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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
Remarks before the opening session of the Conference Series on International Affairs in the 21st Century
State Department's Dean Acheson Auditorium, Washington, DC,
November 18, 1997

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Good morning, I am very pleased to be here today. I want to begin by thanking the Open Forum, the Bureau of Public Affairs, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the Foreign Service Institute and the Secretary's Office of Resources, Plans and Policy for arranging this timely conference series. And most of all I want to thank all of you for coming to help us set out a vision for America's role in coping with and helping to shape the 21st century.
The world environment is filled with contradictions and competing needs: We are largely at peace yet we continue to face a large number of crises. As economic, social, political, and technological forces transform our world, the challenges and opportunities facing the United States and our allies are numerous and complex.
The communications revolution requires of us that we deal daily with far-flung crises with "real time" policy. Our daily workload and our perspective have increasingly been shaped by world press reporting. We are pulled inexorably to a short-term perspective. In contrast, the critical issues of our time are increasingly of a long-term nature. These include challenges that transcend territorial borders: environmental degradation and global warming; economic crises caused by rapid fluctuations in foreign currencies; transnational organized crime and problems such as drug-trafficking and violence which threaten communities across our nation; and protecting public health from threats posed by new infectious diseases. Addressing these concerns requires sustained long-term strategies.
We cannot neglect our immediate crises but we need above all to set a long-term course. I welcome this opportunity to focus on a longer-term vision for America and American foreign policy and to identify the national interests that we must support and serve.
First, America must be militarily secure. When all else fails, we rely for our security on our military forces to deter or defend against aggression. Maintaining their strength and readiness is indispensable. But it falls to us in the international affairs agencies to make sure that all else does not fail -- that we have effective alliances for dealing with potential threats, that we prevent the formation of alliances arrayed against us, and that we prevent conflicts and resolve disputes before they pose a danger to us. The simplicity and certainty of the Cold War is over, but geopolitics remains a critical component of foreign policy. We need today the same clear vision that Monroe brought to his Doctrine, that Marshall brought to his Plan and that George Kennan brought to facing the Soviet Union and the Cold War.
First and foremost, we must maintain our key alliances and prevent the emergence of hostile powers or coalitions. The current security environment is generally benign; the United States is the sole and unchallenged world power. We reap enormous benefits from this dominance. It also raises problems for others in terms of perceived American "hegemony." We must work hard to maintain and use our strength in the face of long-term challenges to us and to the status quo.
In Europe, for example, protection of our vital economic and security interests requires us to maintain, with our allies, a security structure that provides a framework for conflict prevention and resolution. NATO, which was once deployed as a Cold War tool, has assumed new importance as a stabilizing force on a continent with a history of conflicts and divisions. To play this role effectively, NATO needs to reach out to the newly reemerged states of central Europe and beyond. The security architecture has to be expanded to integrate other European nations and to promote constructive cooperation without polarizing the continent and alienating Russia. This has been a delicate task and much remains to be done, but we have made major progress.
We have a direct interest in Russia, particularly in seeing that its transition to market-based democracy succeeds. The benefits to the United States of a non-threatening and politically and economically reformed Russia are direct and tangible. Tremendous progress has been made, but success, again, is not assured. Should reform in Russia fail, should the experiment with democratic and free market reform be abandoned, we could well again face a serious threat to our national security. Helping Russia overcome the hurdles it faces on the way to reform will clearly remain one of America's highest foreign policy priorities.
China is another huge nation whose behavior and future direction carries immense implications for America. Engaging China constructively and supporting its emergence as a responsible member of the international community remains one of our highest priorities. The importance of this relationship, as well as its challenges, was driven home by President Jiang Zemin's recent visit to the United States. We will continue to work forthrightly with the Chinese on the important issues where have differences -- particularly matters of human rights. But we must also not forget how far we have come together, nor lose sight of the fact that effective diplomacy, not the use of linkage or general confrontation, is the most effective way to get results.
Beyond these important relationships, the U.S. must work to ensure that local and regional instabilities do not threaten the security and well-being of the United States or its allies. The threat of regional conflicts on the Korean Peninsula, the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, and elsewhere requires programs that include cooperative defense relationships, participating in or financing multilateral peace operations, and preventing and defusing conflict through bilateral and multilateral diplomacy.
Perhaps our most important security objective is to reduce the serious threat to the United States and the world from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Reducing the threat from WMD -- through diplomatic and other means -- is among our highest priorities. It is a primary preoccupation in the present UN face-off with Iraq. We must cooperate with other countries in strengthening nonproliferation norms and regimes to restrict the availability of WMD-related goods and technology, while taking the strongest possible measures against potential proliferators. We must also continue our arms control and disarmament negotiations to reduce nuclear weapons and delivery systems, cap production of fissile material, and eliminate chemical and biological weapons threats.
These then are the steps we must take to ensure that Americans remain secure. But in today's world the pursuit of our military security interests represents only a part of foreign policy.
Another key national interest is to ensure America's prosperity -- economic security. As they look across the world in 1997, Americans may have more economic concerns than military fears. U.S. companies, mutual funds, pension plans, and stocks have invested heavily all over the world in the last two decades. Every American shares in this. Even companies who do all their work on Main Street, USA are today creating jobs to service overseas markets. As the financial events of the past weeks have shown, we no longer have a "national" economy -- we are part of a global system. Despite the ups and downs of the stock market, it is clear we are doing well by the global system.
But much of the world still has closed markets, political risks, and often lax legal systems. Even allies subsidize exports in competition with American business and bend their foreign policies to obtain commercial advantage. To be effective in global markets we must have a partnership between government, American businesses, and American workers to encourage free trade, promote exports and to ensure that American firms can compete fairly in all corners of the globe. This must be a fundamental goal of American foreign policy.
We also have a national interest in ensuring that Americans can travel and work in safety abroad and that we protect our borders from unlawful entry. Not a day goes by without news of some international crises or disaster affecting the welfare of American citizens abroad. The expectation of the American public--and Congress--is that when these unforeseen events occur, their government will be there to provide fast and effective assistance. Almost two million times last year Americans overseas called upon their Embassies for assistance.
As well as assisting American citizens abroad in high-profile emergency incidents or when they are injured, victimized, or arrested, the American public turns to us for important services such as issuing passports -- over six million last year -- registering the births of their children who are born abroad, authenticating their important legal documents and registering them to vote by absentee ballot. No service provided by our government is more critical than helping an American in desperate need in a foreign country -- no service provided by our government is more taken for granted.
At the same time, we must also ensure that the flow of foreigners who want to come to the U.S. either as visitors or as immigrants is conducted in an orderly and legal manner consistent with our laws and U.S. foreign policy objectives. In 1996, foreign visitors spent over $64 billion in the U.S., making tourism one of our nation's largest "exports." Our primary objective in U.S. border security is to provide expeditious visa issuance to qualified applicants, while denying entry to those who are likely to remain illegally, do not meet the criteria to become legal residents, or who might be entering the U.S. to engage in activities that are detrimental to our national security. When we think of protecting our borders we think of patrols along the Rio Grande, but the first and most effective line of defense is at the visa counter of 160 American Embassies and Consulates overseas.
We must also protect Americans from the threats of narcotics, crime and terrorism. Domestic law enforcement alone cannot cope with the avalanche of drugs entering this country. Part of the fight requires reducing demand at home as well as cooperating with other governments and going to the source to take on the drug lords who profit at the expense of our society. Other forms of crime also have a growing international dimension. Indeed some international criminals have understood the impact of globalization faster than have governments. Today our foreign policy includes the fight against stolen vehicles, credit card fraud, money laundering, and extortion.
We are also engaged in an important fight against terrorism. This past year, incidents of international terrorism dropped to the lowest level in 25 years due in large part to international cooperation and training programs. However, the attack last week in Karachi makes clear that Americans are still targets. We must remain vigilant and make sure that terrorism reaps no rewards. As the recent Ramsey Yousef case clearly showed, we will go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that terrorists are brought to justice.
We want an America living in a world of shared values built around the principles of democracy and human rights. Next year, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As Americans, we are proud to have acceded to the Declaration as members of the UN, as have all other member nations. We are proud to have as our goals and obligations practicing what the thirty articles of the Declaration preach. We will continue to reject the suggestion that freedom and democracy are relative concepts that vary according to culture. Rather, they are objective, palpable human rights that enrich and dignify the human condition. Human rights and values transcend sovereignty in the sense that they are basic to human existence. Defending them is a fundamental tenet of American practice and policy.
America also has a tradition of compassion. We are and will continue to be responsive to international humanitarian crises. From Bosnia to central Africa, the United States has joined with our international partners to help refugees, feed starving people and mitigate the effects of all kinds of natural disasters.
Finally, we must ensure that America is a contributor to, and beneficiary of, wise environmental international policies and practices.
We must manage our consumption by controlling the rate at which we use and dispose of the world's natural resources. But if population growth is unrestrained, we risk never-ending stress on food supplies, environmental resources, and even the best health and housing systems. Each year world population grows by 90 million people; 95 percent of this growth is in developing countries. Americans know the stressful impacts of illegal immigration, as economic and political strife abroad causes hundreds of thousands to seek safe harbor within our borders each year.
In all, while the complexity and dimensions of our resource problems grow and loom, the size of our planet Earth remains the same. Although technology brings more prudent and wiser uses of world resources, its by-product is often the scourge of pollution or all-too-rapid depletion of the resources required to maintain the earth's natural balance. And, as our human population soars, habitable land does not expand, but shrinks from erosion and overuse.
This -- the challenge of environmental security -- is, in my view, the most daunting challenge of the 21st century, and a fundamental interest of American foreign policy.
These are key national interests that American foreign policy must address. They are interrelated and mutually reinforcing. Peace is the parent of prosperity. Nations with free markets are generally more secure and more likely to share our values. Democratic states are less likely to threaten our security interests -- or those of other nations -- and more inclined to support free trade and sustainable development. Nations cooperating for their mutual security are more likely to deal effectively with our common interests in maintaining our global environment.
Ours is an ambitious vision. It accepts as a basic premise that America's future is tied to the future of the world as a whole. It recognizes that, like it or not, our security, prosperity and well-being are directly affected by our neighbors. The distinctions between domestic and foreign policies are eroded and the actions of one nation increasingly impact on the well-being of all.
To succeed in effectively confronting the challenges we face, America must lead. Our leadership must be strong but inclusive; it must set a vision for the world we want, but be sure that the vision is shared by those whose cooperation is required to achieve it. We are the world's major power, but we cannot simply dictate the global agenda. We must articulate our vision and build a consensus based on shared goals and interests.
The 21st century will demand trailblazing and creativity. To shape the developments and events of this new era, U.S. foreign policy must reflect and reinforce the highest standards of coherence, consistency and credibility. We must use all instruments of our national power constructively to influence the actions of other states as well as the actions of the non-state actors, who have become increasingly influential in the international arena. We need to rebuild our foreign policy machinery to address our new challenges.
To succeed we must build better understanding among the American people of our mission. Secretary Albright has taken the lead in explaining to Americans what it is that we are trying to accomplish in the world and why. In following her lead, our goal is to rebuild a publicly supported bipartisan consensus on foreign policy and, in so doing, to rebuild support for American leadership and engagement in the world
To succeed we must also provide the resources that enable leadership. The U.S. must have a strong and flexible international presence, equipped and staffed with the resources necessary to achieve our objectives. Our leadership must be supported by a highly qualified, trained, and motivated workforce, a modern and well-maintained infrastructure, and state-of-the-art information and communications systems worldwide. The operational success of our Embassies, Consulates, and other diplomatic missions that the State Department manages is directly linked to supporting diplomatic readiness as a critical component of this vision.
Finally, we need to set goals and work to achieve them. We need a structure for carrying out our long- and short-term policy and we need to achieve a balance between the urgent and the important. We have developed such a structure in the International Affairs Strategic Plan. It sets out goals to implement our global vision. This plan is a work in progress and we invite your collective and individual comments. It is a tool that helps achieve alignment of effort, that helps achieve a shared vision -- a shared vision of America's role in the world for the 21st century.
[end of document]

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