Good morning. This week all of us watched with wonder as South Africa was reborn. Young men carried their elderly fathers on their backs to the polling booths; black voters came on crutches and in wheelchairs, traveling for miles and waiting for hours in this great march to freedom. The miracle of South Africa's rebirth as a nonracial democracy is an inspiring testament to the courage and vision of its citizens. And I'm proud of America's role in helping to make the miracle happen.
Private citizens, religious leaders, and Members of Congress worked for years to rally public opinion and impose economic sanctions against Johannesburg. When Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk reached their agreements to dismantle apartheid, we were one of the first countries to lift sanctions so we could help fuel the recovery of a new South Africa. Just in the last year we have supported unprecedented voter education and election monitor training programs. And this week I'll be announcing a substantial increase in our aid to South Africa to help it navigate a new course for all of its people.
This morning I want to talk about why this kind of vigorous American engagement and leadership remains vital not only in South Africa but around the globe. Consider the former Yugoslavia, where American engagement today is essential. The breakup of that country, inflamed by Serbian aggression, has resulted in 3 years of bloodshed and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and elsewhere.
We have clear interests at stake in helping to bring a peaceful end to the Bosnian conflict, an interest in preventing a wider war in Europe, an interest in preventing a flood of refugees, an interest in maintaining the credibility and effectiveness of NATO as a force for peace in the new post-cold-war era, and clearly an interest in helping to stop the slaughter of innocent civilians. That's why we've been working to spur negotiations among the warring parties, and it's why we've harnessed NATO's power in the service of diplomacy.
In February, at the initiative of the United States, NATO issued an ultimatum to Bosnian Serbs against the further shelling of the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. Today, Sarajevo is relatively quiet. It's citizens are emerging from the rubble to begin rebuilding their lives.
Just last week, we and our NATO allies extended a similar ultimatum to the besieged town of Gorazde and to five other Muslim majority towns the U.N. has designated as safe areas. After weeks of relentless shelling, the Serbs have backed off and withdrawn their guns from around Gorazde. While new challenges lie ahead in Bosnia, our determination to take action along with our NATO allies in support of the U.N. mission there clearly generated new progress toward peace.
In March, Bosnian and Croat leaders came to the White House to sign a peace agreement. Since then we've stepped up our diplomatic efforts to engage the Serbs as well. As I've said, if the parties in Bosnia can negotiate a viable settlement, I will work with the Congress to deploy U.S. troops through NATO to help enforce that peace.
There are other threats today that also demand our active engagement, from North Korea's nuclear program to the efforts of Iran and other backlash states to sponsor terrorism. We're meeting those threats with steadiness and resolve.
At the same time, we recognize we've entered an age of historic opportunity. South Africa's elections offer vivid proof. In the Middle East age-old enemies have extended handshakes of reconciliation. In the former Soviet Union we're helping to dismantle nuclear weapons once aimed at us. And just today, Russia and Latvia signed an historic agreement to withdraw remaining Russian military forces from Latvian territory by the end of August. These and other promising developments were made possible in part by American support and resolve.
But such engagement requires resources commensurate with our challenges. With the cold war behind us, we've been able to reduce spending on defense and foreign affairs. We've put those programs under tight budgetary constraints. But now we're at the razor's edge of a resource crisis. We cannot afford to shortchange our national security. That's why I'm working hard against further cuts in our defense budget and why I'm working with Congress to make sure we adequately fund peacekeeping and other international efforts that promote the security and prosperity of our own people.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the D-Day invasion this June, we should recall the spirit of sacrifice and common cause that mark that great crusade for freedom in World War II. In 5 weeks I'll travel to Europe to commemorate D-Day and to honor those in the Second World War who fought to defend our democratic way of life. The world is different now, better because of their courage. And we owe it to them to build a better future for the next generation.
As we salute the veterans who will be landing by the thousands in Normandy this June and as we celebrate South Africa's elections today, let us remember that American leadership in a changing world requires sustained commitment. Together, let us shape this new world to our lasting benefit.
Thanks for listening.