95/03/29 U.S. Policy toward the New Independent States  Return to: Index of 1995 Secretary of State's Speeches/Testimonies || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage

Note: This Electronic Research Collection is an archive site. For the most current information, please visit the State Department homepage.

               U.S. Policy toward the New Independent States:
   A Pragmatic Strategy Grounded in America's Fundamental Interests

                   Secretary of State Warren Christopher
                              March 29, 1995

Good afternoon.  I would like to thank President Brand for that warm 
welcome, and Indiana University for inviting me to speak today.  I 
am pleased to be here with Robert Orr, former Indiana Governor and 
former Ambassador to Singapore.

Four decades ago, Indiana President Herman Wells showed foresight in 
founding the Russian and East European Institute.  Today, the 
Institute is among the country's most respected centers of regional 
study.  And many of its graduates have forged distinguished careers 
in this field, including Jim Collins, my special advisor for the New 
Independent States.

Your state's political leaders have played a crucial role in shaping 
our policy toward the former Soviet Union.  When I called Senator 
Lugar to ask if he could join me here today, he said he really 
needed to be in Washington shepherding the ratification of our START 
II Treaty with Russia through the Senate.  Under these 
circumstances, I reconsidered my invitation.  And I will always be 
indebted to your highly respected Congressman, Lee Hamilton, for his 
counsel and support.  You should be proud that Indiana has produced 
two such outstanding leaders of both parties.

Since his first day in office, President Clinton has pursued a 
pragmatic policy of engagement with Russia and the other New 
Independent States as the best investment we can make in our 
nation's security and prosperity.  Our approach is to cooperate 
where our interests coincide, and to manage our differences 
constructively and candidly where they do not.  We support reform 
because in the long run, its success benefits not only the people of 
the region, but the American people as well.  We understand that 
Russia and the other new states face a tumultuous future.  For that 
reason, our policy is focused on the long haul.  In sum, our 
approach is realistic and grounded in America's strategic interests.

The successful transformation of the former Soviet empire into a 
region of sovereign, democratic states is a matter of fundamental 
importance to the United States.  These 12 nations cover one-sixth 
of the world's surface.  Their territory is home to tens of 
thousands of nuclear weapons.  Their people and resources give them 
vast economic potential.

Twice in this century, political events in this region have remade 
the world -- profoundly for the worse in 1917, and profoundly for 
the better in 1991.  The events of 1991 set in motion two historic 
transformations, both of which served our fundamental interests and 
those of the people of the region.  The first is the disappearance 
of a hostile totalitarian empire, and its replacement by twelve 
newly independent states.  The second is the collapse of communist 
dictatorship, and the movement toward democratic institutions and 
free markets.

These transformations have presented us with a remarkable 
opportunity to encourage stability in the region and enhance the 
security of the American people.  We have taken advantage of that 
opportunity in ways that have paid enormous dividends.  Indeed, our 
engagement with Russia, Ukraine, and their neighbors has made 
America safer than at any time since the end of World War II.  
Thousands of nuclear warheads, built to destroy America, are 
themselves being destroyed.  Those that remain no longer target our 
cities and homes.

Last year, President Clinton negotiated a trilateral understanding 
with Russia and Ukraine that sets Ukraine on the path to become a 
non-nuclear power.  In so doing, Ukraine joined Kazakhstan and 
Belarus in agreeing to give up nuclear weapons.  We are leading 
efforts to dismantle their weapons and safeguard nuclear materials 
under a bipartisan program sponsored by Senator Nunn and Senator 
Lugar.  In Defense Secretary Perry's words, it literally "removes 
the threat -- missile by missile, warhead by warhead, factory by 

Last December, President Clinton and the leaders of the region's 
nuclear states brought the START I agreement into force and paved 
the way for implementing START II.  Together, these important 
treaties will cut strategic nuclear forces in Russia and the United 
States by almost two-

Our diplomacy has also made Europe more secure.  After patient but 
firm efforts by President Bush and President Clinton, Russian troops 
completed their withdrawal last August from Germany and the Baltic 
states.  Now, for the first time since World War II, the people of 
Central Europe are free of occupying forces.

Despite the progress that has been made, we have no illusions about 
how difficult the region's transformation will be, or how long it 
will take to overcome centuries of empire and autocracy.  
Ultimately, only the peoples of the region can assure their success.

From the outset, our approach has been focused on the entire region 
of the former Soviet Union, in part because the futures of all these 
countries are closely linked.  I am convinced that the success of 
reform in each of these countries will have a positive impact on 
success in the others.

Our region-wide approach can be seen in the emphasis we have placed 
on financial support to the non-Russian states -- which in 1995 will 
represent two-thirds of our assistance to the region.  Increasingly, 
we are supporting private sector trade and investment.  American 
firms have signed multi-billion dollar energy deals in Kazakhstan 
and in Azerbaijan -- the latter country so rich in oil that its 
capital was described in the 12th century as "blazing like a fire 
all night."  Last year, our Overseas Private Investment Corporation 
provided almost $1 billion in financing for projects in the region.  
These programs will generate new exports and jobs for Americans.

The Clinton Administration has been steadfast in support of the 
sovereignty and territorial integrity of all the new independent 
states.  The region's history of imperial conquest underscores how 
important it is that all countries scrupulously respect 
international law and the rights of their neighbors.

Of course, some states of the former Soviet Union command particular 
attention because of their potential to influence the future of the 
region.  Ukraine is critical.  With its size and its position, 
juxtaposed between Russia and Central Europe, it is a linchpin of 
European security.  An independent, non-nuclear, and reforming 
Ukraine is also vital to the success of reform in the other New 
Independent States.  That is why the United States has joined 
Britain and Russia in providing security assurances for Ukraine.

The United States has consistently led the international effort to 
support economic reform in Ukraine.  Last year, we convinced the G-7 
to pledge over $4 billion for that country.  In October, Ukraine's 
government launched a courageous program of market reform.  We 
responded by increasing our assistance for 1994 by $250 million, to 
a total commitment of $900 million.  Ukraine is now the fourth 
largest recipient of U.S. assistance after Israel, Egypt, and 
Russia.  It is important that the Ukrainian Rada fully support 
President Kuchma's economic reform program.

Of course, the future of Ukraine and every other state in the region 
will be profoundly affected by the outcome of Russia's new 
revolution.  That is why the deliberations of Russia's parliament 
and the fate of the ruble are on everyone's mind, not just in 
Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Vladivostok, but also in Kiev, Almaty, 
and Baku.

In May, President Clinton will travel to Moscow to meet President 
Yeltsin for the seventh time.  This summit comes at an important 
moment.  Reform in Russia is under strain.  The war in Chechnya 
continues.  We have differences with Russia in foreign policy.

But whatever the problems, we must not lose sight of the 
breathtaking changes we have witnessed since the breakup of the 
Soviet Union.  Ten years ago, almost 400 million people from the 
Baltic to the Bering Seas were subject to totalitarian dictatorship 
and hemmed in by minefields and barbed wire.  Today, Vilnius, Warsaw 
and Kiev are free.  Moscow is alive with political debate.  Siberia 
is becoming a synonym for opportunity, not oblivion.

Perspective and a sense of history are also important.  Not long 
ago, a severe disagreement between the United States and the Soviet 
Union could threaten a nuclear confrontation.  Today, we do not 
always agree, and there are obviously new challenges in our 
relationship.  But every difference is not a crisis.  We address our 
differences constructively, without threatening to blow up the 

Today, the real question is not whether we should engage with 
Russia, but how.  We will reject policies that reflect short-term 
political pressures, but undermine the long-term interests of the 
United States.  We will continue to work with Russia where our 
interests coincide.  We will not hold our relationship hostage to 
any one issue.  But we will remain ready to speak openly and act 
appropriately when Russian actions run counter to our interests.

Our policy toward Russia has been and will continue to be based on a 
clear-eyed understanding of the facts on the ground. As President 
Clinton has stressed, we reject the superficial caricature of Russia 
that suggests it is predestined to aggression, predisposed to 
dictatorship, or predetermined to economic failure.  At the same 
time, we are under no illusion that success is assured.

The truth is, Russia has a choice.  It can define itself in terms of 
its past or in terms of the future.

In many areas Russia is courageously making the right choices.  It 
has a freely elected President and Parliament and a democratic 
constitution.  It has an independent press, which often criticizes 
central government policies.  Debate in the parliament is vigorous 
and open.

Economic reform is continuing.  The government has acted boldly to 
bring inflation down.  An ambitious privatization program has 
altered Russia's economic landscape.  The private sector now 
accounts for 50 percent of Russia's GDP.

Two weeks ago, Russia initialled a $6.4 billion agreement with the 
IMF, which requires Russia to continue its fight against inflation, 
implement an austere budget, liberalize the energy sector, and free 
more prices from state control.  This agreement is a significant 
landmark on the hard march to a stable market economy.

These positive changes are all the more notable in light of the 
ruinous legacy that Russian reformers are having to overcome.  After 
75 years of communism, much of the old elite remains entrenched in 
government and industry.  Trust in democratic institutions is 
fragile -- and so are the institutions themselves.  The rule of law 
is in its infancy.  Crime and corruption are rampant.  These 
problems could undermine democracy if they are not dealt with 

The economic legacy is also difficult.  The new Russia inherited 
from the Soviet Union a decrepit industrial base that has wasted 
natural resources and produced a string of environmental disasters 
-- from Chernobyl, to chemical pollution in the Urals, to the drying 
up of the Aral Sea.

And then there is the legacy of empire.  Some 150 ethnic groups live 
within Russia's eleven time zones.  During the Soviet period, 
borders between the internal regions and republics of the empire 
were changed by communist leaders over 90 times.  The central 
government of Russia has made progress in improving relations with 
the diverse peoples within the Russian Federation.  But its actions 
in Chechnya today threaten its ability to emerge as a democratic, 
multi-ethnic state.

The Chechnya crisis began as Russia sought to deal with a complex 
problem with deep historical roots.  Now a city and many villages 
have been destroyed, thousands have died, and the tensions that led 
to the fighting have surely been exacerbated. Russia's conduct in 
Chechnya has been tragically wrong.  Its decision to escalate 
fighting there in the last week is a serious mistake.

That is why I have urged the Russian government to end the carnage, 
to accept a permanent mission from the Organization for Security and 
Cooperation in Europe, to provide humanitarian relief and to reach a 
political settlement.  It is patently clear that the Russian 
government is paying a very high price for Chechnya both at home and 

It is easy enough to enumerate our differences with Russia, or with 
other states of the former Soviet Union.  But I do not have the 
luxury of making a list and walking away.  My job is to build areas 
of agreement, to develop policies to manage our differences, and 
always to advance our nation's interests.  Let me describe the five 
key goals of our strategy for the coming year, as they relate to all 
the states of the former Soviet Union.

First, we aim to resolve a number of important security issues vital 
to every American.  In 1995, we are pursuing the most ambitious arms 
control agenda in history.  President Clinton and I have urged the 
Senate to ratify START II before the U.S.-Russian summit in May.  
The Russian parliament should act promptly to do the same.  We are 
working closely with Russia to achieve the indefinite extension of 
the Non-
Proliferation Treaty.  We will also press to conclude a 
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty -- thereby realizing the vision set 
forth three decades ago by President Kennedy.

We are also determined to combat the growing threat posed by nuclear 
smuggling.  We must prevent rogue states and terrorists from 
acquiring nuclear weapons and materials.  Nunn-Lugar programs will 
help us achieve this goal by dismantling nuclear weapons in the 
former Soviet Union and safeguarding the resulting nuclear 
materials.  Full funding for Nunn-
Lugar is vital to our nation's security.

Because of the importance we attach to fighting the spread of 
nuclear weapons, we are firmly opposed to Russia's nuclear 
cooperation with Iran.  Russia is a neighbor of Iran.  It will rue 
the day it cooperated with this terrorist state if Iran builds 
nuclear weapons with the benefit of Russian expertise and equipment.  
Russia should take note that no major industrial democracy 
cooperates with Iran on nuclear matters.  It is simply too dangerous 
to be permitted.  For this reason, it is important that in our 
meeting last week, Foreign Minister Kozyrev and I agreed to set up a 
working group to examine non-proliferation issues, including the 
consequences of nuclear cooperation with Iran.

A second goal for 1995 will be to cooperate on a newer set of global 
or transnational issues, including crime, energy, the environment, 
and space.  During the Cold War, such cooperation was impossible.  
Today it is essential.

International crime is a growing threat to the lives and livelihoods 
of countless Americans, and to the prospects for reform in the 
former Soviet Union.  I have made the fight against global crime a 
top priority of U.S. foreign policy.  FBI Director Louis Freeh and I 
have worked together to set up an FBI office in Moscow -- to 
cooperate with the Russians to combat organized crime, corruption 
and drug trafficking.

Vice President Gore and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin are spearheading 
efforts to improve the efficency of the Russian oil and gas sector, 
thereby raising productivity and reducing that industry's high 
levels of pollution.  They are also strengthening our cooperation 
with Russia in space -- symbolized today by the space station Mir, 
with its first American crew member on board.

Our cooperation on these issues is not limited to Russia.  We will 
continue to work with Ukraine and our G-7 partners to overcome the 
dangerous aftermath of Chernobyl.  We are also helping Kazakhstan to 
manage its enormous energy resources in economically sound and 
environmentally safe ways.

Third, we will continue carefully targeted assistance programs that 
increase our security, expand our prosperity, and promote our 
interest in democratic reform.  Nunn-Lugar monies will continue to 
advance our strategic interest in dismantling nuclear weapons.  Our 
assistance will also continue to support the vital elements of a 
working democracy and civil society, including a free press and jury 
trials.  And by supporting privatization and small business 
development, it will encourage free markets, and open new 
opportunities for American companies.  Most of our assistance will 
go to private organizations and local governments outside Moscow.

Assistance has put America on the right side of the struggle for 
change in Russia.  Some people say we should end these programs to 
punish Russia when it does something we oppose.  I am all for 
maximizing our leverage.  But I have personally reviewed our 
assistance programs and concluded that cutting them back now would 
make no sense.  The critics of those programs need to ask themselves 
some tough questions.  Would they stop the funding necessary to 
dismantle the nuclear weapons that once targetted American cities?  
Would they cut off support for privatization and free elections -- 
wiping out programs that strengthen the very forces in Russian 
society that share our interests and values?

I believe that when they understand these choices, the American 
people will adopt the only course that makes sense:  That is, to 
make the necessary investments now to make our nation more secure 
and prosperous for generations to come.  I call on both the House 
and Senate to fund fully our request for assistance to the New 
Independent States.

The fundandamental basis of the assistance program is to encourage 
all of the New Independent States to move forward with reform.  Free 
elections are especially vital.  President Nazarbayev's recent 
effort to extend his term unilaterally is a step backward for 
Kazakhstan.  We call on him to renew his commitment to hold timely 
parliamentary elections, followed by scheduled presidential 
elections in 1996.  We applaud President Yeltsin's commitment to 
hold parliamentary elections at the end of this year and 
presidential elections next year.  When President Clinton goes to 
Moscow in May, you can be sure he will underscore the importance we 
attach to that commitment.

In meeting with President Yeltsin, President Clinton will be dealing 
with the first freely elected leader of Russia.  But he will also 
talk directly to the Russian people and meet a cross section of 
Russian society -- especially those who are committed to reform.  
The United States will continue to cultivate strong ties with a wide 
range of leaders and institutions in and out of the Russian 
government.  To encourage pluralism in Russia, we will deal with 
Russia as a pluralistic society.

Fourth, we will reinforce the independence of Russia's neighbors and 
support their further development as market democracies.  We will 
also use our good offices to help resolve conflicts in the region.  
Last December, we persuaded Russia that an OSCE-led peacekeeping 
mission in Nagorno-Karabakh was preferable to unilateral action.  If 
a settlement is reached, such a mission would set a powerful 
precedent for conflict resolution in the New Independent States.  It 
is vital that Russia continue to cooperate with the OSCE to ensure 
its success.

Fifth, we will advance the President's comprehensive strategy for 
building a stable, peaceful and integrated Europe.  Just as we had 
in Western Europe after World War II, we now have a rare and 
historic opportunity to build a new security architecture for all of 
Europe that will last for generations.

President Clinton's vision includes several key elements.  The OSCE 
will have a larger and more operational role.  NATO's Partnership 
for Peace will strengthen its ties to Central Europe and to the New 
Independent States.  NATO will move forward with its steady and 
deliberate process to accept new members, following the approach 
laid out by the NATO ministers last December.  And we will seek a 
stronger relationship between NATO and Russia in parallel with NATO 

In the process of NATO expansion, each potential member will be 
judged individually, according to its capabilities and its 
commitment to the principles of the NATO treaty.  The fundamental 
decisions will be made by NATO, in consultation with potential 
members.  The process will be transparent to all and there will be 
no vetos by third parties.

As I emphasized to Foreign Minister Kozyrev last week, it is in 
Russia's interest to participate constructively in the process of 
European integration.  Russia has an enormous stake in a stable and 
peaceful Europe.  No country has suffered more when Europe has not 
been at peace.  Russia's path to deeper involvement in Europe is 
open.  It should not choose to isolate itself from this effort.

Building a new security architecture in Europe is part of a larger 
strategy of integrating the new democracies of the former Soviet 
Union into the major institutions of the West, including the 
European Union, the World Trade Organization, the OECD, and the G-7.  
These institutions give structure, legitimacy, and strength to the 
common enterprise of the Western democracies -- namely, promoting 
peace and economic growth.  It will serve our interests to extend 
the benefits of integration -- as well as its considerable 
obligations -- to Europe's new democracies, including the New 
Independent States.

The pace of integration, however, will depend on the extent to which 
the nations of the former Soviet Union continue on the reform path 
and adhere to international norms.  WTO membership, for ecample, is 
only possible for nations that adopt trade and investment rules 
consistent with world standards.  Likewise, the evolution of 
Russia's participation in Western institutions will be affected by 
the world's judgment of its conduct in Chechnya and its respect for 
international norms.

The United States will continue to pursue a realistic and pragmatic 
course toward all the New Independent States -- a course that has 
produced concrete benefits for Americans.  We will not take for 
granted the success of the historic transformations now under way in 
the former Soviet Union.  But we will continue to work to bring 
about the best possible outcome.  Our enduring interests demand that 
we stay engaged.  Our policy is rooted in American interests.  We 
will protect our security, our welfare, and our values.

As we travel this difficult yet promising path, we will call upon 
the same qualities that have sustained American leadership in the 
past:  steadiness, consistency, and reliability in pursuing our 
interests and upholding our commitments.  These are the qualities 
that have kept America strong and free.  These are the qualities 
that must guide us now as we build the more secure and integrated 
world that is in the fundamental interest of the American people.

Thank you very much.
To the top of this page