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At the Request of Mr. Reid the Following Statement Was Ordered to be Printed in the Record

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

(At the request of Mr. REID, the following statement was ordered to be printed in the Record.) -- (Senate - March 03, 2008)

(At the request of Mr. REID, the following statement was ordered to be printed in the Record.)


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Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, from April 2 to 4, 2008, leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, will meet at a summit in Bucharest, Romania, to address issues critical to American national security and the future of the Euro-Atlantic community. NATO leaders must seize this opportunity to strengthen transatlantic ties, augment alliance members' contributions to common missions and continue to build the integrated, stable and prosperous Europe that is a vital interest of the United States.

A top priority for the summit must be to reinforce NATO's critical mission in Afghanistan. The contributions there of all the NATO allies alongside more than a dozen other countries bears testimony to how the alliance can contribute to the 21st century missions that are vital to the security of the United States and its allies. NATO's involvement provides capabilities, legitimacy, and coordination in Afghanistan that simply would not be available if NATO did not exist.

Success in Afghanistan is vital to the security of the United States, to all NATO members, and to the people of Afghanistan. NATO's leaders must therefore send an unambiguous message that every country in NATO will do whatever needs to be done to destroy terrorist networks in Afghanistan, to prevent the Taliban from returning to power, and to bring greater security and well-being to the Afghan people. This will require adequate numbers of capable military forces and civilian personnel from NATO members and putting more of an Afghan face on counter insurgency operations by providing more training and resources to the Afghan National Army and police forces, and by embedding more Afghan forces in NATO missions. We must also win long-term public support through assistance programs that make a difference in the lives of the Afghan people, including investments in infrastructure and education; the development of alternative livelihoods for poppy farmers to undermine the Taliban and other drug traffickers; and increased efforts to combat corruption through safeguards on assistance and support for the rule of law.

Success in Afghanistan will also require the removal of restrictions that some allies have placed on their forces in Afghanistan, which hamper the flexibility of commanders on the ground. The mission in Afghanistan--legitimized by a United Nations mandate, supported by the Afghan people, and endorsed by all NATO members after the United States was attacked is central to NATO's future as a collective security organization. Afghanistan presents a test of whether NATO can carry out the crucial missions of the 21st century, and NATO must come together to meet that challenge. Now is the time for all NATO allies to recommit to this common purpose.

The summit must also address the question of the alliance expanding membership. NATO enlargement since the end of the Cold War has helped the countries of Central and Eastern Europe become more stable and democratic. It has also added to NATO military capability by facilitating contributions from new members to critical missions such as Afghanistan.

The three current candidates for NATO membership--Albania, Croatia and the Republic of Macedonia--have each made great strides in consolidating their new democracies. They have reformed their defense establishments, worked to root out corruption, modernized their economies, and contributed to NATO security missions in the Balkans and Afghanistan. Responding to these efforts with NATO membership at the upcoming summit would add to the alliance military capabilities while contributing to stability in the Balkans, a region still suffering from the ethnic tensions left behind by the bloodshed of the 1990s.

Ukraine and Georgia have also been developing their ties with NATO. Their leaders have declared their readiness to advance a NATO Membership Action Plan, MAP, to prepare for the rights and obligations of membership. They are working to consolidate democratic reforms and to undertake new responsibilities in their relationship with the Alliance. I welcome the desire and actions of these countries to seek closer ties with NATO and hope that NATO responds favorably to their request, consistent with its criteria for membership. Whether Ukraine and Georgia ultimately join NATO will be a decision for the members of the alliance and the citizens of those countries, after a period of open and democratic debate. But they should receive our help and encouragement as they continue to develop ties to Atlantic and European institutions.

NATO enlargement is not directed against Russia. Russia has an important role to play in European and global affairs and should see NATO as a partner, not as a threat. But we should oppose any efforts by the Russian government to intimidate its neighbors or control their foreign policies. Russia cannot have a veto over which countries join the alliance. Since the end of the Cold War, Republican and Democratic administrations have supported the independence and sovereignty of all the states of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and we must continue to do so. President Putin recent threat to point missiles at Ukraine is simply not the way to promote the peaceful 21st century Europe we seek.

NATO stands as an example of how the United States can advance American national security--and the security of the world--through a strong alliance rooted in shared responsibility and shared values. NATO remains a vital asset in America's efforts to anchor democracy and stability in Europe and to defend our interests and values all over the world. The Bucharest summit provides an opportunity to advance these goals and to reinforce a vital alliance. NATO's leaders must seize that opportunity.

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