Presidential Radio Address - 5 April 2008
Good morning. I'm speaking to you from Europe, where I attended the NATO summit and witnessed the hopeful progress of the continent's youngest democracies.
The summit was held in Romania, one of the 10 liberated nations that have joined the ranks of NATO since the end of the Cold War. After decades of tyranny and oppression, today Romania is an important member of an international alliance dedicated to liberty, and it is setting a bold example for other former communist nations that desire to live in peace and freedom.
One of those nations is Croatia, which I'm also visiting on my trip. Croatia is a very different place than it was just a decade ago. Since they attained their independence, the Croatian people have shown the world the potential of human freedom. They've overcome war and hardship to build peaceful relations with their neighbors, and they have built a maturing democracy on the rubble of a dictatorship.
This week NATO invited Croatia, as well as the nation of Albania, to join the NATO Alliance. These countries have made extraordinary progress on the road to freedom, prosperity, and peace. The invitation to join NATO represents the Alliance's confidence that they will continue to make necessary reforms and that they will become strong contributors to NATO's mission of collective defense.
I regret that NATO was not able to extend an invitation to a third nation, Macedonia, at this week's summit. Like Croatia and Albania, Macedonia has met all the criteria for NATO membership. Unfortunately, its invitation was delayed because of a dispute over its name. I made clear that the name issue should be resolved quickly, that NATO should intensify its engagement with Macedonia, and that we look forward to the day when this young democracy takes its place among the members of the NATO Alliance.
After a century when the great wars of Europe threatened destruction throughout the world, the continent has now entered into a promising new era. Less than two decades ago, Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia suffered under the yoke of communist oppression. The people in these countries know what the gift of liberty means, because they know what it is like to have their liberty denied. They know the death and destruction that can be caused by the followers of radical ideologies who kill the innocent in pursuit of political power. And these lessons have led them to work alongside America in the war on terror.
Today, soldiers from Croatia, Albania, and Macedonia are serving bravely in Afghanistan, helping the Afghan people defeat terrorists and secure a future of liberty. And forces from Albania and Macedonia are also serving in Iraq, where they're helping the Iraqi people build a society that rejects terror and lives in freedom. These nations have displayed the ultimate devotion to the principle of liberty -- sacrificing to provide it for others.
Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia are not alone in discarding the change to their past and embracing the promise of freedom. Another burgeoning democracy is Ukraine. Earlier this week I traveled to Kyiv to express America's support for beginning the process of bringing both Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. In recent years, both of these nations have seen tens of thousands take to the streets to peacefully demand their God-given liberty. The people of Ukraine and Georgia are an inspiration to the world and I was pleased that this week NATO declared that Ukraine and Georgia will become members of NATO.
Nearly seven years ago I came to Europe and spoke to the students and faculty at Warsaw University in Poland. On that day I declared that all of Europe's new democracies -- from the Baltic to the Black Sea -- should have the same chance for security and freedom and the same chance to join the institutions of Europe. Seven years later we have made good progress toward fulfilling this vision, and more work remains.
In many parts of the world, freedom is still a distant aspiration -- but in the ancient cities and villages of Europe, it is at the center of a new era of hope.
Thank you for listening.