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Washington Journal: Clinton Speech Addresses NATO Expansion, Kosovo

Prague, 1 March 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The following are excerpts of remarks made (Feb. 26) by U.S. President Bill Clinton in an address on foreign policy given in the U.S. West Coast city of San Francisco.

Clinton spoke about U.S. policy toward Europe, and in particular, about NATO expansion:

"We want all of Europe to have what America helped build with Western Europe, a community that upholds common standards of human rights, where people have the confidence and security to invest in the future, where nations cooperate to make war unthinkable.

That is why I have pushed hard for NATO's enlargement and why we must keep NATO's doors open to new democratic members so that other nations will have an incentive to deepen their democracies. That is why we must forge a partnership between NATO and Russia, between NATO and Ukraine; why we are building a NATO capable, not only of deterring aggression against its own territory, but of meeting challenges to our security beyond its territory, the kind of NATO we must advance at the 50th anniversary summit in Washington, this April."

Clinton also talked about U.S. policy toward the Balkans, and in particular, Kosovo:

"We will also keep working with our allies to build peace in the Balkans. Three years ago we helped to end the war in Bosnia. A lot of doubters then thought it would soon start again. But Bosnia is on a steady path toward renewal and democracy. We've been able to reduce our troops there by 75 percent as peace has taken hold, and we will continue to bring them home.

The biggest remaining danger to this progress has been the fighting and the repression in Kosovo. Kosovo is, after all, where the violence in the former Yugoslavia began over a decade ago, when they lost the autonomy guaranteed under Yugoslav law. We have a clear national interest in ensuring that Kosovo is where this trouble ends. If it continues, it almost certainly will draw in Albania and Macedonia, which share borders with Kosovo and on which clashes have already occurred. Potentially, it could affect our allies, Greece and Turkey. It could spark tensions in Bosnia itself, jeopardizing the gains made there. If the conflict continues, there will certainly be more atrocities, more refugees, and more victims crying out for justice and seeking out revenge.

Last fall, a quarter of a million displaced people in [Kosovo] were facing cold and hunger in the hills. Using diplomacy backed by force, we brought them home and slowed the fighting. For 17 days this month outside Paris, we sought with our European partners an agreement that would end the fighting for good. Progress was made toward a common understanding of Kosovo's autonomy -- progress that would not have happened, I want to say, but for the unity of our allies and the tireless leadership of our secretary of state, Madeleine Albright. Here's where we are. The Kosovar Albanian leaders have agreed in principle to a plan that would protect the rights of their people and give them substantial self-government. Serbia has agreed to much, but not all, of the conditions of autonomy, and has so far not agreed to the necessity of a NATO-led international force to maintain the peace there. Serbia's leaders must now accept that only by allowing people in Kosovo control over their day-to-day lives -- as, after all, they had been promised under Yugoslav law -- it is only by doing that can they keep their country intact.

Both sides must return to the negotiations on March the 15th, with clear mandate for peace. In the meantime, President Milosevic should understand that this is a time for restraint, not repression. And if he does not, NATO is prepared to act.

Now if there is a peace agreement that is effective, NATO must also be ready to deploy to Kosovo to give both sides the confidence to lay down their arms. Europeans would provide the great bulk of such a force, roughly 85 percent. But if there is a real peace, America must do its part as well.

Kosovo is not an easy problem. But if we don't stop the conflict now, it clearly will spread, and then we will not be able to stop it, except at far greater cost and risk."

"For 50 years, we confronted the challenge of Russia's strength. Today we must confront the risk of a Russia weakened by the legacy of communism and also by its inability at the moment to maintain prosperity at home or control the flow of its money, weapons, and technology across its borders.

The dimensions of this problem are truly enormous. Eight years after the Soviet collapse, the Russian people are hurting. The economy is shrinking, making the future uncertain.

Yet we have as much of a stake today in Russia overcoming these challenges as we did in checking its expansion during the Cold War. This is not a time for complacency or self-fulfilling pessimism. Let's not forget that Russia's people have overcome enormous obstacles before. And just this decade, with no living memory of democracy or freedom to guide them, they have built a country more open to world than ever, a country with a free press and a robust, even raucous debate; a country that should see in the first year of the new millennium the first peaceful democratic transfer of power in its thousand-year history. The Russian people will decide their own future, but we must work with them for the best possible outcome with realism and with patience. If Russia does what it must to make its economy work, I am ready to do everything I can to mobilize adequate international support for them.

With the right framework, we will also encourage foreign investment in its factories, its energy fields, its people. We will increase our support for small business and for the independent media. We will work to continue cutting our two nations' nuclear arsenals and help Russia prevent both its weapons and its expertise from falling into the wrong hands. The budget I have presented to Congress will increase funding for this critical threat reduction by 70 percent over the next five years."