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Clinton Says U.S. Must Shape Events

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 5, 1997 – President Clinton called the state of the union strong, and said America must lead in this, a decisive moment in world affairs.

"We must be shapers of events, not observers, for if we do not act, the moment will pass and we will lose the best possibilities of our future," he said.

While most of Clinton's Feb. 4 State of the Union address before Congress dwelled on domestic policies, he called for NATO expansion, U.S. engagement in Asia, ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention and military modernization.

Clinton said America is more secure when Europe is stable and prosperous. The United States and NATO can help build an undivided, democratic Europe.

"We must expand NATO by 1999, so that countries that were once our adversaries can become our allies," he said. "At the special NATO summit this summer, that is what we will begin to do. We must strengthen NATO's Partnership for Peace [program] with nonmember allies. And we must build a stable partnership between NATO and a democratic Russia."

But American foreign policy cannot be Eurocentric. "America must look to the East no less than to the West," Clinton said. American security and prosperity hinge on good relations in Asia, he said. He called on Congress to help bridge the Cold War's last divide in Korea. He asked legislators to fund the U.S. contribution to the pact in which North Korea agreed to freeze and dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

He also called for a more extensive dialogue with China. "An isolated China is not good for America," he said. "A China playing its proper role in the world, is."

He said he'll visit China, and Chinese leaders will visit the United States to keep the countries engaged. "Not because we agree on everything, but because engaging China is the best way to work on our common challenges, like ending nuclear testing, and to deal frankly with our fundamental differences, like human rights," Clinton said.

The president said the United States must remain an "unrelenting force for peace." He cited U.S. efforts in Bosnia, Haiti, the Middle East and northern Ireland as proofs of this commitment. He asked Congress to continue its strong support of U.S. troops in Bosnia. "They are doing a remarkable job there for America, and America must do right by them," he said.

Clinton listed new threats to U.S. security and administration efforts to combat them. "In the past four years, we led the way to a worldwide agreement to ban nuclear testing," he said. "With Russia, we dramatically cut nuclear arsenals and we stopped targeting each other's citizens." He said the United States and other states are acting to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands. America is also playing a role in ridding the world of land mines.

He said the United States is working against terrorists and drug traffickers.

"Now we must rise to a new test of leadership -- ratifying the Chemical Weapons Convention." he said. He said the pact will make U.S. troops safer from chemical attack and will help the combat terrorism. "We have no more important obligations, especially in the wake of what we now know about the Gulf War."

The treaty goes into effect April 29. If the Senate does not ratify the pact then "we will lose the chance to have Americans leading and enforcing this effort."

Clinton said the United States must have a strong, well-equipped military to face all these challenges. "We must increase funding for weapons modernization by the year 2000," he said. "And we must take good care of our men and women in uniform. They are the world's finest."

Clinton called on Congress to take a lesson from the past. "Almost exactly 50 years ago in the first winter of the Cold War, President Truman stood before a Republican Congress and called upon our country to meet its responsibilities of leadership. This was his warning. He said, 'If we falter, we may endanger the peace of the world, and we shall surely endanger the welfare of this nation.'" Clinton said Congress answered the call then and must do so today. "Let us do what it takes to remain the indispensable nation, to keep America strong, secure and prosperous for another 50 years."

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