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Published on 05 Apr 2022 / In News & Politics

(22 Oct 1996) English/Nat

NATO marks its 50th anniversary in 1999, and President Clinton says that's when it should admit new members.

In Detroit Tuesday, Clinton said it's time to seize a historic opportunity presented by the fall of communism.

The U-S President didn't say which Eastern European countries should
be added to NATO.

But he did say the alliance must work to overcome Russia's objections.

President Bill Clinton took a side-step from a campaign trail dominated by domestic issues with his boldest statement yet about the expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe.

He urged America's NATO partners to add former Soviet bloc nations as members by the end of 1999.

"Now it is time to take the next historic step forward. Last month I called for a summit in the spring or early summer of next year to name the first group of future NATO members and invite them to begin accession talks. Today I want to state America's goal: by 1999, NATO's 50th anniversary, and 10 years after the fall of the Berlin wall, the first group of countries we invite to join should be full-fledged members of NATO."
SUPERCAPTION: Bill Clinton, US President

As expected, Clinton neither named the likely members, nor did he set a date for the summit next year at which certain countries will be invited to open negotiations.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has openly recognised that Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic are among the leading candidates.

Clinton has already announced plans to visit those countries - if as appears likely he wins the U-S presidential election.

But he is mindful of Russian concerns.

"NATO enlargement is not directed against anyone. It will advance the security of everyone. NATO's old members, new members and non-members alike. I know that some in Russia still look at NATO through a Cold War prism, and therefore look at our proposals to expand it in a negative light. But I ask them to look again. We're building a new NATO just as we are support the Russian people in building a new Russia. By reducing rivalry and fear, by strengthening peace and cooperation, NATO will promote greater stability in Europe and Russia will be among the beneficiaries. Indeed, Russia has the best chance in history to help to build that undivided and peaceful Europe and to be an equal and respected and successful partner in that sort of future."
SUPERCAPTION: Bill Clinton, US President

The speech was well received in Detroit, an area full of voters of east European stock.

In a presidential race that has been thin on foreign policy debate, the proposed expansion is seen as a clear goal of a Clinton second term, regardless of Russian opposition.

Clinton delivered his speech before flying to Miami.

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