THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT CLINTON AND PRESIDENT BORIS YELTSIN IN DINNER TOASTS
The State Dining Room
8:35 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Ladies and gentlemen, President Yeltsin, Mrs. Yeltsin, distinguished guests. It is a great pleasure for Hillary and I to welcome Boris and Naina and all the Russian delegation to the White House. We're glad for this opportunity to return the generous opportunity that you bestowed on us in Moscow last January at the magnificent state dinner in the Kremlin's Hall of Facets and St. George's Hall. It was a magnificent evening that brought home to me, to Hillary, and to all the Americans there the vast richness of Russian culture.
Mr. President, our fellow Americans know you as the man who has led one of the most peaceful and hopeful revolutions of our time -- the second Russian Revolution. We were all inspired when you stood up for freedom in the streets of Moscow. And we have admired your patient, persistent and successful efforts to build the institutions of democracy.
We know reform has been difficult, and there is a hard road yet to travel. But, as I said this morning when you arrived at the White House, you have already proved the pessimists wrong. Under your leadership, Russia is coming together and moving forward. Her best days are still to come. And we are proud of our partnership with your great country.
At one of our previous meetings you were kind enough to give me a copy of your autobiography. It's a remarkable story, a story still in progress, of a man dedicated and determined to give his fellow Russians the opportunity to reach their full potential. I know there are many more volumes yet to be written, but one part of your book made a particular impression on me.
In your autobiography you tell the story of your father's ambition to invent a brick-laying machine. Time and again, he would describe in intricate detail how it would work, how it would mix mortar, lay the bricks, clean off the excess mortar, and move on to keep building. He had all sorts of sketches and calculations for this machine, which he believed would better the lives of the Russian people.
Mr. President, you have realized your father's dream, and on a scale he could never have imagined. Brick by brick, through your tireless and steadfast efforts, you have laid the foundation for a democratic Russia. Your nation has now an elected president and parliament, a constitution, an increasingly free economy, and an open society. In just a few short years, you have accomplished the work of a lifetime.
And so it is with great admiration for your historic achievements, confidence in our new partnership, and a belief that working together we will help to make a better world, that I, and I ask all of you to join me, in raising a glass to you, Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, President of the Russian Federation.
(A toast is offered.) (Applause.)
PRESIDENT YELTSIN: Dear Bill, Hillary, ladies and gentlemen, I really must confess to you that I feel a little bit uncomfortable or embarrassed after all the generous words that have been expressed to me from the President of this great country. But since we already know each other very well, it is my conviction that his words go from the heart.
Almost three years ago, Russia and America made the first, albeit tentative, steps to rapprochement. In terms of political history, this is perhaps a very short time. But if you take into account everything that has been accomplished over those years, I believe one can conclude very definitively that for the Russian-American relations, they are equal to the whole era.
And, of course, Bill and I have had to make a lot of effort to make this possible, and we've had to demonstrate a lot of patience. We really have been patient, and we have been guided by the love to our people, not only to both American and Russian people, but to the whole mankind so as to assure the degree of partnership that can assure security not only for the current but succeeding generations.
And only on this day alone of formal negotiations, both in our conversation one on one and in expanded delegation meetings, has demonstrated that we are dealing with really hard issues, if you really want to ensure security for mankind. But we also have come to the conclusion that without us, no one will be able to accomplish this. If not us, then who can do it?
And I have recalled very vividly my first visit to the United States, my first official visit, in which the operative word was "help" -- give help, assist us. By contrast, this morning I began the conversation with this statement: "We do not need help."
So I said to the President, let's trade. Let's engage in major projects. Let's create conditions for the investors so that they could invest and operate in Russia with a profit. Let's help our businessmen and let's do the things we need to do for our future children and grandchildren.
Let me say that as a President , I feel it very easy to work with President Clinton, which is not to say that President Clinton is giving ground very easily. (Laughter.) Whenever we have a difficult problem to address, we persevere. We try to deal with the problem on an equal basis. And at the end, we arrive at a compromise.
And over the two days of negotiations -- and I'm excluding Seattle because President Clinton is not going to be there -- we will be engaged in constant negotiating. We will have spent about 16 hours in give-and-take and discussions and exchanges. And all this time, we will have covered no less than 50 different issues. Already we have been able to address a number of major issues which have to do with the whole of mankind, and we'll be talking about this again during our news conference.
You know that next year, the date of May 9th, will be a great anniversary -- the 50th anniversary -- of our victory over Nazi Germany. And so today we met World War II veterans, both Russian and American veterans. And you know, it is my intention -- and I am saying this in the presence of many witnesses -- I would like for President Clinton to come to Russia to participate in the opening of the Memorial Complex. It will be a huge monument, and the celebration will be really very great.
While I'm given the fact that after myself, there's going to be no more addresses on his part, I would consider that silence as a sign of agreement. (Laughter.)
You know, this is my fifth visit to the United States, and without trying to appear overly flattering, I would just say that I really feel good about being here; I feel at home. (Applause.) I would like to say that we have really been fortunate to have such wives as we have who help us a lot. And I would like to make a toast, to raise this glass, to the U.S. President, President Bill Clinton; to Hillary Clinton, his wife; to the strength of the Russian-U.S. relationship based on partnership and for all times.
(A toast is offered.) (Applause.)
END8:56 P.M. EDT