U.S. President Outlines Transatlantic Alliance

BRUSSELS -- President Bill Clinton's appeal Sunday for a new, post-Cold War partnership between the United States and Europe centered on two pointed messages of fear, one aimed at Americans and one at Europeans.


To Americans, Clinton issued a warning: The collapse of Russia or other Eastern European democracies could draw the United States into war just as earlier crises pulled the nation into World War I and World War II.


To Europeans, he cast the warning in the form of a plea: Join the United States in stepping up aid and trade with the nations of the East, despite the pain of the recession now racking Western Europe, lest Russia's chaos spreads.


Clinton issued his appeal in a speech at the start of his first visit to Europe since entering the White House almost a year ago.


"For the peoples who broke communism's chains, we now see a race between rejuvenation and despair," Clinton warned, pitting "the heirs of the Enlightenment, who seek to consolidate freedom's gain" against "the grim pretenders to tyranny's dark throne."


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, he added, must continue to defend the West as long as "the dream of empire still burns in the minds of some who look longingly toward a brutal past."


His words were foreboding and his tone grim. But among the president's aides, there was satisfaction. After a year of uncertainty, they believe they have found a convincing new mission for the U.S.-European alliance:containing nationalism in the troubled East.


Ironically, they owe that new clarity in part to Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the ultranationalist who surprised the West -- and shook the East -- with his unexpected strength in Russia's parliamentary election last month.


Even before the election, Clinton and his aides had worked out a proposal to extend NATO's defense cooperation gradually and gingerly into Eastern Europe in their Partnership for Peace plan.


But to bring home his concern on Sunday, Clinton appeared to have taken the advice given President Harry Truman in 1947: that he should "scare hell out of the American people" to rally support for the "containment" of the Soviet Union.


Clinton's aides said they intended this speech to be as historic as those Truman gave at the opening of the Cold War.


"We hope this is remembered as the day thepresident defined a new security framework for Europe," his national security adviser, Anthony Lake, said.


This time, Clinton said, the security of Western Europe and the United States must be protected by making sure that Russia and its neighbors succeed in their political and economic reforms -- and by keeping NATO military defenses ready in case they fail.


"We want to prepare for the worst and hope for the best," a senior Clinton aide said.