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Clinton Cites U.S. Progress in State of Union

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 2000 – Terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction were among the national security concerns President Clinton addressed Jan. 27 in his State of the Union message here. He noted, though, that even with these concerns, the state of our union is the strongest it has ever been.

"Never before has our nation enjoyed, at once, so much prosperity and social progress with so little internal crisis and so few external threats, he said.

In the portion of his speech dedicated to national security issues, Clinton said the technological advances that created palm-sized cell phones can also make weapons of terror easier to conceal and easier to use. He predicted the nation's major security threat in the next 10 to 20 years would be narco-traffickers, terrorists and organized criminals who will work together with increasing access to sophisticated chemical and biological weapons.

We must meet this threat," he said, "by making effective agreements to restrain nuclear and missile programs in North Korea; curbing the flow of lethal technology to Iran; preventing Iraq from threatening its neighbors; increasing our preparedness against chemical and biological attack; protecting our vital computer systems from hackers and criminals; and developing a system to defend against new missile threats -- while working to preserve our ABM missile treaty with Russia."

Clinton thanked U.S. service members for their courage and sacrifices in Kosovo, Bosnia and East Timor, and praised Defense Secretary William Cohen for symbolizing our bipartisan commitment to national security. The president also thanked Cohens wife, Janet, who, has tirelessly traveled this world to show the support we all feel for our troops.

He said all Americans should be proud of the men and women of the American armed forces who stopped the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, enabling a million people to return to their homes. When Slobodan Milosevic unleashed his terror on Kosovo, [Air Force] Capt. John Cherrey was one of the brave airmen who turned the tide, he said. And when another American plane was shot down over Serbia, he flew into the teeth of enemy air defenses to bring his fellow pilot home.

Thanks to our armed forces' skill and bravery, we prevailed in Kosovo without losing a single American in combat. Clinton introduced Cherrey to Congress and the nationwide television audience and said, We promise you, Captain, we'll finish the job you began.

Cherrey, from Dumont, N.J., received the Silver Star for his role in saving an F-117 pilot shot down over Serbia. The 33-year-old A-10 pilot serves with the 81st Fighter Squadron, 52nd Fighter Wing, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

Clinton said the United States must protect against conflicts that pose the risk of wider war and threaten our common humanity. America can't prevent every conflict or stop every outrage, he said, But where our interests are at stake and we can make a difference, we should be, and we must be, peacemakers.

The president addressed U.S. relations with Russia and China. We must continue to encourage our former adversaries, Russia and China, to emerge as stable, prosperous, democratic nations, he said. Both are being held back today from reaching their full potential: Russia by the legacy of communism, an economy in turmoil, a cruel and self-defeating war in Chechnya; China by the illusion that it can buy stability at the expense of freedom.

He urged Congress to continue to fund efforts to reduce the Russian nuclear arsenal and called on members to pass Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China that allows the country to enter the World Trade Organization.

The next major step is presenting the fiscal 2001 Defense Budget to Congress on Feb. 7.

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