Last Friday, the Fourth of July, was Independence Day in the United States. As always, we celebrated with a huge fireworks display over the National Mall in Washington, DC. The fireworks in all their brilliance dazzled the night sky and glinted off the surface of every structure in the city.
And so it also cast flashes of light on the Kossuth House in Washington, which is named, of course, for the father of Hungarian democracy -- Lajos Kossuth.
Almost 150 years ago, after Kossuth's brave effort to liberate Hungary was brutally crushed, the United States invited him to visit our country. We gave him a hero's welcome, with a 100-gun salute and a tribute by the Mayor of New York, who called Kossuth "the champion of human progress and universal freedom." He was a guest of the President at the White House. He was invited to address both houses of the US Congress, the first non-American citizen to do so after Lafayette. From there Kossuth launched a triumphant speaking tour of the United States: dozens of cities, 150 speeches, spoken in English he learned reading Shakespeare in a political prison.
As the American author Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, "Every day brings a new speech by Kossuth -- stirring and eloquent." Kossuth clearly struck a chord in the heart of America. And America clearly struck a chord in Kossuth's heart, for as he told America, his quest for Hungary's liberty was fired by the spirit of the American patriots and what they achieved. As Kossuth said, "The Declaration of Independence cast a ray of consolation over the injured land whose chief is a wandering exile for having dared to imitate you."
Today, in a place of honor in the US Capitol, there stands a bronze bust of Kossuth that we -- my then fellow Senators and I -- unveiled in 1990. When you look at this sculpture in the light of a new Hungary, you can almost see the pride in Kossuth's gaze, for Hungary has now realized his vision of a free and democratic homeland. So just as Kossuth came to America 150 years ago to express his admiration for my country, I have come to Hungary to return the compliment, to express America's admiration for your country and all you have accomplished.
With the words Kossuth used to describe the United States, we can now use to describe the new Hungary taking form. A democratic Hungary where there is, "nothing about the people without the people." A constitutional Hungary where "it is not men who rule but the law ... and institutions are founded on the principles of self-government." A pluralistic Hungary where, "civil, religious and political liberty is the common benefit of all." A free-market Hungary where "present prosperity strengthens faith in the future." A confident Hungary that "takes counsel of its rights and its duties, not of its fears." And an optimistic Hungary where, "mankind looks to your country with hope and confidence."
As Secretary of Defense, I would like to add that we also see a peace-loving Hungary that Kossuth would have cherished.
A Hungary devoted to peace on its borders with sound relations with its neighbors. A Hungary devoted to peace in Europe by providing troops and bases to the NATO operation in Bosnia. A Hungary devoted to peace beyond Europe by sending troops to UN peacekeeping operations on other continents. A Hungary building a peacetime military under civilian control that serves democracy. A Hungary that has seized on every opportunity to engage with NATO through the Partnership for Peace. A Hungary that, having aided the demise of communism in Europe, will now join the community of democracies in Europe and add to its common defense.
In all of these steps toward Kossuth's vision, Hungary is also helping to realize a grand vision for all of Europe. It was a vision set forth 50 years ago last month by a man whom I believe Kossuth would have admired: the American statesman George Marshall. In June of 1947, as Europe struggled to rise from the rubble of the Second World War, Marshall dared to imagine Europe as a new continent -- healed, whole, and free, at peace with itself and with the world, and linked to America across a bridge of help, hope, and heritage.
Marshall's vision became the Marshall Plan. Half of Europe embraced the Marshall Plan and built strong democracies, strong economies and a strong alliance called NATO. But half of Europe was denied the Marshall Plan when Joseph Stalin slammed the Iron Curtain down upon the fingers of that helping hand and cast the shadow of communism across Hungary and its neighbors.
Today, with the Iron Curtain swept into the dust bin of history and the light of democracy glowing across the continent like the fireworks over Washington, we have the opportunity to complete Marshall's vision for a new Europe, healed, whole and free. A Europe where the realm of liberty, stability and prosperity stretches from West to East, where the citizens of countries -- such as Hungary -- will be safe to pursue life, liberty and happiness.
This week in Madrid, NATO took major historic steps toward completing this vision of a united and free Europe.
First, NATO reaffirmed its commitment to developing genuine cooperation with Russia and fully implementing the Founding Act signed in May. This Act sets NATO and Russia on a future course not of confrontation, but of consultation and cooperation on mutual interests and mutual concerns. This is a tremendous opportunity for both Russia and the West. For Russia, the Founding Act gives Moscow a voice -- not a veto nor a vote -- in Brussels and a role in the new Europe. For the West, these consultations allow us to demonstrate that just as NATO is not a threat to Russia, so too will enlarging NATO make all of Europe, including Russia, safer by enlarging the realm of liberty, stability and prosperity.
What we have built are the footings for a new bridge to Russia. And in so doing, the Founding Act paved the way for NATO's second historic act in Madrid this week. We agreed to invite Hungary, along with Poland and the Czech Republic, to enter into accession negotiations leading to full NATO membership.
In choosing Hungary, NATO recognizes your great progress in building democracy, opening your economy, settling disputes with your neighbors, modernizing your military and contributing to European stability. We recognize that Hungary is ready to take the next steps to becoming a full member, and to accept all the rights and responsibilities of membership. We recognize Hungary's long struggle and now celebrate your success. On behalf of President Clinton, the American people and our NATO allies ... let me offer our heartiest congratulations for achieving this historic milestone.
But as we discuss the first round of new accessions, we will also continue to make something perfectly clear to the other new democracies, including your neighbors and fellow Partners in Europe. That is, the first new members shall not be the last -- the door to NATO membership will remain open to others. Today, nine other European states have declared their desire to join NATO, and many of them -- notably Slovenia and Romania -- are making excellent progress in preparing themselves for membership.
An invitation to join NATO is a momentous action, which carries heavy obligations both for the new and the old members. There must be no dilution of NATO's strength, which means we must not weaken NATO in the process of enlarging it, or threaten overall stability in Europe. Where countries are on the right path, but need more time to solidify their progress, the wiser course is to defer invitations, encourage and support continuing reforms, and make sure the door remains open so they can walk through when they are ready. And the best way for NATO aspirants to walk through that door is by participating fully in the Partnership for Peace -- as Hungary did.
Later this week in Ukraine, I will see Hungary's forces join with forces from America and nine other NATO and Partner nations in an exercise called "Cooperative Neighbor." The American poet Robert Frost once wrote about how farmers in New England would take the field stones they dug up from their pastures and stack them up between their properties to separate them. They believed that, "good fences make good neighbors." Partnership for Peace takes the old fences down in Europe and says, "good friendships make good neighbors." By making the most of the Partnership, Hungary has not only helped itself by proving its readiness to be a NATO member, Hungary is also helping all of Europe by helping to make the Partnership a vital and enduring element of the continent's new security architecture.
Today when I see the portrait of Marshall that hangs behind my desk, and recall the bust of Kossuth in the US Capitol, I can almost sense their support and approval. But I can also imagine their anticipation of where we will go from here. As Hungary knows, it is only the beginning of the NATO enlargement process. The road to membership by 1999 will require Hungary's fullest measure of devotion.
NATO will help. In the coming months, NATO staff will visit Budapest to help Hungary prepare its answers to Defense Planning Questionnaire. And NATO will work with you to develop your force goals, an important element of the NATO planning process. NATO and the United States are prepared to share our expertise in defense planning and force development in air defense, logistics, infrastructure, training and personnel, and technical advice.
But greatest challenges belong to Hungary: to plan and resource NATO-compatible military capabilities, to continue to press hard for interoperability at all levels with NATO, including the extra effort to train both senior and junior officers in English, and to increase national investments in defense to match NATO averages.
Let me be specific about these military requirements. NATO will expect Hungary to continue defense and military reforms, first by completing a comprehensive national security strategy. NATO will expect Hungary to invest in quality training for your forces and a quality of life sufficient to retain the best among them. NATO will expect Hungary to adapt NATO-compatible doctrine and procedures. And NATO will expect Hungary to upgrade its air defense and command, control and communications.
This restructuring of Hungary's armed forces will make Hungary better able to defend your own territory, better able to contribute to the defense of the Alliance, and better able to take part in the full range of Alliance missions.
In addition to these military requirements, Hungary will also need to build and sustain public and parliamentary support for NATO membership. In a democracy, nothing is more important. Nobody would recognize this necessity more than George Marshall, who traveled the United States to build public support for the Marshall Plan. And so when the plan succeeded, President Truman observed that, "It is more than the creation of statesmen. It comes from the minds and hearts of all the people."
Today, NATO enlargement must also be more than the creation of national leaders. But it is the duty of leaders to engage the hearts and minds of the people. As democracies, we have learned that public support for government actions, particularly actions involving national security, legitimizes those actions. Given the momentous implications of enlarging NATO, we must earn public support for it. And to earn public support for it, we need to have open, full, national discussions about the benefits and the burdens.
The benefits are enormous. For new members, it means being part of the most successful peacetime military alliance in history, and building closer and stronger ties with the West. For NATO, it means a stronger Alliance by erasing the artificial line that divided Europe and extending a circle of security that can better protect peace and prevent future war. For both NATO and new members, it provides the security for democracies to flourish, just as it did for Western European
nations such as Germany, Italy, and Spain. It provides a realm of trust and cooperation in which members can resolve their differences through negotiation rather than confrontation. It embodies the wisdom that liberty enlarged is liberty ensured.
But along with the benefits come the responsibilities of enlargement. The responsibility of being a contributor -- not just a consumer -- of collective security. The responsibility to restructure your military forces so they can operate seamlessly with other NATO forces. The United States Senate -- like the other NATO parliaments -- will be looking for clear assurances that new members such as Hungary understand the burdens of NATO membership, and are ready to shoulder the burdens.
But perhaps the greatest challenge of all is not only to adapt your military to that of a NATO member, but to adopt the mindset of a NATO member. Hungary is walking through an extraordinary door into a new realm. The ancient Roman scholar Varro said, "The longest part of the journey is said to be the passing of the gate." Hungary's journey as a future NATO member has just begun.
You are entering the world of Western security, joining a region with its own security requirements. Hungary will no longer be a partner offering to help NATO address Euro-Atlantic security issues. Now Hungary will be a NATO member responsible for Euro-Atlantic security. When the Hungarian flag is unfurled as a NATO member at Brussels, Hungarian political and military leaders will join in formulating Alliance defense policy and strategy that Hungarian forces will participate in carrying out.
That means Hungary must help NATO meet the security challenges -- and seize the opportunities -- of Europe today. That means Hungary must help NATO forge closer ties with Russia. Hungary must encourage settlement of the remaining regional quarrels, promote stability and reform in Ukraine, Romania, Slovakia and the Balkans, work hard for peace in Bosnia, and help all Partner nations achieve what you have achieved, whether it is NATO membership or closer ties with the West. If past is prologue, we are confident that Hungary will adapt its military and adopt the mindset necessary for NATO membership. And that next year, as you celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Hungarian Liberation Fight, the sons and daughters of Kossuth will also celebrate Hungary's greater integration into the realm of free and democratic nations of Europe and the world.
When I was a younger man, I served a member of the city council and then the mayor of my hometown in Maine, on the Atlantic coast of the United States. I thought I knew the town pretty well. So I was surprised to learn as I prepared to
come to Budapest that there is a quiet residential street named for Kossuth, right off a major thoroughfare that leads into the heart of the city. The town's historian could not tell me how this street was named, beyond speculating that Kossuth's visit to America in the 1850s coincided with the town's period of greatest growth.
But I can tell you this: From this day forward, whenever I return to my hometown and pass Kossuth Street, I shall never forget the day NATO invited Hungary to join the Alliance, the time I spent in Budapest, the Hungarian hospitality; and the great, good things that this country has accomplished for itself. And so I return the compliment of Kossuth's tribute to America with his words, "may the sun of freedom never drop below the horizon of your happy land."