John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks in Naples at NATO Headquarters.

July 02, 1963

Mr. President, Prime Minister Leone, Foreign Minister Piccioni, Defense Minister Andreotti, members of the NATO Command, ladies and gentlemen :

It is fitting that my travels away from home should come to a close in this beautiful city and country. Italy, wrote Shelley, is the "paradise of exiles"; and in my brief exile from the Washington climate--both the political and the atmospheric climate--I have immensely enjoyed this paradise as the last stop in Europe. I shall leave this country with regret--and the only excuse for the brevity of my stay is the certainty of my return, next time with my wife.

It is also fitting that the final event of this tour for Western unity should take place here at the NATO headquarters in Naples. NATO is one of the best and earliest examples of cooperation between Western Europe and the North American nations for the common good of freedom. This command post--and all the Italian, American, and other forces on land, sea, and air which serve together in this area--are essential to the defense of Southern Europe. The NATO treaty pledges us all to the common defense--to regard an attack on one as an attack on all, and respond with all the force required--and that pledge is as strong and unshakable now as it was the day it was made.

Finally, it is fitting that I take this opportunity to review--for all members of NATO, including the United States--my findings and feelings after 10 days in Western Europe. In private talks and public meetings, in listening to the replies of political leaders and the response of public assemblies, in observing the progress and the vitality of Europe's cities and citizens, I have been heartened by their increasing strength of purpose, and moved by their commitment to freedom.

Specifically, I shall return to Washington newly confirmed in my convictions regarding eight principal propositions:

First, it is increasingly clear that our Western European allies are committed to the path of progressive democracy--to social justice and economic reform attained through the free processes of debate and consent. I spoke of this last night in Rome, as I had earlier spoken of it in Germany. And I cite it again here to stress the fact that this is not a matter of domestic politics but a key to Western freedom and solidarity. Nations which agree in applying at home the principles of freedom and justice are better able to understand each other and work together in world affairs. And the more the nations of Western Europe commit themselves to democratic progress in their own countries, the more likely they are to cooperate sincerely in the construction of the emerging European community.

Second, it is increasingly clear that our Western European allies are determined to maintain and coordinate their military strength in cooperation with my own nation. In a series of military briefings and reviews, I have been impressed--less by NATO's weaknesses, which are so often discussed, and more by the quality of the men, their officers, their steadily more modern weapons, their command structure, and their dedication to freedom and peace. Since 1955, NATO's strength has greatly increased. Annual defense expenditures for all members have been increased by nearly 40 percent--from $52.3 billion to $71.8 billion. NATO Europe alone increased its expenditures by roughly 47 percent. The number of M-day divisions in the central "shield" area has increased 50 percent--and their equivalents in all of NATO have increased by one-third. These divisions, moreover, are better organized, better integrated, better equipped, and of a higher quality.

While we can take heart from these accomplishments, we have much still to do. Important improvements and additions are still needed, and this is not the time to slacken in our efforts. But if we continue to build up our strength at all levels, we can be increasingly certain that no attack will take place, at any level, against the territory of any NATO country.

Third, it is increasingly clear that our Western European allies are committed to peace. The purpose of our military strength is peace. The purpose of our partnership is peace. So our negotiations for an end to nuclear tests and our opposition to nuclear dispersal are fully consistent with our attention to defense--these are all complementary parts of a single strategy for peace. We do not believe that war is unavoidable or that negotiations are inherently undesirable. We do believe that an end to the arms race is in the interest of all and that we can move toward that end with injury to none. In negotiations to achieve peace, as well as preparation to prevent war, the West is united, and no ally will abandon the interests of another to achieve a spurious detente. But, as we arm to parley, we will not reject any path or refuse any proposal without examining its possibilities for peace.

Fourth, it is increasingly clear that our Western European allies are willing to look outward on the world, not merely in at their own needs and demands. The economic institutions and support of Western European unity are rounded on the principles of cooperation, not isolation, on expansion, not restriction. The Common Market was not designed by its founders, and encouraged by the United States, to build walls against other Western countries--or to build walls against the ferment and hope of the developing nations. These nations need assistance in their struggle for political and economic independence. They need markets for their products and capital for their economies. Our allies in Europe, I am confident, will increase their role in this all-important effort-not only in lands with which they were previously associated but in Latin America and every area of need.

Fifth, it is increasingly clear that nations united in freedom are better able to build their economies than those that are repressed by tyranny. In the last 10 years, the gross national product of the NATO nations has risen by some 75 percent. We can do better than we are--but we are doing better than the party dictatorships to the East.

There was a time when some would say that this system of admitted dictatorship, for all its political and social faults, for all its denial of .personal liberty, nevertheless seemed to offer a successful economic system--a swift and certain path to modernization, growth, and prosperity. But it is now apparent that this system is incapable in today's world of achieving the organization of agriculture, the satisfying of consumer demands, and the attainment of lasting prosperity. You only need to compare West Berlin with East Berlin; West Germany with East Germany; Western Europe with Eastern Europe.

Communism has sometimes succeeded as a scavenger but never as a leader. It has never come to power in any country that was not disrupted by war, internal repression or both. Rejecting reform and diversity in freedom, the Communists cannot reconcile their ambitions for domination with other men's ambition for freedom. They cannot look with confidence on a world of diversity and free choice, where order replaces chaos and progress drives out poverty. The increasing strains appearing within this once monolithic bloc--intellectual, economic, ideological, and agricultural--make it increasingly clear that this system, with all its repression of men and nations, is outmoded and doomed to failure.

Sixth, it is increasingly clear that the people of Western Europe are moved by a strong and irresistible desire for unity. Whatever path is chosen, whatever delays or obstacles are encountered, that movement will go forward; and the United States welcomes this movement and the greater strength it ensures. We did not assist in the revival of Europe to maintain its dependence on the United States; nor do we seek to bargain selectively with many and separate voices. We welcome a stronger partner. For today no nation can build its destiny alone; the age of self-sufficient nationalism is over. The age of interdependence is here. The cause of Western European unity is based on logic and common sense. It is based on moral and political truths. It is based on sound military and economic principles. And it is based on the tide of history.

Seventh, it is increasingly clear that the United States and Western Europe are tightly bound by shared goals and mutual respect. On both sides of the Atlantic, trade barriers are being reduced, military cooperation is increasing, and the cause of Atlantic unity is being promoted. There will always be honest differences among friends; and they should be freely and frankly discussed. But these are differences of means, not ends. They are differences of approach, not spirit. Our efforts and techniques of consultation must be improved. We must strengthen our efforts in such fields as monetary payments, foreign assistance, and agriculture. But, recognizing these and other problems, I return to the United States more firmly convinced than ever before that common ideals have given us all a common destiny-that together we can serve our own people and all humanity--and that the Atlantic partnership is a growing reality.

Eighth, and finally, it is increasingly clear--and increasingly understood--that the central moving force of our great adventure is enduring mutual trust. I came to Europe to reassert--as clearly and persuasively as I could--that the American commitment to the freedom of Europe is reliable-not merely because of good will, though that is strong--not merely because of a shared heritage, though that is deep and wide--and not at all because we seek to dominate; we do not. I came to make it clear that this commitment rests upon the inescapable requirements of intelligent self-interest--it is a commitment whose wisdom is confirmed both by its absence when two great wars began and by its presence in 18 years of well-defended peace. The response which this message has evoked--from European citizens, from the press, and from leaders of the continent--makes it increasingly clear that our commitment--and its durability-are understood. And at the same time, all that I have seen and heard in these 10 crowded days confirms me in the conviction-which I am proud to proclaim to my own countrymen--that the free men and free governments of free Europe are also firm in their commitment to our common cause. We have been able to trust each other now for nearly 20 years. And we are right to go on.

One hundred and fifteen years ago this month, Giuseppe Mazzini addressed a mass meeting in Milan with these words:

"We are here ... to build up the unity of the human family, so that the day may come when it shall represent a single sheepfold with a single shepherd--the spirit of God .... Beyond the Alps, beyond the sea, are other peoples now ... striving by different routes to reach the same goal--improvement, association and the foundations of an authority that shall put an end to world anarchy .... United with them-they will unite with you."

Today, Italy is united as a free nation and committed to unity abroad. And beyond the Alps in the capitals of Western Europe, beyond the sea in the capitals of North America, other nations and other peoples are also striving for new association and improvement. By building Western unity, we are ending the sources of discord that have so often produced war in the past--and we are strengthening the ties of solidarity that can deter further wars in the future. In time, therefore, the unity of the West can lead to the unity of East and West, until the human family is truly a "single sheepfold" under God.

Note: The President spoke at 4:30 p.m. The prepared text of his remarks, printed above as released by the White House, was shortened in delivery.

The President's opening words referred to President Antonio Segni, Prime Minister Giovanni Leone, Foreign Minister Attilio Piccioni, and Defense Minister Giulio Andreotti--all of Italy.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks in Naples at NATO Headquarters. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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