THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE VICE PRESIDENT IN FOREIGN POLICY SPEECH Pabst Theater Milwaukee, Wisconsin
11:51 A.M. CST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you so much for your welcome. And thank you, Secretary Aspin, Dr. Bowman.
Over the past 14 months, Wisconsin gave the Clinton administration three very fine presents. The first was voting for us in November of 1992. (Applause.) I'll never forget that rally in Madison, incidentally. The second and third were lending us Donna Shalala and Les Aspin. (Applause.) Les has made a lasting contribution to our nation's security not just as Secretary of Defense, but in serving this state in Congress for two decades -- where, as he mentioned, we became close, personal friends. And on this occasion, I want to ask all of you to join me in thanking Les Aspin for his tremendous public service. (Applause.)
I'm delighted to be here in Milwaukee with your congressional delegation and your other excellent public leaders. I want to acknowledge Governor Thompson. I want to especially acknowledge my warm and close friends and allies, working partners Senator Herb Kohl and Senator Russ Feingold. We've worked very hard together to help get this country on the right track again and create more jobs and bring interest rates down and get the economy moving. I want to acknowledge my friend, the dean of your House delegation, David Obey -- a long-time friend and partner. And also Tom Barrett, Peter Barca, Gerald Kleczka, Thomas Petri; and also the local and state officials, Mayor John Norquist and Attorney General James Doyle, Speaker Walter Kunicki and County Executive Thomas Ament, Sheriff Richard Artison and others.
As you know, and as has already been mentioned, the President had planned to be here today and was looking forward to it, but had to go early this morning to Arkansas instead because his mother, Virginia Kelley, passed away in the wee hours of the morning. The President, when we spoke this morning, asked me to express his deep regret at not being able to join you, and I'm sure that you join me this morning in expressing our deep condolences to the President and his family as they confront the sad loss.
The President came to this very theater 15 months ago during the campaign when he was a candidate and came at a critical moment. As I look at this beautiful hall and this wonderful audience, I can see why he was so eager to come back and see you again. And I know that he was especially eager to come here today and join in celebrating the victory of the 1994 Rose Bowl Champions, the University of Wisconsin Badgers. (Applause.) It was a wonderful game. And may I say that I watched it with my family, including my mother, who has been spending some time with us the last couple of weeks, who attended law school at the University of Wisconsin. (Applause.) So I claimed honorary Badgerhood on that occasion.
And, boy, if you could have seen Donna Shalala the next day -- (laughter) -- walking -- was she a sight? When the two of them walked into the Cabinet Room and Donna was talking about the football program and the game and everything, it was a great, great day.
SECRETARY ASPIN: -- taller than anybody in the room.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: She was taller than anybody in the room that day. (Applause.) That's a pretty good line, Les. (Laughter and applause.) It's true, too.
When the President was here 15 months ago, on that October day he spoke about America's need for a strong pro-democracy national security policy. In two days, President Clinton will leave for Europe for a series of meetings designed to advance that goal. He will go to Brussels to stress the importance of our economic and security ties with NATO and Europe. He will go to Prague and stress our strong commitment to the new democracies in Poland, Hungary, the Czech republic and Slovakia. He will visit Moscow and stress our support for Democratic reforms there and elsewhere. And he will visit Minsk in Belarus and stress the importance of the progress that state and others are making to dismantle nuclear weapons.
Before he left our shores to talk with foreign leaders, the President wanted to come and talk with you about why this trip is important to the American people. And the President has now asked me to share his views directly with you today because at this point in history, all of Europe stands at a turning point with deep implications for our own security and prosperity.
That's why the President and I and why the President has insisted that our administration focus so much on Europe, particularly Central and Eastern Europe and Russia. At the President's request, my first trip abroad as Vice President was to Poland. There are at least a couple of people here who traveled with me on that occasion. While there I had extensive meetings with President Walesa and shared prayer and communion with him at morning mass in his private chapel.
I just recently visited Hungary last month and met with the new leadership in Budapest. In addition, at the President's request, I enjoyed a lengthy one-on-one meeting during the same visit to Europe with President Kravchuk of Ukraine. And may I say that since taking office, the President and I have met with almost all of the leaders of virtually every Central and Eastern European nation and many of the leaders of the former Soviet republics as well because President Clinton feels so strongly about the importance of our nation's role in contributing to the positive change which is taking place and must continue to take place.
We live at a time of astounding changes. After a halfcentury of standing firm against Soviet aggression in the Cold War, suddenly the Cold War is over and the Soviet Union is gone. After decades of praying for reconciliation between black and white in South Africa and between Arab and Jew in the Middle East, suddenly we witness handshakes of hope that rivet the world. After decades of dreaming and working for the freedom of captive nations -- as I know many of you have with all your hearts -- suddenly those states are free, and new democracies have blossomed across Europe. And the President has told me that one of the things he is most looking forward to is meeting again with some of those democratic heroes, such as Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa.
At the same time, some of the world's changes hold great danger for us, such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the degradation of the global environment. And we face the changes of a new global economy, changes that offer us many new opportunities but that also can be unsettling for our jobs and our communities. In the face of all these changes, some Americans would prefer that we stay out of the world's squabbles and focus only on our challenges here at home. Europe is facing even harder economic challenges: double-digit unemployment and very sluggish growth. And many Europeans also might prefer not to get involved with problems beyond their borders. And the economic transformation facing Russia and the other former communist states are more daunting still.
So there is a great temptation in all our nations to focus only on our own problems. But my message today -- and the message of the President's trip -- is very simply this: In order to be strong at home, we must engage abroad as well. We must work with other nations to get the world's economy growing and open foreign markets if we want to sell more exports. We must engage with other nations to lock in the end of the Cold War, or else we would simply end up needing to spend more on defense and less on the domestic investments that we need. We tried running away from the world after World War I. What did it bring us? A depression and another horrible war. But when we helped shape world events after World War II, what did that bring us? Decades of security and prosperity. And that is what we must do again.
During the campaign, the President and I said our foreign policy would be based on economic renewal, strong defenses and the promotion of democracy overseas. In the past year we have made progress toward those goals. We began, of course, by putting our country's economic house back in order; because without a strong economy, we cannot compete and lead abroad. We passed an economic package to cut a half a trillion dollars from our deficits, while investing in education, technology and defense conversion. And, incidentally, if you can remember it, the projection for next year's deficit when we took office was $300 billion. The projection now is way down to $190 billion. The effort is already yielding dividends not just with a reduced deficit which is so important -- we're enjoying low inflation and historically low interest rates.
Consumer confidence is up. Housing starts are booming - - highest number last month in the entire history of the United States of America. And our nation has created more private sector jobs in the past 12 months than in the previous four years combined. And we still have a long way to go. We understand that. And to take one example, we still need to ensure health care for every American that can never be taken away. And we're going to do that, with your help. (Applause.) But we've made a good start. It's been a good first year.
Well, in any event, after putting our own economic house in order, we next took major steps to open up foreign markets to U.S. goods and services so we can boost exports and create more new jobs. We passed the North American Free Trade Agreement, which will lower tariffs on our exports and create over 200,000 new American jobs. We expanded our ties with the fast-growing economies of Asia. And just last month we reached an historic new agreement in the GATT world trade talks that will create another hundreds of thousands -- another set of hundreds of thousands of American jobs and also provide a boost to the entire world economy so that we can get it moving again.
With these steps and others we're putting the economic interests of the American people back at the heart of our foreign policy. We have restored America's leadership on the environment as well. And this past year we have worked to strengthen our nation's defenses.
Under Les Aspin's able leadership, we completed a sweeping review of our military to ensure that we have the forces we need to respond to the diverse threats of this new era. And when we were threatened abroad, such as when we learned of that Iraqi plot to try and assassinate former President Bush, President Clinton used those military forces to hit back hard, to send a clear, unmistakable message.
We also have worked to promote democratic movements around the world with significantly increased support for reformers in Russia, Ukraine, Armenia and the other new states of the former Soviet Union who seek to close the door to a communist past and usher in a democratic future. We lifted sanctions on South Africa as soon as there was an agreement to end apartheid and hold a nonracial election. (Applause.) And isn't that a sign of hope in our world? (Applause.)
And despite intense budget pressures, we substantially increased funding for programs to support grass roots, democratic organizing from Central America to Asia to Eastern Europe. The success of these new democracies, like the ones in Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia is important to our nation and our security. We must help them succeed. We didn't spend years supporting solidarity just to lose democracy in Poland. We didn't celebrate the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia just to see that birth of freedom die from neglect. We prevailed in the Cold War for their sake and ours. And now we must prevail for their sake and ours in building a broader democratic peace throughout Europe.
The steps we have taken this year make America stronger and safer. I want to take a moment to acknowledge in particular the service of all the men and women who wear our nation's uniform and protect us all over the world. As President Clinton has often said, America's Armed Forces are the best this world has ever known, and we are determined to make sure they remain just that. (Applause.) We're going to make certain they remain the best-trained, bestequipped, best-prepared fighting force on the face of this Earth.
Now, we have done much this past year to make America more secure. But nothing is more important to our security than our relations with Europe. With the Cold War over, some may think Europe doesn't matter as much to our nation as it used to. President Clinton says, they're wrong. The fact is, Europe remains our most valuable trading partner, and our military security remains as interwoven with that of Europe as ever in our history.
Twice in this century, we sent our sons and daughters to Europe to repel aggression and protect the survival of democracy. Two world wars left us with a lesson that is understood in every VFW and American Legion Hall in Wisconsin and across our nation. When Europe fights, we suffer. When Europe is safe and free, we thrive here in the United States.
Now, Europe is enjoying a rebirth of freedom. After a half century of captivity, we've seen the Baltic nations regain their rightful independence. We've seen great dissident heroes, such as Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa help throw off communist rule and emerge as leaders of their people. We've seen Boris Yeltsin and other courageous democratic reformers in Russia hold elections and write a constitution in the face of fierce reactionary resistance.
This democratic renaissance is cause for hope. But, of course, there is also a dark cloud on Europe's horizon. It is the threat of fiery nationalism, ignited by old resentments, fueled by economic frustration, fanned by self-serving demagogues. We already see it burning across the former Yugoslavia. But it smolders in other states as well, particularly in Europe's East. If we do not begin building new forms of protection, these embers could flare and engulf Europe again, just as they have during this century's worst crises.
President Clinton's goal on this trip is to help build that protection. It cannot come from new walls topped with barbed wire. Rather, the protection new states of Europe need today is the kind all of us carry inside our souls -- the protection that keeps our darkest nature from spilling out into public life, the sense of tolerance and the habits of the heart that are built up by the practices of free commerce, open democracy, robust civic life and respect for differences among individuals and nations.
To those who would ask where in the world such tolerance can be found, I would say come to Milwaukee. Just look at your city. Your roots trace back to Poland, Russia, Ukraine, the Baltics, to Germany, Italy and England, to Africa, Asia and Latin America. You may be Christian, Jewish or Muslim, and yet you are all one community. Why? Because you all share the American belief that there is strength in all our differences; that we can build a collective civic space large enough for all our separate identities, that we can be E Pluribus Unum, out of one many. We take that for granted here in our blessed United States of America. But that idea is not foreign to Europe. Those very ideas that Jefferson and Madison wrote into our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution were European imports, derived from Europe's great age of reason.
But throughout the former Soviet Union's bloc, those ideas were strangled by false ideologies and decades of dictatorship. Now, we have the opportunity to help our cherished values of freedom take root in places that were homelands to so many of us and our ancestors. We can help erase the false lines that divided Europe for too long and heal the scars those divisions left behind. Fostering the integration of Europe will not only express our highest ideals, it also will be the best investment we can make in our own security and prosperity.
President Clinton's first goal on this trip will be to reinvigorate NATO and help ensure that NATO is prepared to meet the challenges that I just described. NATO is the greatest military alliance in all human history. We couldn't have won the Cold War without it. But now, the Soviet Union it helped deter is gone. It is time for NATO to address Europe's new security challenges, such as consolidating democracy's gains among NATO's eastern neighbors and warding off ethnic conflict.
At the NATO summit in Brussels, the President will propose that NATO create a Partnership For Peace as a major step toward the new security Europe needs. The Partnership is a new way of drawing the former communist states into cooperation with the rest of Europe. It advances an evolutionary process of formal NATO enlargement, a step toward adding new members of NATO. (Applause.)
The Partnership For Peace invites Europe's new democracies to take part right away in military and political cooperation with NATO members as well as with each other. Those states that join the partnership can participate in military planning, exercises and operations. The partnership will help foster democratic practices that can prepare these states for full NATO membership. The new NATO must address the concerns of those nations that lie between Russia and Western Europe, for the security of these states affects the security of America. Let me say that again: The security of the states that lie between Western Europe and Russia affects the security of America. (Applause.) Especially after Russia's recent elections, those states are naturally concerned about whether they will again be rendered pieces of a buffer zone, prizes to be argued over by others.
The Partnership For Peace is designed to offer these states the confidence that they can integrate into the West rather than always fear what could happen to their East. The Partnership For Peace does not divide East and West in a way that could create a self-fulfilling prophecy of future confrontation. Instead, it tries to integrate a broader Europe. On an equal basis, it provides an open door for all the nations of Central and Eastern Europe as well as the nations emerging from the former Soviet Union, it invites all of them to forge a new relationship with NATO based on a belief that freedom's boundaries now must recognize not just old history, but also new behavior.
The Partnership for Peace can build the habits of cooperation that have been the sinews behind NATO and NATO's formal security guarantees. We look forward to beginning such cooperation soon with Poland, the Czech Republic and other former communist states as we create the foundation for a new and broader Europe.
President Clinton's second goal will be to show our support for those people and leaders in former Communist states working to build democracy, and to lay the building blocks of a civil society: political parties, labor unions, business associations and a free press. In Prague, he will meet with leaders of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia -- the Visegrad nations -- nations that are playing such leading roles in Europe's wave of reform. In Minsk, the President will voice our support for Chairman Shushkevich and other leaders of Belarus's democratic progress. And in Moscow, he will meet with President Boris Yeltsin and other Russian reformers who are steering their nation toward a democratic, market-based and peaceful future.
The strong support for reactionary candidates in the recent Russian elections gave all of us cause for concern. We would be foolish to ignore those results; and it is our duty to condemn the voices of racism and intolerant nationalism wherever such voices are heard. (Applause.) But make no mistake about it, there was another larger message of hope in those Russian elections. An election that looked doubtful only months before was held in a free and fair manner. And when they voted, the Russian people ratified a democratic constitution and elected Russia's first post-Soviet legislature.
All these can help Russia's reformers move ahead. We must not lose faith in the process of reform simply because it moves slowly or encounters setbacks. Changing an entire society is the work of generations. Along the way, the people of Russia and the other new states will doubtless make some bad choices, just as we often have done at times in our own history. Democracy, after all, doesn't turn us into angels, it simply gives us a way to learn collectively from our very human trials and errors. As long as these nations support freedom with protections for ethnic and religious minorities and political dissent, we have faith that reaction will give way to reform.
President Clinton's third goal will be to help reduce the dangers of weapons of mass destruction. (Applause.) When the Soviet Union dissolved, four states were left with its nuclear weapons -- Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus. One key to our security is making sure there is only one nuclear successor state to the Soviet Union. Under the leadership of President Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan has agreed to give up its nuclear weapons. I was pleased to be in Alma-Ata last month on the day his parliament ratified the decision.
We're working with Ukraine to secure a similar agreement. And one reason the President is going to Minsk is to congratulate the people of Belarus and the leaders of Belarus for ratifying the START Treaty and agreeing to live as a nonnuclear state. In addition, in Brussels, we expect NATO to adopt our proposal to address the threat posed by nuclear, biological and chemical weapons as well.
Now, the President's final goal is to support the dramatic progress toward market reforms throughout the former communist states and to work for a greater Europe that is more economically vibrant. Most of Europe, as we all know, is deep in recession, and if those nations can start growing again we will benefit from more exports and more jobs here in our own nation. Equally important, we must help ensure that economic growth reaches all the way into the former communist states which are making the hard transition to market economies.
Some of the greatest heros of that flight from communism are people whose names will we never know -- the farmer outside of Sofia working with new pride now that he once again owns the land of his grandfather; the entrepreneur in Riga running a new business out of his apartment; the factory worker in St. Petersburg trying to adapt to the new habits and uncertainties of capitalism.
Freedom's success will depend in large part on their labors. We need to do all that we can to ensure that their labors are rewarded. In Brussels, the President will urge Western Europe's leaders to join our nation in taking steps to make all of our markets more open to goods from Europe's new democracies. In Prague, Moscow and Minsk, he will work with the leaders of those new market democracies to ensure that our economic assistance and trade and investment efforts are well targeted to provide the greatest possible support as these nations make the very difficult transitions to market economies.
Today, the people of the former communist nations are performing human miracles on a daily basis. Without much at all in the way of resources or experience, they're turning economic ruin into working markets. They're replacing gray Orwellian life with the bright and diverse cultures their people once enjoyed. They're reviving the religious traditions that communism could not stamp out. And they're planting strong seedlings of democracy on terrain once laid bear by dictatorship and devastated by the wild fires of war.
The hard work of political and economic transformation belongs to the people of the region and they are making heroic progress, but the stakes for our own nation are enormous. And we must put our shoulder behind the cause of reform as well. It is in America's self-interest for those reforms to succeed and endure. If they do, we will all be more secure. We can prevent another allengulfing European war. We can make further progress to dismantle the world's doomsday weapons. We can continue maintaining our security with far lower defense budgets. We can create new markets for our exports and new jobs for our people as these new economies begin to grow and thrive. That's why we must not sit on the sidelines. We must continue working to build a broader and freer Europe.
I think back to the Polish uprising of 1863, in which the motto of the Polish fighters was, "For your freedom and ours." (Applause.) They believed in their hearts that their own liberation would liberate others since they were fighting for a broader principle of liberty. Today, the fight for freedom in Europe continues with new hope and high stakes.
The President, as he leaves for these countries, and all of us who have worked with him, know that the struggle to erase communism's scars and ensure democracy's success is not their struggle alone. It must also be our struggle. It is the fight of a lifetime -- our lifetimes. It is the story of a century -- our century. President Clinton and I are committed to make it the work of our nation.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END12:27 P.M. CST