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President Clinton Addresses Students at Moscow State University Of International Relations

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The Briefing Room

Office of the Press Secretary
(Moscow, Russia)

For Immediate Release September 1, 1998


University Auditorium
Moscow University of International Relations
Moscow, Russia

4:50 P.M. (L)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. First I'd like tothankMaxim Safonov for that fine introduction and for his very encouragingremarks.Rector Torpoulov, Minister Primakov, to all the members of the Americandelegation -- we have Secretary of State Albright, Secretary of CommerceDaley, Secretary of Energy Richardson, National Security Adviser Berger,ourAmbassador Jim Collins, and five distinguished members of the United StatesCongress here: Senator Domenici; Senator Bingaman; Representative Hoyer,King,and Deutsch.

I think their presence here should speak louder than anywordsI could say that America considers our relationship with Russia to beimportant. It is a relationship of friendship, of mutual responsibility,andof commitment to the future. We are all honored to be here today, and wethank you for your welcome.

On this first day of school, across both our countries,students are resuming their studies, including their study of history. Atthis critical, surely historic, moment, let me start with a few words aboutwhat I believe the past can teach us as we, and especially as the Russianpeople, face the challenges of the present and the future.

Two hundred and twenty-two years ago, we Americans declaredour freedom from the tyranny of King George of England. We set out togovernourselves. The road has not often -- or certainly not always -- been easy.

First, we fought a very long war for independence. Then it took more thanyears to devise a Constitution that worked. Then in 1814, we went to warwithEngland again. They invaded our capital city and burned the President'shouse, the White House. Then in 1861, we began ourbloodiest war ever, a civil war, fought over the conflicts ofslavery. It almost divided our country forever, but instead wewere reunited and we abolished slavery.

In the 1930s, before World War II, our county sankinto an enormous depression with 25 percent of our peopleunemployed, and more than one-third of our people living inpoverty. Well, you know the rest. We were allies in World WarII, and after World War II we were adversaries. But it was atime of great prosperity for the American people, even thoughthere were tense and difficult moments in the last 50 years.

The larger point I want to make as Russia goesthrough this time of extreme difficulty is that over the life ofour democracy we have had many intense, even bitter, debatesabout what are the proper relations between people of differentraces or religions or backgrounds; over the gap between rich andpoor; over crime and punishment; even over war and peace. WeAmericans have fought and argued with each other -- as we do eventoday. But we have preserved our freedom by remembering thefundamental values enshrined in our Constitution and ourDeclaration of Independence; by continuing to respect the dignityof every man, woman, and child; to tolerate those with differentideas and beliefs than our own; to demand equality ofopportunity; to give everyone a chance to make the most of his orher life.

Russia's great ally in World War II, our President,Franklin Roosevelt, said that democracy is a never-ending seekingfor better things. For Americans, that means, in good times andbad, we seek to widen the circle of opportunity, to deepen themeaning of our freedom, to build a stronger national community.

Now, what does all that got to do with Russia in1998? Your history is much longer than ours, and so rich withaccomplishment -- from military victories over Napoleon andHitler; to the literary achievements of Pushkin, Tolstoy,Chekhov, Pasternak, and so many others; to greater achievementsin art, music, dance, medicine, science, space flight.

Yet for all your rich, long history, it was justseven years ago that Russia embarked on its own quest fordemocracy, liberty, and free markets -- just seven years ago -- ajourney that is uniquely your own and must be guided by your ownvision of Russia's democratic destiny.

Now you are at a critical point on your journey.There are severe economic pressures and serious hardships which Idiscussed in my meetings with your leaders this morning. Thestakes are enormous. Every choice Russia makes today may haveconsequences for years and years to come. Given the facts beforeyou, I have to tell you that I do not believe there are anypainless solutions; and, indeed, an attempt to avoid difficultsolutions may only prolong and worsen the present challenges.

First, let me make a couple of points. Theexperience of our country over the last several years, andespecially in the last six years, proves that the challenges ofthe global economy are very great, but so are its rewards. TheRussian people have met tremendous challenges in the past. Youcan do it here. You can build a prosperous future. You canbuild opportunity and jobs for all the people of this land whoare willing to work for them, if you stand strong and complete --not run from, but complete the transformation you began sevenyears ago.

The second point I want to make is the rest of theworld has a very large stake in your success. Today, about aquarter of the world's people are struggling with economicchallenges that are profound -- the people of your country; thepeople in Japan, who have had no economic growth for five years-- it's still a very wealthy country, but when they don't haveany growth it's harder for all other countries that trade withthem who aren't so wealthy to grow -- other countries in Asia.And now we see when there are problems in Russia or in Japan orquestions about the economy of China, you see all across theworld the stock market in Latin America drops; you see the lasttwo days we've had big drops in the American stock market.

What does that say? Well, among other things, itsays, whether we like it or not, we must build the futuretogether, because, whether we like it or not, we are going to beaffected by what we do. We will be affected by what you do; youwill be affected by what we do. We might as well do it togetherand make the most of it.

Now, in terms of what has happened in America,obviously it's always more enjoyable when our stock market goesup than when it goes down. But I have talked to our Secretary ofthe Treasury about this several times since yesterday. I want toreiterate the point that I think is important for Russia, forAmerica, for every country: we believe our fundamental economicpolicy is sound; we believe our people are working at recordrates; and we are determined to stay on a path of fiscaldiscipline that brought us to where we are. I think thatwherever there are markets there will always be changes in thosemarkets. But we must attempt to move in the right direction.

And that's what I want to talk to you about today:How can we move in the right direction? When I look at all theyoung people here today -- and I have read about you and yourbackground, young people from all over Russia, seizing thepossibilities of freedom to chart new courses for yourselves andyour nation, making a difference by building businesses frommodest loans and innovative ideas, by taking technologies createdfor weapons and applying them to human needs, by finding creativegovernment solutions to complex problems, by improving medicalcare and fighting disease, by publishing courageous journalism,exposing abuses of power, producing literature and art andscholarship, changing the way people see their own lives,organizing citizens to fight for justice and human rights and acleaner environment, reaching out to the world. In this roomtoday, there are young people doing all those things. Thatshould give you great reason to hope.

You are at the forefront of building a modernRussia. You are a new generation. You do represent the futureof your dreams. Your efforts today will not only ensure betterlives for yourselves, but for your children and generations thatfollow.

I think it is important to point out, too, that whenRussia chose freedom it was not supposed to benefit only theyoung and well educated, the rich and well connected; it was alsosupposed to benefit the men and women who worked in factories andfarms and fought the wars of the Soviet era, those who survivetoday on pensions and government assistance. It was alsosupposed to benefit the laborers and teachers and soldiers whowork every day but wait now for pay checks.

The challenge is to create a new Russia thatbenefits all responsible citizens of this country. How do youget there? I do not believe it is by reverting to the failedpolicies of the past. I do not believe it is by stopping thereform process in midstream, with a few Russians doing very wellbut far more struggling to provide for their families. I believeyou will create the conditions of growth if, but only if, youcontinue to move decisively along the path of democratic,market-oriented, constructive revolution.

The Russian people have made extraordinary progressin the last seven years. You have gone to the polls to electyour leaders. Some 65 to 70 percent of you freely turn out inevery election. People across Russia are rebuilding diversereligious traditions, launching a wide range of privateorganizations. Seventy percent of the economy now is in privatehands. Not bureaucrats, but consumers determine what goods getto stores and where people live. You have reached out to theworld with trade and investment, exchanges of every kind, andleadership in meeting security challenges around the globe.

Now you face a critical moment. Today's financialcrisis does not require you to abandon your march toward freedomand free markets. Russians will define Russia's future, butthere are clear lessons, I would argue, from internationalexperience. Here's what I think they are.

First, in tough times governments need stablerevenues to pay their bills, support salaries, pensions, andhealth care. That requires decisive action to ensure thateveryone pays their fair share of taxes. Otherwise, a few paytoo much, many pay too little, the government is in the hole andcan never get out, and you will never be able to have a stableeconomic policy. It is tempting for everyone to avoid wanting topay any taxes. But if everyone will pay their fair share, theshare will be modest and their incomes will be larger over thelong run because of the stability and growth it will bring tothis Russian economic system.

Second, printing money to pay the bills and bail outthe banks does not help. It causes inflation and ultimately willmake the pain worse.

Third, special bail-outs for a privileged few comeat the expense of the whole nation.

Fourth, fair, equitable treatment of creditors todaywill determine their involvement in a nation tomorrow. Thepeople who loan money into this nation must be treated fairly ifyou want them to be loaning money into this nation four years,five years, ten years hence.

These are not radical theories, they are simplyfacts proven by experience. How Russia reacts to them willfundamentally affect your future. Surviving today's crisis,however difficult that may be, is just the beginning. To createjobs, growth, and higher income, a nation must convince its owncitizens and foreigners that they can safely invest. Again,experience teaches what works: fair tax laws and fairenforcement; easier transferability of land; strong intellectualproperty rights to encourage innovation; independent courtsenforcing the law consistently and upholding contract rights;strong banks that safeguard savings; securities markets thatprotect investors; social spending that promotes hope andopportunity and a safety net for those who in any given time inan open market economy will be dislocated; and vigilance againsthidden ties between government and business interests that areinappropriate.

Now, this is not an American agenda. I will say itagain: this is not an American agenda. These are theimperatives of the global marketplace, and you can see themrepeated over and over and over again. You can also see the costof ignoring them in nation after nation after nation.

Increasingly, no nation, rich or poor, democratic orauthoritarian, can escape the fundamental economic imperatives ofthe global market. Investors and entrepreneurs have a very wideand growing range of choices about where they put their money.They move in the direction of openness, fairness, and freedom.Here, Russia has an opportunity. At the dawn of a new centurythere is a remarkable convergence; increasingly, the verypolicies that are needed to thrive in the new economy are alsothose which deepen democratic liberty for individual citizens.

This is a wealthy country. It is rich in resources;it is richer still in people. It has done a remarkable job ofproviding quality education to large numbers of people. You haveproven over and over and over again in ways large and small thatthe people of this county have a sense of courage and spirit, anunwillingness to be beat down and to give up. The future can bevery, very bright.

But we can't ignore the rules of the game, becauseif there is a system of freedom, you cannot take away and nocountry -- not even the United States with the size of oureconomy -- no country is strong enough to control what millionsand millions and millions of people decide freely to do withtheir money. But every country will keep a large share of itsown citizens' money and get a lot of money from worldwideinvestors if it can put in place systems that abide by the rulesof international commerce. And all Russia needs is its fairshare of this investment. You have the natural wealth, you havethe people power, you have the education; all you need is just toget your fair share of the investment.

Now, 21st century economic power will rest oncreativity and innovation. I believe the young people in thisroom think they can be as creative or innovative as anyone in theworld. It will rest on the free flow of information. It willrest on ideas. Consider this, those of you who are beginningyour careers: America's three largest computer and softwarecompanies are now worth more than all the American companies inour steel, automotive, aerospace, chemical and plasticsindustries combined -- combined -- our three biggest computercompanies.

The future is a future of ideas. No nation willever have a monopoly on ideas. No people will ever control allthe creative juices that flow in the human spirit, more or lessevenly across the world. You will do very well if you just getyour fair share of investment. To get your fair share ofinvestment, you have to play by the rules that everyone else hasto play by. That's what this whole crisis is about. No onecould ever have expected your country to be able to make thistransition without pain. You've only been at this seven years.

Look at any European country that has had an openmarket society for decades and decades and decades. They havehundreds, indeed thousands, of little organizations, they havemajor national institutions that all tend to reinforce theserules that I talked about earlier. Don't be discouraged, butdon't be deterred. Just keep working until you get it in place.Once you get it in place, Russia will take off like a rocket,because you have both natural resources and people resources.

Now, I think it's important to point out, however,that economic strength -- let's go back to the rules -- itdepends on the rule of law. If somebody from outside a countryintends to put money into a foreign country, they want to knowwhat the rules are. What are the terms on which my money isbeing invested? How will my investment be protected? If I losemoney, I want to know it's because I made a bad decision, notbecause the law didn't protect my money. It is very important.

Investors, therefore, seek honest government, fair systems --fair for corporations and consumers, where there are strongchecks on corruption and abuse of authority and openness in whatthe rules are on how investment capital is handled.

Economic strength depends on equality ofopportunity. There must be strong schools and good health care,and everyone must have a chance to share in the nation's bounty.And economic power must lie with people who vote theirconsciences, use new technologies to spread ideas, startorganizations to work for change, and build enterprises of allkinds.

Now, some seek to exploit this power shift that'sgoing on in the world to take advantage of their fellow citizens.When this nation went from the old communist command and controlsystem to an open free system, without all the intermediateinstitutions and private organizations that it takes years tobuild up, vacuums were created. And into those vacuums, somemoved with an intent to exploit their fellow citizens to enrichthemselves without regard to fairness or safety or the future.The challenges for any citizen -- this is not Russia specific--this would have happened, and has happened, in every singlecountry that has had to make this transition. There's nothinginherently negative about this development. It is as predictableas the sun coming up in the morning. Every country has had toface this. But you must overcome it.

You must have a state that is strong enough tocontrol abuses: violence, theft, fraud, bribery, monopolism. Butit must not be so strong that it can limit the legitimate rightsand dreams and creativity of the people. That is the tension ofcreating the right kind of democratic market society.

The bottom line is that the American people verymuch want Russia to succeed. We value your friendship, we honoryour struggle. We want to offer support as long you take thesteps needed for stability and progress. We will benefit greatlyif you strengthen your democracy and increase your prosperity.

Look what our partnership has already produced. Wereversed the dangerous buildup of nuclear weapons. We're twoyears ahead of schedule in cutting nuclear arsenals under STARTI. START II, which still awaits ratification in the Duma, willreduce our nuclear forces by two-thirds from Cold War levels.President Yeltsin and I already have agreed on a framework forSTART III to cut our nuclear arsenals even further.

For you young people, at a time when India andPakistan have started testing nuclear weapons, America and Russiamust resume the direction the world should take away from nuclearweapons, not toward them. This is a very important thing.

We are working to halt the spread of weapons of massdestruction. We signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treatywith 147 other countries. We're working to contain the arms racebetween India and Pakistan, to strengthen controls on transfersof weapons technologies, to combat terrorism everywhere.

Our bonds are growing stronger, and as they do wewill move closer to our goal of a Europe undivided, democratic,and at peace. We reached agreement for greater cooperationbetween NATO and Russia. And our soldiers serve side by side,making peace possible in Bosnia.

We don't always agree, and our interests aren'talways identical. But we work together more often than not, andthe world is a better place as a result. Building peace is ourparamount responsibility, but there is more we must do together.One thing we need to do more together is prove that you can growthe economy without destroying the environment.

A great man looking at the condition of theenvironment charged that humanity was a destroyer. He wrote,"Forests keep disappearing; rivers dry up; wildlife has becomeextinct; the climate is ruined; the land grows poorer and uglierevery day." Chekhov wrote those worlds 100 years ago. Justimagine his reaction to the present environmental conditions,with toxic pollution ruining our air and water, and globalwarming threatening to aggravate flooding and drought anddisease.

Together, we can create cleaner technologies to growour economies without destroying the world's environment andimperiling future generations. Together, we can harness thegenius of our citizens not for making weapons, but for buildingbetter communications, curing disease, combatting hunger,exploring the heavens. Together, we can reconcile societies ofdifferent people with different religions and races andviewpoints, and stand against the wars of ethnic, religious, andracial hatred that have dominated recent history.

If we stand together and if we do the right things,we can build that kind of world. If the people of Russia standfor economic reform that benefits all the people of this country,America will stand with you. As the people of Russia work foreducation and scientific discovery; as they stand againstcorruption and for honest government, against the criminals andterrorists and for the safety of ordinary citizens, againstaggression and for peace, America will proudly stand with you.It is the right thing to do, but it is also very much in theinterest of the American people to do so.

I was amazed there were some doubters back inAmerica who said perhaps I shouldn't come here because these areuncertain times politically and economically. And there arequestions being raised in the American press about the commitmentof Russia to the course of reform and democracy. It seems to methat anybody can get on an airplane and take a trip in goodtimes, and that friends come to visit each other in challengingand difficult times.

I come here as a friend, because I believe in thefuture of Russia. I come here also because I believe someone hasto tell the truth to the people, so that you're not skepticalwhen your political leaders tell you things that are hard tohear. There is no way out of playing by the rules of theinternational economy if you wish to be a part of it. We cannotabandon the rules of the international economy. No one can.

There is a way to preserve the social safety net andthe social contract and to help the people who are too weak tosucceed. There is a way to do that. And there are people whowill help to do that. But it has to be done. So I come here asa friend. I come here because I know that the future of ourchildren and the future of Russia's young people are going to beentwined, and I want it to be a good future. And I believe itcan be.

Recently, a woman from Petrozavodsk -- I hope Ipronounced that right, Petrozavodsk -- wrote these words aboutyour people, who won World War II and rebuilt from the rubble.Listen to this. She said, we survived the ruins, thedevastation, the hunger, and the cold. Is it not possible thatour people can do this again? If people raise themselves, theycan move mountains. Toward what end? Pushkin once said that solong as we burn with freedom, we can fulfill the noble urges ofour souls.

In all this dry and sometimes dour talk abouteconomics and finance, never forget that, whatever your humanendeavor, the ultimate purpose of it is to fulfill the nobleurges of your soul. That is the ultimate victory the Russianpeople will reap if you will see this process through to the end.I hope you will do that and I hope we will be able to be yourpartners every step of the way.

Thank you very much.

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