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NATO Summit in Latvia. Bush tells hosts he will push to make it easier for Latvians to get U.S. visas.

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President Bush is in Riga, the capital of Latvia for a summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO has 26 member countries from Europe and North America...founded April 4, 1949.

NATO has an extensive website ......http://www.nato.int/docu/comm/2006/0611-riga/index.htm

Bush has met with all the Baltic heads of state. He tells Latvian president Vike-Freiberga he will ask Congress to grant some kind of visa break for Latvians who want to enter the U.S. A provision for Polish nationals was in the Senate version of the now stalled immigration legislation.

2 FROM THE WHITE HOUSE........

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT BUSH AND

PRESIDENT VIKE-FREIBERGA OF LATVIA

IN PHOTO OPPORTUNITY

Riga Castle

Riga, Latvia

3:40 P.M. (Local)

PRESIDENT VIKE-FREIBERGA: Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's been a great pleasure to have the President of the United States here in Riga for the second time in less than two years. And I expressed how delighted we are to be receiving him and his delegation here on the occasion of the Riga 2006 summit.

The United States has been our strong supporter all those years when Latvia was not free, has been our supporter after we regained our independence, and I'm most grateful to the United States for the understanding and support we got in our direction and our movement towards NATO. Now that we are fully members, Latvians certainly sleep better at night knowing that they are protected by an alliance that will spare them the sorts of experiences they had in earlier years.

But of course I'm delighted to be welcoming the President of the United States as the representative of what still remains as a shining example of the free world, of the sort of success one can achieve in a country that has been working at its democracy for a long time, that keeps perfecting it. I would hope that Latvia, as well, has the same opportunities; that we can go ahead, have our own choices, make our own mistakes, and do so with the help and understanding and support of fellow nations who share the same values as us.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Madam President, thanks for inviting me back to Riga. Our experience was so good the first time that we couldn't wait to get back. I want to congratulate you on hosting this very important NATO summit. You and your government have done a spectacular job, and I want to thank the people of Riga for accommodating all the world leaders who have come to this important meeting.

I appreciate very much your strong belief that liberty has got the capacity to transform the world for the good. I thank you and the Latvian people for supporting young democracies in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

We spent time talking about our bilateral relations. Trade is good between the United States and Latvia, and that's very positive. The President brought up the visa waiver program. She is deeply concerned that the people of Latvia aren't able to travel to the United States as freely as she would like. And I fully understand your concerns, Madam President. And to this end, I'll be sending to Congress a new proposal to make it easier for the citizens of Latvia to come to the United States, and at the same time, for us to share information to make sure that we're able to thwart any type of terrorist activities in our country. And I'm confident we can work this through.

And I want to thank you for working hard on this issue. Every time I've met with you, you brought it up, because you deeply care about the people of your country. I want to congratulate you on your strong leadership, and again, thank you for your very warm hospitality.

END 3:42 P.M. (Local)

NATO Summit 2006

Today, President Bush Thanked The People Of The Baltic States For Their Hospitality, Their Friendship, And The Courage They Are Showing In The NATO Alliance. NATO is the most effective multilateral organization in the world and the most important military alliance in history.

One Of The Great Responsibilities Of NATO Is To Strengthen And Expand The Circle Of Freedom In Europe

In The Nearly Six Decades Since NATO's Founding, Europe Has Experienced An Unprecedented Expansion Of Liberty. Yet many nations that threw off the shackles of tyranny are still working to build the free institutions that are the foundation of successful democracies.

Ø After Taking Office In 2001, President Bush Declared That The U.S. Believes In NATO Membership For All European Democracies That Seek It And Are Ready To Share The Responsibilities NATO Brings. The following year, NATO invited seven nations to join the Alliance – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Slovenia. At its next Summit in 2008, NATO hopes to issue additional invitations to nations that are ready for membership.

Ø Today, Croatia, Macedonia, And Albania Are All Participating In NATO's Membership Action Plan, And The U.S. Supports Their Aspirations To Join The Atlantic Alliance. Georgia is seeking NATO membership as well, and as it continues on the path of reform, we will continue to support its desire to become a NATO ally. We are also supporting the leaders of Ukraine, as they work to curb corruption, promote the rule of law, and serve the cause of peace.

Ø We Are Also Working With Russia Through The NATO-Russia Council. We recognize that Russia is a vital and important country – and that it is in our interest to increase our cooperation in areas such as countering terrorism and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. By building ties between Russia and this Alliance, we will strengthen our common security and advance the cause of peace.

Ø We Must Not Forget Those Who Still Languish In Tyranny. Just across the border from Latvia lies the nation of Belarus, a place where peaceful protesters are beaten and opposition leaders are "disappeared" by the agents of a cruel regime. We have a message for the people of Belarus: the vision of a Europe whole, free, and at peace includes you, and we stand with you in your struggle for freedom.

We Are Transforming NATO For New Challenges

Under The Able Leadership Of Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer, NATO Is Transforming From A Static Alliance Focused On The Defense Of Europe Into An Expeditionary Alliance Ready To Deploy Outside Of Europe In The Defense Of Freedom. Over the past six years, we have taken decisive action to transform the capabilities of our Alliance by creating:
· A new NATO transformation command, to ensure that our Alliance is always preparing for the threats of the future;
· A new NATO battalion to counter the threat of enemies armed with weapons of mass destruction; and
· A new NATO Response Force, to ensure that our Alliance can deploy rapidly and effectively.

At This Summit, We Are Taking New Steps To Build On This Progress. We will:
· Launch a NATO Special Operations Forces Initiative that will strengthen the ability of special operations personnel from NATO nations to work together on the battlefield;
· Announce a new Strategic Airlift Initiative that will ensure participating NATO members have a dedicated fleet of C-17 aircraft at their disposal;
· Launch the Riga Global Partnership Initiative that will allow NATO to conduct joint training, joint exercises, and common defense planning with nations – like Japan and Australia – that share NATO's values and want to work with our Alliance in the cause of peace; and
· Launch a new NATO Training Cooperation Initiative that will allow military forces in the Middle East to receive NATO training in counterterrorism, counterproliferation, and peace support operations.

Ø As We Take These Steps, Every NATO Nation Must Make The Defense Investments Necessary To Give NATO The Capabilities It Needs, So It Is Ready For Any Challenge That May Emerge In Decades To Come.

NATO's Most Basic Responsibility Is To Defend Its People Against The Threats Of This New Century

Afghanistan Is NATO's Most Important Military Operation. Since taking command of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, NATO has expanded it from a small force that was operating only in Kabul into a robust force that conducts security operations in all of Afghanistan. NATO is helping train the Afghan National Army, and the Alliance is operating 25 Provincial Reconstruction Teams that are helping the central government extend its reach. At this moment, all 26 NATO allies, and 11 partner nations, are contributing forces to NATO's mission in Afghanistan.

Ø Taliban And Al Qaeda Fighters, Drug Traffickers, Criminal Elements And Local Warlords Remain Active And Committed To Destroying Democracy In Afghanistan – And Defeating Them Will Require The Full Commitment Of Our Alliance. For NATO to succeed, its commanders on the ground must have the resources and flexibility they need to do their jobs.

Every Ally Can Take Pride In The Transformation That NATO Is Making Possible For The People Of Afghanistan. A nation that was once a terrorist sanctuary has been transformed into an ally in the War on Terror – led by a brave President, Hamid Karzai. Because of our efforts:
· Over 4.6 million Afghan refugees have come home – one of the largest return movements in history;
· The Afghan economy has tripled in size over the past five years; and
· About 2 million girls are now in school, compared to zero under the Taliban – and 85 women were elected or appointed to the Afghan National Assembly.

NATO Allies Are Making Vital Contributions To The Struggle For Freedom In Iraq

At This Moment, A Dozen NATO Allies – Including Every One Of The Baltic Nations – Are Contributing Forces To The Coalition In Iraq. And 18 NATO countries plus Ukraine are contributing forces to the NATO Training Mission that is helping develop the next generation of leaders for the Iraqi Security Forces. NATO has also helped Iraqis stand up a new military academy near Baghdad and has contributed $128 million in military equipment to the Iraqi military.

NATO Has A Responsibility To Lift Up And Support The Moderates And Reformers Who Are Working For Change Across The Broader Middle East

The Battles In Iraq And Afghanistan Are Part Of A Struggle Between Moderation And Extremism That Is Unfolding Across The Broader Middle East. The War on Terror we fight today is more than a military conflict – it is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century. And in this struggle, we can accept nothing less than victory. We see this struggle in:
· Lebanon – where last week gunmen assassinated the Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, showing once again the viciousness of those who are trying to destabilize Lebanon's young democracy;
· Syria – where the regime allows Iranian weapons to pass through its territory into Lebanon, and provides weapons and political support to Hezbollah;
· Iran – where a reactionary regime subjugates its proud people, arrests free trade union leaders, and uses Iran's resources to fund the spread of terror and pursue nuclear weapons; and
· The Palestinian Territories – where extremists are working to stop moderate leaders from making progress toward the vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.

Freedom In Europe Has Brought Peace To Europe – And Freedom Has The Power To Bring Peace To The Broader Middle East. There was a time when many doubted liberty could succeed in Europe. Yet today, the Cold War is over, the Soviet Union is no more, and the NATO alliance is meeting in the capital of a free Latvia. Europe no longer produces armed ideologies that threaten other nations with aggression, conquest, and occupation, and a continent that was for generations a source of instability and global war has become a source of stability and peace.


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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on November 28, 2006 9:36 AM.

Sweet column: Durbin's 2008 Obama push. Obama asking Iowa, New Hampshire powerplayers to stay neutral for now. was the previous entry in this blog.

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