Remarks by Samuel R. Berger
Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
The Wilson Center
June 18, 1996
It is a pleasure to be at the Wilson Center and to see many familiar
faces. I want to thank Sam Wells for that warm introduction.
I want to speak to you today about the challenges and the opportunities
that America faces in the world at this extraordinary moment -- half way
between the end of the Cold War and the dawn of a new century.
It is a moment of historic opportunity. Not too many years ago,
Americans were gripped by a TV movie called “The Day After, which
portrayed in graphic and horrifying detail what actually would happen in
the event of a nuclear war. The genuine possibility of a massive nuclear
exchange was vivid and real and cast a giant shadow over most of the
last 50 years.
Today, the grinding burden of the Cold War has been lifted. Our nation
is at peace. Our economy is strong. The tide of democracy and free
markets is rising around the world. We have experienced the emergence
of a global economy and a cultural and intellectual global village.
These developments enrich our lives in countless ways every day.
In the last few months I have been in Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Korea, Japan
and Moscow. In each of these countries, I turned on CNN and was
instantly plugged in to events around the world.
Remember that only 52 years ago, when Franklin Roosevelt gave the order
to launch 1 million men across the English Channel on D-Day, he didn''
find out the results for several days. I use CNN only as a visible
symbol of the revolutionary advances of the information age, which has so
increased the goods, services and knowledge that are available to us --
and made Americans the most fortunate inhabitants of the global village.
But this promising new era is by no means risk-free.
Democracy may be on the march, but forward progress is not assured --
and the gains are not irreversible. We know this is true in Russia and
many of the other states of the former Soviet Union. It is also the
case in our own hemisphere. Less than two months ago, the democratic
government of Paraguay narrowly avoided a coup -- and elsewhere in Latin
America, the power of the drug cartels throws an ominous cloud over some
Global communism and fascism have exited stage left and stage right.
But the forces of intolerance and hatred, ethnic strife and regional
conflict persist in brutal and dangerous forms, from Northern Ireland to
the Balkans from the Middle East to parts of Africa.
The threat of nuclear annihilation has receded, but the danger that
weapons of mass destruction -- biological, chemical and nuclear -- will
spread into unreliable hands has grown as the technology becomes more
widely accessible...and can in some cases be called up be on the Internet.
As the President has noted, the very openness and freedom of movement
that enriches our lives also make us more vulnerable to the forces of
destruction -- terrorism, drug cartels and international criminal
organizations. We have seen this in the bombing of the World Trade
Center...in the sarin gas attacks in the Tokyo subways...and the gunning
down of journalists, police and government officials by drug lords in
Because this new era of possibility carries with it so many real threats
as well as new opportunities, the United States cannot afford to sit on
the sidelines. Instead, American engagement in the world today is more
important than ever. We cannot -- and should not -- go it
alone or take full responsibility for combating the new dangers of our
age. But at the same time, we know that without American leadership,
more often than not, the job will not get done. One
of the most striking facts of the last few years is the extent to which
-- after the end of the East-West rivalry -- others look to us...whether
it is Arabs and Israelis in the Middle East...Muslims,
Serbs and Croats in the Balkans...or even, grudgingly, the nations of
Europe and Asia as they seek to deal with the same threats that face us.
There is only one superpower now on earth: America. That leads to one
inescapable fact: America must lead in the world if we are to maintain
our security and increase our prosperity. We cannot hunker down if we
want our children to live safely and thrive.
From the beginning of his Administration, President Clinton has
recognized America's responsibility to lead in today's world. Let me
focus on four dimensions of this leadership for
the future that have been at the center of our attention over the past
three and a half years. They are the cornerstones of our efforts to
build peace and prosperity for America in this promising but
The first dimension is our nation's strength: military and economic.
America's military today is undergoing its most fundamental
transformation in half a century. Our armed forces are simultaneously
downsizing and upgrading. A military that was designed
to stop a massive invasion across Central Europe today is prepared to
deal not only with traditional war-fighting contingencies -- in the
Persian Gulf or the Korea peninsula for example -- but has the
flexibility and training to deal with a range of new missions: restoring
democracy in Haiti without firing a shot...keeping the peace in
Bosnia...or delivering nearly 15,000 tons of food, medicine, and
supplies to Rwanda's refugees. When you consider that only a few years
after Vietnam, an Army chief of staff described a “hollow army”...this
reshaping of capability and doctrine has been an extraordinary
achievement. Today, our armed forces are smaller than
they were at the height of the Cold War, but they are also better, more
flexible and more sophisticated than at any time in our nation's history.
Increasingly, our nation's international position rests on the strength
of our economy. And that, in turn, depends on our competitiveness in
the global economy. Over the past three years, the President has
spearheaded the most dynamic program of innovation in
international trade in American history. He has expanded our American
economy by expanding the global economy...completing the Uruguay
Round...passing NAFTA...securing the APEC agreement for
free trade in the Asia Pacific region....and forging more than one
hundred bilateral trade pacts as well. Today, exports are the fastest
growing part of the U.S. economy. We are, once again, the largest
exporter in the world and the most competitive.
The second dimension of American leadership is effectively to use our
capacity to be a peacemaker. We cannot be everywhere and do
everything. But where our interests and values are at stake, the United
States must take risks for peace.
We see just how much we can achieve when we look at the remarkable
progress of the last three years in the Middle East. Israelis,
Palestinians and Jordanians who were once sworn enemies
together for a better future for the region. The agreements that have
been forged between Arabs and Israelis have changed the landscape of the
We stand ready to help this work go forward. Let me emphasize: The
United States remains committed to goal of a comprehensive and lasting
peace. That's why we will work with Israel and the Palestinians to help
them implement their agreements and resolve the issues that remain.
That's why we will seek to strengthen relations between Israel and the
In each of these efforts, the United States will work closely with the
new Israeli government of Prime Minster-elect Netanyahu, and we hope to
build strong and productive relationship with him as we did with his
predecessors. We welcome the Prime Minister's commitment to
continuing the peace process. And we urge our Arab friends not to
prejudge the new government in Israel but to focus on preserving the
achievements of the last three years and the momentum to
go forward to new ones.
The United States is using its unique capacity as peacemaker to try to
establish a lasting settlement in Bosnia. We have undertaken this task
because continued war in the Balkans threatened both our interests and
values. The fire that burned in the heart of Europe since 1991
would have spread and engulfed our friends and allies -- and drawn us
into a wider conflict on this continent for the third time in a
century. And the unspeakable brutality we all witnessed
was an affront to our humanity.
American leadership was essential to put out the fire and stop the
slaughter. We strengthened NATO's response to the unrelenting Serb
assaults on Sarajevo and other civilian areas. More
effective use of that power enabled our diplomats to make vital
breakthroughs -- and produce the Dayton Peace Agreement.
Six months later, the most dramatic fact in Bosnia is that the guns are
silent. The war has ended. That change -- from war to peace -- is the
single most important reality for the people of Bosnia. It means that
killing fields are once again playgrounds. That cafes and marketplaces
are full of life, not death. That running an errand doesn't mean running
a death race against snipers and shells. That women are no
longer prey to systematic campaigns of rape and terror. That the
water and lights are on...and there is shelter from the wind and the
cold. Peace means all these very basic things. As we work to make sure
peace endures, we must not lose sight of its reality.
Now, we must help the people of Bosnia build an enduring peace they so
desperately want. The hard work of civilian reconstruction has begun.
It must move faster. We must continue to assist refugees to
return...continue the work of the war crimes tribunal...help the
Bosnians build the institutions of a national government. That is why
it is important to hold the elections mandated by the Dayton Agreement
on time. Bosnia they will enable to take another step forward toward
creating the institutions and stability that will keep the peace and
help give that nation future of hope.
The Middle East and Bosnia are just two of the regions where America is
engaged in work for peace. We are at a pivot point in history when real
change is possible -- and consistent with our interests and our
resources, we must seize this moment and make the most of it: in Northern
Ireland...on the Korean peninsula...in Haiti...and other places around
the world. We must not overreach. We must work with others. But at
this moment in history -- when turmoil, radicalism and instability are
faces of future's threats -- America is uniquely positioned to be a powerful
force for peace.
The third imperative of American leadership in the post-Cold War era is
to continue to reduce the nuclear threat. In recent years, we have
taken a giant step back from the nuclear precipice.
Already, under START I, some 9,000 nuclear weapons are being removed
from the arsenals of Russia and the United States. It is extraordinary
to see a team of Russians sawing up a Backfire
bomber or dismantling missile silos and turning those sites into wheat
fields. With reductions agreed upon in Start II -- which we hope the
Duma will soon ratify -- the cuts will go even
deeper: U.S. and Russian arsenals will be reduced by two-thirds from
their Cold War levels.
Our efforts to diminish the nuclear threat go further. Because of
President Clinton's agreement with President Yeltsin, Russian missiles
no longer target American cities. Through determined
diplomacy, we helped persuade the Belarus, Kazakstan and Ukraine to give
up the nuclear weapons left on their soil when the Soviet Union crumbled
-- and as some of you may know, the last nuclear warheads in Ukraine
were shipped back to Russia for dismantling just two weeks ago.
But even as we destroy the weapons of the Cold War, we must intensify
our efforts to prevent spread of weapons of tomorrow. That is why we
worked hard to secure the unconditional and indefinite extension of the
Non-Proliferation Treaty. We achieved an agreement with North
Korea to freeze and dismantle their nuclear program -- and that
agreement is being complied with under international supervision. In
the weeks ahead, we hope to sign a Comprehensive Test Ban
treaty, a goal of American leaders since Dwight Eisenhower. We are
working with the Russians and Europeans to make it harder to smuggling
nuclear material...to keep Iran from acquiring the
materials it needs to build a bomb...and to curtail dangerous arms races
like the one in Southern Asia. This is the most ambitious arms-control
and non-proliferation agenda ever set by an American Administration.
Because this is the best chance to reduce the nuclear threat that we are
ever likely to see -- and we are determined to seize it.
Finally, there is one more great challenge for American leadership in
this new era: to construct new institutions and new arrangements that
reinforce the growth of democracy and civil society
where the iron fist of totalitarianism crushed freedom for decades. We
see this imperative nowhere more clearly than in Russia, which is in the
midst of a great decision.
All who believe in democracy saw in the voting on Sunday a stirring
event. Seventy million Russians -- nearly 70% of eligible voters --
went to the polls to exercise their newly won right to
elect their country's president. They did so in a way that observers
are calling free and fair. While we await the results of the runoff,
democracy already has scored a victory.
The choice of Russia's leadership if is for the Russian people to
decide; it is not for us to tell them how to vote. As Sunday''s results
show, they have their own strong views on the subject -- which is as it
But we still have an enormous stake in the outcome. We have made clear
our unwavering support for reform and reformers. Nothing that has
happened in the last week has changed that.
We support reform because a democratic, market-oriented Russia is more
likely to pursue goals that are compatible with our own....it is more
likely to be a reliable partner...and to respect the independence and
live in peace with its neighbors...including those that were once part
of the Soviet Union. A Russia that chooses to stay on the course of
reform is one that will be more likely to continue to reduce the nuclear
threat...to work with us to promote peace around the world...and create
new markets for our products and jobs for American workers.
We don't have a vote in the Russian election. And we don't have a
crystal ball. But several points are clear for the United States:
First, we must support not an individual but a direction --
the direction of reform, democracy and free markets. We must, in
Central and Eastern Europe, continue to build new bridges to the West --
through NATO expansion, Partnership for Peace and EU membership. And we
must do that in a way that strengthens the relationship between NATO
and Russia. We must proceed with steadiness and judgment, but the fact
is, we have made good progress.
As we look over the map, there is obviously a great deal that I have not
had time to discuss the tremendous growth in Asia and the
extraordinarily important relationships with China and
Japan...the positive developments in Latin America and parts of Africa.
I''ll be happy to answer your questions on these and other issues in a
But let me leave you first with a final thought. While the need for
American leadership has never been greater, our willingness to lead is
very much in debate. The threat today is not so much from traditional
isolationism, although that still exists on the left and the right in our
society. Today, the more dangerous threat to American engagement are
those who “talk the talkof internationalism but who “walk the walk” of
These are the people who argue that we must lead -- but say we must not
spend. Already, America's spending on international affairs has
plummeted 40% in just a decade. As a result, America, the world's
richest nation, now ranks last among industrial nations when it comes to
the percentage of GNP devoted to development aid.
These are the people who say we must be engaged in the world -- but
never want us to do so where our engagement is needed. They say yes in
the abstract. But then they say no to Bosnia...no to Haiti....and no to
America cannot lead in the abstract. This new era demands concrete
engagement -- if we want to defeat the new threats we face....and if we
want to turn the opportunities of today into tangible
benefits for the American people. We cannot do so on the cheap...or
simply through rhetoric...or by empty posturing. But if we grapple
with the challenges before us honestly and directly...if
we devote the resources needed to matter...if we are prepared to take
risks for peace...then we can make the difference for America's
security...America's prosperity...and America's future.
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