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"A New Generation of Russian Democrats"
October 23, 1993
Warren Christopher

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Aganbegyan, Deputy Prime Minister Gaidar. It is a great pleasure and a distinct honor to be at the Academy for the National Economy today. For five years, this institute has fed the Russian hunger for reform and economic renewal. It is shaping a generation of leaders who will contribute richly to the future of this great country.
The openness to new ideas, the search for a better life -- these are the impulses that inspired Yegor Gaidar to apply his exceptional talents in economics in the service of your nation. They are the impulses that brought you here to learn and to forge careers in a growing private sector. And they are impulses that will serve you well in this challenging new era.

Academies and institutes such as yours are symbols of a new attitude in Russia. You who are here today do not fear openness; you welcome it. You do not shun the clash of ideas, you relish it. And you do not shrink from the uncertainty that reform brings; instead, you celebrate its promise.
I grew up in the 1930s during what we call in America the Great Depression, in a small farming town on the North Dakota prairie along the northern border of the United States. Our house was at the western edge of town, and it faced the fury of the northwest wind. As a result, we endured icy blizzards in the winter and prairie fires and tumbleweeds in the fall. Crop failures and dust storms combined to impoverish many farm families. It was the kind of adversity that the Russian people know so well.

Today, as Russia faces its future, you, too, are enduring some very difficult times. Your character is being tested. But you are showing that with courage, such adversity can be conquered.
On October 3-4, the world witnessed what we all hope was the last gasp of the old order in Russia. The political crisis was a struggle of the sort well known to students of Russian history -- a battle between reform and reaction. As the crisis unfolded, we in America knew what we had to do: We stood firmly behind reform.

Let me be clear about our decision to support your President during this crisis. The United States does not easily support the suspension of parliaments. But these are extraordinary times. The steps taken by President Yeltsin were in response to exceptional circumstances. The parliament and the constitution were vestiges of the Soviet communist past, blocking movement to democratic reform. By calling elections, President Yeltsin was once again taking matters to the Russian people to secure their participation in the transformation of Russia.

Time and again in recent years, the Russian people have demonstrated their commitment to freedom. In August 1991, President Yeltsin stood on top of that tank -- and faced down the forces of reaction. In April of this year, the people of Russia cast a resounding vote in favor of reform And just 3 weeks ago, the defenders of the old order were defeated in their violent, desperate attempt to reverse the progress that you have made.
I know that some of you may be tired of politics. But I will ask of you what Bill Clinton asked of young Americans when he ran for President last year: Do not let your healthy skepticism harden into cynicism -- and do not let the promise of change wilt into apathy. As you work to improve your own life, do not stifle your willingness to work for the common good.

The possibilities for you are immense. Like no previous generation in history, you are aware of the cultural and political changes in the world around-you. From REM to CNN, from rap music to Rolling Stone magazine, you know the outside world better than your parents or grandparents -- or, indeed, better than I did when I was growing up. You know that people your age can make a difference.
You are the new generation of democrats in Russia. You are at the vanguard of a revolution of rising expectations: for a decent standard of living; for a humane society; for an environment that is clean and work-places that are safe; for a greater voice in shaping your future. That is why you are starting your own businesses, your own political organizations, your own magazines. More than any recent generation of Russians, you have control over your own destiny. And the choices you make -- in December, in June, and in the coming years -- will change Russia and the world.

As you make these choices, please know this: The American people are with you. When our President spoke to your President on the telephone September 21, he said, "History is on your side." Bill Clinton was speaking to Boris Yeltsin. But in a very real sense, he was speaking to each of you. History is on your side -- the side of democracy -- and so are we.
When those demagogues at your White House waved the hammer and sickle in the name of democracy, you saw the hypocrisy. When you heard the defenders of the old system calling for "renewal," you know that they meant a renewal of stagnation and a betrayal of Russia's youth. And you had the nerve to chase away both the gaunt specter of the Soviet past and the new extremists who want to win with bullets what they cannot win with ballots.

But now you face a different challenge: national reconciliation. Having been "scorched by the deadly breath of fratricide," as President Yeltsin said, you are returning now to the heroic task of building an inclusive, self-confident democracy.
We are truly proud to stand with you and to call Russia our friend and partner. That spirit of friendship animates every student exchange program that links you with your counterparts in America. That same commitment inspired the great Rostropovich to proceed with a concert of our National Symphony Orchestra in Red Square last month, even as the political crisis reached its climax. And that same spirit brought to Russia a young American just out of law school named Terry Duncan. Trying to help a wounded American photographer during the violence of October 3, he lost his life, and the new generation of democrats in Russia and America lost a true friend.

But what America and Russia share is not merely friendship. What our two nations are building together is a strategic partnership. This is a phrase that President Clinton and I have repeatedly used in our dialogue with Congress and the American people. Let me tell why we use this phrase "strategic partnership" -- and what we mean by it.
With the sweeping changes of the last several years, Russia remains a very great power. This is guaranteed by your proud civilization, your rich culture, your great resources, your scientific achievements, and your resilient character. But with the end of the Cold War, we have an opportunity to be not only great powers but partners in the joint pursuit of a safer, freer, more prosperous world.

For decades, our two nations eyed each other with suspicion, living in fear of mutually assured destruction. Now we can pursue mutually reinforcing interests. Today, we are cooperating on the global and regional issues that once divided us. Where there was once contention, there is now common cause.
This agenda for cooperation is firmly in our shared interest. And that is why I have confidence that we will work together.
It is in our shared interest to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons within the former Soviet Union. Proliferation would increase both the risks and the costs of conflict among the new independent states. That is why we welcomed the 1992 commitment of Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan to sign and ratify the START I Treaty and to accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as non-nuclear weapons states. We welcome the face that Belarus has fulfilled these commitments. And we are encouraged that Kazakhstan and Ukraine have reiterated their determination to do the same. I will be visiting these three states over the next few days, and I will be working to ensure that those obligations, taken at Lisbon, are fulfilled.

It is also in our shared interest to help curb the spread of weapons of mass destruction outside the former Soviet Union as well. Non-proliferation is our arms control agenda for the 1990s. Many of the world's potential proliferators are Russia's neighbors, not ours. We share a common threat -- and that is why we must work together. Acting alone, we are unlikely to stem the growing tide of proliferation. But working together we stand a much better chance of succeeding in this absolutely vital effort.

Let me give you some examples. Last month, President Clinton proposed an international ban on the production of plutonium and uranium for nuclear weapons purposes. Last week, President Yeltsin expressed his readiness to work together toward that end. Russia's views are also similar to ours with respect to completing a comprehensive test ban treaty -- and urging others not to test -- a very high priority for both of us. And we are launching cooperative efforts in the exploration of space.

It is also in our shared interest to promote peace in the Middle East and in other volatile regions around the globe. Last month in Washington, my colleague Foreign Minister Kozyrev and I had the privilege of witnessing, on the lawn of our White House, the handshake between Yitzakh Rabin and Yassir Arafat. But Russia and America did not merely witness that historic moment; our cooperation helped to make it possible. Our work together as co-sponsors of the Middle East peace process is a wise investment in our common security. And it is a testament to our uncommon ability to turn mistrust into trust and confrontation into collaboration.

A democratic, productive Russia -- a Russia fully engaged in preserving global peace and fully integrated into the global economy -- that kind of Russia will be a strong partner in international diplomacy and trade. That is the course you have wisely chosen for Russia. And that is why we support your epic struggle to make reform work.
You are embarking on an unprecedented journey. There is no map, no blueprint for what you are doing. As you chart this new course in Russian history, let me share some basic, simple convictions drawn from our experience: Democracy works. Free markets work. And moreover, they work together. They reinforce each other. And together they will strengthen your nation's security and your prosperity.

Your movement to greater freedom is not meant to empower any single party; it will empower all of the Russian people. By the same token, the object of American support is not one group of leaders. Instead, it is a revolutionary process, the process of reform. By "reform," I mean the transformation of the political system from dictatorship to democracy; the conversion of a command economy into a market economy; and the development of a system that meets the genuine needs of people. This reform also means the success of a foreign policy that fully respects the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of all states -- even as it protects Russia's legitimate interests.

In 7 weeks, you will give fresh meaning to the idea of reform when you vote in your elections. You have already begun preparing for this most fundamental civic responsibility by practicing the forms and expressions of self-government: articulating, organizing, and dissenting.
Let me stress that dissent and open debate are not just noisy, sometimes bothersome consequences of democracy; rather, they are vital elements of a democratic and civil society. These freedoms are a refutation of -- and an antidote to -- totalitarianism and dictatorship.

We recognize that governments have a responsibility to preserve civil order which is, among other things, a precondition for civil rights. But even in times of intense political struggle, the imperative of civil order must be reconciled with free expression. Even when battling the forces of reaction, true democrats have nothing to fear from a free press. As President Yeltsin said on Thursday, "We can be sure democracy will survive as long as there is a free press." Foreign Minister Kozyrev repeatedly stressed during our talks yesterday his personal commitment to a free press as Russia proceeds with your elections in December.

Russia is being reborn as a democracy, as a nation brave enough to break with the past and wise enough to plan for the future. America celebrates this rebirth with you. We know that you, the Russian people, will be making the critical decisions. But we stand ready to help you achieve the free and fair election you have earned.
The United States has offered assistance around the world to many countries to support democratic election processes. We are prepared to provide, if asked, immediate technical assistance for the upcoming parliamentary elections that you will have in December. Our efforts would focus on the nuts and bolts of free elections from voter education to poll-watching. As in all countries where we support the election process, any assistance we would mobilize here would be politically neutral, non-partisan, and available to all participating parties and groups.

In the longer term, U.S. efforts are focused on helping Russia strengthen its democratic institutions and the rule of law. Through judicial reform activities with the American Bar Association, through people-to-people exchanges, through training programs in public administration, through efforts to develop political parties, we want to help you lay a solid foundation for democratic government.
Russia, like America, is a vast and multi-ethnic nation. Americans draw strength from our diversity, because we are united' by a creed of freedom, individual rights, and equal opportunity. Those same ideals can now be a durable thread that weaves together the sprawling social fabric of Russia.

While democratic reform is necessary for the empowerment of the Russian people, it is not sufficient. Economic reform is just as vital -- and its success lies just as much in your generation's hands, the hands of students like you at institutions like these.
The transition from a command economy to a market economy can be, as you know so well, extremely painful. It can cause insecurity. It can disrupt communities. And it is often accompanied by corruption and crime.

But the majority of the Russian people understand that this transition is essential. They demonstrated that in April. For Russia to play her full role in the world, for Russia to build a 21st century economy, for Russia to sustain and develop its immense resources, there is no other way.
One of Russia's most challenging economic priorities is to control inflation. Economic history teaches us that hyper-inflation corrodes living standards -- and can crack democracies. President Yeltsin and the Finance Ministry are making serious efforts to address this problem and to lift the standard of living of each and every Russian. The move to sound fiscal and monetary policies is absolutely essential.

Wherever communism is being replaced by markets, privatization is an important key to economic reform. It means slashing subsidies and credits to centralized enterprises. It means developing the financial infrastructure to support more foreign investment. And privatization depends upon, and in turn reinforces, democratic reform.
Indeed, the two work together: the more people work in and own private enterprises, the more likely they are to participate in the democratic process and reinforce reform.

I'm glad to say that Russia's privatization effort is a continuing success story -- and America's assistance programs are designed to support it. Today, the private sector here, I'm told, accounts for a once-inconceivable 25 percent of Russian GDP. More than 4,000 medium and large businesses have been privatized at the rate of almost 600 a month. Fifty-seven percent of small shops and restaurants -- some 70,000 -- have been privatized.
In short, countless Russians are becoming their own bosses. Rather than taking orders from bureaucrats, you are filling orders for your own businesses. Your nation is moving from vested interests for the few to investment opportunities for the many.

Like the rise of democracy, the transition to an open economy involves a revolution of attitudes and skills. You are learning how to be managers in a profit-driven world how to be employees in a competitive economy; how to be consumers in an open market. You are, in short, learning the ways and means of economic freedom.
This is a great challenge -- and an enormous opportunity -- for young people. You can change the economic landscape of Russia -- while preserving the bedrock sense of community that is the enduring source of Russia's strength.

And the United States is ready to help. Hundreds of American businesses, from Ben and Jerry's to Honeywell, from Pratt & Whitney to PepsiCo, are investing in the future of Russia. Americans have initiated banking and legal reform efforts, small business training programs, agribusiness and energy sector projects, and high-technology ventures.
Our commitment is a real one. This year alone, the United States pledged $1.6 billion in bilateral assistance programs. In Tokyo this July, we proposed a $3 billion privatization and restructuring program for Russia, which our G-7 partners have joined. And just last month, the U.S. Congress approved the Clinton Administration's request for an additional $2.5 billion in technical and humanitarian assistance.

How the Russian people shape and carry out their reforms is, of course, for you to decide. America is willing to provide support to that effort. And we want to ensure that this assistance -- whether private or public -- is coordinated with the pace of reform and delivered effectively to the people of Russia.
As you approach the December elections, I am struck by the immensity of the stakes. Rarely in the history of democratic government will single votes, cast by young people in particular, carry such momentous weight. I have every confidence in the outcome. Every time the Russian people have had a chance to choose, they have chosen reform over retrenchment, hope over fear, the future over the past.

I know most of you are probably tired of foreigners coming here and quoting to you the famous lines of the poet Fyodor Tyutchev. But I cannot resist, because they allow me to make perhaps my most important point. Tyutchev once wrote that:

Russia is understood not by the mind,
Nor by a common rule:
She has special stature of her own:
In Russia one can only believe.

My friends, Bill Clinton and I believe in Russia. So do your many American friends. We believe that the new Russia will not only survive, it will thrive. And we believe the new generation of democrats here today will seize the opportunities and secure the gains made possible by reform.
Let me conclude with a personal observation about one of my heroes in public life -- one of my predecessors as Secretary of State -- Dean Acheson. The telling title of Acheson's memoirs was Present at the Creation, a phrase that referred to his substantial role in shaping the Marshall Plan and the policies of containment at the beginning of the Cold War.

Forty-five years later, we are also present at the creation -- the creation of a new Russia. Our mission is fundamentally positive: not to contain communism, but to enlarge freedom; not to engage in strategic deterrence, but to advance a strategic alliance with reform in Russia and throughout the former Soviet Union.
President Clinton and the people of my country are proud to join with you in this endeavor for the next generation. Our two great nations, in this age of Russian rebirth, have been liberated to share interests, ideals, and aspirations. Now let us share our strength to build a future worthy of the youth of your country and mine.

Thank you very much.