U.S. President Bill Clinton has made the case for continued U.S. engagement in world affairs in a speech at his alma mater, Georgetown University. Clinton spoke on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. As RFE/RL's Lisa McAdams reports, Clinton said America must now reaffirm its commitment to American leadership and engagement by finishing the job of building a Europe whole and free.
Washington, 9 November 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Amazing, remarkable and inspiring were the words the President of the United States used to reflect back on the turn of events in Berlin in 1989, which led to the collapse of communism and ushered in a whole new frame of reference for U.S. foreign policy.
RFE/RL's correspondent reports it is that new frame of reference Clinton chose to elaborate on Monday, while delivering the Herbert Quandt Distinguished Lecture at Georgetown University. Placing U.S. goals clearly in the present, Clinton noted four key areas of foreign policy concern. The first, he said, begins with Russia.
"It has mired itself again in a cruel cycle of violence in Chechnya that is claiming many innocent lives. We should protect our interests with Russia and speak plainly about actions we believe are wrong. But we should also remember what Russia is struggling to overcome and the legacy with which it must deal."
Up to this point in time, Clinton said reform in Russia has been "incomplete, awkward and often messy." Still, he characterized the U.S. stake in Russia's success as "profound." He also expressed doubt that America would ever be criticized for doing too much toward establishing a stable and democratic Russia engaged with the West.
Clinton also pressed for continued U.S. efforts toward stabilizing the greatest source of instability in Europe -- the Balkans.
"I am convinced the only way to avoid future Balkan wars is to integrate the countries of southeastern Europe more with each other and then more with the rest of Europe. We have to create positive forces that pull the people toward unity, which are stronger than the forces of history pulling them toward division, hatred and death."
Clinton said Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is the last of the cold-war breed of dictators seeking to hold on to power by substituting communism with ethnic hatred. That rally cry, Clinton said, has been disastrous for Bosnians, Kosovars and Serbs alike.
Clinton added that if the United States is ever to make democracy and tolerance the order of the day in the Balkans, there can be no future for Milosevic or his policies.
The President described the third foreign policy challenge as two-fold: building lasting peace between Greece and Turkey and bridging the gap between the Islamic world and the West. Clinton said this task will perhaps be the hardest.
"Greece and Turkey, ironically, are both our NATO allies, and each other's allies. They have served with distinction in the Balkans. Their people helped each other with great humanity when the terrible earthquakes struck both lands earlier this year. This is a problem that can be solved. Eventually, it will be solved, and I intend to see that the United States does everything we possibly can to be of help."
Clinton is scheduled to make an 11-day, four-nation tour of Europe beginning later this week. His first stops will be in Greece and Turkey.
The final foreign policy challenge Clinton spoke of is closer to home. He said the United States must decide to commit itself to maintaining its leadership role, not only in Europe, but wherever the basic principles of democracy are at risk. Commitment and leadership come at a cost, and Clinton said the U.S. Congress must bring to bear the resources necessary to fund America's goals.
"I think its worth devoting some small fraction of this nation's wealth to build a Europe where wars don't happen, where our allies can do their share and we help them to do so, to seize this historic opportunity for peace in the Middle East, to make sure nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union don't fall into the wrong hands."
Clinton branded the Republicans who lead Congress as "new isolationists" after the U.S. Senate voted last month to reject the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty (CTBT).
Our correspondent reports Clinton leveled a markedly more conciliatory appeal for Congressional funding yesterday than in days past. However, he acknowledged that there still appeared to be a "disproportionate" group represented in the deciding body (Congress) who felt otherwise opposed to funding. The audience responded with a laugh.
Clinton drew another laugh when he said there was broad public support for continued foreign affairs funding, citing recent appeals by Pope John Paul and singer/songwriter Bono, of the Irish rock group called "U2."
On a more serious note, the President said Americans could take pride looking back in what their country did to help the former communist countries make the journey from dictatorship to democracy and from command to market economies. Ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Clinton said Europe is "decidely better off."
Clinton appeared on stage with visiting Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, both of whom expressed appreciation for the United States' role in freeing Eastern Europe from the grip of communism. "Thank you, America," Zeman said, in English.