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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Opening remarks before the House International Relations Committee
Washington, D.C., 9/27/2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Blue Line

Secretary Albright: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee. I can't thank you enough for your gracious remarks. There is no greater honor than to represent the United States, and I thank you very much for your kind remarks at the beginning, and I hope we can end up that way, too.

This may, in fact, be my final time, and I have to say I will miss these opportunities. We don't always agree, but the American people can always count on this Committee to be forward-looking and to approach important foreign policy issues in a bipartisan spirit.

And I am sure those qualities will be in evidence this morning, as we talk about what I think is a very crucial issue: the United States policy towards Russia.

Since the Cold War's end, America has pursued two fundamental goals with Russia. The first is to make the world safer, through cooperation on weapons of mass destruction and security in Europe. And the second is to encourage Russia's full transition to a free-market democracy.

On both, we have moved far in the right direction. But it is not surprising, given Russia's past, that neither goal has been fully accomplished within the space of a single decade. Our focus now is on how to achieve further gains.

And through our mutual efforts on arms control, the United States and Russia have set the stage for further reductions in our strategic nuclear arsenals, to as much as eighty percent below Cold War peaks.

Since 1992, our assistance has helped to deactivate more than 5,000 former Soviet nuclear warheads. We have also helped to strengthen the security of nuclear weapons and materials at more than a hundred sites; and purchased more than sixty tons of highly enriched uranium that could have been used by terrorists or outlaw states to build nuclear weapons.

Throughout this period, fighting proliferation has been the top priority in US-Russia relations, and we have made considerable progress. But Russia's overall record on nuclear and missile exports remains mixed. We will continue to be frank with Russian leaders in stating our expectations, and we will take appropriate actions based on their response.

More broadly, our security cooperation in Europe and elsewhere has proven steady, despite periods of stress. Many predicted that our differences with Russia would lead to disaster--first on NATO enlargement, then on Bosnia, and later on Kosovo. But today, the NATO-Russia partnership is active, and the US and Russian troops serve side by side in Bosnia and Kosovo.

These and other examples of cooperation contrast sharply with the Cold War years. But here again, problems remain.

We believe that the new and democratic Russia should support democratic principles, at home and abroad. And so, we have objected strongly to Russia's support for the regimes in Baghdad and Belgrade.

Russia has an obligation to observe UN Security Council sanctions against Iraq. And we look to Moscow to show its friendship for the people of Yugoslavia, by supporting the desire they have just so clearly expressed for new leadership and a place in Europe's democratic mainstream.

The United States is also engaged with Russia on economic matters, where we have encouraged openness, reform, and an all-out fight against corruption.

Compared to the financial crisis of two years ago, the Russian economy is doing well. President Putin's policies have been aided by high oil prices and improved levels of domestic investment.

But the current recovery is fragile and built on a very narrow base. Russia has not yet made a deep enough commitment to reform, approved anti-money laundering legislation or initiated a truly serious battle against corruption. As a result, foreign investors remain wary, and Russia's economic prospects are still in doubt.

Mr. Chairman, I don't know how many Members of this Committee have visited both the old Soviet Union and the new Russia, but I can assure you, there is a startling contrast.

In the old days, Russians had no meaningful right to vote, worship, speak, travel or advocate change.

Now, they vote regularly and speak freely. And with our help, they are beginning to develop the legal structures required for the rule of law. And over the past eleven years, more than 65,000 NGOs have come into being.

But in recent months, the future of independent media has emerged as a revealing test of President Putin's attitude toward democracy. Several incidents of media harassment have prompted many to believe that a broad campaign is underway to intimidate or co-opt the media.

President Putin has said, "a free press is the key to the health of a society." And we obviously agree. But it will be hard to take this statement seriously if Russia's state-run national gas monopoly, Gazprom, succeeds in its current effort to gain control of the nation's largest independent TV network.

Experts agree that, after the disruptions of the last decade, there is a widespread desire among the Russian people for leaders who will create a stronger sense of order and direction within society.

As a result, "order" has become the big buzzword in Moscow: "poryadok." And Russia's new leaders are trying to instill a greater sense of it in Russian society.

The big question, however, is whether they have in mind "order" with a small "o," which is needed to make Russia function; or "Order" with a big "O," which translates into autocracy.

This is a fundamental choice that only the Russians can make. Their leadership is perhaps more instinctively pragmatic than democratic, but it appears to understand that Russia cannot succeed, economically, unless it establishes and maintains close ties with the democratic West.

Our job is to make clear that economic integration and democratic development are not separable. If the Kremlin wants one, it must proceed with the other. This makes sense from our point of view, and also from Russia's. Because most Russians want to see order established in their society through the full realization -- not the repression -- of democratic practices and rights.

To support this aspiration, the Clinton-Gore Administration has worked hard to develop relationships with Russians that extend far beyond the leaders in Moscow. We have done this through our meetings with local officials and entrepreneurs in places such as Novgorod and Sakhalin, through international exchanges, and our support for independent media, trade unions and the NGOs.

We have also shown support for Russian democracy by speaking out against violations of human rights in, among other places, Chechnya.

Since the fighting began in Chechnya more than a year ago, the United States has been consistent in calling for a political solution to the conflict, and in pressing Russia to allow a credible international presence to investigate abuses.

Tragically, Russia still has no apparent strategy for bringing this war to an end, or for reassuring the Chechen population about its future under Moscow's rule. Clearly, a new approach is warranted.

Mr. Chairman, I think both Democrats and Republicans, from the Executive Branch and on Capitol Hill, can take pride in the steps we have taken to help Russians build a democratic future.

It should not be surprising that neither our efforts, nor those of Russia's strongest reformers, have succeeded overnight. After all, Communism was a seven-decade forced march to a dead end, and no nation went further down that road than Russia.

It is beyond our prerogative and power to determine Russia's future. But we can work together, on a bipartisan basis, to explore every avenue for cooperation with Russia on the fundamental questions of arms control, nonproliferation and regional security.

We can reach out to the people of Russia and help them strengthen their democratic institutions from the ground up. And we can back our words and our interests with resources, so that the next President and Secretary of State will have the funds they need to lead -- not only toward Russia, but around the world.

Mr. Chairman, whether one serves as a Cabinet Secretary or as a Member of Congress, we are all acutely aware that we only occupy temporarily the chairs of responsibility in American government. But we know, as well, that America's responsibilities are permanent. And we all do our best, in the time allotted, to serve well our nation and its people.

As I have said, it has been my privilege during the past seven and three quarter years to combine my service to our great country with that of the Members of this Committee.

I listened to your statement very carefully, Mr. Chairman, and to yours, Congressman Gejdenson, and I would like to say that I am very glad to have an opportunity to talk about US-Russia relations. I didn't come to thinking about US-Russia relations when I began to sit behind this sign. I have spent my entire adult life studying Russia, the Soviet Union, and then Russia again. I have taught about it, I have thought about it, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss it.

And I would hope that you would see from my statement that the Clinton-Gore Administration has not seen Russia through rose-colored glasses. We have been very realistic and we have dealt with something that has never been dealt with before: of how you deal with a former adversary that had an empire, and help to manage the devolution of that empire -- to turn that -- to not recreate an adversary.

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to answer your questions on this subject.

[End of Document]
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