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Clinton Says NATO Enlargement in U.S. Interest

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

MADRID, July 10, 1997 – President Clinton said he will ask the Senate to ratify changes in the North Atlantic Treaty next year with hopes of approving inclusion of Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic in the alliance by 1999 -- NATO's 50th anniversary.

Clinton said he hopes the publicity the invitations to the three former Warsaw Pact members received will stimulate discussion and debate in America. "I hope that when the American people hear the arguments, they too will strongly support the enlargement of NATO," Clinton said during a press conference.

The president said new members will allow the alliance to better defend Europe and reduce chances any NATO territory would be violated by an enemy. He said NATO membership is a serious issue. "Keep in mind, if we extend membership to another country, it means we are committing the people who wear the uniform of our nation to go an fight and die for that nation," Clinton said. "Now I think it's a pretty good gamble, because no NATO nation has ever been attacked -- ever, not once."

Still, the president said, NATO enlargement is not cost- or risk-free. "No important decision ever is," he said. "But for the American people, clearly the costs will be far less in lives and money to expand the bounds of democracy and security than it would be if we had to involve our people in another conflict in Europe."

Clinton said he believes critics in the United States have "grossly overestimated" the cost of NATO enlargement. He said the new nations should pay most of the costs themselves, but the United States and other NATO nations must pick up some of the costs. He cited joint training and joint planning costs the nations must share. He also said the allies should pick up some NATO interoperability costs for Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. "I would expect the costs will be modest for all countries," he said. "But I would think that the Europeans and the United States and Canada will have modest costs that we will bear."

Clinton reiterated NATO enlargement is not meant to threaten or isolate Russia. The Russia-NATO Pact signed in Paris in June shows NATO wants a constructive partnership with Russia, he said.

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