Deputy Secretary Talbott, "American Leadership and Global Challenges," Address at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, Los Angeles, California, November 5, 1998


As delivered

American Leadership and Global Challenges

Thank you, Chris, not just for that kind introduction but for being a
terrific boss, mentor, and friend.  The chance to work at your side was
one of the great good fortunes of my life.  This nation is mighty
fortunate, too, to have had you at the helm of its foreign policy
during a period of extraordinary challenge and opportunity.

Los Angeles has a lot going for it in my book, not least because it's
Warren Christopher's home.  In fact, even though I'm born and bred a
Midwesterner, I feel a bit as though today is a homecoming for me.  I
say that because this is the city where I first courted my wife, a
Westlake girl who initiated me to the wonders of taco parlors and San
Vicente jogging.  An important part of my family is still here:  my
parents-in-law, Marva and Lloyd Shearer, and my friend and cousin, Page
Ackerman, who was for many years the chief librarian at UCLA.  My
thanks to Curtis Mack and Bob Van Dine for including Marva, Lloyd, and
Page in this event.

But while I have plenty of personal ties here, I'm in town today very
much on public business:  I'm reporting to an important part of the
constituency on whose behalf all of us in the U.S. Government work.

Let me, therefore, get down to business.  Secretary Albright and the
rest of us who make up President Clinton's foreign-policy team have had
our hands full these last several months.  In fact, I can't recall a
period in recent years when we as a nation have faced quite so many
tough challenges on so many fronts.  I'll tick off for you just the
most obvious examples.

On the Middle East Peace Process, the President, the Vice President,
and Secretary Albright achieved something remarkable and, we hope,
lasting at the Wye Plantation 2 weeks ago.  They were building, not
incidentally, on 4 years of patient, persistent, painstaking, and
skilful diplomacy by this gentleman here [Secretary Christopher].  No
one knows better than he how tough the going was on the Eastern Shore
of Maryland, because he's been there and done that, both literally and
figuratively. And no one knows better than he how determined we must
now be following up on the agreement -- and how vigilant we must be
against extremists who will step up their attempts to ruin the chance
of peace in the Middle East.

In that same rough neighborhood, one of the world's most dangerous
bullies, Saddam Hussein, is acting up yet again, refusing to cooperate
with the United Nations inspectors whose job it is to make sure he
isn't developing and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.

Meanwhile, halfway around the globe, the North Koreans have threatened
to restart their own nuclear-weapons program, even as they continue to
develop ballistic missiles and to export dangerous technology to other
countries.

In central Africa, the armies of no less than nine nations and the
forces of numerous ethnic militias are embroiled in a war that has
killed thousands of civilians and displaced thousands more since
August.

And so it goes on virtually every continent -- old troubles erupting
alongside new ones. Moreover, all this is happening against the
backdrop of what may be a shift in the tectonic plates of the global
economy.  What started a year ago with collapse of the Thai currency
has become the most serious and far-reaching financial crisis in 50
years.  It has spread to our own hemisphere, bringing a big and
important neighbor, Brazil, to the edge of an economic free-fall.

This is a dizzying kaleidoscope of problems.  In many ways, they're
vastly different, one from the other.  Yet they all have three things
in common.

The first is that each of these challenges affects us -- our country,
our community.  In other words, each is an illustration of a basic fact
of life in this increasingly interdependent world of ours:  What
happens there matters here. "There" can be the Middle East, where a new
round of Arab-Israeli conflict would hurt every economy in the world,
including our own, that relies upon on a steady flow of oil.

Or "there" can be Iraq and North Korea.  If rogue states such as those
are able to provide to every other bad actor in the world the means of
unleashing death and destruction, Americans will be in danger -- at
home and abroad.  Just imagine how it will affect the ability of the
World Affairs Council to sponsor the trips it has planned in the coming
year to East Asia, southern Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America
if the terrorists who bombed our embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam
in August had nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.

As for the world financial crisis, U.S. exports to the wounded
economies in Asia and elsewhere are down by nearly a third.  That
matters directly and ominously to a state like California and a city
like Los Angeles that depend heavily on the manufacture of goods for
global markets.

The second common denominator of the problems I've touched on here is
that their solutions cry out for American engagement and, more than
that, for American leadership.  That's exactly what President Clinton
and his two Secretaries of State, Warren Christopher and Madeleine
Albright, have been determined to provide.  It's what we get up every
morning and go to work to do.  That's why the President, the Vice
President, and the Secretary undertook their diplomatic marathon at the
Wye Plantation last month.  That's why we are working both through the
UN and through the deployment of our military might in and around the
Gulf to compel Iraq to comply with the will of the international
community.  That's why we are negotiating with the North Koreans, the
South Koreans, and the Chinese to reduce tensions on the Korean
Peninsula.  That's why my colleague, Assistant Secretary Susan Rice, is
conducting shuttle diplomacy in central Africa today.

And that's why the State Department is cooperating with the Treasury
Department, the Federal Reserve, and other agencies to address the
global financial crisis on a number of fronts.  The crisis will be
Topic A, for example, when President Clinton meets with his
counterparts at the annual Leaders Summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation Forum -- APEC -- in Malaysia in 2 weeks.  A crucial goal at
that meeting and others is to identify ways of preventing crises like
the current one from occurring in the future -- and to do so, 54 years
after Bretton Woods, by designing a new financial architecture for the
21st century.

That point illustrates the third feature that all the challenges I've
mentioned have in common:  In every case, we are searching for
solutions not only in concert with other countries but also in ways
that strengthen international institutions and increase their ability
to complement and reinforce each other.

Any and all of the cases in point I've mentioned so far -- the Middle
East, the Gulf, the Korean Peninsula -- are fair game for our
discussion this afternoon.  But first I'd like to sharpen the focus of
that discussion a bit by zeroing in on three tasks that I'm
concentrating on in my own work.  First is the conflict in Kosovo.
Second is the economic and political turmoil in Russia.  Third is
danger of nuclear war on the Asian subcontinent.

Once again, this is a diverse trio of headaches.  But they have those
three common aspects:  Each affects us and our lives; each requires a
high degree of American leadership; and each represents an opportunity
to make international institutions more relevant, more effective, more
synergistic.

Let me give you a capsule report on all three, starting with Kosovo.
As recently as the beginning of this year, few Americans knew much, if
anything, about that remote, impoverished corner of the Balkans.  Now
Kosovo is a household word, a synonym for man's inhumanity to man.

But Kosovo is more than just an affront to our values and our sense of
decency.  It's also a clear and present danger to our vital national
interests.  Again, it's the principle of what happens there mattering
here.  "There," in this case, is Europe.  A threat to the peace of
Europe -- any threat to the peace of Europe -- endangers the safety and
prosperity of the United States.

Kosovo is the most explosive of all the powder kegs in the Balkans.
That's because of where it is -- on the fault line between Europe and
the Near East. If it blows up, it could ignite tinder all around -- to
the northwest, in Bosnia, where a fragile peace is only beginning to
take hold; to the southwest, where Albania is already in danger of
coming apart at the seams; to the southeast, where the fourth Balkan
war of this century could bring in two of our NATO Allies, Greece and
Turkey, on opposite sides.

We are making progress in Kosovo today.  Serbian forces are, by and
large, back in their barracks, no longer terrorizing the local
population.  Kosovar Albanians are returning to their homes after
months in the mountains and relief organizations are delivering
supplies.  An international mission is moving into place to verify
compliance with the pull-back and the cease-fire, and we are working
with the parties to restart direct negotiations.

These encouraging developments vindicate a principle that Secretary
Christopher helped establish during his own 4 years as Secretary of
State and that Madeleine Albright considers a first principle of her
own stewardship of our foreign policy:  The quest for a peaceful
resolution of a regional conflict often requires that American-led
diplomacy be backed by the credible threat of American-led force.  They
both helped President Clinton apply that principle in restoring
democracy in Haiti, in bringing peace to Bosnia, and during earlier
showdowns with Saddam Hussein.

Slobodan Milosevic is, like Saddam, an archetypal bully:  He won't get
serious about peace until threatened with war.  He's finally behaving
in Kosovo because we held a gun -- loaded, cocked, safety off -- to his
head.  The gun was NATO air power.

But NATO has not acted alone.  It has worked, hand-in-glove, with four
other bodies:  the United Nations Security Council, the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Union, and the so-
called Contact Group on the Balkans.

It is significant that Russia is a member of three of those bodies --
the Security Council, the OSCE and the Contact Group -- and that Russia
is working closely the with the fourth, NATO, to enforce the peace in
Bosnia and to verify compliance with international demands over Kosovo.

This brings me to the second part of my report to you this afternoon --
an update on Russia in its own right.  Much of what's happening in that
vast country is perplexing, some of it downright ominous.  But we can't
lose sight of a core fact:  Russia's decision 8 years ago to abandon
Soviet communism and to associate itself with the growing international
consensus in favor of political and economic freedom is the one of the
most important and most positive developments of the second half of
this century.

Russia is opening itself to the world to an extent and in a way
unprecedented in its long, troubled history.  Post-Soviet Russia has
gone from being a spoiler to being an international joiner.
Increasingly, it is working within rather than against the institutions
that make up the superstructure of the international political and
economic system.  Since 1991, it has become a member of the G-8, the
successor to the Group of Seven Major Industrialized Democracies; the
Council of Europe; the Arctic Council; the Council of Baltic Sea
States; the Permanent Joint Council created by the NATO-Russia Founding
Act; and, as I already mentioned, the Contact Group on the Balkans.
President Clinton will meet Prime Minister Primakov in Kuala Lumpur
during the APEC summit, which is yet another international grouping
that we have helped the Russians join.

The question of the hour -- and I suspect of the coming decade -- is
whether Russia will continue to move in what we regard -- and in what
many Russians regard -- as the right direction or whether it will pull
back into its shell.

The question arises because of the crisis that has befallen the Russian
economy this year.  This past summer and fall, the Russians saw their
currency collapse, many of their banks go belly-up, payrolls and
pensions go unpaid, the bottom fall out of their fledgling stock
market, and goods evaporate from stores.

Not too surprisingly there is widespread disillusionment with the very
word reform and with what are seen as "Western" economic models.  Hence
the temptation to look for a uniquely Russian remedy to insolvency and
social pain.  The trouble is that, in the name of course-correction,
they are in danger of lurching toward hyperinflation, protectionism,
and the reimposition of state control of wages and prices.  This is one
of the key issues that President Clinton will discuss with Prime
Minister Primakov when they meet in Kuala Lumpur.

The Russians' future course is no one's choice but their own.  The bad
news -- and it's quite serious -- is that they may repeat some mistakes
from the past, particularly in the massive printing of money.  In that
case, the economic situation will probably get worse before it gets
better, and we will be far less able to help Russia through the
International Monetary Fund.

But the good news is that Russia, so far at least, is grappling with
its economic dilemma in a democratic fashion.  Its own citizens have a
major say in who governs them.  The Primakov Government came into
office because President Yeltsin and his many opponents in the
Parliament played by the rules of the post-Soviet constitution.  They
have cut deals, made compromises, and embarked on programs for which
they will be held accountable to voting citizens in parliamentary
elections a year from now and in a presidential election scheduled for
the year 2000.

As long as constitutionalism, civil society, and pluralism continue to
set down sturdy roots in Russia -- as long as Russia can avoid the twin
dangers of economic and political meltdown -- there is a good chance
that those immensely talented and deserving people will eventually
overcome their hardships, recover from their setbacks, and complete
their transformation from a dictatorship and empire into a normal,
modern state.  That's not only in their interest -- it's in our own.
That's why the U.S. is going to stay actively engaged with Russia and
its struggling reformers on every front.

We also have a huge stake in what happens in -- and between -- India
and Pakistan.  This is the last of my reports to you today.

These two countries occupy a critical part of the world, a bridge
between Asia and the Near East.  One -- Pakistan -- used to be a Cold
War Ally of the United States. The other -- India -- is the world's
most populous democracy.  One is an Islamic nation, the other is
largely Hindu.  Together, they are home to over a billion people -
almost one-fifth of all humanity.  Since they came into being as
independent states 51 years ago -- in 1947 -- India and Pakistan have
fought three wars.  The makings of a fourth war still simmer in
Kashmir.

Six months ago, India set off a series of underground nuclear
explosions at Pokhran Desert in Rajasthan.  Then, 2 weeks later,
Pakistan followed suit, with its own nuclear tests in the Chagai Hills
of Baluchistan.  Overnight, it became all the easier to imagine an
apocalypse in the cradle of several of the world's great religions and
civilizations.

Even if they don't unleash that ultimate catastrophe, India and
Pakistan are straining in the starting blocks of a ruinously expensive
arms race.  Moreover, their defiance of the worldwide compact against
the acquisition of nuclear weapons has increased the peril that other
countries -- especially ones with less responsible governments than
those in New Delhi and Islamabad - will accelerate their own nuclear-
weapons programs.

It's against that backdrop that the President and Secretary Albright
asked me 7 months ago, at the time of the tests, to go to work with the
Indians and Pakistanis on three goals:  one, preventing an escalation
of nuclear and missile competition in the region; two, strengthening
the global non-proliferation regime; and three, promoting a dialogue
between India and Pakistan on the long-term improvement of their
relations, including on the subject of Kashmir.

So far, I've held six rounds of discussions with my Indian counterpart,
Deputy Planning Commissioner Jaswant Singh, and I'll be holding a
seventh in Rome next week.  I've also held seven rounds with my
Pakistani counterpart, Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad, including one
just yesterday in Washington.

In this effort, I've been guided not just by the instructions of the
United States Government, but also by a set of goals or benchmarks that
we worked out back in June with three international bodies:  the so-
called P-5, the Permanent Five Members of the United Nations Security
Council; the G-8; and the South Asia Task Force, a group of 15
countries plus the European Union established in the wake of the May
tests to persuade India and Pakistan to re-establish themselves in the
good graces of the international community.

In the talks I've held to date, my interlocutors and I have made some
tentative but welcome progress.  A lot of tough work remains -- by
them, and by us.  To be very frank, I don't know if we -- or they --
will succeed.

But, ladies and gentlemen, this much I do know about the future of
South Asia, just as with Kosovo and Russia -- just as with the Middle
East, Iraq, North Korea, Congo, and the international financial crisis
-- everyone in those regions and around the world is looking to us,
counting on us, depending on us -- the United States -- to provide the
combination of brains and brawn, head and heart, vision and energy,
will and wallet, to help them help themselves.  And we'll do so because
in helping them, we're also helping ourselves to ensure that the 21st
century will be safer, more prosperous, more peaceful than the 20th has
been.

That much-ballyhooed millennium, by the way, is right around the
corner.  It begins in 1 year, 1 month, 3 weeks, 4 days, 10 hours, and
about 45 minutes -- which barely leaves us time for what I'm sure will
be a lively discussion, so let's get started.


Return to Vinnie's Home Page

Return to Clinton Administration Page