Prague, 21 November 2002 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush, in a policy speech delivered in Prague last night on the eve of the NATO summit, emphasized the United States' commitment to strong ties with Europe and friendship with Russia. Bush, addressing an audience of international students, said that the world, in the wake of 11 September 2001, had entered dangerous and uncharted waters. "Great evil is stirring in the world. Many of the young here are coming up in a different world, a different era, a different time, a different series of threats. We face perils we've never thought about, perils we've never seen before. But they're dangerous. They're just as dangerous as those perils that your fathers and mothers and grandfathers and grandmothers faced," Bush said.
But the U.S. president noted that Europe and the United States, thanks to institutions like NATO, had overcome every challenge of the post-World War II era and would continue to meet new threats, determined and united as before. "The trans-Atlantic ties of Europe and America have met every test of history and we intend to [meet those tests] again. U-boats could not divide us. The threats and standoffs of the Cold War did not make us weary. The commitment of my nation to Europe is found in the carefully attended graves of young Americans who died for this continent and its freedom," Bush said.
The need to sacrifice and fight for freedom ran like a leitmotif through much of Bush's speech. Bush said no one was safe from the new threat posed by terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and states such as Iraq, which he emphasized had demonstrated their willingness to use such weapons. Bush stressed the need for the democracies of Europe and the United States to make common cause. "For terrorists and terrorist states, every free nation, every free nation is a potential target, including the free nations of Europe," Bush said.
Bush emphasized the need for NATO to reform its institutions and capabilities to respond better to future threats. "NATO must develop new military capabilities. NATO forces must become better able to fight side by side. Those forces must be more mobile and more swiftly deployed. The allies need more special-operations forces, better precision-strike capabilities, and more modern command structures," Bush said.
Bush said the United States expected all NATO members -- no matter how small -- to make a military contribution to improving the alliance's capabilities. "Few NATO members will have state-of-the-art capabilities in all of these areas. I recognize that. But every nation should develop some. Ours is a military alliance, and every member must make a military contribution to that alliance," Bush said.
Highlighting a U.S. proposal for the creation of a 20,000-man rapid-reaction force within NATO that could be deployed to any point on the planet at seven days' notice, Bush said it was essential for the alliance to think and act globally. "Because many threats to NATO members come from outside of Europe, NATO forces must be organized to operate outside of Europe. When forces were needed quickly in Afghanistan, NATO's options were limited. We must build new capabilities, and we must strengthen our will to use those capabilities," Bush said.
Bush once again declared Russia should not feel threatened by NATO's impending second wave of expansion, a point the U.S. president said he would make personally to Russian President Vladimir Putin when he travels to St. Petersburg tomorrow to meet with him after the NATO summit. "I will tell my friend Vladimir Putin and the Russian people that they too will gain from the security and stability of nations to Russia's West. Russia does not require a buffer zone of protection. It needs peaceful and prosperous neighbors who are also friends," Bush said.
Bush said an expanded NATO would anchor the countries of a recently divided Europe in the democratic and free world while giving new life to the alliance. "In Prague, young democracies will gain new security, a grand alliance will gather its strength and find a new purpose, and America and Europe will renew their historic friendship that still keeps the peace of the world," Bush said.