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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 9, 2002
Remarks by the President and NATO Secretary General After Meeting
The Roosevelt Room
6:15 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: It's an honor to welcome Lord Robertson back here to the White House. NATO is an anchor of security for both Europe and for the United States. And Lord Robertson is a very strong leader who is helping NATO meet the challenges of the new century.
Since September the 11th, NATO has been a bulwark in the fight against terror. On September the 12th, for the first time in history NATO invoked Article V, declaring an attack on one of its members is an attack on all.
NATO did so to show its strong support for the United States. And NATO nations are backing up those words with action. More than a dozen of our NATO allies are contributing forces to the war against terror in Afghanistan. NATO aircraft have been deployed to patrol our skies in support of America's security.
And the airspace of NATO members has been critical to coalition air operations. The United States is deeply, deeply grateful for this support.
This past weekend in Texas, I thanked Prime Minister Tony Blair for the many valuable contributions of Great Britain. Today, on behalf of the American people, I thank Lord Robertson for his leadership and for the help of our NATO friends.
The United States will consult closely with our allies as we move forward in the war against terror. This is an important moment for NATO. And as we prepare for the NATO summit in Prague later this year, we must address some critical challenges. NATO must develop new, flexible capabilities to meet the threats of the 21st century.
We must take on new members, securing freedom from the Baltic to the Black Sea. And NATO must forge a new relationship with Russia that is even more constructive, so that we can finally and forever abolish the divisions that are relics of a previous era.
These are difficult challenges, requiring determination and leadership. And I'm so happy that NATO has a strong visionary leader in my friend, Lord Robertson. It is our fourth meeting since I've taken office, and I look forward to many more.
Lord Robertson, I appreciate you coming.
SECRETARY GENERAL ROBERTSON: Mr. President, thank you very much for these kind words, and I'm delighted to be here at the White House today, because it was on this very day in this city, 53 years ago, that a group of nations came together to create a common defense against a common threat, by saying an attack on one country would be deemed to be an attack on all.
It was, however, a very different world when NATO redeemed that pledge last September. But although the world has changed, the ties that bind the 19 NATO nations together have not, because this is an alliance built on shared principles and not on convenience, built on permanent values, not on expediency.
So as the President has said, it should be no surprise that so many NATO nations -- all the NATO nations -- are at the forefront of this war on terror. NATO is the kind of alliance that you need, becuase when facing a long-term strategic challenge, there's no substitute for long-term strategic partners, partners that you can trust, and who trust you.
It's also the kind of alliance that works because when the going gets tough, the sheer training, standards and structures are what welds different nations into an effective home. It's also the kind of alliance that lasts becuase it adapts and modernizes, as it will indeed do at our summit meeting in Prague, in November of this year -- taking in new members, rising to new challenges, creating new capabilities to defeat new enemies and new threats.
So, today, the President and I discussed the common threats that we face, both in Europe and in North America, including from weapons of mass destruction. And NATO allies will work together to overcome these threats.
And I say this to you, that we will succeed becuase the record shows that NATO is an alliance that has served its members well in the past, is serving us well in the present, and as we continue to transform, will serve us well into the future.
Mr. President, this is indeed the fourth time that we've met. This is NATO's 53rd birthday. It's strong, strong as it ever was. And it remains strong becuase the ties that bind us together are enduring, and they lie in the common values of freedom and democracy and of liberty.
Thank you very much for your kind --
THE PRESIDENT: On that note, why don't I go buy you a meal?
SECRETARY GENERAL ROBERTSON: That's very kind -- very generous of you.
END 6:24 P.M. EDT