with Central European Foreign Ministers
The East Room
The White House
May 8, 2003
3:38 P.M EDT
Thank you all very much, and welcome to the White House. We're glad you're
here. Interestingly enough, it was here, 58 years ago today, that President
Harry Truman announced the end of the war in Europe. And the people of America
and Europe celebrated that victory together.
This year on VE Day we mark another kind of victory in Europe. Just hours
ago, the United States Senate voted unanimously to support NATO admission for
Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. These
heroic nations have survived tyranny, they have won their liberty and earned
their place among free nations. America has always considered them friends,
and we will always be proud to call them allies.
I appreciate the Foreign Ministers of the NATO nations -- or the nations who
will soon be joining NATO -- who are with us today. We just had a great discussion
in the Roosevelt Room in the White House complex.
I appreciate so very much the Secretary of State Colin Powell, who has been
a strong and tireless advocate for the expansion of NATO. (Applause.)
I want to thank the members of the United States Senate who have joined us
here today. I appreciate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee for coming.
I particularly want to thank Chairman Dick Lugar and ranking member Joe Biden
for their strong leadership in getting the Senate to vote unanimously for the
admission of these nations into NATO. Great job, senators. (Applause.)
I also am honored to welcome George Voinovich, the Senator from Ohio and,
more importantly, Janet Voinovich, his wife. (Laughter and applause.) And Senator
Carl Levin from Michigan. Welcome, I'm glad you all are here, and thanks for
I want to welcome the chairmen and chairwomen of the parliamentary foreign
affairs committees who are here. I appreciate the ambassadors from our current
and future allied nations who are joining us today. I want to thank General
Richard Myers for joining us today, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
And I want to thank all of our distinguished guests for coming.
The defeat of Nazi Germany brought an end to the armed conflict in Europe.
But that victory did not bring true peace and unity to the continent. For millions,
tyranny remained in a different uniform. The freedom of Bulgaria and Romania
and Slovakia and Slovenia was subverted by communist dictators. And Estonia,
Latvia and Lithuania were wiped off the map as independent countries.
As the Iron Curtain fell across Europe, and walls and barbed wire were raised,
the free nations of Europe and the United States gathered their will and courage
and formed the greatest alliance of liberty. Through 40 winters of Cold War,
NATO defended the security of the western world, and held in trust the ideal
of freedom for all the peoples of Europe.
This division, this great standoff, did not end in military conflict. It ended
when the peoples of central and eastern Europe took history into their own
hands and took back their rights and their freedom.
From that moment, it was clear that the old lines dividing Europe between
east and west, the lines of Yalta, were entirely irrelevant to the future.
Nearly two years ago, in Warsaw, I urged the enlargement of NATO to all of
Europe's democracies, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, and all that lie between,
so that people in those countries would have the same chance for security and
freedom enjoyed by Europe's older democracies.
I called upon all the NATO allies to renew our mission and to meet the great
challenges and opportunities of the world beyond Europe. And these challenges
arrived quickly. Following the terrorist attacks of September the 11th, NATO
invoked its commitment to collective -- to the collective defense for the first
time in its history.
Our friends in central and eastern Europe responded as well, providing resources
of law enforcement and intelligence to help breakup terrorist cells, to disrupt
terrorist plots, and to cut off terrorist funding.
In the battle of Afghanistan, nations from central and eastern Europe supplied
soldiers and special forces and peacekeepers to help defeat the Taliban, to
help destroy the terrorists and to bring freedom to the Afghan people.
In the battle of Iraq, central and eastern European countries have stood with
America and our coalition to end a grave threat to peace, and to rid Iraq of
a brutal, brutal regime. The peoples of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania,
Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia have a fresh memory of tyranny. And they know
the consequences of complacency in the face of danger.
Time and again, they have demonstrated their desire and ability to defend
freedom against its enemies. They have proven themselves to be allies by their
action. And now it is time to make them allies by treaty.
This morning's vote in the Senate brings that day closer. I urge all the current
members of NATO to welcome these new members as quickly as possible. These
nations will make NATO stronger, and we need that strength for all the work
that lies ahead. We must continue to fight global terror and strongly oppose
the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
NATO, itself, must develop new military capabilities to meet the emerging
dangers of a new era. We must help the people of the Balkans to become full
partners in the progress of Europe. We welcome the commitment of Albania, Croatia
and Macedonia to the values and principles of NATO. And we will help them as
they move forward with reform.
We have work ahead in bringing order and security to Iraq, so the Iraqi people
can build the institutions of freedom and provide an example of democracy to
other Arab nations. And just as NATO has stood for the freedom of all of Europe,
we must stand with people everywhere who strive for greater freedom and tolerance
and development and health and opportunity, including those in the Middle East
This day was a long time in coming, yet there was never any doubt. Through
decades of crisis and division, Europe's peoples shared with people everywhere
the same need and hope for freedom. This hope overcame the designs of tyrants
and this hope overcame the tragedies of war.
The nations of central and eastern Europe are one of history's great examples
of the power and appeal of liberty. And we believe that example will be followed
and multiplied throughout the world.
Thank you all for coming. May God bless your nations. (Applause.)