English Pages, 12. 3. 2009
Secretary General, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to welcome you here, in Rudolph's Gallery of the Prague Castle. We have gathered in this truly historic place to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the accession of our country to the North Atlantic Alliance and – at the same time – the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Alliance.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that our NATO membership became shortly after the fall of communism one of the key priorities of our foreign and security policy. Many of us considered NATO one of the pillars of the free world, even in the past, in the communist era. We knew that NATO had successfully stood against the communist expansionism and to a major extent contributed to the victory of the free world in the Cold War.
It was of great importance to us that the North Atlantic Alliance had always been more than just a military and security pact. This special partnership of democratic countries from both sides of the Atlantic has not only rested on common political interests, but also on shared values, which NATO member countries have been ready to defend. This security framework, based on the American military presence in Europe, created a firm transatlantic link that has gradually transformed itself into the powerful axis of modern western civilization.
The situation after World War I, when – following the Paris Peace Conference – the U.S. withdrew back behind the Atlantic and left Europe on its own to unleash a new, even bloodier world war 20 years later, did not repeat itself. I would like to be very explicit. It is the American military strength and the American cooperation with the democratic Europe under the auspices of NATO that we have to thank for the unprecedented sixty four years of peace on our continent.
Those of us, who were left behind the Iron Curtain and were for decades dreaming about freedom and democracy, were very well aware of this all. We witnessed the aggressive totalitarian communist system gradually loosing political initiative and interpreted it as a result of the determination and willingness of the West to defend the free world. We were here in the moment of the final collapse of the that system. It happened when this system became unable to compete neither in economic nor in military terms. For our country, a former satellite of the Soviet empire, this paved the way for our return to the free and democratic Europe.
It was clear to most of us – even at that time – that in the euphoria resulting from the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, the free world mustn’t abandon the alliance that was so crucial for this historic victory. This is why we – from the very beginning – rejected proposals that with the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, NATO should be dissolved as well. On the contrary, we were convinced that its expansion to Central Europe would guarantee those fundamental changes that our region had gone through at the beginning of the 1990s. I would like to thank all those politicians from the NATO member countries who understood this historic challenge and supported the enlargement of NATO in the years 1999 and 2004. We can proudly say that it has been proved that NATO was not only an institution of the Cold War era but has a significant role to play also today, at the beginning of the 21st century.
It is important that NATO is based on the principle of voluntary cooperation, that it is not only a military structure, but also a framework for political consultations, that it is not a monolithic block with only one permitted view, but a place for dialog and for consensus-seeking. That is why NATO turned into a platform trying to find solutions to the new security threats Europe and the world have been facing since the end of the Cold War, be it the situation in the Balkans or the fight against international terrorism.
The armed forces of the Czech Republic have for many years taken part in the NATO military activities in the Balkans, in Iraq and in Afghanistan. I believe the Czechs have proved to be reliable. They demonstrated both courage and the ability to integrate into challenging military missions. Our NATO membership enabled our army to transform itself into a modern armed force that is capable to protect the security of our country and contribute to the security of our allies.
It is in our interest to keep NATO as a functional and efficient defense alliance also in the future, an alliance that will retain its basic meaning – joint commitment of all member countries to defend any other member against an external threat. NATO mustn’t change into another Conference on security and cooperation in Europe (or in the world) and cease to be a military alliance guaranteeing the security of its members.
NATO must also remain the basic element of European defense architecture. This is the only way to preserve the firm transatlantic link, upon which postwar security in Europe has been built. All the projects concerning the future development of European integration in the security area should take this into consideration. And the same applies for plans about the future NATO enlargement. We must insist the enlargement would strengthen, not weaken the alliance’s ability to act, and would enhance, not weaken its security commitments.
I am convinced that the upcoming NATO summit in Strasbourg and Kehl, that will take place on April 3-4, will not only be a celebration of the sixty years of the Alliance, but will also answer the questions concerning its future.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe that some of these topics have already been discussed or will be discussed at the conference “NATO Enlargement Ten Years On” you’ve been attending. I wish your conference much success and hope that the North Atlantic Alliance will continue to guarantee security for the Czech Republic and Europe, as well as stability in the world.
Václav Klaus, Speech at the NATO conference “Enlargement Ten Years On”, Prague Castle, March 12, 2009.
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