Mr. Minister, General, distinguished visitors, and you who have participated in Cooperative Neighbor, today is an historic day in an historic week.
For today you are concluding the first full-fledged Partnership for Peace exercise on the soil of Ukraine. And you are doing so on the heels of NATO's historic summit in Madrid, where NATO reached out to invite three new democracies to join the Alliance, where NATO reaffirmed its determination to seek a cooperative relationship with Russia, and, equally important, where an historic charter was signed establishing a new relationship between Ukraine and NATO.
These past several days, on this soil that once suffered the bootfalls of troops from one half of Europe training for war with the other half, you -- forces from all over Europe -- came to train for peace. On this soil of a vibrant new democracy, you have trained on these grounds not to conquer, but to cooperate; not to destroy, but to build.
I am impressed with what I have seen here today. 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. It symbolizes Ukraine's evolving role as a unifying element across the continent's old dividing lines.
Erasing these dividing lines was what NATO's summit in Madrid earlier this week was all about. The three new democracies invited to join the alliance -- Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic -- are ready to assume the responsibilities of NATO membership.
But NATO also made clear in Madrid that the first new members shall not be the last. The door to NATO membership will remain open to others. And the key to that door is the Partnership for Peace.
The Partnership for Peace is a vehicle for all the new democracies of Europe-- those seeking NATO membership and those choosing to remain outside the Alliance -- to forge closer ties with NATO and with each other.
Partnership for Peace is about forging new security ties that will allow newly free societies to flourish. It says we can work together to better protect peace and prevent future wars. It says we can create a wider circle of security that includes all the nations of Europe.
Fifty years ago, in the wake of World War II, a great American -- Secretary of State George C. Marshall --had a great vision. It was the vision of a Europe healed, whole and free, at peace with itself and with the world, and linked to America across a bridge of help, hope and heritage.
Today, we are building Marshall's Europe -- a Europe united in peace, freedom and democracy. And you are the foot soldiers of Marshall's Europe. I am impressed with what you have done here. I challenge you to continue this work and to keep alive the cooperative network you have built here. For the Europe of the 21st Century will not be built only in the halls of diplomacy, but on training fields such as this one right here. The common experiences you have had here, the personal ties you have built here, will carry the torch of freedom to all corners of Europe. And, in the words of the American President John F. Kennedy, "the glow from that fire, can truly light the world."