USIS Washington File

12 March 1999


(NATO's adaptation to challenges of post-Cold War era)  (1120)

Independence, Missouri -- The admission of the Czech Republic,
Hungary, and Poland into NATO "is a recognition of the strategic
changes in Central and Eastern Europe ... and a manifestation of
NATO's adaptation to the challenges of the post-Cold War period," the
Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic says.

Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, during the NATO enlargement ceremony March
12 at the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri, said
that the Czech Republic is prepared to meet all "obligations and
duties which stem from" membership in NATO.

He praised the role the United States has played since World War Two
in integrating Europe. And he said the Czech Republic shares the
interest in keeping NATO "the strongest link between Europe and North
America," in order to deal with the risks and threats of the 21st

But he noted that the Czech Republic recognizes "that Europe should
significantly contribute to its own defense and to the solutions of
crises on its own continent."

Following is the Czech Republic's text, as prepared for delivery:

(begin text)

Intervention by Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Mr.
Jan Kavan, at the deposition of instruments of ratification of the
Czech Republic's accession to the North Atlantic Treaty,

Harry S. Truman Library,
Independence, Missouri,
12 March, 1999

Madame Secretary, Minister Martonyi, Minister Geremek, ladies and

My country's accession to the North Atlantic Treaty fills me with
satisfaction and pride. The deposit of the ratification instruments
seals off the entry of the Czech Republic into this successful and
very important Alliance.

It is a very special and unique feeling for a Czech politician to
deposit these ratification papers in a country where the basic ideas
and principles of the new Czechoslovak state were first formulated and
announced in 1918 in Philadelphia. It is therefore symbolic to mark
today our historic accession to NATO in a country which stood at the
birth of independent Czechoslovakia. We will always remember the
invaluable role of Woodrow Wilson as the new Czechoslovakia was
founded on treaties for which he was primarily responsible.

I am satisfied that we proved to be able to meet the Minimal Military
Requirements in time for today's accession to this efficient and
strong political and military alliance. We appreciate that we are now
an integral part of NATO s collective defense system. We are
determined not to become a burden to the Alliance, just the contrary,
we are prepared to fulfill our part of the responsibilities and
commitments of member states and to meet all the obligations and
duties which stem from the membership.

We highly appreciate that our accession to NATO was fully supported by
all member states of the Alliance which we also interpret as a
recognition of the fact that we all share common values and interests.

Today, at the moment of joining the Alliance, allow me to express my
conviction that the Czech traumas of this century have been now
relegated forever only to history. I have in mind, for example, the
dismemberment of the independent democratic pre-war Czechoslovakia
which was betrayed by its allies, the fascist protectorate, the
horrors of the WWII, the 40 years of Communist dictatorship, and the
death of the 1968 Prague Spring, which was crushed by the Soviet-led
Warsaw Pact invasion.

At the same time, the entry of the three new member nations into NATO
is also a great vindication for the renewed Czech democracy, helped to
get on its feet also by the USA, and for the transformation reforms
for which the Velvet revolution opened the way almost 10 years ago.
More generally, the admission of the first three new NATO members is a
recognition of the strategic changes in Central and Eastern Europe
after the fall of the Berlin Wall and a manifestation of NATO's
adaptation to the challenges of the post-Cold War period.

The process of European integration of today would not be possible
without the active and strong involvement of the United States since
the WWII. We, the Central Europeans, will remember what the United
States have done for the old continent. NATO is the strongest link
between Europe and North America. The Czech Republic shares the
interest to keep this transatlantic link strong in order to be able to
deal with the risks and threats of the 21st century security
environment. Czech Republic also appreciates the value USA and NATO
attach to the concept of European Defense Identity. We fully support
it as we strongly believe that Europe should significantly contribute
to its own defense and to the solutions of crises on its own
continent. The NATO's new strategic concept will provide an updated
political and conceptual basis for foreseeable future. It will have to
define more clearly the basis for the non-article 5 missions which are
the most likely way of employing NATO's military power in the current
situation. We look forward to the successful Washington summit which
should outline the future development of NATO, including the stages of
its future enlargement.

NATO is not only the bedrock of our common defense but also an
instrument for projecting cooperation, peace and stability beyond the
treaty territory. The Partnership for Peace has become the most
successful cooperative security project in the post-cold war world. We
very much appreciate that the Alliance's cooperation with both Russia
and Ukraine. This is very important for the European security of the
21st century.

Let me allow a brief personal note. I was in this area only once in my
life. It was few miles away from here, in Kansas City. And the date
was 21st August 1968, the day Russian tanks rolled into Prague and the
occupation of Czechoslovakia began. The powerless anger which swept me
then is undescribable. While working for the Czech opposition for the
subsequent 20 years, and cooperating closely with Polish and Hungarian
democratic opposition, I was dreaming about the day when Central and
Eastern Europe will become independent, democratic and secure. It is
for me symbolic that it is here, where today we accept a guarantee
that my country will never again become a powerless victim of a
foreign invasion.

Madame Secretary, ladies and gentlemen,

The Czechs will remember the support of the American people and of its
representatives for the country's entry into the Alliance. Today is a
good occasion to thank the U.S. Congress, President Clinton, you
personally and many others here in the United States for what you have
done for us.

Thank you all very much!

Independence, Missouri March 12, 1999

(end text)