THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Moscow, Russia)
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT DEDICATION CEREMONIES OF THE CENTRAL MUSEUM OF THE GREAT PATRIOTIC WAR Poklonnaya Gora Moscow, Russia
1:55 P.M. (L)
THE PRESIDENT: President Yeltsin, Mr. Prime Minister, Prime Minister Major -- (GAP IN TAPE) -- Shevardnadze, Mr. Mayor -- (GAP IN TAPE) -- the veterans of the Great Patriotic War. We come together today as friends to celebrate our shared victory over fascism, to remember the sacrifice of those of you who made it possible, and to fulfill the promise of an enduring peace that shown so brightly, but all too briefly, 50 years ago today.
Brave men and women from our nations fought a common enemy with uncommon valor. Theirs was a partnership forged in battle, strengthened by sacrifice, cemented by blood. Their extraordinary effort speaks to us, still, of all that is possible when our people are joined in a just cause.
With me today is an American veteran of the Great War, Lieutenant William Robertson. As the war entered its final days, Lieutenant Robertson's patrol sighted troops led by Lieutenant Aleksander Sylvashko across the Elba River. Crawling toward each other on the girders of a wrecked bridge, these two officers met a the mid-point and embraced in triumph. They exchanged photographs of wives, children, loved ones, whose freedom they had defended, whose future they would secure. The Americans did not speak Russian and the Russians did not speak English, but they shared a language of joy.
The Americans at the Elba remember how their new Russian friends danced that night, but how their jubilation turned solemn, because each of them had lost someone -- a family member, a loved one, a friend. One out of every eight Soviet citizens was killed. Soldiers in battle, prisoners, by disease or starvation, innocent children who could find no refuge. In all of the 27 million people who lost their lives to the war, there were Russians and Belarusians, Uzbekhs and Jews, Ukrainians, Armenians, Georgians and more. These numbers numb the mind and defy comprehension.
I say to you, President Yeltsin, and to all the people of Russia and the other Republics of the Former Soviet Union, the Cold War obscured our ability to fully appreciate what your people had suffered and how your extraordinary courage helped to hasten the victory we all celebrate today.
Now we must all say you wrote some of the greatest chapters in the history of heroism -- at Leningrad, in the Battle for Moscow, in the defense of Stalingrad, and in the assault on Berlin, where your country lost 300,000 casualties in only 14 days.
I have come here today on behalf of all the people of the United States to express our deep gratitude for all that you gave and all that you lost, to defeat the forces of fascism. In victory's afterglow, the dream of peace soon gave way to the reality of the Cold War, but now Russia has opened itself to new freedoms. We have an opportunity and an obligation to rededicate ourselves today to the promise of that moment 50 years ago when Europe's guns fell silent.
Just as Russians and Americans fought together 50 years ago against the common evil, so today we must fight for the common good. We must work for an end to the awful savagery of war and the senseless violence of terrorism. We must work for the creation of a united, prosperous Europe. We must work for the freedom of all of our people, to live up to their God-given potential. These are our most sacred tasks and our most solemn obligations.
This is what we owe to the brave veterans who brought tears to our eyes when they marched together with such pride and courage in Red Square today. And this is what we owe to the generations of our children still to be born. Let us do our duty as the veterans of World War II did theirs.
Thank you. (Applause.)
END2:10 P.M. (L)