On behalf of all Americans, Hillary and I extend a warm welcome to
everyone gathered in Washington for the historic NATO 50th Anniversary
Summit - the largest meeting of world leaders ever held in our capital.
There is much to do in the course of this summit. We will honor past accomplishments, for it was here in April 1949 that 12 nations, united by their belief in democracy's strength, joined together to form the most successful military alliance in history. We will also welcome three new allies - Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic - whose membership makes our Alliance stronger. But our main task is to look to the future. We should think of this historic gathering not as the last NATO summit of the 20th century, but rather as the first one of the new century.
At the summit, we will focus together on NATO's efforts to resolve the crisis in Kosovo, relieve human suffering, and ensure long-term stability in southeastern Europe. Together, our nations will continue to pursue the same goals that unite all people: peace, prosperity, and the chance to build a better world than the one NATO's founders knew.
We face fresh challenges, and to meet them, we are adapting NATO to take on new missions. While NATO's core function will remain territorial defense, we are preparing our Alliance to contend with threats that recognize no boundaries: the spread of weapons of mass destruction, ethnic violence, and regional conflict.
We also have many opportunities. Our European allies are developing their common foreign policy and increasing their defense capabilities - strengthening our Alliance. Our door to membership remains open, and we will help aspiring members become the best possible candidates. And our partnerships, which we want to deepen at this summit, are enhancing security across Europe.
The United States is proud of NATO and of the contributions we have made to this extraordinary Alliance. I hope that, 50 years from now, our children will look back on this summit as a moment when our great nations, linked by shared values and shared goals, once again came together to meet the challenges of our time and to define our friendship and our future.
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