|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at roundtable discussion with University Students at Kiev-Mohyla Academy
Kiev, Ukraine, March 6, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
DR. BRYUKHOVETSKY, PRESIDENT OF THE ACADEMY: Madame Secretary, Mr. Ambassador, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honor for us to welcome in our university the Secretary of State of the USA, and it is especially a pleasure for us because this is the first meeting of Mrs. Albright in Kiev this visit. I want to tell only Mrs Albright, look at these students, I'm sure that among them is the future president of Ukraine. So, your country must be very careful to look at them because maybe among them there is not only president but other people of our country. And now because this is a meeting with the students, let me give the floor to a student of Kiev-Mohyla Academy, Ivan Poltavets.
IVAN POLTAVETS: Madame Secretary I would like to welcome you at the University of Kiev-Mohyla Academy on behalf of all of us here and on behalf of other Ukrainian students. I think we all have to be happy to be here because we have a unique opportunity to hear about the United States foreign policy and about further developments of Ukrainian-American relations, and about women's role in international affairs from perhaps the only one person in the world who can speak profoundly and thoughtfully on all these subjects. I hope that you will also be interested in communicating with our students because I am sure that future leaders of Ukraine are present here. Thank you.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Dobry ranok. It's a pleasure to be with you this morning. As I do look out on this audience I am sure that there is the future president of Ukraine, and I see her somewhere in this room. (Laughter and applause)
To all of you and to all those watching at home, thank you very much for your very warm welcome to Ukraine. I am very happy to be here so soon after the visit of our first lady. I've heard so many good things about that visit from Mrs. Clinton and from her chief of staff, Melane Starynchak-Verveer, who is one of the most distinguished Americans of Ukrainian descent.
I wanted to speak with you today about someone, who like you, was born in Central Europe and in a country that is recovering from oppression, and of someone who prays each day that this time the recovery will be a permanent one. I wanted to speak here because the experience of this Academy parallels the experience of Ukraine itself. Here, it is easy to recall that Kiev was once among the great centers of culture, commerce and scholarship in Europe and easy to say with confidence that it will be that kind of a city again. And this building and all of you here is definitely a sign of all that. I must say that as a former professor to see so many people here before 8 o'clock is really quite remarkable.
When I travel, I am often asked about the role that new democracies such as Ukraine will play in the international system we're helping to shape, and I have a simple answer to that question, but since I'm a professor, it usually takes me 50 minutes to explain that, but I will try to be shorter today.
In every part of the world we have encouraged the growth of institutions that bring nations closer together around basic principles of democracy, free market and respect for law and a commitment to peace. We want to ensure that the community we are building is open to all those nations, large and small, distant and near, that are willing to play by its rules. That principle certainly applies to Ukraine. It is in America's own interest for an independent, secure, democratic, Ukraine to survive and prosper in an undivided era. We've been working together for seven years towards that end.
We helped manage the peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union. Under President Clinton's leadership, we have made Ukraine the largest recipient of American aid outside of the Middle East. We have kept NATO open to you. We have encouraged your western neighbors to see that Europe does not stop at the River Bug.
As the American Peace Corps volunteers and Ukrainian Bradley fellows that are here with you today can tell you we have brought our most talented and dedicated young people together to learn from one another. But there is only so much we can do. Only the people of Ukraine can build a better Ukraine.
When I was last here, people were full of dire predictions about your future. They didn't come true. Instead you built a country in which at last it's possible to live a normal life. You've secured the freedom to speak out; to travel and to worship, not to mention the freedom to be left alone and the freedom not to be political. At the same time, I know you have been through enough these past few years to be skeptical of foreigners who talk about the wonders of reform. You've seen your share of false promises and hardships.
I'm sure you've had enough of people who see the market as a wonderful opportunity to get rich quick at the expense of others and who spend their money not in Kiev or Poltava but in the south of France. In these circumstances, one of the great dangers is that people with a stake in the old system will try to convince you that life was somehow easier and safer in the past. I have no standing to tell the people of Ukraine how to build their country. But all of us in this room have standing to remember what communism was. It meant famine, persecution and nuclear poisoning. It combined all the evils of industrialization with none of its benefits. It was the daily indignity of standing in line for trifles only to be told that the last piece of soap, or meat or bread was sold hours ago. Throughout Central Europe, the countries that have done the best are the countries that have run as far and as fast as possible from every vestige of that failed system.
Another danger is that of resignation. In any new democracy, the hardest thing to remember is also the most important thing -- that the political choices you make will make a difference in your lives. Corruption and abuse of office feed off cynicism and apathy. And that is why it troubles me to hear that many young people are not planning to vote later this month. Every country in this region is learning that democracy works when honest people participate in public life. Freedom succeeds from the moment people stop looking to others to improve their lives and start taking responsibility.
My message to you today is that America will stand with you. We are your strategic partner. But only you can make the hard choices to insist on economic reform, on a free and unintimidated press, on a clean environment, and on foreign policy that upholds the highest international standards. You have it in your power to make Ukraine a normal country. A country that attracts investors while creating opportunities for its young people. A country that is a natural candidate for membership in every European and global organization. A country that practices the words of Taras Schveschenko. A country that learns from others while embracing its own traditions.
I am confident that you can and will make the choices that will open the door to that kind of future. And I pledge to you that America will do its part as you do yours. Thank you very much, and I will be very glad to answer all your questions.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) friends. I think today our university proves to us again what a unique place we entered when we became its students. Because where else would we have a unique opportunity to ask the questions important to us as the political establishment in the nearest future of this country and to get the feedback of the U.S. Secretary of State. I encourage your active participation and I would like to have the honor to ask the first question.
Madame Secretary, during the past seven years, Ukraine tried to establish itself in Europe and some have called the past 7 years to return Ukraine to Europe where it truly belongs. But, the closest neighbors to UK, like Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary are entering some European organizations which Ukraine may not enter so far due to different economic hardships. Do you see it as a problem for Ukraine and what would be the solution?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me just say that we are in the process of building the new Europe. The new European architecture that involves a lot of organizations, some of which Ukraine is already a part of and some of which Ukraine has the possibility of becoming a part of.
What is very exciting to me is that this is a period very much like previous periods after a war when it's possible to look at new organizations and new structures. I have made a lot of jokes in the United States about the fact that we are celebrating the 50th year of everything. And, we now are celebrating in the U.S., I think, the entry of the new countries into NATO. And, I took this on as a very personal thing for myself.
I think many of you may know that I was born in Czechoslovakia, and when the communist coup in Czechoslovakia came in February '48, 50 years ago, a date that we regret and don't celebrate, that was really the beginning of why NATO got started. And, it's the reason my family came to the United States. So I kind of thought it was very appropriate that I should be in place as Secretary of State in order to welcome the new countries.
What President Clinton and I have said is that NATO is open to all democracies and free market economies, and we are also very pleased with the special NATO-Ukraine relationship and the ability of your country to begin to work with countries in Europe and our own. So, I think we have to build on what we have and the institutions, the new European architecture, is as open to you as to any country.
QUESTION: Thank you for coming to my country. I think and I hope this visit will be successful and a pleasant one and give you only bright memories. My question is about NATO. You know Russia is against spreading the influence of this organization in the East. A few weeks ago, (inaudible) statement was broadcast that Russia will not let the spread of NATO on the territory of the former USSR. Please tell me how this statement should be estimated and what will be the final result of the former republic to become a member of NATO. And the last question, what will be the position of your country in case of political or even military conflict?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I'm not sure I understood the last part. Well, first of all let me say that I think that the most important feature of our new era is that we are trying very hard to erase the dividing lines in Europe. That all the artificial lines that were created at the end of the Second World War will be erased and that is what is going on with the expansion of NATO and also with programs such as the Partnership for Peace which really allows many countries to be a part of a system that allows us all to work together for peace and security.
We believe that it is important to reach out and, as I have said, NATO is open to all members, all countries, that can show that the democratic system is working, that the market system is working, that the civilians control the military, a set of guidelines. The Russians have not been happy with the expansion of NATO but they are accepting it. And, as we have seen, there is a NATO-Russia Founding Act which allows us as members of NATO to have discussions with Russia on a whole host of issues that are of common concern in terms of peace and security. And, so, we are trying to bring Russia into the system.
We believe that the era of the zero sum where if one side wins, the other side loses is over. That is not the way we should be going into the 21st century. And that the countries, all of us, have to band together to deal with what we consider the new threats. The new threats that know no boundaries, don't respect various countries in terms of where they are in the world, and they are the threats of nuclear proliferation, of general weapons of mass destruction, of diseases, refugees, environmental problems -- and those are the kind of issues that we must work together through new organizations that are being formed.
I think the new NATO is not there in order to be a bulwark against conflict from the outside. We basically are looking for the new NATO to assist in dealing with instability inside and already new countries that have come in have been able to resolve many threats and instabilities internally; countries that were not able to deal with each other before, such as Hungary and Romania have made agreements with the Czechs and the Germans, Poles and Lithuanians, so there has been progress. Obviously, NATO continues to be the prime military alliance of all time so that if there is a military conflict, it can take care of it. But what we're trying to do is to establish a new area of peace and security.
QUESTION: Mrs. Albright, I was hesitating whether I can dare to ask my request but because my students of this university were asking you, but I dare to mention two things. Well, the Soviet Empire is well known for its immorality in leaving behind its own people in trouble and its former allies. America tries to behave in a different way, even in the most difficult situation, your country tries to save those who cooperated with you. One issue which I wanted to mention: is it possible that America pays more attention to the future of Slavic population in those countries where they feel as second class persons? And the second, which is very important to me, some 15 years ago it was a blow -- maybe of the same strong as what was happened here in '91 during the coup when the leaders of some country make serious mistakes and then they are punished.
It is important, but most of our leaders who are making mistakes here and atrocities, they are free. Some of the allies of the former Soviet Union have already disappeared. Some like the president of Afghanistan and his brother, they were killed. And I think still until the moment some of the allies of the former Soviet Union are in jail, e.g. in Grenada, Mr. and Mrs. Courd and Genl Austin. Is it possible that America tries to do something in order to pardon these people who are just puppets who believed ideas that are wrong. So is it possible to behave that something can be taken towards these people who are totally forgotten by the organizations to what they belonged? Thank you.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, let me take the more general question that you asked about the way the U.S. treats other countries. I, again, find myself in a very privileged position because, as someone very much like you who was born in a central European country, I feel very privileged now to not only be a citizen of the United States but Secretary of State. I think you would understand that in itself is an incredible sign of what kind of country America is that somebody who was not born there can now represent it. And I think it is a symbol of the way that Americans treat people and generally respect human rights and dignity and the ability of people to work themselves up.
I think that the role that the United States now takes, as what I call the indispensable nation, means that our attitude towards our allies and other countries, friends, is one where we want to do everything we can to help those countries move into the 21st century. The United States, I believe, is the most generous country in the world and it shows its generosity by its assistance, by its openness and by its desire to have partners.
There are those who believe sometimes that the United States is too domineering, that it is the only superpower left. But as the representative of that superpower, I can tell you that our main approach is one of reaching out to partners. We know that we cannot run the world ourselves and that the best way to move into the 21st century is through partnerships with countries such as Ukraine. Countries that have a great deal to offer, and that the more we work together, the more that we can work together. The only thing that we require of countries that we help is that the countries help themselves. I think the hardest part is when a country only wants assistance but then doesn't do its share. So that is the basis on which we operate.
You've asked a very interesting question about these people and I think that the specific cases – I do not know of the people in Grenada. I think that what we have seen in the last years are that people have changed, that those who seemed to have a deep seated ideology have been able to change and see the values of democratic systems, and that people should be judged on the basis of how they are behaving currently and what they are willing to contribute to a democratic system, and to free market systems, and that while there are those clearly in societies that have committed -- I'm going to range very widely now -- who have committed crimes that we consider unacceptable, such as those in Bosnia who have committed war crimes that cannot be forgiven without prosecution, that it is important now for us to try to use everybody in the best possible way in bringing our societies into the 21st century.
QUESTION: Madame, I have read a lot about you and your personality and I have a question concerning your personality. In our media, you have been described as AN extremely brave lady and you have made the statement in the way that no one has ever done in the United Nations and in political circles. I wonder what you have behind your back to allow yourself such a braveness? How to achieve that level to allow yourself to do that?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well. I have had a very lucky life, I have to say. As I said, I was able to come and live in the United States, and to live the life of a free American, even though my parents had to escape twice from their own country, first from the Nazis and then from the communists. So I feel very blessed. So that's my first sense.
I am also not a born diplomat, so I try to say what I think. I also think that often people have such long, convoluted and complicated thoughts that what is really behind them never comes through. What has helped me the most actually in being a plain spoken person is that I was a professor. I think that the hardest thing I ever did was to be a professor because you sit there and you know that there are people that are writing down every word you say, and that they are then going to have to explain to others what they learned from you and if you learned the wrong thing from the professor, then it goes from generation to generation. So I learned to speak very clearly as a professor and I think that helped.
I'm also a mother and I learned to say when I didn't like something from my kids what I didn't like. And, I say what I say because I believe it. And I think it's very important for people to say what they believe. And most of all I have the support of President Clinton in my work – that helps.
QUESTION: I'm really glad to have an opportunity to ask you a question. As you said before, you think that USA is one of the most generous countries in the world, but as far as I know, ordinary Americans, all these countries like Ukraine and others you help are so far away and this help you give away is from their taxes. Do you have any problem with that kind of thing and how do you deal with that? Thank you.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: That is a terrific question because it is one of the problems that I deal with every day. In fact yesterday I was up in Congress asking for money for our assistance programs and let me explain exactly what the situation is. I think that Americans are the most generous people in the world, but they are, we are, very lucky because America is protected by two oceans and has two friendly neighbors in the north and the south, and therefore has the possibility, or had the possibility, of insulating itself from the world.
Now it is clear that in a global economy even a country such as the United States needs to reach out, and is a beneficiary of a global system and a beneficiary if we can manage to have rules about what we do, for instance, with weapons of mass destruction or environment or the global threat. But what I think is happening or happened with the American people is that for 50 years the American people were very directed at fighting communism. They understood the importance of fighting communism. And, we won. A great deal of money went into fighting communism, and believe it or not, there was in the years of the 70's and 80's particularly not much money spent on America domestic programs.
So that after the Cold War was over and everybody felt that we had won, there was a turning inward in an attempt to try to balance again how much money was spent on domestic and foreign policy programs. At the same time that there was not the threat anymore, there was also the need for some domestic programs.
I believe, however, that it's very important for the American people to understand our security and the security of our land and the security of our people, and the security of our way of life depends on our having partnerships and relationships internationally. What I do is go around the United States and try to explain why assistance to some country actually affects their particular region. So what I would do is try to explain where assistance to Ukraine and the sale of some product from X city actually helps the workers. So I'm trying to bring very much the immediacy of our foreign policy goals to specific Americans, because it's a little harder to explain the threat now since communism is gone and Americans, because they are such a large country, can believe that they can afford to turn inward and I'm saying they can't.
QUESTION: In your view, how long would it take for Ukraine to become a really democratic country from a western point of view?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I don't think that there's any time limit. You have elections coming up. I think these elections are very important and, as I said in my remarks, for elections to work, people have to vote, and to go out and really participate. So I would say that participation actively in elections is an essential part to moving in a democratic system.
But what also has to happen, and I have studied a lot about how democracies function and how societies in transition function and elections are one part, the existence of opposition parties is another part, the existence of judicial and legal institutions are very important as an underpinning of the rule of law; a market system is very important; a great educational system is very important. All the pieces go together. I think that it should not take so long for Ukraine to be a fully democratic market system because there are various aspects of it in place.
What is complicated, and we have seen this in other post-communist countries, what is complicated is keeping the system going, and understanding that the responsibilities of democracy are not a one-time thing. President Clinton talks about the United States, which is over 225 years old, as an experiment in progress. Democracy is never static. There is something going on all the time, and we all have to cherish our democracy and work on it every day, and not allow ourselves to become complacent about it or to think that other people can take care of it.
The part about democracy is that everybody has to participate and if you leave it to just the leaders, it doesn't work; then it's not democracy, it's another system of government. And, so you are there, you just need to nurture it and move it and never forget that it requires your daily care either through voting or participation or working on a legal system or an educational system that underpins the democratic system of government.
QUESTION: The visit of the Secretary of State to Ukraine took place just after a few days of the visit of President Kuchma to Moscow. Are there any connections to this? Do you see some connection? Could you comment on this? Are there U.S. concerned about possible improvement in Russia-Ukraine relationship?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, as far as I'm concerned, it's a coincidence. I wanted to be here at this time, I had not been to Ukraine as Secretary of State. I had been to Ukraine actually before as a professor and spent a lot of time doing attitude surveys and working in various part of Ukraine, but not as Secretary of State, and so I wanted to come and visit.
I think that Ukraine has a key role in Europe because of its geography, its size and its importance to the United States and obviously to its neighbors. I believe that it's important for Ukraine to have good relations with Russia and with the United States and with its neighbors. I think that the most important point now, and I repeat this to Americans also, we are in a different era. Just because you're friends with one country doesn't mean you have to be enemies with the other. That is very different from the last 50 years. This is not a zero sum game. We are in this all together and the new Europe and the new Eurasia and the new world is one in which we operate as partners and not as adversaries. While there are adversaries, and we are dealing with one in Iraq at the moment, the bottom line is that we do not wish to have that kind of a world.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you very much for coming here, first of all. I wanted to say that in order for Ukraine to become a member of an international society and to function normally, it has to be healthy and now we're facing great problems concerning drugs, alcohol and tobacco abuse. While being in the States actually myself actively participated as a volunteer in the drug struggle program. But here the problem of these abuses is not even brought up and is not being paid enough attention to. So, what would be your advice taking into consideration the financial instability concerning these problems? How should we fight them; not having the finances and, you know, not having enough people paying attention to this?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think you have said it brilliantly. I think that what has to happen is for the government authorities to understand that drugs are a cancer in society and they destroy whole generations. I think that what happened in the United States, frankly, we did not pay attention to it early enough, and there's a whole generation of young people that were lost to the country because of the drug habits.
We now have somebody in the government who looks at drugs from the position of American demand for drugs, as well as the supply from other countries. It is a huge problem. It is one of the biggest problems that our societies have, and I would urge your government to take a very close look at it.
The other point is that I think everybody that is involved in the educational system needs to understand about the problem of drugs. Parents need to tell their children at all levels. So it's a huge problem for all our societies. And, I think to some extent a surprising problem to the post-communist societies because they didn't have it before, so there are some, a few, disadvantages to open systems and one is the issue of the spread of drugs. So, I hope that you here, before it gets to be really big that your government authorities work on it. But also it's one of those problems that you have to work on also.
May I just say one of the issues, and I think this may be the hardest thing for people that have come from a state-controlled system, because what has happened to you is you have changed your relationship with the rulers. You used to work for them. They now work for you. That is very different. The whole relationship of the government to the governed has reversed. But, it also means that you have responsibilities and that you cannot wait for the government to do everything for you, so it's a partnership there.
QUESTION: Time for one more question. In 1991 President Bush made a speech in which the Nationalists were criticized. In the following years, the United States carried out the policies that can be defined as pro-Russian, and at present as you have said you say support Ukraine. How can you explain this change in your foreign policy?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We believe very much that each of the countries that have, first of all, left or were freed from the Soviet Union need to be respected and treated by us as partners and friends and there should be respect for their national views. We feel that way not only about the countries that are former Soviet countries but throughout the world. What we are trying to do is to respect the national identities of various countries. Where, I think, we are all facing problems these days is that there are many sub-inter -- smaller groups, and I have said, and I used to say a lot of things when I was a professor that are not quite right now that I'm Secretary of State, but I think that we have to be very careful not to create totally non-viable, very small states based only on ethnic identity; that the strength of our countries, many of our countries, is their multi-ethnic and multi-cultural basis. So you cannot have countries that are purely identified with just one ethnic or national group. Not every ethnic or national group has to have its own flag or airline or money. We need to be a part of larger groups in order to have the richest kinds of societies, and again I point to the United States as a country where there are hundreds of different ethnic groups that live together well and we are enriched by our relationships with each other.
QUESTION: Thank you Madame Secretary. It has been a very interesting discussion and meeting and very important for our students and for faculty members. I think that you as professor would be invited to our university to spend more time, much time as a professor for our university, so please give us your address and we will send you an invitation to be a professor at our university. Thank you and I hope that this is only the first visit to our university.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you. I will try to say this without a Czech accent: Ukraina bula, Ukraina ye, Ukraina bude.
[End of Document]
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