity, and I salute your university for its 400th anniversary. I have visited here before as a professor and researcher in 1992, so I have seen this beautiful city, and I am delighted to see the renovation because it is symbolic of the renovation of this country and generally for the new post Cold War World.
I have often said that you do not have to be in the heart of Europe to have Europe in your heart. Nowhere is that more true than in Vilnius, in Riga and in Tallinn. For so many centuries, the Baltic peoples have looked outward -- over the plains and forests of this continent, across the sea and to the world beyond it. You have epitomized the idea of free commerce as a foundation for political freedom and peace. You are multiethnic nations, shaped by many cultures and traditions. Your finest tradition is your tradition of openness.
That tradition defines the community of values that is Europe at its best. But we must also remember that there exists a less benign pattern in European politics.
One is destructive nationalism -- not the love of country that unites people for the common good, but the kind of nationalism that turns pride in us into hatred of them.
A second is old-fashioned geopolitics -- the cynical, patronizing kind practiced by great powers that have tried to take a carving knife to Europe, determining the fate of smaller nations and fighting over the spoils.
That was the pattern through much of the 20th century. We have had to learn the hard way that when you tell small and weak nations to bend to the will of big and powerful nations, that is a recipe for war, not peace.
As you know, my own life has been stamped by these forces. I am who I am and where I am because the ravages of Hitler and Stalin drove my family from our home and shaped the way I look at the world. I was fortunate to have escaped; to my sorrow millions, including many of my relatives, did not.
Perhaps no part of Europe has suffered more from the old pattern of European politics than the Baltic states. You lost your security, your freedom, your independence, your prosperity -- everything but your spirit and your spine. With all you have lived through, you know that just being part of Europe is not enough. Our challenge is to build a new and better Europe. That is what I want to talk with you about today -- our efforts to realize our vision of promises kept, injustice undone, and an undivided Europe begun.
I want to ask you -- the young people of Lithuania -- to work with me to realize that vision. Your challenge is to entrench political and economic freedom in your country. It is to uphold the values of tolerance and respect for minority rights that democracy and our values require.
Our challenge is to build a fully integrated Europe that includes every European democracy willing to meet its responsibilities. That goal embraces the Baltic nations. History has taught us that your freedom is our freedom. Europe will not be secure unless we work with you and others to make sure you are secure.
Many institutions will help us achieve these goals, including the EU and the OSCE. But a new NATO is also vital, and this week we took another decisive step in renewing NATO by inviting Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to join.
Our goal is to create a new pattern of politics in Europe. We want to ensure that nations can advance their interests only by cooperating within the community we are building, and respecting the rules we jointly establish. We want to close every avenue to the kind of destructive behavior that has made so much of this century so tragic for you and for so many. In this way, enlargement will benefit every European nation -- those that join sooner, later or not at all.
I know many of you want to ask me when you might join NATO. I have the letter you wrote to President Clinton on this issue. Let me make our position clear. NATO will expand again. And the standards we will apply to you are the same we apply to every aspiring nation. A cardinal principle of the new Europe is the right of every country, large and small, to choose its alliances and associations. No non-member of NATO will have a veto, and no European democracy will be excluded because of where it sits on the map.
We will not punish you in the future just because you were subjugated in the past. As NATO welcomes new members, the fundamental question is this: which nations are important to our security and which nations are willing and able to contribute to our security?
NATO is attractive because it is strong, so enlargement must preserve its strength and the credibility of its commitments. That is why we have set high standards.
NATO membership is not an entitlement. It involves the most profound obligations that any nation can accept. It means assuming responsibility for the security of others, just as others assume responsibility for your security.
That is why simply getting into NATO should not be the ultimate end of any nation's foreign policy. NATO is a means to an end, and we have to be sure that every new member is ready to advance the common endeavors of our alliance.
Let me stress that President Clinton and I have spent at least as much time in recent months thinking about those countries that were not invited to join NATO in Madrid as we have about those that were.
We welcome your aspirations and support your efforts to join NATO, which can take place as you show yourselves willing and able to assume the responsibilities of membership, and as NATO concludes that your inclusion will serve the interests of the Alliance.
You are far closer today to the institutions of our community than you were the last time I was here, in 1992. And thanks to what happened in Madrid, when NATO crossed the line of 1945, you are closer than you were last week. It is important that you not define partial success as failure.
Together, we will do everything we can to ensure that no new lines are drawn across this continent -- not between NATO's first new members and the Baltic states, not between the Baltic states and your neighbors to the east. That includes Russia.
We reach out to Russia not to compensate it for enlargement, but because our cooperation serves our most vital interests and yours. We acknowledge that we are dealing with a new Russia that is striving to build a vibrant democracy and that is reaching out to the west even as NATO takes in new members.
We believe the quest for security in Europe is not a zero-sum game, in which central Europe must lose if Russia gains, and Russia must lose if central Europe gains. A democratic Russia that knows the west is responsive to its legitimate security concerns is more likely to become the kind of partner we need than a Russia that feels isolated and rejected.
Yesterday in St. Petersburg, I continued to make the case that no country will be excluded from NATO because of history or geography. But we must also continue to make clear that NATO enlargement is not directed at Russia -- and you must help us. This process is not about escaping west, it is about gaining the confidence to look to the east in a spirit of cooperation. The fact is, Russia is changing. You are changing. Europe is changing. Changing for the better. Changing for good.
I have spent much of my life studying and teaching about the politics of Europe, about Sovietology, and about diplomacy on a divided continent. Nothing gives me greater joy than the knowledge that so many of the books on my shelves at home are now totally obsolete, because the old Europe of concrete walls and barbed wire is no more.
You helped bring that about. We have so much more work to do together in the future. And I welcome your thoughts about what that future will bring. Thank you very much. And now, I hope we can have a classroom discussion.
QUESTION: You have talked a lot about Europe and NATO expansion. It is clear that some countries are in, some are out. During his visit to Poland, Mr. Clinton said that the century was ending with a new, reliable and democratic Europe that is at peace. We think it is perhaps too early to talk about an undivided Europe. What is your point of view?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I clearly always agree with my President. Let me say that what President Clinton was talking about was that with Madrid we have begun a process, not ended a process. What happened in Madrid was that the line that was created by the end of the Second World War and a divided Europe down the center has in fact ended, and that the process now must continue.
I think there were two very important aspects to the Madrid declaration. One was the restatement of the fact that NATO must remain a strong and cohesive alliance, and that any new members that come in must be producers and not consumers of security. They must add to the strength of NATO. The second, equally important principle that was established in Madrid was the open door policy, that NATO was open to any democratic country that could fulfill its obligations to that very strong alliance. We are at the beginning of a process which will end up with what is everybody's dream, which is an undivided Europe. It is a road that will take a while, but I think we have come, as we come to the end of the twentieth century, to the dream of this entire century -- to have an undivided Europe which peaceful.
QUESTION: You were talking about the strength and cohesiveness of the alliance, and on the other hand we have France and the southern European countries are talking about the necessity of granting membership to Romania and Slovenia. So, are there any united criteria for entrance? Could you comment or elaborate in more detail about the prospects for American and European cooperation in NATO?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me explain a little bit what the process is about. We have been saying for the last few years as the whole issue of NATO expansion came up that it was very important for the applicant states and those who would be invited to able to fulfill the requirements of NATO membership, which were to have vibrant functioning democratic systems; to have market economies; to have a military that is under the control of the civilians; and to have a military that is capable of active participation within the NATO alliance itself.
The Partnership for Peace, which was created in 1994, enabled many countries to participate and examine and expand their military participation. It was during a meeting in Madrid, as a discussion unfolded about membership, it became evident that three countries -- Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary -- in fact, met the various criteria. There was a push by a number of countries for Slovenia and Romania to come in. But as you know, decisions at NATO are made by consensus and there were a number of countries that believed that those two countries have not achieved all the measures.
For instance, Romania, while it has very well begun on the road to fulfilling those criteria, had basically had a free system only for seven months, whereas Poland, for seven years, and that there needed to be a better track record on all those criteria. The President, when he was in Bucharest, encouraged the Romanians to stay the course. The Slovenians are also a new country, and as a result of being a new country, have not yet acquired the institutions and mechanisms that we also believed were essential for NATO membership.
So I think that the process itself was a democratic one and one which operated within the NATO guidelines. What we have done now is to establish a series of mechanisms whereby the countries which have not gotten in can still participate through an enhanced Partnership for Peace in which there will be what we are calling "Atlantic" dialogues or "intensified" dialogues whereby each individual country can have a much deeper relationship with the NATO countries on a political level to determine what they could be doing to improve their chances for membership. Now we have created the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council -- by the way, it was quite remarkable to sit in Madrid at the table with so many countries not only from Europe but from Eurasia, where we were talking about common values and common principles.
So a great deal was happening and a great deal more will happen. In terms of the cooperation between Europe and the United States, we do that on a daily basis, not only within NATO, but in a variety of institutions. We Americans are of European origin. We know our country originated out of Europe and our relations with Europe are very strong and America's commitment to Europe is symbolized by the fact that we still have 100,000 troops in Europe. And we also have very close economic and political ties.
QUESTION: Secretary Albright, you have just been for two days in St. Petersburg, talking with Minister Primakov. The Russian mass media and some politicians have declared that NATO enlargement is the biggest mistake since the Second World War. Was this officially reflected somehow in the negotiations?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: From the very beginning of this discussion we have known that the Russians have not liked the idea of NATO enlargement. We have told them that the new NATO is not a threat to the new Russia, and they have in fact stated and restated that they are unhappy with NATO enlargement. We have at the same time believed very strongly, as I have stated in my opening remarks, that it is very important to bring Russia into the European community, because an isolated Russia, we believe, is more threatening than a Russia that is part of the new Europe.
The NATO-Russia Founding Act is a mechanism whereby Russia will be able to be a part of discussions of common concern in Europe, and those are when we have discussions, for instance, about peacekeeping in Bosnia, or when we are going to be talking about new threats to us all, that is terrorism, or drugs or environmental problems. Those are the kinds of subjects that will be discussed in this new joint council. So we have brought Russia into the system in a way not to have them isolated. But Russia's statements about not liking an enlarged NATO will never impinge on enlarging NATO, because Russia may have a voice, but it will never have a veto, and only the countries which are members of NATO will determine who the new members will be.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, in talking about the extension of NATO and the Baltic States, I would like to ask you about the extension of NATO and educational reform. There has been discussion in Lithuania that preparation for entrance to NATO requires the introduction of military education into the schools. I would like to hear your opinion about this.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I am not sure I know how this is specifically being discussed here in Lithuania, so I do not want to be involved in an internal debate. But let me just say that, as I said in my remarks, nationalism and patriotism are key to the existence of our countries, but when that kind of nationalism crosses into a line where it defines itself by hating other people, then it is not useful at the end of the twentieth century and the twenty-first century. I do think that the educational processes these days, generally in every country, should be doing a lot to teach about what democratic institutions are about, to make clear to people that citizen participation is essential in democratic governments, that democracy is a privilege and not a right, that democracy and freedom must be defended, which is clearly nothing that has to be taught to Lithuanians who have defended it. But I think generally that our educational systems need to embed the values of democracy and good citizenship and good international responsibility.
RECTOR PAVILIONIS: To follow up on this question, I have often asked my students whether they think NATO enlargement would be positive, negative or neutral for universities.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I have not thought of that, but I cannot imagine that NATO membership would be negative. I think that generally, I would imagine, having any country and its universities more a part of the international community is good, because it allows for freedom to have exchanges, to feel that you are able to exist in any country that you are secure. So I do not think that it is neutral, but positive.
QUESTION: All of us know that there has been some lobbying about the new candidates for entrance to NATO, and I would like to know how much influence France or other states had in the selection of candidates for membership. And I would just like to quote two sentences from a study made by two U.S. experts on the subject of NATO enlargement and the Baltic States, written by analysts from RAND Corporation, Mr. Ronald Asmus and Mr. Nurick. They said that, "the Baltic States are unlikely to be included in the first tranche of NATO enlargement for one basic reason: insufficient support for their candidacy. Simply put, they do not have the votes." Do you agree that this was the basic reason for the failure of the Baltics to be invited?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, I disagree. I have stated what the issue was and that is that there are certain criteria or guidelines that current NATO members have developed about what is needed for full NATO membership. I go back the points I made initially, that being a member of NATO is not a gift that is bestowed on a country because it is a nice country or because it has had a difficult history. It is a solemn responsibility. As you know, according to Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, by joining NATO you take on the responsibility of fighting on behalf of another country as if it were your own. That means that you are to make sure that everybody within the alliance is capable of carrying out that responsibility. It is not just an ordinary club. It is the most powerful military alliance in the history of the world. And the Baltic countries at this stage have embryonic military systems.
In addition to that, it is important to have deeply rooted democratic institutions, and functioning market systems that would allow for interchange and trade in a non-arbitrary way. I think that there is no doubt that the Baltic countries have borne the burden of being part of the Soviet Union for decades, and in time that you all will have the appropriate criteria that will put you on track as serious candidates. But I can assure you that it is not on the basis of votes.
QUESTION: Mrs. Albright, just a few days ago, one of your employees, the American Ambassador to Sweden, Mr. Thomas Siebert, clearly announced and declared that NATO expansion will not be complete until the concrete Baltic countries, that is, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, have been accepted. My question is, was the Ambassador to Sweden, when he stated that, authorized or instructed?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have said that the whole NATO expansion process will not be complete until the democracies of Europe will be part of it. He has stated what we have all said in different ways.
QUESTION: If I am correct, you said in Slovenia that this is one of the first countries in the next round of enlargement. Does it mean that there are new queues forming now for accession to NATO?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that there clearly was a great deal of support for Romania and Slovenia in Madrid. We have said that they are among the strongest candidates for the second tranche. President Clinton and I have said that in order to be part of that second tranche, they have to stay the course of some of the reforms they have instituted and make sure that they live up to the criteria that I mentioned previously. There are no guarantees and there will be a review in 1999 and at that stage it will be determined who will be invited in the second tranche.
RECTOR PAVILIONIS: I think there might be many more questions, but alas, the time has run out. Before we leave this Aula, I would like to express my very great gratitude on behalf of the audience, university students and professors. As you have been here already twice, let us start the symbolic integration into NATO, by tying you to this University with this University sash. I hope this will remind you of your visit to our University.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me just say how much I have enjoyed meeting with you. Some people here look as though they are my age, but there are many young people here, and as Secretary of State of the United States, I consider it a privilege to be able to work to have a world in the twenty first-century, your world, that will in fact be undivided and free, which we will be able to have you take a hold of and do in the twenty-first century what we were not able to do in the twentieth. I hope very much that you will engage yourselves in your study of international relations and look at what the threats are that face the twenty first century and learn the lessons of the twentieth. Thank you very, very much.

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