Bush Applauds Spread of Freedom, Democracy on Eve of V-E Day
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 7, 2005 The triumphs of victory in Europe are still being felt worldwide 60 years later, President Bush said in his weekly radio address today on the eve of V-E Day.
"We will never forget the acts of courage that made possible the liberation of a continent, or the heroes who fought in the cause of freedom," the president said. "And we honor the brave Americans and allied troops who humbled tyrants, defended the innocent and liberated the oppressed. By their courage and sacrifice, they showed the world that there is no power like the power of freedom -- and no soldier as strong as a soldier who fights for that freedom."
But while "the defeat of Nazi Germany brought an end to armed conflict in Europe," Bush noted, tyranny remained for millions of people on that continent under communist rule behind the so-called "Iron Curtain."
As a result, the president said, Germany was split in two - one half free, the other not - and Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary were cut off from liberty. "The people of these countries survived the Cold War through great courage and then they took history into their own hands and reclaimed their freedom.
"Europe, wounded by decades of conflict and oppression, is today whole, free and at peace for the first time in its history," Bush noted.
"The wave of democracy that swept Central and Eastern Europe in 1989 has now swept to nations like Georgia and Ukraine. And the victory for freedom represented by V-E Day has become a reality for millions of people," he said. "The new democracies of Europe still have much work to do. As the nations of Central and Eastern Europe work to build up the institutions necessary for a free society, America will stand by their side."
Freedom has no better friends than those with a fresh memory of tyranny, Bush said, referring to countries like Lithuania, Estonia, Georgia and Latvia.
The president stopped in Latvia today before traveling to the Netherlands and Russia for V-E Day observances and then on to Georgia. In Latvia, he met with the presidents of that country, Lithuania and Estonia. Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga described discussions as "most fruitful."
"We are honored and pleased to have this opportunity to have a great leader from a great and powerful country come to our region and show interest in what happens here and to have this open and very frank debate with the three Baltic presidents," Vike-Freiberga said.
Bush congratulated the trio on the progress their countries have made in not only achieving democracy, but also adapting to the conditions of a free society -- not an easy task, he noted.
"It's not easy to go from communism to democracy, and yet, these three nations have shown the world how to do so, and we congratulate your good, hard work," the U.S. president said. "I also want to thank you for your hard work in helping democracy spread in the neighborhood."
Bush said they talked about Belarus, the Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and Russia, as well as the relationship between the Baltic states and Russia.
He also praised the three nations for recognizing that freedom comes with the responsibility to help spread that freedom outside the region. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have all contributed to the coalitions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And though Bush acknowledged during his weekly radio address that the advance of freedom is not always swift, he expressed his faith in teamwork to ensure that freedom does indeed continue to spread.
"America and these new democracies are bound together by history, by the universal rights we have defended together and by our deepest convictions," the president said.
"All of us understand that the advance of freedom is the concentrated work of generations - from brave Americans who fought against Nazi Germany 60 years ago to those who struggle for liberty today. And by working together, we will ensure that the promise of liberty and democracy won on V-E Day will one day reach every person and every nation in the 21st century."