In the opening salvo of his campaign to persuade the American public to accept NATO expansion, President Clinton told a crowd gathered for Memorial Day observances that “extending the reach of prosperity and security” to some former communist nations is a natural outgrowth of the Marshall Plan that saved Europe 50 years ago.
A few hours before his departure for Europe to commemorate the anniversary of the plan and to sign an agreement with Russia on growth of the Western alliance, Clinton recalled the imagination and initiative of George C. Marshall, the World War II general and postwar secretary of state who devised the U.S. assistance program that strengthened Western Europe in its struggle against poverty and communism.
Noting that Marshall was buried just a few yards away, Clinton told the audience at Arlington National Cemetery that “now, at the end of the Cold War, when there appears to be no looming threat on the horizon, we must rise to Marshall’s challenge in our day. …
“We must create the institutions and the understandings that will advance the security and prosperity of the American people for the next 50 years.”
Clinton spoke at the cemetery after he laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns - unidentified American soldiers who died in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
Clinton apparently is hoping that a weeklong series of speeches - starting with Monday’s address - will drive home the importance of NATO expansion to both the American public and members of Congress.
Several senators have made it clear that they are hesitant about supporting an expansion that would commit American soldiers to defend countries such as the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary.