[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[February 11, 1998]
[Pages 206-208]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on Signing the Transmittal to the Senate of the Protocols of 
Accession to NATO for Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic
February 11, 1998

    Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President, Madam Secretary, 
Senator Roth, Senator Biden, Senator Lieberman, Senator Mikulski, Senator 
DeWine, Congressman Solomon, Congressman Gejdenson, Deputy 
Secretary of Defense Hamre, NSA Adviser 
Berger, and the other distinguished 
military and diplomatic and citizen guests who are here. I especially 
thank the retired members of the Joint Chiefs who have endorsed NATO 
expansion. And thank you, Secretary Haig and Mr. Brzezinski and Mr. 
Sweeney, for being here. To all the 
diplomatic corps and especially to Minister Kovacs, Minister Geremek, and 
Minister Sedivy, we are pleased that all of 
you are here today.
    This building has seen many negotiations and the signing of many 
pacts to end bloodshed. Now we come together not to sign another 
agreement to end a war but instead to begin a new era of security and 
stability for America and for Europe. In just a moment, I will transmit 
to the Senate for its advice and consent the documents that will add 
Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to NATO. Their addition to the 
alliance is not only a pivotal event in the quest for freedom and 
security by their own people; it is also a major stride forward for 
America, for the alliance, and for the stability and unity of all 
Europe, a big part of our dream that we can in the 21st century create 
for the first time in all history a Europe that is free, at peace, and 
    As the Senate takes up consideration of these agreements, the 
question the Members of the

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Senate must answer is, how does adding these states to NATO advance 
America's national security? I believe there are three compelling 
    First, the alliance will make NATO stronger. The cold war has 
passed, but dangers remain. Conflicts like the one in Bosnia, weapons of 
mass destruction, threats we cannot even predict today, require a NATO 
that is strong. A NATO that embraces Europe's new democracies will be 
more capable of carrying out the core mission of defending the territory 
of its members, as well as addressing new kinds of conflicts that 
threaten our common peace.
    These three states will add some 200,000 troops to the alliance. A 
larger NATO will be a better deterrent against aggressors of the future. 
It will deepen the ranks of those who stand with us should deterrents 
fail. I am pleased that just last week 60 of America's top retired 
military leaders, including 5 former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of 
Staff, underscored that message when they said these 3 states will make 
NATO stronger. They are right, and we have already seen the proof.
    As we speak, Czech, Hungarian, and Polish troops are participating 
in NATO's peacekeeping effort in Bosnia. They served beside us in the 
Gulf war, where they made a significant contribution to our success. And 
they recognize the threat to the world posed today by Saddam 
Hussein and by his efforts to develop weapons 
of mass destruction. I am pleased that all three countries have 
announced that they are prepared to serve and support with us as 
appropriate, should military action prove necessary.
    We all hope we can avoid the use of force. But let's face it, in the 
end, that is up to Saddam Hussein. He must 
let the weapons inspectors back with full and free access to all suspect 
sites. If he will not act, we must be prepared to do so.
    The second reason NATO must grow is that it will make Europe more 
stable. NATO can do for Europe's East what it did for Europe's West 
after the Second World War, provide a secure climate in which democracy 
and prosperity can grow. Enlarging NATO will encourage prospective 
members to resolve their differences peacefully. We already see evidence 
of that. Already, the prospect of NATO membership has helped to convince 
countries in Central Europe to improve ties with their neighbors, to 
settle border and ethnic disputes, any one of which could have led to a 
conflict. Enlargement, therefore, will make all of Europe more stable.
    Finally, NATO's growth will erase the artificial line in Europe 
drawn by Joseph Stalin. Behind me is a picture of the wall that for so 
long represented the false and forced division of the European 
continent. It has been nearly 10 years since that wall was torn down by 
brave people on both sides. Countries once confined by it now are truly 
free, with strong democracies, vibrant market economies, a proven track 
record of standing up for peace and security beyond their own borders. 
NATO cannot maintain the old Iron Curtain as its permanent eastern 
frontier. It must and can bring Europe together in security, not keep it 
apart in instability.
    In the 20th century, we have learned the hard way here in America 
just how vital Europe's security is to our own. Enlarging NATO will make 
us safer.
    Our goal is and remains the creation of an undivided democratic and 
peaceful Europe for the first time in history. Bringing the three 
nations into the alliance will advance it; so will NATO's new Founding 
Act with Russia and the broad new relationship we are building with 
Moscow, helping us to move forward on arms control, building the peace 
in Bosnia, achieving progress on a wide range of issues; so will the 
Partnership For Peace, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the 
Charter with Ukraine, and the Charter of Partnership I signed just last 
month with the presidents of the three Baltic States, and our Southeast 
Europe Action Plan, which I announced yesterday with President 
Stoyanov of Bulgaria.
    Our effort to build a new Europe also depends upon keeping NATO's 
door open to other qualified European democracies. History teaches us 
that the realm of freedom in Europe has no fixed boundaries. The United 
States is determined that the visions of the past not circumscribe the 
boundaries of the future.
    As the Senate begins it deliberations, I want to salute the 
indispensable role that leading members of both parties and both Houses 
of Congress have already played in bringing us to this day. The two 
Senators from Delaware have already been acknowledged, and, Mr. Vice 
President, I'm prepared to vote to move NATO headquarters to Wilmington. 
[Laughter] I thank the Senators and the Members of the House who are 
here today. And there are others, who

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know who they are--and we know who they are--who have played a very 
constructive role in this process.
    I was especially pleased that a bipartisan group of Members joined 
me last summer at the NATO Summit in Madrid. The wide-ranging debate on 
this issue within Congress and across our Nation is indeed a model of 
the kind of thoughtful, nonpartisan discussion we must have, and I 
commend Congress for helping to lead it.
    Now the decision rests in the hands of the Senate, and I believe 
it's in good hands.
    This room is named for Benjamin Franklin, one of America's first 
envoys to Europe after independence. I'm reminded of the comment he made 
at the close of our Constitutional Convention. He noted that on the 
chair of the Convention's President, George Washington, was a painted 
figure of the Sun, a symbol, he thought, of our new Republic. Mr. 
Franklin said, ``I have the happiness to know it is rising and not a 
setting Sun.'' In the wake of the cold war, some wondered whether our 
alliance faced a rising or a setting Sun, whether it had just a 
brilliant past or perhaps an even brighter future. With the step we take 
today, and the decision I am confident the Senate will take in the near 
future, I know that our historic partnership of nations is a rising Sun 
and that its ascendance will bring a more stable, more democratic, more 
peaceful, more unified future for all of us who live on both sides of 
the Atlantic.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:05 p.m. in the Benjamin Franklin Room at 
the State Department. In his remarks, he referred to former Secretary of 
State Alexander M. Haig, Jr.; former National Security Adviser Zbigniew 
Brzezinski; John J. Sweeney, president, AFL-CIO; Foreign Minister Laszlo 
Kovacs of Hungary; Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek of Poland; Foreign 
Minister Jaroslav Sedivy of the Czech Republic; and President Petar 
Stoyanov of Bulgaria.