The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
PREPARED REMARKS OF PRESIDENT WILLIAM J. CLINTON TO THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF NEWSPAPER EDITORS "A Strategic Alliance with Russian Reform" Annapolis, Marylandc
Today I want to speak with you about the events in Russia, our policies toward the new independent states, and my meetings with President Boris Yeltsin this weekend. But first, I wish to speak of America's purposes in the world.
That is not something we often examine. For it is human nature to focus most on daily affairs. In our own lives, we do our jobs, raise our children, and nurture our relationships one day at a time. Yet we are each guided by some sense of purpose, drawn from our families and our faith, which shapes the million small events of our life into a larger work that bears the imprint of our character.
So it is in the lives of nations. Decisions command attention. Crises drive actions. But it is only with an overriding sense of purpose, drawn from their history and culture, that great nations can rise above the daily tyranny of the urgent to construct their security, build their prosperity, and advance their interests.
A clear sense of purpose is most essential, yet most elusive, at times of global change. A half century ago, our nation emerged victorious from the Second World War to discover itself on unfamiliar terrain. The old empires of Europe and Asia were gone. A new communist empire loomed. Ours was the only economy still strong. Dean Acheson later described it as a time of "great obscurity." Yet he, George Marshall, Harry Truman, and other leaders in both parties saw the stakes clearly enough. They acted decisively. They accepted the mantle of leadership. Their sense of purpose helped rescue Europe, rebuild Japan, contain aggression, and foster two generations of unprecedented prosperity and peace.
Now, thanks to their vision, carried forward through succeeding generations -- and to the courage of the people of the former Soviet Union -- freedom has once again won a great victory. Over the past four years, the Berlin Wall crumbled. The Cold War ended. The Soviet Union gave way to fifteen sovereign states. Millions threw off the constricting yoke of communism so they could assume instead the ennobling burdens of democracy.
Yet these victories also confront us with a moment of profound change. The collapse of the Soviet empire changed the international order. The emerging economic powerhouses of the Pacific are changing the financial order. The proliferation of demonic weapons threatens to change the distribution of military power. Resurgent ethnic conflict is challenging the very meaning of the nation state. The rise of a global economy has changed the linkages between our domestic and foreign policies and made them indivisible.
In a time of dramatic global change we must define America's broader purposes anew. Part of that purpose consists of reviving economic growth at home, for it is the ultimate basis of our influence abroad. Congress is acting this week to break gridlock and to build our prosperity by passing the heart of our economic program. After years of policies that diminished our future, Washington has finally recognized that the best social program is a good job, and the best route to deficit reduction is a growing economy founded on a bold plan of change to cut spending, increase investment, and empower working families.
Our program invests in people -- by changing our tax code to reward work and investment and ensure that anyone who works a forty hour week won't have to live in poverty; by providing our children with the education, nutrition, and immunizations they need to start life right; by reinventing the way we educate and train our workers for the new global economy; and by creating jobs now through investments in infrastructure, safe streets, and community development. The American people had the courage to call for change in November, and I am hopeful Congress will have the courage to vote for change this week -- for both the long term deficit reduction and investment plan and the short term jobs program to create 500,000 new jobs over the next two years.
As I said so often in the global village there is no clear dividing line between domestic and foreign policy. We can't be strong abroad unless we are strong at home. And we can't be strong at home unless we engage actively abroad. Therefore, we also need a new sense of America's purposes abroad. The world remains a dangerous place, and our pre-eminent imperative is to ensure our security. That is why we are working to assure that our military is not only the finest in the world, but also specifically tailored for the challenges of this new era. For the central fronts of our fight for a safer world have moved from the plains of northern Europe, to our efforts to stem weapons proliferation, relieve ethnic turmoil, promote democracy, expand markets, and protect the global environment.
During the Cold War, our foreign policies largely focused on the relations among nations. Our strategies sought a balance of power to keep the peace. Today, our policies must also focus on relations within nations. A nation's form of governance, economic structure, and ethnic tolerance are of concern to us, for they shape how it treats its neighbors as well as its own people. In particular, democracies are far less likely to wage war on other nations than dictatorships.
Emphatically, the international community cannot seek to heal every domestic dispute or resolve every ethnic conflict. But within practical bounds, and with a sense of strategic priorities, we must do what we can to promote the democratic spirit and economic reforms that can tip the balance for progress in the next century.
From the first hours of my administration, several critical situations have demanded our attention -- in Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, the Mideast, the former Yugoslavia, and elsewhere. We have developed strategies to address these and other immediate challenges and I am encouraged by progress we have made. Yet all of us must also focus on the larger questions that this new era presents. For if we act out of a larger sense of purpose and strategy, our work on the crises of the late Twentieth Century can lay the basis for a more peaceful and democratic world at the start of the Twenty-first.
The end of the long, twilight struggle does not ensure the start of a long peace. Like a wise homeowner who recognizes that you cannot stop investing in your house once you buy it, we cannot stop investing in the peace now that we have obtained it. That recognition was the triumph of Truman's era. But unlike then, we lack the specter of a menacing adversary to spur our efforts. Now, not fear but vision must drive our investment and engagement in this new world.
Nowhere is that engagement more important than in our policies toward Russia and the new independent states. Their struggle to build free societies is one of the great human dramas of our day. It presents the greatest security challenge for our generation. It offers one of the greatest economic opportunities of our lifetime. That is why my first trip out of the country will be to Vancouver, Canada to meet with President Yeltsin.
Over the past month, the tumultuous events in Russia have filled our headlines. President Yeltsin has been at loggerheads with the People's Congress of Deputies. Heated political standoffs have obstructed economic change. Meanwhile, neighboring states, such as Ukraine and the Baltic nations, have watched Russia anxiously while they grapple with their own reforms.
For most Americans, these events, while dramatic, are remote from their immediate concerns. We have our own problems and needs. We face a stagnant economy and the dislocations brought about by the end of the Cold War. Why should we help a distant people when times are hard at home?
My argument today is this: we cannot guarantee the future of reform in Russia or the other states. Ultimately, that will be determined by what they do. Yet, for our own part, we must do what we can, and we must act now. It is not an act of charity. It is an investment in our own future. While our efforts will entail new costs, we can reap even larger dividends for our safety and prosperity.
To understand why, we must grasp the scope of the transformation occurring in Russia and the other states. From Vilnius on the Baltic to Vladivostok on the Pacific, we have witnessed a political miracle -- heroic deeds -- without precedent in human history. The other two world-changing events of this century, World War I and World War II, exacted a price of over 60 million lives. By contrast, this world-changing event has been remarkably bloodless, and we pray it remains so.
Now free markets and free politics are replacing repression. Central Europe is in command of its own fate. Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are again independent. Ukraine, Armenia, and other proud nations are free to pursue their own destinies.
At the heart of it all is Russia. Her rebirth has begun. A great nation, rich in natural and human resources, Russia is again moving to rejoin the political and economic cultures of the West. President Yeltsin and his fellow reformers throughout Russia are courageously leading three modern Russian revolutions: to transform their country from a totalitarian state into a democracy; from a command economy into a market; and from an empire into a modern nation-state.
Russia's rebirth is not only material and political, but also spiritual. As the Librarian of Congress, James Billington, observed: "evil has been transcended by repentance without revenge; innocent suffering in past gulags has been given redemptive value; and the amazingly non-violent breakthrough of August 1991, which occurred on the Feast of the Transfiguration, was indeed a 'miracle' through which ordinary people rediscovered a moral dimension to their lives." Across what was the Soviet Union, the freedom to pray has been met by a resurgence of worship.
Nothing could contribute more to global freedom, security, and prosperity than the peaceful progression of Russia's rebirth. It could mean a modern state, at peace with itself and the world, productively and prosperously integrated into the global economy, a source of raw materials and manufactured products and a vast market for American goods and services. It could mean a populous democracy contributing to the stability of both Europe and Asia.
The success of Russia's renewal must be a first-order concern to our nation because it confronts us with four distinct opportunities. First, it offers us an historic opening to improve our own security. The danger is clear if Russia's reforms turn sour -- if it reverts to authoritarianism or disintegrates into chaos. The world cannot afford the strife of the former Yugoslavia replicated in a nation spanning eleven time zones and armed with a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons.
But there is great opportunity here as well. Across most of our history, our security was challenged by European nations, set on domination of their continent and the high seas that lie between us. The tragic violence in Bosnia reminds us that Europe has not seen the end of conflict. Now, we could at last face a Europe in which no great power harbors continental designs. Land wars in Europe cost hundreds of thousands of American lives in this century. The rise of a democratic Russia, satisfied within her boundaries, bordered by other peaceful democracies, could ensure that our nation never needs to pay that kind of price again.
We also face the opportunity to increase our own security by reducing the chances of nuclear disaster. Russia still holds over 20,000 strategic and tactical nuclear warheads. Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan have nuclear weapons on their soil as well. We are implementing historic arms control agreements that for the first time will radically reduce the number of strategic nuclear weapons. Now, by supporting Russia's reforms, we can help turn the promise of those agreements into a reality for ourselves and our children, and for Russians and their children.
Second, Russia's reforms offer us the opportunity to complete the movement from having an adversary in foreign policy to having a partner in global problem- solving. Think back to the Cold War. Recall the arenas where we played out its conflicts. Berlin. Korea. The Congo. Cuba. Vietnam. Nicaragua. Angola. Afghanistan. We competed everywhere. We battled the Soviets at the U.N. We tracked each other's movements around the globe. We lost tens of thousands of our sons and daughters to hold freedom's line. Those efforts were worthy. But their worth was measured in prevention more than creation, in the containment of terror rather than the advancement of human happiness.
Now reflect on what has happened since Russia joined us in a search for peaceful solutions. We cooperated in the U.N. to defeat Iraqi aggression. We co-sponsored promising peace talks in the Mideast. We worked together to foster reconciliation in Cambodia and El Salvador. We joined forces to protect the global environment. Progress of this kind strengthens our security and that of other nations. If we can help Russia remain increasingly democratic, we can leave an era of standoff behind us and explore expanding horizons of progress and peace.
Third, Russia's reforms are important to us because they hold one of the keys to investing more in our own future. America's taxpayers spent trillions of dollars to prosecute the Cold War. Now we can reduce that pace of spending, but only because the arms of the former Soviet Union pose a diminishing threat to us and our allies. If Russia were to revert to imperialism or plunge into chaos, we would need to reassess our plans for defense savings. That could mean billions less for other uses. Less for creating new businesses and new jobs. Less for preparing our children for the future. Thus, our ability to put people first at home requires that we put Russia and its neighbors first on our agenda abroad.
Fourth, Russia's reforms offer us an historic economic opportunity. Russia is in economic crisis today. But Russia is inherently a rich nation. She has a wealth of oil, gas, coal, gold, diamonds, and timber for her own people to develop. The Russian people are among the most well educated and highly skilled in the world. We must look beyond the Russia of today and see her potential as a prosperous nation of 150 million -- able to trade with us in a way that helps both our peoples. Her economic recovery may be slow, but it is in the interest of all who seek more robust global growth to ensure that, aided by American business and trade, Russia rises to her great economic potential.
The burning question today is whether Russia's progress toward democracy and free markets will continue or be thwarted. I believe that freedom, like anything sweet, is hard to take from people once they have tasted it. The human spirit, once released, is hard to bottle up again. Yet if we cannot be certain of how Russia's affairs will proceed, we are nonetheless certain of our own interests. Our interests lie with efforts that enhance our own security and prosperity. That is why our interests lie with Russian reform and Russian reformers.
America's position is unequivocal. We support democracy and free markets. We support freedom of speech, conscience, and religion. We support respect for ethnic minorities in Russia and for Russian and other minorities throughout the region.
I believe it is essential that we act prudently but urgently to do all that we can to strike a strategic alliance with Russian reform. That will be my goal in Vancouver. That will be my message to the man who stands as the leader of reform, Russia's democratically elected president, Boris Yeltsin. I will not describe today all the specific ideas I plan to discuss with him. But I do want to describe the principles on which our efforts to assist reform will rest.
First, our investments in Russian reform must be tangible to the
Russian people. Support for reform must come from the ground up.
That will only occur if our efforts are broadly dispersed, and not
focused just on Moscow. I plan to talk with President Yeltsin
about measures intended to help promote the broad development of
small businesses, accelerate the privatization of state
enterprises, assist local food processing and distribution, and
transition to private markets. Our goal must be to ensure that the Russian people soon come to feel that they are the beneficiaries of reform, not its victims. We must help them to recognize that their sufferings are not the birth pangs of democracy and capitalism, but the death throes of dictatorship and communism.
Second, our investments in Russian reform must be designed to have lasting impact. Russia's economic vessel is too large and leaky for us to bail it out. Our challenge is to provide some tools to help the Russians do that work for themselves. A good example is Russia's energy sector. Russia is one of the world's largest oil producers. Yet millions of barrels of the oil Russia pumps each month seep out of the system before reaching market. Just the leakage from her natural gas pipelines could supply the entire state of Connecticut. The Russians must make many reforms to attract energy investments. And by helping introduce modern drilling practices and repair Russia's energy infrastructure, we can help Russia regain a large and lasting source of hard currency. Over the long run, that effort can even help protect the environment and moderate world energy prices.
Third, our efforts must be people-to-people, not just governmentto -government. We have entered a new era, in which the best way to achieve many of our goals abroad is not through diplomats or dollars, but private citizens who can impart the skills and habits that are the lifeblood of democracy and free markets. We need expanded efforts so retired American business executives can work with Russian entrepreneurs to start new businesses; so our farmers can teach modern farming practices; so our labor leaders can share the basics of trade unionism; so Americans experienced in grassroots activities can impart the techniques that ensure responsive government; so our armed forces can engage in more exchanges with the Russian military; and so thousands of young Russians, who will be reform's primary beneficiary and constituency, can come to America to study our government, economy, and society.
Fourth, our investments in reform must be part of a partnership among the new independent states and the international community. They must be extended in concert with measures from our allies -- who have at least as much at stake in the survival of Russian reform as we do -- working through the international financial institutions. This principle is especially important as we help Russia stabilize its currency and its markets. Russia's central bank prints too many rubles and extends too many credits. The result is inflation that has been nearly one percent a day. Inflation at such levels gravely impairs Russia's emerging markets. In Vancouver, I plan to discuss the progress we are making among the major industrialized nations to help Russia make the leap to a stable currency and a market economy. While we cannot support this effort alone, and while we must insist on commensurate Russian reforms, American leadership is essential.
Fifth, we must emphasize investments in Russia that enhance our own security. I plan to talk with President Yeltsin about steps we can take together to ensure that denuclearization continues in Russia and her neighboring states. We will explore new initiatives to reassure Ukraine so that it embraces the START treaty, and to move toward the goal of the Lisbon Protocol agenda, which was intended to ensure that Russia is the only nuclear armed successor state to the Soviet Union. Ukraine will play a special role in the realization of these objectives, and we recognize our interest in the success of reform in Ukraine and the other new states. I will talk with President Yeltsin about new efforts to realize the two-thirds reductions in U.S. and Soviet strategic nuclear arsenals envisioned under START. And I will suggest steps both our countries can take to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Sixth, we must recognize that our policies toward Russia and the other states comprise a long-term strategy that may take years to work completely. That was the key to our success in the Cold War. As the Soviets veered from the terror of Stalin, to the thaw of Khrushchev, to the grey days of Brezhnev, to the perestroika of Gorbachev, our purpose remained constant: containment; deterrence; human freedom. Our goals must remain equally fixed today. Above all, our security and that of our allies. But also: democracy; market economies; human rights; and respect for international law. In this regard, I welcome President Yeltsin's assurances that civil liberties will be respected and continuity in Russia's foreign policy maintained as Russia strives to determine her future.
The path that Russia and the other states take toward reform will have rough stretches. Their politics may seem especially tumultuous today, in part, because it is so much more public than in decades past. Then, the ruler of the Kremlin had only subjects; now, he has constituents. We must be concerned over every retreat from democracy, but not every growing pain within democracy. Our own early history was marked by revision of our governing charter and fist-fights in our Congress. As Vaclav Havel noted, democracy is not a destination, but a horizon toward which we make continual progress. As long as there are reformers in the Russian Federation and the other states leading the journey toward democracy's horizon, our strategy must be to support them; our place must be at their side.
Moreover, we and the Russian people must not give up on reform due to the slow pace of economic renewal. Recall how many of the world's economic success stories were written off too soon. Western visitors to Japan in 1915 dismissed its economic prospects as dismal. Korea's economy was described as a "hopeless case" by American experts in 1958. Many Germans after World War II anticipated decades of national poverty; a German Minister of Economic Affairs noted: "Few realized that if people were allowed once more to become aware of the value and worth of freedom, dynamic forces would be released." The miracle of prosperity that Japan, Korea, and Germany have discovered awaits those who are willing to sustain democratic and economic reform in Russia and her neighboring states.
Despite today's troubles, I have great faith that Russian reform will continue and eventually succeed. Let me here address directly the Russian people who will read or hear my words. You are a people who understand patriotic struggle. You have persevered through an unforgiving climate. Your history has been punctuated with suffering unknown to us. You heroically withstood murderous invasions by Napoleon and Hitler. Your great literature and music, which have so enriched our own culture, were composed with the pen of longing and the ink of sorrow. Your accomplishments of education and science speak to your faith in progress. Now, as you seek to build a great tomorrow for Russia upon a foundation of democracy and commerce, I know I speak for Americans everywhere when I say: we are with you. For we share this bond: the key to each of our futures is not in clinging to the past, but in having the courage to change.
As we look upon Russia's challenges, we should remember all that
the American and Russian people have in common. We are both
rooted in our land. We are both built of diverse heritages. We
are both forever struggling with the responsibilities that come
with vast territory and power. We both have had to deal with the
dilemmas of human nature on
an immense scale. That may be why there has been so little real hatred between our people, even across decades when we pointed weapons of nightmarish destruction at each other's lands.
Now, as in the past, America's future is tied in important ways to Russia's. During the Cold War, it was tied in negative ways. We saw in each other only danger. Now that the walls have come down we can see hope and opportunity.
In the end, our hope for the future of Russian reform is rooted in our faith in the institutions that have secured our own freedom and prosperity. But it is also rooted in the Russian people. The diversity of their past accomplishments gives us hope there are diverse possibilities for their future. The vitality of Russian journalism and public debate today gives us hope that the great truth-seeking traditions of Russian culture will endure, and that Russia's anti-democratic demagogues will not in the long run prevail. And the discipline of Russia's military, which proved itself anew in August of 1991, gives us hope that Russia's transition can continue to be peaceful.