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Marshall's Vision Lives On

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 29, 1997 – "Today, I affirm to the people of Europe, as Gen. Marshall did 50 years ago: America stands with you. We have learned the lessons of history. We will not walk away."

President Clinton made this pledge while praising Europe's new security structure May 28 in The Hague during ceremonies commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Marshall Plan. It was his second stop on a four-day trip to France, the Netherlands and Great Britain.

Once again, Clinton said, the world has a chance to realize then-Secretary of State George C. Marshall's vision of creating a peaceful, undivided, democratic Europe. The first steps were taken toward reaching that goal in the aftermath of World War II, he said. With the collapse of the Soviet Empire, a surge of democracy has swept through Central and Eastern Europe allowing Marshall's vision to live on.

"Now, the dawn of new democracies is lighting the way to a new Europe," Clinton said. This time, he said, America and Europe must complete "the noble journey that Marshall's generation began, and this time with no one left behind," he said.

After World War II, some 30,000 dead still lay buried beneath Warsaw's rubble, Clinton said. Germany was in ruins. Britain faced a desperate shortage of coal and electric power. Factories were crippled; trade was paralyzed. Millions feared starvation. America stepped in with a plan to help Europe recover from the devastating war.

"The Marshall Plan offered a cure, not a crutch," Clinton said. "It was never a handout; it was always a hand up. It said to Europe, if you will put your divisions behind you, if you will work together to help yourselves, then America will work with you."

Marshall, who as Army Chief of Staff was one of the architects of victory during World War II, proposed the plan during a commencement address at Harvard University, June 5, 1947. The recovery plan was the foundation for Europe's economic and political reconstruction. American help came in the form of grants and loans to pay for food, clothing and other supplies; to rebuild roads, bridges and railways; to restore economies and foster democracy.

"The first ship set sail from Texas to France with 19,000 tons of wheat," Clinton said. "Soon, on any given day, a convoy of hope was heading to Europe with fuel, raw materials and equipment," he said.

"By the end of 1952, the Marshall Plan had pumped $13 billion into Europe's parched economies," Clinton said. "That would be the equivalent of $88 billion today. It provided the people of Europe with the tools they needed to rebuild their shattered lives. There were nets for Norwegian fishermen, wool for Austrian weavers, tractors for French and Italian farmers, machines for Dutch entrepreneurs."

Marshall's vision of creating a unified Europe fell short, however, when Russia and its satellite nations withdrew behind the Iron Curtain, Clinton said.

"Stalin barred Europe's eastern half, including some of our staunchest allies during World War II, from claiming their seats at the table, shutting them out of Europe's recovery, closing the door on their freedom," Clinton said. "But the shackled nations never lost faith and the West never accepted the permanence of their fate."

Now that freedom has again spread throughout Europe, Clinton said, NATO can help secure the surge of democracy. "We can do for Europe's East what we did in Europe's West -- defend freedom, strengthen democracy, temper old rivalries, hasten integration and provide a stable climate in which prosperity can grow," he said.

NATO is adapting to the new age by bolstering ties to nonmembers through the Partnership for Peace and forging a partnership with Russia, Clinton said. "All these things [are] designed to make sure NATO remains strong, supports the coming together of Europe and leads in meeting our new security challenges."

Clinton hailed the historic signing of the NATO-Russian Founding Act in Paris May 27 as an extraordinary milestone. "For the first time, a new NATO and a new Russia have agreed to work as partners to meet the challenges to their common security in a new and undivided Europe, where no nation will define its greatness in terms of its ability to dominate its neighbors," he said.

NATO will soon invite new members to join the security alliance, Clinton said. "The first new members will not be the last," he said. "NATO's doors must, and will, remain open to all those able to share the responsibilities of membership."

NATO membership carries a heavy responsibility, Clinton noted, commitment to the security of each member nation. "Security and peace are not cheap," he said. "New and current allies alike must be willing to bear the burden or our ideals and our interests."

The United States is committed to remaining engaged in Europe to promote security and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic, Clinton said. Those who follow the example set by Marshall's generation have a clear mission, he said.

"We must shape the peace, freedom and prosperity they made possible into a common future where all our people speak the language of democracy; where they have the right to control their own lives and a chance to pursue their own dreams ... ."

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