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11/22/02 - BUSH AT NATO SUMMIT - 2002-11-23

The United States is committed to a permanent partnership with the nations of Europe. As President George W. Bush said, the European continent, “wounded by Nazism and Communism, is becoming peaceful and secure and democratic for the first time.”

The U.S. is joined to Europe by history, by trading relationships, and by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO. “And,” said Mr. Bush, “America is bound to Europe by...our belief in the dignity of every life, and our belief in the power of conscience to move history.”

The NATO summit that convened in Prague, the Czech Republic’s capital, was the first ever in a former Warsaw Pact country. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the demise of the Warsaw Pact marked the end of, as Mr. Bush put it, “a dark and distant era. The years since have brought great challenge and great hope to all of the countries on this continent.”

“Because America supports a more united Europe,” said President Bush, “we strongly support the enlargement of NATO, now and in the future. Every European democracy that seeks NATO membership and is ready to share in NATO’s responsibilities should be welcome in our alliance. The enlargement of NATO is good for all who join us,” said Mr. Bush. “The standards of membership are high, and they encourage the hard work of political and economic and military reform.”

A larger NATO is also good for Russia. Russia will gain from the security and stability of nations to Russia’s west. Russia, said President Bush, “does not require a buffer zone of protection. It needs peaceful and prosperous neighbors who are also friends.”

Expansion of NATO is also advantageous to the alliance. New members contribute military capabilities that add to common security. This is evident in Afghanistan, where forces from Romania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, and Slovakia have joined with NATO allies to defeat the Taleban and al-Qaida.

The Soviet Union may be long gone, but freedom still has enemies. There are threats from terrorists like al-Qaida, and from rogue states like Iraq. But as President Bush said, “The hopes of mankind depend on the courage and the unity of great democracies. In this hour of challenge, NATO will do what it has done before: We will stand firm against the enemies of freedom, and we’ll prevail.”