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U.S. Department of State
96/01/18 Secretary's Harvard University speech
Published by the Bureau of Public Affairs
"Leadership for the Next American Century"
Secretary of State Warren Christopher
Address before the
John F. Kennedy School of Government
January 18, 1996
Let me begin by thanking Joe Nye not only for giving me that warm
introduction, but for laying to rest one persistent canard about this
fine institution. It used to be said in some circles that the Kennedy
School was a plot to infiltrate the federal government. Joe Nye's
appointment proves that the opposite is true: the federal government is
in fact a plot to infiltrate the Kennedy School.
A year ago, I met with you to explain the guiding principles of
this Administration's foreign policy and our priorities for 1995. I am
here today to assess a remarkable period of achievement for American
diplomacy and to discuss our main objectives for 1996.
The end of the Cold War has given us an unprecedented opportunity
to shape a more secure world of open societies and open markets -- a
world in which American interests and ideals can thrive. But we also
face serious threats from which no border can shield us -- terrorism,
proliferation, crime and damage to the environment.
This is not the end of history, but history in fast-forward. Eight
decades ago, when this century's first Balkan war ended, it took an
international commission to piece together what had happened. Now,
images of violence in Sarajevo are beamed instantly around the world.
Six decades ago, it took several years for the Great Depression to
become a global disaster. Now, an economic crisis in Mexico can disrupt
the global economy in the blink of an eye.
In this time of accelerated change, American leadership must remain
constant. We must be clear-eyed and vigilant in pursuit of our
interests. Above all, we must recognize that only the United States has
the vision and strength to consolidate the gains of the last few years,
and to build an even better world.
Six years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, some still think that
we can escape the problems of the world by building walls around
America. But the evidence of the last three years should settle the
debate about America's role in the world. Because President Clinton has
rejected the path of retreat, we have forged a record that proves the
enduring value of American leadership and American engagement.
The President, with help from internationalists in both parties,
has made the United States the world's driving force for peace. Think
of it. Had we not led, the war in Bosnia would continue today, wasting
innocent lives, threatening a wider war and eroding the NATO Alliance.
Had we not led, there would not be the prospect of comprehensive peace
in the Middle East. And there would be scant hope for reconciliation in
Without American leadership, thugs would still rule in Haiti, and
thousands of Haitian refugees would be trying to reach our shores. The
Mexican economy would be in free-fall, threatening our prosperity and
harming emerging markets and the global economy. We would not have made
the kind of progress on the fullest possible accounting of American POWs
and MIAs that allowed us to recognize Vietnam. We would not have gained
the indefinite extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty -- the
most important barrier against the spread of nuclear weapons. And North
Korea could be building nuclear bombs.
The lesson is clear. If we lead, we can sustain the momentum that
defeated communism, freed us from the danger of nuclear war, and
unfurled freedom's flag around the world. Our strength is a blessing,
not a burden. President Clinton is determined to use it wisely and
Our strength simply cannot be maintained on the cheap. And yet for
a year now, the President and I have been fighting those forces in
Congress who would cut our foreign affairs budget so deeply that we
would have to draw back from our leadership-- closing important
embassies, shutting down peacekeeping, and self-destructively slashing
our international programs. These are not responsible proposals. They
would weaken America precisely when we must remain strong, precisely
when other nations are looking to us for leadership. They betray a lack
of appreciation for what America has accomplished in the last 50 years
and a lack of confidence that our great nation can shape the future.
The recent shutdown of the U.S. government was particularly
troubling to me because it eroded our international reputation for
reliability and integrity. In my recent travels abroad, I have been
struck by the far-reaching consequences of the shutdown. For leaders
and ordinary citizens in many parts of the world, it seemed as if the
most powerful nation in the world was closing for business. Our failure
to pay our bills and our employees was conduct not worthy of a great
nation. It must not happen again.
Three weeks ago, I was described in the pages of Newsweek as a
"true believer that America must be involved in the world." I plead
guilty. I came of age after World War II, in the years our leaders made
the investments whose benefits all of us are reaping today. I am not a
politician. But I do have a bias: for the kind of foreign policy that
makes America a reliable and principled leader; a bias for a foreign
policy that projects America's unique purpose and strength. I hope that
every candidate who aspires to the presidency will keep these important
guideposts in mind.
Our commitment to provide leadership is the first of the central
principles guiding our foreign policy that I outlined here last year. A
second principle I enunciated then is the need to strengthen the
institutions that provide an enduring basis for global peace and
prosperity. These institutions, such as the United Nations, NATO, and
the World Bank, help us to share the burdens and costs of leadership.
This year, a top priority will be working with Congress to meet our
financial obligations to the UN as it undertakes an essential program of
A third principle is that support for democracy and human rights
reflects our ideals and reinforces our interests. Our dedication to
universal values is a vital source of America's authority and
credibility. We simply cannot lead without it. Our interests are most
secure in a world where accountable government strengthens stability and
where the rule of law protects both political rights and free market
economies. That is why we have provided such strong support for
courageous reforms in nations like South Africa, Mexico, and the new
democracies of Central Europe. That is why we are so pleased that there
have been sixteen inaugurations following free elections in this
hemisphere in the three years we have been in office. This year,
another important goal will be to help the War Crimes Tribunals
establish accountability in the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda for two of
the greatest tragedies of this decade.
A fourth principle is the critical importance of constructive
relations with the great powers. These nations -- our allies in Europe
and Japan, as well as Russia and China -- have the greatest ability to
affect our security and prosperity.
In the last few years, some have said that the United States and
Europe would inevitably drift apart. We have proved them wrong. Our
common action in Bosnia has dramatically reinforced the transatlantic
alliance and has opened new prospects for lasting European security
cooperation. And the New Transatlantic Agenda agreed by the United
States and the European Union in Madrid last month will not only expand
our economic ties but enhance coordination on political and security
challenges around the world.
With Japan, we are also putting each pillar of our alliance --
security, economic, and political -- on a sound basis. A year-long
review of our relationship, which Joe Nye led with Assistant Secretary
Winston Lord, has revitalized our security ties. We have reached 20
market access agreements which have contributed to the recent sharp
decline in our bilateral trade deficit.
We have also pursued our interest in strengthening our cooperation
with Russia and China, at a time when both countries are undergoing
From the beginning of his Administration, President Clinton has
recognized that only by engaging with Russia could we protect our
national interests. Our strategy has produced concrete benefits for the
security of the American people. We have achieved massive reductions in
nuclear arsenals and made nuclear materials more secure. By working
with Russia, we have advanced our goals of peace in Bosnia and the
Of course, it is easy to enumerate our differences with Russia,
such as on nuclear cooperation with Iran and the war in Chechnya. This
week's events provide more evidence that the current military approach
in Chechnya will only deepen that war. The cycle of violence can end
only through negotiations.
But as I have said before, I do not have the luxury of making a
list of differences with Russia and then walking away. My job is to
build areas of agreement and to develop policies to manage our
Back in 1993 in my first major speech as Secretary of State, I
observed that Russia's struggle to transform itself would be long and
hard, and that success was by no means assured. That remains my
judgment today. On the plus side, four years into the post-Soviet
period, Russia's economy is increasingly governed by market principles.
Free elections, unthinkable a few years ago, are becoming a fact of
life. But Russia has not yet overcome the ruinous legacy of seven
decades of communism -- a legacy visible in crime, corruption, and
Recent events reflect troubling signs of Russian reform under
strain. The Russian people face an important choice in the June
Presidential election. In the final analysis, only they can choose
their leaders and determine their future. Our obligation -- the
American obligation -- is to promote democratic values and democratic
institutions and to pursue our national interests at all times.
When I meet with new Russian Foreign Minister Primakov, I will tell
him that the United States is determined to continue working with Russia
on the many common challenges we face. I will, however, make it clear
that Russia's integration with the institutions of the West, which is in
our mutual interest, depends on Russia's willingness to abide by
international norms and to stay on the path of reform.
Turning to China, we also have a profound stake in helping to
ensure that that powerful nation pursues its modernization in ways that
contribute to the overall security and prosperity of the region -- for
our own sake and in the interest of our key allies and friends. That is
why we are pursuing a strategy of engagement. It is designed to
integrate China into the international community and to enhance our
cooperation on such common problems as the North Korean nuclear program,
drug trafficking and alien smuggling.
We continue to have important differences with China on such issues
as human rights, proliferation and trade. In recent months we have come
through a rocky period in our relations with China. The United States
is ready to restore positive momentum to our relationship. We have
reaffirmed our "one-China" policy and we reject the short-sighted
counsel of those who seek to isolate or contain China. China's
President has said that his country, too, seeks a positive relationship.
Let me be clear: The United States will do its part, but if we are to
build a lasting, productive relationship, China has a responsibility to
take meaningful steps to address areas of our concern and to respect
internationally accepted principles.
In the coming year, we will give special emphasis to three main
objectives: first, pursuing peace in regions of vital interest to the
United States; second, confronting the new transnational security
threats; and third, promoting open markets and prosperity.
A year ago, the war in Bosnia was the greatest unresolved problem
we faced. Nothing is yet assured in Bosnia of course. But by joining
the use of force to diplomacy, we have transformed a situation some
considered hopeless into one in which rebuilding, reconciliation, and
justice are all possible. The President's visit to our troops last
week reminded us again of the uncommon spirit and confidence they bring
to their mission.
The peace agreement we forged in Dayton means that we can look
beyond four years of horror -- the concentration camps, the ethnic
cleansing, the hunger and death. In 1996, our immediate challenge is to
implement the military and civilian aspects of the Dayton agreement. We
expect all parties to comply fully with their obligations under that
carefully negotiated agreement.
It is important to recognize that success in Bosnia will also have
broad implications for our goal of an integrated Europe at peace. Our
actions in Bosnia have proven that NATO is here to stay as the guarantor
of transatlantic security. Without NATO's action, it is clear this war
would continue today.
The very nature of the coalition we have forged and are leading in
Bosnia has historic implications. This is the first time that soldiers
from every power and region of Europe will serve in the same military
operation. Russians and Lithuanians, Greeks and Turks, Poles and
Ukrainians, British, Germans and French, have joined with Americans and
Canadians to share the same risks, under the same flag, to achieve the
same noble goal. As we help overcome the divisions of Bosnia, we also
help overcome the division of Europe itself.
The mission in Bosnia will give some of our new partners in the
Partnership for Peace a chance to show that they can meet the challenges
of membership in an enlarged NATO Alliance. The process of enlargement
is already making NATO a force for stability and democracy in the east.
We have made it clear to our partners that to gain NATO membership, they
must consolidate democratic reforms, place their armed forces under firm
civilian control, and resolve disputes with their neighbors.
It is in central and eastern Europe that the greatest threats to
European security -- ethnic conflict, proliferation, and poverty -- must
be faced. That is why it would be irresponsible to lock out half of
Europe from the structures that ensure security and prosperity on the
continent. That is why the European Union is moving forward with its
own plans to add members. NATO enlargement should proceed on roughly a
We recognize that as Russia redefines its international role, NATO
enlargement must proceed in a gradual, deliberate and transparent way.
But Russia should understand that the Alliance with which it is working
so closely in Bosnia does not threaten its security. Indeed, we
continue to encourage Russia to construct a long-term, special
relationship with NATO.
In the Middle East, American leadership is also indispensable.
Today, for the first time in half a century, we stand on the threshold
of ending the Arab-Israeli conflict. A comprehensive peace between
Israel and its immediate neighbors, and indeed with the entire Arab
world, is no longer a dream, but a realistic possibility.
I have just returned from my 16th trip to the region. Last week I
was with King Hussein of Jordan on the day he dedicated a trauma unit to
the late Prime Minister Rabin -- it's hard to believe, but that was in a
hospital in Tel Aviv. Few events more vividly capture how much the
landscape of the region has changed. What is more, in just two days,
almost a million Palestinians will vote in the first free elections in
the West Bank and Gaza.
Now we must work to complete the circle of peace in the Middle
East. The key lies in achieving a breakthrough between Israel and
Syria. Both sides believe the United States is critical to this effort.
Under our auspices, Israel and Syria are now holding intensive
negotiations on Maryland's eastern shore. Although there is much work
still to be done, we are crossing important thresholds and we seek an
agreement in 1996. The United States is determined to help complete
this historic task.
We will also continue our efforts to resolve conflicts and build
security in other regions. We will pursue initiatives in places such as
Northern Ireland, Haiti, Cyprus, Angola, Burundi, Peru and Ecuador. We
will strengthen the foundations of peace and security in the Asia-
Pacific region by deepening our security cooperation with our treaty
allies, and through our participation in the very promising ASEAN
Regional Forum. And in this hemisphere, we will build on the new level
of political cooperation we achieved at the Summit of the Americas in
Our second major area of focus this year is to continue to take on
new challenges to global security. As the President emphasized in a
landmark UN speech last October, transnational threats like
proliferation, terrorism, international crime, drugs, and environmental
damage threaten all of us in our interdependent world.
We will continue working to stop the spread of weapons of mass
destruction, the gravest potential threat to the United States and our
allies. Thirty-three years ago, the nuclear powers took what President
Kennedy called a "step backward from the shadows of war" by signing the
Limited Test Ban Treaty. Now we must complete a Comprehensive Test Ban
Treaty in time to sign it this year. And this year we must ratify the
Chemical Weapons Convention.
We must also lock in deep reductions in the nuclear arsenals of the
United States and the countries of the former Soviet Union. I urge the
Senate and the Russian Duma to ratify the START II Treaty, which will
remove an additional 5,000 warheads from the arsenals of our two
Our regional nonproliferation efforts are also vital. It is
critical that North Korea's nuclear program stays shut down and on the
way to the scrap heap. And pariah states like Iraq, Iran and Libya must
be stopped in their efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. The
information that UN inspectors have uncovered on Iraq's biological
program is chilling. It is now clear that Saddam Hussein possessed
biological weapons and was on the verge of using them against civilians
in the Gulf War. These revelations are an urgent reminder that Saddam
remains a menace and that sanctions against Iraq must be maintained.
President Clinton has also put the fight against international
criminals, terrorists and drug traffickers at the center of our foreign
policy. We are determined to continue our drive to put such
international predators out of business. We have taken unprecedented
steps against the Cali cartel and many of its leaders are now behind
bars. We will continue to deny terrorists and drug kingpins access to
their assets; we will put decisive pressure on governments that tolerate
such organizations; and we will step up operations attacking crime and
drugs at their source.
Protecting our fragile environment also has profound long-range
importance for our country, and in 1996 we will strive to fully
integrate our environmental goals into our diplomacy -- something that
has never been done before. We will seek further reductions in
greenhouse gases and press for Senate approval of conventions on
biodiversity and the Law of the Sea. Working closely with the Vice
President, I have also focused on how we can make greater use of
environmental initiatives to promote larger strategic and economic
goals. That means, for example, encouraging joint water projects in the
Middle East, increasing environmental cooperation with our global
partners, and helping our environmental industries capture a larger
share of a $400 billion global market.
The third element of our agenda is to build on the economic
achievements that will be a lasting legacy of the Clinton
Administration. President Clinton's personal leadership on NAFTA, the
Uruguay Round, APEC and the Summit of the Americas, has made the United
States the hub of an increasingly open global trading system. This
year, our watchword is implementation -- making sure that the trade
commitments and agreements we have reached produce concrete
opportunities so that American companies and workers can compete abroad
on a level playing field. In the Asia-Pacific region through APEC, with
the European Union through the Transatlantic Marketplace, and in this
Hemisphere through the Miami process, we are removing barriers to trade
and investment and opening markets for U.S. exports. We also remain
committed to obtaining fast-track authority to negotiate Chile's
accession to NAFTA.
As this presidential election year begins, we are hearing once
again from those who preach the dangerous gospel of protection and
isolation. America and the world went down that road in 1930s -- and
our mistake fueled the Great Depression and helped set the stage for the
Second World War. Shutting America off from the world would be just as
reckless today as it was six decades ago. As President Clinton said at
the beginning of his Administration, "we must compete, not retreat."
Ladies and gentlemen, everywhere I go, I find that the nations of
the world look to America as a source of principled and reliable
leadership. They see American soldiers bridging rivers and moving
mountains to help peace take hold in Bosnia. They see us working for
peace in the Middle East and for security in Korea. They see us
negotiating trade agreements so that every nation can find reward in
emerging markets. They see the most powerful nation on earth standing
up for persecuted peoples everywhere, because we believe it is right and
because those who struggle for freedom represent the future.
The world sees us as an optimistic people, motivated by a broad
view of our interests and driven by a long view of our potential. They
follow us because they understand that America's fight for peace and
freedom is the world's fight. At the end of the American century,
President Clinton is determined that we continue to act in the highest
traditions of our nation and our people.
The President's answer to the voices of isolationism is clear. We
can no more isolate our nation from the world than we can isolate our
families from our neighborhoods, or our neighborhoods from our cities.
As a global power with global interests, retreat is not a responsible
option for the United States. We must continue to lead. If we do, the
end of this millennium can mark the start of a second American century.
Thank you very much.
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