On the Fourth of July, just before I left for Europe, America celebrated the 221st anniversary of our Declaration of Independence. It is a time when we recall the great hopes that filled those days when we were a "newly independent state," and the great challenges that lay before us as we set about to prove ourselves to the world.
This year, as always, we celebrated the Fourth of July with a huge fireworks display over the National Mall in Washington, D.C. 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 a celebratory light on the Monument to Captive nations, a modest shrine presided over by a sculpture of the Ukrainian patriot Taras Shevchenko.
This monument was erected three decades ago by the American people in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. It honors not only Shevchenko and his vision of a free and independent Ukraine, but also his larger vision of tolerance and freedom among all the world's peoples. And inscribed upon it are Shevchenko's immortal words: "freedom knows no dying."
Today, Ukraine -- having has just celebrated the 6th anniversary of its declaration of independence -- is living Shevchenko's dream. To all the world, Ukraine has declared its intention to build a vibrant and prosperous democracy that fulfills the vision Shevchenko set forth. For the blue and yellow flag of free Ukraine today is a banner of progress and promise.
Just as Shevchenko's outstretched arms once beckoned Ukraine and its neighbors to keep the faith and sustain their hope, Ukraine's accomplishments now beckon other nations to reach for the progress and promise you have set into motion. And when you look at that statue of Shevchenko in light of Ukraine's achievements, you can almost sense a greater pride in his bearing.
Shevchenko would be proud of Ukraine's constitution, which as President Clinton said puts "tolerance at the heart of your law, and law at the heart of your state." Shevchenko would be pleased with Ukraine's commerce, which you have ignited with economic reforms which, like medicine, can be hard to take but essential for long-term health. Shevchenko would feel protected by Ukraine's military, which you have strengthened under civilian leadership and put to good use on the fields of peace from L'viv to Bosnia. Shevchenko would applaud Ukraine's approach to its neighbors, which is to promote reconciliation and respect with Poland, Romania, Russia and others. And I believe Shevchenko's heart would soar with Ukraine's resolve to rid this hallowed soil of the scourge of nuclear missiles.
When future historians celebrate our age, let them tell the story of Ukraine, a great nation with a powerful heritage in the heart of Europe; a nation whose spirit survived domination ... resisted subjugation ... cast off oppression and then strove and sacrificed for a better future; a nation that, in pursuing this future, made itself, its region and its world a better and safer place.
But the outstretched arms of Shevchenko did not and do not beckon Ukraine and its brethren to embrace the past or accept the present. Rather, they are raised in expectation as if to ask us, "What about the future? "What will you do now, Ukraine and those who want a better Europe in which to thrive?"
This week in Madrid, we set about building this better Europe -- a Europe healed, whole and free, at peace with itself and with the world. Our building was evidenced by three historic actions.
First, NATO reaffirmed its commitment to developing genuine cooperation with Russia and fully implementing the Founding Act signed in May. The Founding Act recognizes that engaging Russia in a positive way contributes to the security of the continent. And it sends a strong signal that Russia will define its security and its relationship with its neighbors including Ukraine in a new and positive way.
NATO's second historic act in Madrid was to invite three new democracies -- Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic -- to begin accession negotiations to join the Alliance. The benefits of enlargement -- to the invitees, NATO, and all of Europe -- are tremendous. It provides new democracies the security in which their free societies can flourish. And it erases the artificial line that divided Europe and extends a circle of security that can better protect peace and prevent future war.
We also made clear at Madrid that the first new members shall not be the last the door to NATO membership will remain open to others. NATO will maintain dialogues with each democracy that wishes to join the Alliance, continually reviewing each candidate's readiness for membership. And it will foster closer ties with all the democratic nations of Europe -- including Ukraine.
Which brings me to the third historic step we took in Madrid: the signing of the new NATO-Ukraine Charter. I was pleased to be present when this historic document was signed. The United States was a strong supporter of developing the Charter, and we are gratified that it has now been completed.
The NATO-Ukraine Charter recognizes that an independent, democratic, prosperous and stable Ukraine is essential to building a more integrated and secure Europe. And it lays the foundation for a strong and enduring relationship between NATO and Ukraine.
The Charter reaffirms our mutual commitment to the rule of law, democracy, human rights and market economics. It reaffirms our mutual respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of all other states.
The Charter also sets us on a course of consultation and cooperation on a vast array of subjects, everything from arms control to defense reform to civil emergency planning. The Charter also provides for a crisis consultative mechanism whenever Ukraine perceives a direct threat to its territorial integrity, political independence or security.
The Charter is both a recognition of how far Ukraine has come these past six years, and a challenge for us to achieve all that we are capable of.
The Charter recognizes that Ukraine is taking its place as a leader in European mainstream. And by holding Ukraine up as model nation, fostering pan-European cooperation, the Charter refutes the argument that NATO enlargement will create "new dividing lines" in Europe. Indeed, the Charger recognizes in a formal, legal way what Mykhajlo Hrvshevsky, Ukraine's foremost historian, recognized over 80 years ago when he wrote: "Ukraine has shared a life with Europe. Ukraine has shared Europe's ideals. Europe has been the source of Ukraine's culture."
But the Charter also sets forth many challenges for Ukraine: the challenge to continue along the path of economic and defense reform; the challenge to continue to strive for democratic, civilian control of the military; and the challenge to strive for interoperability between Ukraine and NATO military forces. Failing to do the hard work required to meet these challenges will turn the high purposes announced in the Charter into little more than empty rhetoric.
If the past few months are any indication, Ukraine is more than equal to these challenges. This has been a period of extraordinary achievement for Ukrainian diplomacy. The settlement of disputes with Ukraine's neighbors -- especially the historic set of agreements by which Russia formally recognized the sovereignty of an independent Ukraine -- set the stage for Ukraine to become a vital leader in the vibrant life of this continent. Already we can see Ukraine assuming this mantle of leadership, forming joint peacekeeping units with neighboring countries, and preparing to deploy forces in support of peace in Moldova
Yesterday, I attended the closing ceremonies of the Cooperative Neighbor exercise in L'viv. It was the Partnership for Peace at its finest. On soil that once suffered the bootfalls of troops from one half of Europe training for war with the other half, forces from all over Europe came to train for peace. Cooperative Neighbor is the military embodiment of Europe's new security architecture, and of Ukraine's newfound self-confidence as an independent actor in European security.
Ukraine was the first Newly Independent State to join PFP, and it has been one of PFP's most active participants. This participation has already paid real dividends for European security, allowing NATO and Ukraine forces to work shoulder to shoulder together in Bosnia. Now it is time for Ukraine to step up and take advantage of Enhanced PFP and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. These initiatives will expose Ukraine to the full range of NATO's new missions, and draw it into more complex exercises and exercise planning and execution.
The United States is committed to helping Ukraine meet these challenges. This commitment stems not just from friendship, but from strategic self interest. As President Clinton said two years ago in Kiev, Ukraine "provide[s] an essential anchor of stability and freedom in a part of the world still reeling from rapid change."
That is why the United States seeks a deeper strategic partnership with Ukraine.
That is what the Gore-Kuchma Commission -- which held its first meeting in May -- is all about. It will provide us with a bilateral cooperation on everything from foreign policy to economic development; everything from security to trade and investment.
In the security field, we are committed to building on our successful efforts under the Cooperative Threat Reduction program. This program has already helped Ukraine rid itself of dangerous and destabilizing nuclear weapons creating a safer world for our children and grandchildren. Now we must carry it through so that we can eliminate the missiles that once carried those warheads.
But this is the work cleaning up the remnants of the past. The real future of our defense relationship lies in building cooperative ties that will carry us into an even more fruitful future. We are committed to helping Ukraine reform and remake its military establishment to meet its needs as an independent, democratic, modern European state.
We seek to deepen our cooperation on everything from military medicine and mapping to defense technology to defense reform. In May, Minister Kuzmuk and I agreed that we would exchange information and ideas on defense planning and resource allocation. We agreed to explore specific projects that will bring together the skills and knowledge of our defense technology establishments. And the United States is committed to helping Ukraine as it seeks to develop a professional corps of non-commissioned officers.
In all these challenges, the bulk of the hard work will remain as it should in the hands of Ukraine's citizens. In fact, much of the work will fall on the shoulders of you right here in this room. For our new security relationship must be defined not only by the words of diplomats, but also by the deeds of warriors -- on the training fields, the planning cells and in halls of learning, such as this Academy.
But the world is confident that you will succeed in meeting these challenges, for your history shows that your hands are equal to the task.
Since the earliest days of the Princes of Kiev, it has been in Ukraine where East and West, North and South have come together in comity and cooperation. And throughout centuries of oppression, Ukraine kept its dream of independence and freedom alive. The poet Lesya Ukrainka lived and wrote during the darkest days of czarist autocracy -- a time when Ukrainian art, literature and language were brutally suppressed. But her poetic voice was one of optimism, determination and hope. At the end of the 19th century, she wrote:
"I shall climb up a steep rocky mountain,
"On my back a great stone will I bring;
"Though I bear such a terrible burden,
"Still a merry song shall I sing
"Yes! Through my tears I would burst out laughing,
"Sing a song when grief is my lot
"Ever I, against hope, keep on hoping --
"I will live! Away, gloomy thought!"
Today, at the end of the 20th century, let us take inspiration from her words. And remembering the past, but recognizing the problems ahead, let us resolve to build a new Europe and a new century that we can all be proud of. And in the words of Shevchenko:
"There a true heart you will find,
"A word of kindness for you,
"There sincerity and truth,
"And, even, maybe, glory."