Shores of Peace: Advancing Security and Cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region
Thank you, Ambassador Olson, for your more than warm introduction. I was delighted to hear it and am tempted to quit while I am truly ahead. I am very gratified to have this opportunity to be back in Sweden, where I have so many friends, and am truly honored to speak before such a distinguished audience from across the Baltic Sea region.
I'd like to thank the conference organizers for putting together a challenging program that promises us a roadmap for the future of this region. I'm pleased to join such strong voices in a hopeful discussion that is no longer about where the future lies, but about how to get there.
The common future we all hope to realize is the long-denied dream of a Europe whole and free. Today that dream is truly within our reach. Challenges remain, of course. But unquestionably Europe today is more democratic, more united, more peaceful than ever before. We should all be very proud of that.
Today, I would like to focus on a vital part of our overall goal, and that is our common effort to ensure that the shores of the Baltic remain shores of peace, to be confident that wherever the Baltic waters flow they are shared by secure, prosperous democracies whose people have bridged old lines to create new bonds of friendship and cooperation.
Many years ago, that vision was expressed eloquently by a native son of the Baltic region, Immanuel Kant, who lived and taught in the Hanseatic city of Konigsberg. He set forth a vision of like-minded democratic republics joined in a community of "civil states" committed to preserving what he called "perpetual peace." That, simply stated, is what we, your American friends, want for you and your neighbors in this new century. We remain committed to working with you to build a northern Europe that is free of conflict and is contributing to the general stability of all of Europe.
Our engagement is based on four principles.
First, Americans and Europeans continue to need each other. If Europe is at peace, America is more secure. If Europe prospers, America does as well. As President Clinton affirmed earlier this year in Aachen, America is a part of Europe.
We are bound by ties of family, values and destiny -- ties that have been the most durable with this region of Europe. Throughout the United States this year Americans have been enjoying the Viking Exhibition that is touring our country; it commemorates 1,000 years of contacts and relations between northern Europe and North America. A thousand years later, we believe that this link is as important as it has ever been; we feel, too, you share with us this idea.
Second, our effort to build a Europe whole and free is guided by a new conception of European security, based not on divided defense blocs, but instead on political, military, economic, and cultural integration.
This means doing for Europe's East what we did for Europe's West after World War II: supporting young democracies, upholding common standards of human rights, lowering barriers to trade, giving people reason for hope for a better life, and creating a spirit of common security that can make conflict unthinkable. It means redefining relationships in ways that erase, and not replace, old divisions. And it means creating the conditions by which Europe's democracies can fully integrate into the European and transatlantic mainstream.
Our third, and very related, principle is the Open Door. We are determined to keep the doors of our core institutions open to democracies that can contribute to our overall security, prosperity and freedom. In fact, we remain committed not only to keeping the door open but to creating the conditions under which other democracies can cross the threshold. Membership in such organizations as NATO and the EU is an obligation, not a gift. But no country willing and able to meet those obligations should be denied for reasons of history or geography.
That is why we welcomed last spring's Vilnius Statement, a visionary declaration that is emblematic of the new inclusive spirit of cooperation that is taking hold from the Baltics to the Black Sea.
This new spirit was also in evidence at last week's meeting of defense ministers from NATO aspirant countries in Sofia. NATO has taken in three new members and its ranks are open to more. The Alliance will review its own enlargement process at its next Summit, no later than 2002. The European Union is negotiating accession with a dozen countries. We are pleased that in this region Poland and all three Baltic countries are part of the accession process. We strongly support further enlargement of the European Union and welcome those European voices that pledge to keep the process on course.
The fourth important element of our strategy is integrating Russia and the New Independent States into Europe's political, economic and security architecture.
Over the past few years, the United States has pursued two fundamental goals with respect to Russia. The first is to make the world safer, through cooperation on reducing Cold War arsenals of weapons of mass destruction and encouraging stability and integration in Europe.
The second is to encourage the efforts of the Russian people to transform their political, economic and social institutions. Both of these goals are very much works in progress.
On Chechnya, the international community must remain engaged and urge Russia to begin a dialogue that can restore peace and stability in a region where loss of life, brutality and fear are the norm. President Putin has stated his commitment to democracy, the free market, and protection of human rights, and we have all made clear our desire to work with his government to fulfill this commitment.
We hope that Russia will come, over time, to view this region not as a fortified fortress but as a gateway; not as a buffer against invaders who no longer exist, but as a trading route and common ground for commerce and economic development.
We want the people of northwest Russia to profit from the changes that have unfolded in the Baltic Sea region. We are under no illusion that Russia's full integration will happen overnight, neither do we underestimate the obstacles that exist in the path of that integration. But I want to reiterate America's desire to see a Russia that is defines its greatness in 21st century terms: democratic in governance, market-oriented in its economic development, ruled by law, at peace with itself, and working with others for a more secure and prosperous Europe and world. We want to welcome Russia to its rightful place as a part of Europe and as a partner of the entire transatlantic community.
These four principles have framed our engagement in the U.S. with this region over much of the past decade. They provide the foundation for our Northern Europe Initiative. Through this initiative we seek to bridge old divides in ways that have a tangible, positive impact on people's lives, particularly in the Baltic countries and in northwest Russia. We seek to energize governments, the private sector and the community of non-governmental organizations to build a "culture of cooperation" all along the Baltic Sea.
Fortunately, we have strong partners throughout the region. Our Northern Europe Initiative and the European Union's Northern Dimension, for example, can complement and reinforce each other.
The Northern Dimension is a potentially significant step by the EU to project mutual security and prosperity eastward, while at the same time promoting the integration of northwest Russia, including St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad, into various mutually reinforcing structures to the west. Now that the EU has completed its Northern Dimension Action Plan, we look forward to developing with both EU member states and the European Commission concrete cooperative activities that can be of benefit to the people of northwest Russia and the Baltic States.
Our Nordic and other European friends are essential partners in this overall endeavor. Sweden's own strong role is further enhanced by its pending Presidency of the European Union. The energy with which Sweden is approaching these challenges is palpable -- and encouraging. My team and I have been consulting closely today with our Swedish colleagues on the priority issues on the U.S.-EU agenda. And Northern Europe is decidedly a centerpiece of that effort.
Much of the focus and energy behind the Northern Dimension, of course, came from Finland during its own EU Presidency last autumn; we continue to profit from Finnish experience in this effort. Our Nordic allies Norway and Denmark have been key to our overall goals in this region and beyond. Norway's Knut Vollebaek did as exemplary job of leading the OSCE last year as Chairman in Office. Denmark has been a generous donor and a leader in our cooperative efforts through BALTSEA. Poland has taken on an active role in the region. And Germany promises to be an energetic chair of the Council of Baltic Sea States this year.
Our Baltic friends, too, have made tremendous strides. In the past few years the Baltic world has been transformed. Russian troops have withdrawn, new civic structures, built on democratic values, have been created. Historic cultures are flourishing once again.
The Baltic-American Enterprise Fund has boosted economic prospects by providing capital for small- and medium-sized companies. We have made significant progress in our bilateral relations with each of the Baltic countries since the U.S.-Baltic Charter was signed in 1998 by President Clinton and the Baltic Presidents. Not only are all three negotiating EU accession; two are in the WTO and we are working to make sure Lithuania is in soon, too. All are active in the Partnership for Peace and each is taking full advantage of its own NATO Membership Action Plan.
We applaud Baltic contributions to European security, including through KFOR and SFOR in the Balkans. Baltic assistance to other countries, whether promoting training programs with Kaliningrad and Belarus, aiding Bulgaria's currency board, or assisting Ukraine with monetary reform, indicate that the Baltic countries are already promoting European stability in many ways.
Because of your efforts, Northern Europe has become one of the world's most dynamic regions. It is a laboratory where the standards are being set for the 21st century political stability, economic growth, and social responsibility.
As artificial divisions disappear, the Baltic Sea is resuming its role as a regional unifier. I am cheered by the mood of self-confidence, of momentum, of progress. That's a key reason for our great interest here. We want people to look at northern Europe and think "That's the way things should be done. That's how to manage a transition." It's worth remembering that a peaceful transition in northeastern Europe was not predestined. It has taken hard work and the engagement of all parties in the region to bring about these changes. Think how valuable this message is as we look together for ways to manage transition and encourage the forces of integration in Yugoslavia and in the rest of southeastern Europe.
We can be proud. But we cannot be complacent. Challenges remain, and we must meet them together. We can advance security and cooperation in the Baltic Sea region if we are ready to put our commitments to work in ways that make a tangible, positive difference in the daily lives of ordinary people, particularly in the Baltic countries and in northwest Russia. Let me address briefly four important areas we would like to tackle with you.
The first is the environment. Only now are we beginning to fully comprehend the environmental damage done to northwest Russia through the inadequate disposal of military nuclear material and other toxic waste. I remember visiting the areas during my time as Ambassador in Moscow. I was alarmed by the magnitude of the problem. And I am convinced that is not just a problem for Russians, but for the U.S. and Canada across the Arctic Ocean, and for all of Russia's Baltic Sea neighbors.
While the problems are still with us, we are on the road to remedy. The U.S. is working closely with Russian civil and military authorities to contain and dispose of some of the waste.
The EU, Norway, and Russia are also making great strides in this area. I commend the courage and resolve of our Russian collaborators to bring this difficult process along, step by step. We still have a distance to go.
The successful conclusion of a framework agreement -- what the experts call the MNEPR agreement B- would speed us along the way. We should also explore together other possible cooperative environmental projects in such areas as waste treatment for water and protection of the Baltic Sea from land-based pollution sources and similar initiatives.
A second critical area is health. The spread of tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS is alarming. It is a direct and present danger for the region. Fortunately, this has been a productive area of cooperation. Earlier this year, the U.S., the EU and the UN worked successfully together to develop a regional HIV/AIDS strategy that will guide all international treatment efforts in the region. Russian participation was positive and energetic. Now we must implement this strategy in ways that reach people quickly and directly.
We would like to explore similar cooperative efforts to fight tuberculosis in the region. Together with Sweden, Latvia and the EU, we have developed a center for research on Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis in Riga that could be a focal point for further progress together.
A third area is fighting organized crime and building the rule of law, which is crucial to political stability and economic prosperity. Through the Northern Europe Initiative we are working to develop efficient legal systems in the Baltic countries, combat corruption and money-laundering there and in northwest Russia, establish the legal framework for encouraging trade and investment, and support an international police-training center in Poland that is open to participants from across the region. We are making some progress. One good example is the Regional prosecutors' seminar on organized crime, which was held last spring by the St. Petersburg Prosecutor's Academy, with full regional participation.
A fourth area is the further development of civil society and productive cross-border cooperation between communities in the Baltic countries and in northwest Russia. We've been supporting Lithuanian efforts to reach out to Kaliningrad through entrepreneurial training. The first ever "Estonia Day" in Pskov last spring is another small but positive example of what can be done. We should work together to encourage further activities that build new constituencies on both sides of these borders for a mutually profitable future relationship. Perhaps some useful lessons might be drawn from the experiences gained by communities that have come together in so-called "Euro-regions" in other parts of Europe.
In this regard the issue of social integration remains important. Latvia and Estonia have made great progress in advancing the integration of Russian speakers into their societies. Both countries are putting new laws on the books and creating new facts on the ground. We support the judgments made by the OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities that both countries have complied with his recommendations in this area. Social integration is a long-term process. The U.S. is in nearly its 224th year of working on social integration in our own country, and we realize how difficult it can be. That is why we are supporting job retraining and language training for Russian-speakers to enable them to participate more fully in Estonian and Latvian society.
Ladies and gentlemen, the generation that rebuilt Europe after World War II also set the foundation of something entirely new -- a Europe united in common commitment to democracy, free markets and the rule of law. Their goal was summarized well by one of my very distinguished predecessors, Robert Lovett, who served as Under Secretary of State to Secretary George C. Marshall. "Our objective," Lovett said in 1948, "should continue to be the progressively closer integration, both economic and political, of presently free Europe and eventually of as much of Europe as becomes free." His generation's vision spanned the entire continent. But their times, unfortunately, could not. Their vision became reality for half a century, but only for half the continent.
The complete vision remained, however. It animates workers, students, pastors, and writers who took to the streets with banners that shouted "We want to return to Europe." It animated all of those who seek a better life in the Baltic states, throughout central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union -- all of those who a decade ago liberated themselves, ended the Cold War, and set the stage for the larger unification of Europe.
Their triumph -- your triumph -- has given us all truly historic opportunities to complete the job that Marshall's generation started by creating a new transatlantic community in which we and our partners in Europe's west can embrace the young democracies of Europe's east, and in which we can work together to generate a better life for people across the entire continent.
The future of this region is crucial for the fate of the entire continent, where the United States has such strong and abiding interests. The challenges that you face are not yours to face alone; they are challenges that we can meet working together. We will know we have met those challenges when all of this region's democracies are secure, stable and prosperous members of the European and transatlantic mainstream.
In our time, the great divide has not been between East and West, North or South. It is between those ensnared by the thinking and habits of the past and those inspired by the possibilities of the future. That future beckons brightly for the people who share the Baltic Sea. To this future the United States is committed to contribute its own best efforts. With your continuing help and commitment, success for it is truly ensured. Thank you all very much.
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