[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book I)]
[May 10, 1995]
[Pages 672-677]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to Students at Moscow State University
May 10, 1995

    Thank you very much, Rector Sadovnichy, Mrs. Sadovnichy. To the 
faculty and, most of all, to the students of Moscow State University, I 
am deeply honored to be here and to be here just a few years after my 
predecessor President Reagan also spoke to the students.
    I can think of no better place than a great seat of learning like 
Moscow State University to speak about the past and future of Russia. In 
this spirit, Mikhail Lomonosov lives on, for just as he modernized your 
ancient language for the Russian people two centuries ago, today you 
must take the lead in shaping a new language, a language of democracy 
that will help all Russia to chart a new course for your ancient land. 
Here, you openly debate the pressing issues of the day. And though you 
can only hear echoes of your nation's history, you are living it and 
making it as you ponder and prepare for what is yet to come.
    Yesterday all of Russia and much of the entire world paused to 
remember the end of World

[[Page 673]]

War II and the terrible, almost unimaginable price the peoples of the 
Soviet Union paid for survival and for victory. Because our alliance 
with you was shattered at the war's end by the onset of the cold war, 
Americans never fully appreciated, until yesterday, the true extent of 
your sacrifice and its contribution to our common victory. And the 
Russian people were denied the full promise of that victory in World War 
II, a victory that bought the West five decades of freedom and 
    Now the cold war is over. Democracy has triumphed through decades of 
Western resolve, but that victory was also yours, through the 
determination of the peoples of Russia, the other former Soviet 
republics, and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe to be free 
and to move into the 21st century as a part of, not apart from, the 
global movement toward greater democracy, prosperity, and common 
    Your decision for democracy and cooperation has given us the 
opportunity to work together to fulfill the promise of our common 
victory over forces of fascism 50 years ago. I know that it was not an 
easy decision to make and that it is not always an easy decision to stay 
with. I know that you in Russia will have to chart your own democratic 
course based on your own traditions and culture, as well as on the 
common challenges we face.
    We Americans have now spent over 200 years setting our own course. 
Along the way we have endured deep divisions and one Civil War. We have 
made mistakes at home and in our relations with other people. At times 
we have fallen short of our own ideals. Our system can sometimes seem 
unnecessarily burdened by divisions and constraint. But as Winston 
Churchill once said, ``Democracy is the worst system of government, 
except for all the others.'' It has produced more prosperity, more 
security, and more opportunity for self-fulfillment than all of its 
competitors in the entire world in the last 200 years.
    The United States supports the forces of democracy and reform here 
in Russia because it is in our national interest to do so. I have worked 
hard to make this post-cold-war world a safer and more hopeful place for 
the American people. As President, that is my job. That is every 
President's job. But I have had the opportunity, unlike my recent 
predecessors, to work with Russia instead of being in opposition to 
Russia. And I want to keep it that way.
    I am proud that for the first time since the dawn of the nuclear 
age, no Russian missiles are pointed at the children of America. And now 
that I am here, I might paraphrase what your Foreign Minister told me in 
Washington last month: I am also proud that no American missiles are 
pointed at you or me for the first time since the dawn of the nuclear 
    Both our nations are destroying thousands of nuclear weapons at a 
faster rate than our treaties require. We have removed the last nuclear 
weapons from Kazakhstan, and Ukraine and Belarus will soon follow. We 
are cooperating with you to prevent nuclear weapons and bomb-making 
materials from falling into the hands of terrorists and smugglers. We 
are working together to extend indefinitely the Nuclear Non-
Proliferation Treaty, the cornerstone of our efforts to stop the spread 
of nuclear weapons.
    Your progress on the economic front is also important. I have seen 
reports that more than 60 percent of your economy is now in private 
hands. Inflation is dropping, and your government is taking sensible 
steps to control its budget deficit. Managers work to satisfy customers 
and to make profits. Employees, more and more, search for the best jobs 
at the highest wages. And every day, despite hardship and uncertainty, 
more and more Russian people are able to make decisions in free markets 
rather than having their choices dictated to them.
    We have supported these reforms. They are good for you, but they are 
also good for the United States and for the rest of the world, for they 
bring us together and move us forward.
    I know there are severe problems. There are severe problems in your 
transition to a market economy. I know, too, that in anywhere free 
markets exist, they do not solve all social problems. They require 
policies that can ensure economic fairness and basic human decency to 
those who need and deserve help.
    Finally, I know that all democracies, the United States included, 
face new challenges from the emergence of the global economy and the 
information age, as well as from the threats posed by the proliferation 
of weapons of mass destruction, by organized crime, and by terrorism. 
But the answer is not to back away from democracy or to go back to 
isolation. The answer is not to go back to defining your national 
interest in terms that make others less secure. The answer is to stay on 
this course, to reap the full benefits of democracy, and to work on

[[Page 674]]

these problems with those of us who have a stake in your success, 
because your success makes us safer and more prosperous as well.
    That success, I believe, depends upon three things: first, 
continuing to strengthen your democracy; second, improving your economy 
and reducing social and economic problems; and third, establishing your 
role in the world in a way that enhances your economic and national 
security interests, not at the expense of your friends and neighbors but 
in cooperation with them.
    First, the work of building democracy never ends. The democratic 
system can never be perfected, because human beings are not perfect. In 
America today, we are engaged in a renewed debate over which decisions 
should be made by our National Government and which ones should be made 
locally or by private citizens on their own, unimpeded by Government. We 
argue today over the proper roles of the different branches of 
Government, and we argue over how we can be strengthened, not weakened, 
by the great diversity in our society. These are enduring challenges 
that all democracies face.
    But no element among them is more fundamental than the holding of 
free elections. In our meetings today, President Yeltsin once again 
pledged to keep on schedule both a new round of parliamentary elections 
in December and the Presidential election next June. He has shown that 
he understands what has often been said about a new democracy: The 
second elections are even more important than the first, for the second 
elections establish a pattern of peaceful transition of power.
    Therefore, I urge all Russians who have the right to vote to 
exercise that vote this year and next year. Many people sacrificed so 
that you could have this power. I address that plea especially to the 
young people in this room and throughout your great nation. Your future 
is fully before you. And these elections will shape that future. Do not 
fall into the trap that I hear even in my own country of believing that 
your vote does not count. It does count. It will count if you cast it. 
And if you do not cast it, that will count for something, too. So I urge 
you to exercise the vote.
    But the heart of a democracy does not lie in the ballot box alone. 
That is why it is also important that your generation continue to demand 
and support a free and independent press. Again, this can be a 
difficult, even dangerous process, as the people in your press know all 
too well. Dmitriy Kholodov and Vladislav Listyev were murdered in 
pursuit of the truth, victims of their vigorous belief in the public's 
right to know. You must not allow those assassins who targeted them to 
steal from your people one of the essential freedoms of democracy, the 
freedom of the press.
    There is another challenge, a challenge of building tolerance, for 
tolerance, too, lies at the heart of any democracy. Few nations on Earth 
can rival Russia's vast human and natural resources or her diversity. 
Within your borders live more than 100 different ethnic groups. Scores 
of literary, cultural, and artistic traditions thrive among your people. 
And in the last few years, millions have returned to their faiths, 
seeking refuge in their stability and finding hope in their teachings. 
These are vital signs of democracy taking root.
    Given your nation's great diversity, it would have been easy along 
this path to surrender to the cries of extremists who in the name of 
patriotism have tried to rally support by stirring up fear among 
different peoples. But you have embraced, instead, the cause of 
tolerance. The vast majority of Russians have rejected those poisonous 
arguments and bolstered your young, fragile democracy.
    When Americans and others in the West look back on the events of the 
last 4 years, we are struck by the remarkably peaceful nature of your 
revolutionary transition. Your accomplishment, to go through a massive 
social and political upheaval and the breakup of an empire with so 
little brutality and bloodshed, has few precedents in history. Your 
restraint was a critical factor in paving the way for Russia to take its 
place in the global community, a modern state at peace with itself and 
its neighbors.
    Now, it is against this backdrop, this great achievement, that we 
Americans have viewed the tragedy in Chechnya. As I told President 
Yeltsin earlier today, this terrible tragedy must be brought to a rapid 
and peaceful conclusion. Continued fighting in that region can only 
spill more blood and further erode support for Russia among her 
neighbors around the world.
    Holding free elections, ensuring a free and independent press, 
promoting tolerance of diversity, these are some of the difficult tasks 
of building a democracy. They are all important.

[[Page 675]]

    But these efforts also depend upon your economic reforms. Your 
efforts on the political front will benefit from efforts on the economic 
front that generate prosperity and give people a greater stake in a 
democratic future.
    To too many people in this country I know that economic reform has 
come to mean hardship, uncertainty, crime, and corruption. Profitable 
enterprises once owned by the state have been moved into private hands, 
sometimes under allegedly questionable circumstances. The demands of 
extortionists have stopped some would-be entrepreneurs from even going 
into business. And when the heavy hand of totalitarianism was lifted 
from your society, many structures necessary for a free market to take 
shape were not there, and organized crime was able to move into the 
    These are real and urgent concerns. They demand an all-out battle to 
create a market based on law, not lawlessness, a market that rewards 
merit, not malice. Economic reform must not be an excuse for the 
privileged and the strong to prey upon the weak.
    To help your government break the power of those criminals, our 
Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened an office here in Moscow. And 
we are cooperating with your government's attempts to strengthen the 
integrity of your markets.
    Pressures in the market economy are also leaving some people behind, 
people whose needs are not being met and who are not able to compete and 
win, while some of the richest are said to pay no taxes at all. Those 
Russians who lose their jobs or who live in poverty deserve an economic 
and social safety net that is strong enough to break their fall and keep 
them going until they can get back on their feet.
    Finally, market economies require discipline. Cutting inflation 
helps families struggling to become members of the new Russian middle 
class so they need not fear the future. Continuing your country's recent 
record of more realistic budgets is vital to achieving long-term 
economic stability. I say this from experience. From the beginning of my 
administration I have pursued these goals, because even though they 
require some sacrifice in the short term, they promise lasting economic 
growth that will benefit all of our people and yours as well.
    The transition to a more honest and open market economy requires 
time. New problems will appear as your economy gains ground. But in the 
midst of the pain, I would urge you also to see the promise. Countries 
that were in economic ruin at the end of World War II today rank among 
the world's most dynamic nations because they have made a market economy 
and democracy work.
    Finally, Russia's success at political and economic reform at home 
requires an approach to the world that reinforces your progress and 
enhances your security. Russia and the United States must work together 
in this regard. We must work for our common security. More than anything 
else, that is what my meeting with President Yeltsin today was all 
about, and we made progress in many areas. I would like to report them 
to you.
    First, Russia agreed to implement its Partnership For Peace with 
NATO. And I agreed now to press NATO to begin talks on a special 
relationship with Russia.
    The United States has made it clear that we favor a strong 
continuing NATO, that any admission of new members be based on the 
principles we have articulated along with our partners. It must be 
gradual and deliberate and open and consistent with the security 
interests of all of our partners for peace, including Russia.
    My goal since I became President has been to use the fact that the 
cold war is over to unify Europe for the first time in its history. And 
that is what we must all be working for. President Yeltsin's decision to 
join the Partnership For Peace will support that move toward security 
and unity.
    Second, the United States strongly believes that there should be no 
future nuclear cooperation with Iran. We believe that is in Russia's 
interest. Today President Yeltsin said that Russia would not sell 
enrichment technology or training to Iran because that could clearly be 
used to develop a nuclear capacity. And that should be more important to 
you than to us because you are closer to Iran than we are. I gave 
President Yeltsin some intelligence that the United States Government 
has that we believe supports the proposition that no nuclear cooperation 
in the future, not even the light water reactors, should proceed. And 
the two of us agreed to ask the special commission headed by Prime 
Minister Chernomyrdin and Vice President Gore to look into this matter 
    On the outstanding issues of arms sales to Iran, we reached 
agreement with Russia which

[[Page 676]]

will now permit Russia, your country, to be one of the founding members 
of the so-called post-COCOM regime, an agreement among nations to limit 
the sales of all dangerous weapons around the world in ways that will 
increase your security and ours.
    Next, we agreed to immediately work to see if we could get our 
respective parliamentary bodies to ratify the START II treaty this year 
so that we could continue to reduce our nuclear arsenals and, after 
START II is ratified, to consider further reductions in the nuclear 
arsenals of the United States and Russia to make your future safer. We 
also agreed to a statement of principles on one of the most difficult 
issues in our security relationship, how we define so-called theater 
missile defenses in the context of our Antiballistic Missile Treaty--
designed, again, to make us both safer.
    Next, we agreed to begin visits to our biological weapons 
installations this August as part of our continued commitment to reduce 
the threat of biological and chemical weapons proliferation throughout 
the world. And if you consider what recently happened, the terrible 
incident in the subway in Japan, our future security and your future 
security is threatened not only by nuclear weapons but by the potential 
of biological and chemical weapons falling into the wrong hands as well.
    And finally, in the wake of all those incidents, the problems in 
Russia with organized crime, and the awful tragedy that we had in our 
country in Oklahoma City, the United States and Russia agreed that we 
must work much harder in sharing information, sharing technology, 
sharing research in the areas of combating terrorism and organized 
    This meeting was a success because every one of those decisions will 
give you and your counterparts in the United States a safer future. And 
we need to do more of this kind of work together.
    As we close the door on this 20th century, the bloodiest century in 
the history of the world, I am convinced that the next century and your 
most productive years will be the most exciting time, the time most full 
of possibility in all history. The global economy, the explosion of 
information, the incredible advances in technology, the ability of 
people to move rapidly across large spaces, all of these trends are 
bringing us into a more integrated world. But we must all realize that 
these forces of integration have a dark underside.
    In the 21st century, we will face new and different security 
threats. In the 21st century, I predict to you, there will be no world 
war to write about between nations fighting over territory. I predict to 
you that there will not be a new great colossus killing tens of millions 
of its own citizens to maintain control. I believe the battles of the 
21st century will be against the organized forces of destruction that 
can cross national lines or threaten us from within our borders. We see 
these forces in the bombing of the World Trade Center, in the terrible 
tragedy in Oklahoma City in the United States. We see it in the bombings 
on the streets in Israel, designed to kill the peace process in the 
Middle East. We see it in that terrible gas attack in the Tokyo subway. 
We see it in the problems that you and so many other nations have with 
organized crime.
    The more open and flexible our societies are, the more our people 
are able to move freely without restraint, the greater we are exposed to 
those kinds of threats. And so we must become more and more vigilant. We 
must work together to defeat these new security threats, for in this new 
century, the world wants and needs strong democratic countries where 
people are truly free and secure. And this world needs a strong and 
democratic Russia to help meet these challenges.
    It is in that context that I have pledged to President Yeltsin we 
will continue to work on all the issues between us. And it is in that 
context that I urged the President to have no future nuclear cooperation 
with Iran.
    Think about the future that we have together. We have already 
witnessed what Russia can do on the world stage when it is completely 
engaged and committed to democracy. From the Near East to as far away as 
El Salvador, America and the world have been made more secure by Russian 
leadership and cooperation. As Russia takes her rightful place, we 
believe that the trends toward democracy and economic freedom and 
tolerance must and will continue.
    Yesterday your nation looked back at 50 years and paid homage to the 
heroes of World War II. Today let us look ahead 50 years to the next 
century when your children and your grandchildren will recall those who 
stood against the coups, who voted in free elections, who claimed their 
basic human rights and liberties

[[Page 677]]

which had been so long denied, those who made Russia a full partner in 
the global march toward freedom and prosperity and security. They will 
look back, and they will be grateful.
    I know there are some in this country who do not favor this course. 
And believe me, there are some people in my country who do not believe 
that you will follow this course. They predict that, instead, you will 
repeat the patterns of the past. Well, of course the outcome is not 
assured; nothing in human affairs is certain. But I believe those 
negative voices are mistaken.
    All sensible people understand the enormous challenges you face, but 
if there is one constant element in your history, it is the strength and 
resilience of the Russian people. You have survived in this century 
devastating losses in two World Wars that would have broken weaker 
spirits. You succeeded in bringing an end to a communist system and to a 
cold war that had dominated human affairs for decades. You have ushered 
in a new era of freedom. And you can go the rest of the way.
    In the future, your progress may well be measured not by glorious 
victories but by gradual improvements. And therefore, in your efforts 
you will need time and patience, two virtues that Leo Tolstoy called the 
strongest of all warriors.
    You must know in this endeavor that you will not be alone, for 
Russians and Americans share this bond. We both must learn from our 
past, and we both must find the courage to change to make the future 
that our children deserve. For the sake of your generation and 
generations to come, I believe we will all rise to the challenge.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 6:12 p.m. in the Main Hall at the 
university. In his remarks, he referred to Viktor Antonovich Sadovnichy, 
rector of the university; Foreign Minister Andrey Kozyrev of Russia; and 
journalist Dmitriy Kholodov and television personality Vladislav 
Listyev, who were assassinated in Russia. A tape was not available for 
verification of the content of these remarks.