U.S. Ambassador to Colombia William R. Brownfield met with leaders of the Colombian Federation of Educators on March 25. The Ambassador commended FECODE leaders for their dedication to the defense of workers’ and teachers’ rights, and expressed concern that Colombian labor leaders continue to face threats and violence due to their professional activities. The Ambassador emphasized that “labor organizations like FECODE play positive, essential roles in all democratic societies, including the United States and Colombia.”
FECODE was founded in 1959 and represents 220,000 workers organized in approximately 33 unions. It is one of the largest union federations in Colombia, with a large presence in the public education sector. Its leaders work on a national scale to uphold the rights of Colombian workers and teachers. Ambassador Brownfield met with the leaders of the General Confederation of Workers (CGT) in October of last year, and labor leaders from the United Confederation of Workers (CUT) in February of 2010.
I have just completed my second trip to Burma.
During my two-day trip, I met with a wide variety of stakeholders inside the country. In Nay Pyi Taw, I held consultations with the Minister of Science and Technology, the Foreign Minister, the Minister of Information and the Spokes Authoritative Team, the Union Election Commission, the Labor Minister, and the head of the USDA.
In Rangoon, I met with a number of community leaders of ethnic minority groups, the National League for Democracy, key members of the diplomatic corps, NGOs, a variety of political players, and Aung San Suu Kyi.
This trip comes as part of a process the Obama Administration launched last year. In February 2009, Secretary Clinton announced that we would undertake a review of our Burma policy, stating clearly that neither sanctions nor engagement, when implemented alone, had succeeded in influencing Burma’s generals. Over the course of the seven months of the policy review, we consulted widely and deliberately in order to seek the best ideas from around the world and at home. The result of that extensive review was to launch a policy of pragmatic engagement with Burma’s leadership. We have engaged in senior-level dialogue with the regime. Yet we have not lifted sanctions, nor have we abandoned our commitment to the people of Burma. Our strategic goal for Burma remains unchanged: we wish to see a more prosperous, democratic Burma that lives in peace with its people and with its neighbors.
The United States has approached this engagement with goodwill. We continue to consult and coordinate closely with key countries, including those within ASEAN, the European Union, with India, Japan, China and others, and a number of players outside governments seeking a more positive future in Burma.
The key objective of my trip to Burma was to underscore the purposes and principles of our engagement, and to lay out the reasons for our profound disappointment in what we have witnessed to date.
During various discussions with Burma’s senior leadership, we have outlined a proposal for a credible dialogue among all stakeholders in Burma that would allow all sides to enter into such a dialogue with dignity. Unfortunately, the regime has chosen to move ahead unilaterally – without consultation from key stakeholders – towards elections planned for this year. As a direct result, what we have seen to date leads us to believe that these elections will lack international legitimacy. We urge the regime to take immediate steps to open the process in the time remaining before the elections.
We have also asked for greater respect for human rights and the release of political prisoners. The regime has detained many of Burma’s brightest and most patriotic citizens, citizens that could contribute greatly to ensuring a more prosperous future for their country. Instead the regime has silenced them, dispersing them to remote locations throughout the country where the generals hope they will be forgotten. They are not.
We have raised our persistent concerns about the increasing tensions between Burma’s ethnic minorities and the central government that have resulted in violence along the country’s borders. The regime has ratcheted up the pressure on Burma’s ethnic groups in preparation for this year’s elections, forcing countless innocent civilians to flee. Burma cannot move forward while the government itself persists in launching attacks against its own people to force compliance with a proposal its ethnic groups cannot accept. The very stability the regime seeks will continue to be elusive until a peaceable solution can be found through dialogue.
Finally, we have urged Burma’s senior leadership to abide by its own commitment to fully comply with UN Security Council Resolution 1874. Recent developments call into question that commitment. I have asked the Burmese leadership to work with the United States and others to put into place a transparent process to assure the international community that Burma is abiding by its international commitments. Without such a process, the United States maintains the right to take independent action within the relevant frameworks established by the international community.
Although we are profoundly disappointed by the response of the Burmese leadership, I remain inspired by those outside the government with whom I met. I admire the resolve of Burma’s ethnic groups that wish to live in peace and to have a representative stake in the future of their own country. I respect the difficult decision Burma’s political parties have taken regarding the upcoming elections. Some have decided to participate, some will not. It is the right of a free people to make those decisions for themselves, and the United States respects their decisions.
I would like to take a moment to applaud the leaders of the National League for Democracy – a political party that has struggled for more than two decades to improve the lives of the Burmese people – with whom I held a lengthy meeting. Although having been denied a legal framework in which to operate by the regime’s own flawed rules, its leadership remains committed to working on behalf of and for the Burmese people. The United States will continue to stand behind all those working to support Burma’s people, including the National League for Democracy, however it may constitute itself in the future.
Finally, I was again moved by the perseverance and the commitment Aung San Suu Kyi has shown to the cause of a more just and benevolent Burma and to the Burmese people themselves. She has demonstrated compassion and tolerance for her captors in the face of repeated indignities. It is simply tragic that Burma’s generals have rebuffed her countless appeals to work together to find a peaceable solution for a more prosperous future.
The strength and resilience of those who struggle continue to inspire us. The United States stands by the Burmese people in their desire for a more democratic, prosperous, and peaceful nation.
AMBASSADOR ZHARBUSSYNOVA: Ladies and gentlemen, today I am truly honored to welcome the Secretary of State Madam Hillary Clinton. Madam, all of us present here today are grateful that despite the challenging schedule and the long flight, you were willing to have this meeting with representative of the civil society and other organizations and students of the university.
Now that Astana air is filled with the Helsinki spirit, it is especially important for the civil society to realize that they are an integral part of the OSCE process. And just the last week alone, Astana hosted a number of key events which have effectively demonstrated the importance and the possibility of a constructive dialogue between the officials and nongovernmental organizations. Among them, the OSCE and the NGO forum initiated by the chairmanship and the Office for the Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, and also, of course, the review – the last segment of the Review Conference which was attended by a large number of NGO representatives from OSCE countries. And the participation of the civil society at these events was highly remarkable and not just because of the large number of the participants, but primarily due to the recommendation they introduce to the documents.
Many participants of these events are here among the participants of this meeting, and men and women – they are men and women with strong intentions to make our world a safer place for everyone. And I am more than sure that our meeting – this interactive dialogue – will incorporate both crucial and important issues. Clearly, your persona is well known all over the world, however I would like to share with the audience some facts characterizing you as a human being and a woman.
Growing up, Mrs. Clinton had a dream. She dreamt of being an astronaut. Thus, she approached NASA, yet at that time she was turned down because NASA did not allow at that time women into its space programs. To my mind, this to some extent influenced your later becoming a champion of human rights, democracy, and civil society. Your famous speech in Beijing in 1995 when you declared that human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights, inspired women all over the world and helped to galvanize a global movement for women’s rights.
As the First Lady, you worked on many issues related to children and families. You launched the U.S. Government’s Vital Voices Democracy Initiative. Today, Vital Voice is a nongovernmental organization that continues to train and organize women leaders across the world. And given this occasion, Madam, I would like to express the help of women of Kazakhstan that the Vital Voices chapter will be open here in the nearest future. We are looking forward to the cooperation with this organization.
In 2000, Hillary Clinton made history as the first lady elected to the United States Senate and the first women – the first woman elected statewide in New York. In the Senate, she served on the Armed Services Committee, the House Education, Labor, and Pensions Committees, the Environment and Public Works Committee, the Budget Committee, and the Select Committee on Aging. She was also a commissioner on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Hence, it is of no surprise that President Barack Obama invited Mrs. Clinton for the position of the Secretary of State underlining that Mrs. Clinton is capable of successfully leading the U.S. State Department and working on the realization of an ambitious foreign policy agenda jointly with the President. It is a great importance for our nation and our people that in this foreign policy agenda, Kazakhstan is positioned as a strategic partner.
We have had the pleasure of welcoming you in Kazakhstan in 1997 and we are very honored to welcome you here today just on the eve of the historic OSCE summit. (Applause.)
And now let me introduce the moderator of today’s evening, Mrs. Iva Dubichina, whom you well know as she worked here for several years as the head of the Freedom House mission in Kazakhstan. She made many friends in Kazakhstan and she looks forward to continuing this cooperation.
Iva, the floor is yours. (Applause.)
MS. DUBICHINA: Good evening. Indeed I have made many friends in Kazakhstan, but this role of moderator will make me probably the most hated person at the end of the day in Kazakhstan.
So, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, my dear colleagues and friend, it is a great honor and a privilege to give the floor to the U.S. Secretary of State, Her Excellency Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Iva. Well, good evening. And it is an absolute delight for me to be here in Astana on the eve of the OSCE Summit and to have this opportunity to meet with you. I very much enjoyed my visit, as the ambassador reminded us, in 1997, and I have looked forward to returning. And I am grateful for this warm welcome, Ambassador. Thank you, Rector, for your invitation. And as you saw the young musicians who were playing as you may have walked in this evening, the youngest one was one of the Rectors’ daughters. And so education is a family commitment.
And I also want to recognize the other officials and dignitaries who are here this evening, and I’m very grateful that I have a chance to address so many strong activists for democracy, for human rights, for freedom, and for a better future, not only in Kazakhstan, but across Central Asia, Europe, and indeed the world.
When Kazakhstan hosts the first summit of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe ever held in Central Asia tomorrow, that will send a very strong message that the work of the OSCE and the Helsinki principles are not confined to one group of people or to one group of nations. They indeed are applicable around the world. I will be meeting with many government leaders to talk about a range of issues that affect all of us, from our mutual interests in the security of Afghanistan, to nuclear nonproliferation, of which Kazakhstan is a leader, to the diversity of energy supplies and so much else.
But first, my very first stop was to come and meet with you, because strong democracies, thriving economies, and stable societies cannot be built by governments alone. There must be a partnership between governments and vibrant institutions and free societies that work together to solve the problems that we face in the 21st century.
Thirty-five years ago, when the leaders of North America, Europe, and the Soviet Union came together to sign the Helsinki Final Act, they committed themselves to a core set of human values, including the fundamental freedoms of expression, association, peaceful assembly, thought, and religion. These values are as fresh and relevant today as they were 35 years ago, and they are absolutely critical to the building of sustainable societies and nations that are committed to creating a better set of opportunities for all of their citizens.
I know in this auditorium tonight there are many activists who represent many organizations that are making a difference in your societies and countries. I’d like to just mention a few of these groups because they are standing up for the core Helsinki principles. As the ambassador said, I served on the Helsinki Commission when I was a senator in the United States Senate, and I have followed the work of so many individuals and organizations that have consistently stood for the principles that all of us agreed to 35 years ago. I developed a special respect for the work of nongovernmental organizations, the work that many of you do to bolster civil society, women’s rights, expand opportunity, promote tolerance, and so much more.
Tonight, I would particularly like to honor the Almaty Helsinki Committee. You have worked for decades to advance peaceful, democratic change based on the noble principles of the Helsinki Act, principles that we continue to hold dear.
I also would like to commend the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law for its work toward developing the National Human Rights Action Plan and recognize the role that that Evgenyi Zhovtis, a leading human rights activist, played in drafting this important document.
And I would like to salute Galina Morozova, who has devoted herself in the past 12 years to fight against human trafficking. She has sheltered hundreds of women. She has made herself vulnerable, because in the face of death threats she has fought for tougher sentences for traffickers. And she has worked with the government and with law enforcement agencies to change their attitudes and to help them understand that human trafficking is the modern form of human slavery.
There are so many people who have worked hand in hand to advance democracy and human rights. And I particularly was pleased to see some of the women who are on the front lines of change in Kazakhstan, some of whom I met in 1997, some of whom I have seen in other settings, but all of whom I greatly respect.
But I also want to commend the Government of Kazakhstan, because this government has made more progress than any other in the region and has committed itself to continuing that progress. Civil society groups help hold governments accountable, but governments have to be responsive. So I’d like to thank Adil Soz, the International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech, for its vital role as a media watchdog, because the OSCE commitments include the right of all citizens to know and act upon their rights. And it takes both brave journalists and independent local monitors to fight violations of press freedom.
I could go on and on, because really so many of you could be acknowledged and thanked. But I want to hear from you. I want to hear about what you see as continuing challenges, what you see as the changes that you are seeking, and how we can better all work together. Many of you took part in the OSCE Parallel Civil Society Conference that ended yesterday, and you noted the systematic and persistent human rights problems in many post-Soviet states. We will certainly work with you and with the governments involved to try to address these problems.
But I do think it’s important to just take a step back for perspective. We have come a very long way in just 35 years. When you get to be my age, 35 years seems like a very short time. In 1975, the international community embraced a revolutionary idea, that security among states was directly connected to the way that their citizens were treated within states. And in the decades since, we have seen time and again that countries need more than military and economic security if they are to achieve stability, prosperity, and progress. They need vibrant civil society.
President Obama and I understand this. I started my career at a nongovernmental organization called the Children’s Defense Fund. He began his as a community organizer in Chicago. We live in a country where civil society movements have been the engine of major social advance. Change is not easy anywhere. It wasn’t easy in the history of the United States and it is not easy anywhere else in the world. It takes persistence and it takes a commitment by people, sometimes generation after generation. We found that in the struggle to abolish slavery, to establish civil rights, to empower women, to protect our environment. And we have watched civil society write history, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the end of apartheid in South Africa, to the spread of democracy. Thirty-five years ago when the Helsinki commitments were made, very few people predicted the end of the Soviet Union. And yet 15 years later, it was no longer.
So think about the work you are doing in the urgency of the moment, but also with the perspective of what it takes to create change. We now have so many organizations ready, willing, and able to help you – foundations, universities, other nongovernmental organizations. We now can communicate to understand what is happening in countries and societies far from our own. We can become global problem solvers. And that is what I hope we will determine to do going forward, and that we will bring governments into partnerships.
One of your neighboring countries, Kyrgyzstan, has just undergone a dramatic change, culminating in a free parliamentary election. Now, the road ahead is hard, and I will be going there on Thursday to meet with the president and the people that are working with her, but that is a courageous moment that now must be built upon.
No country can be fully free unless human rights defenders are given their rights. That means right to counsel and trials. It means journalists who can bring their attackers to justice and prevent impunity. It means pollsters who can ask questions about public attitudes. It means that civil society groups are not harassed by the tax police, or that the rule of law is protected and respected even when everyone disagrees with a position that is taken by an activist.
I really believe that we are at a particularly important moment in history. The 20th century ended totalitarianism, two bloody world wars, a cold war, and now in the 21st century we have to make good on the sacrifice of all those who came before us. And this is not just for activists, but for government leaders as well. Because if you want your country to grow, if you want your people to prosper, if you want all of your citizens to fulfill their own God-given potential, then governments must respect human rights.
My country will continue to advocate for democratic government, civil society, free markets, and we will continue to do so in part by supporting education and exchange programs that empower civil society groups. And I hope at tomorrow’s summit we will reconfirm our commitment to a community of freedom, security, and prosperity, stretching from Vancouver to Vladivostok.
Each government will finally be judged by how it lives up to the promises that it makes. Constitutions can be written with all kinds of promises, but they’re not more than paper if those promises are not implemented. Laws can be passed promising all kinds of protections, but they really are not worth much unless they are enforced.
So governments hold so much of the future in their hands, but they are not the most powerful determinant. That is the people themselves, and particularly the organizations that bring people together in civil society.
So it is an honor for me to be here. I look forward to hearing your questions and your comments, your ideas that you think would make our partnerships here in the OSCE and between my country and yours even more effective. Thank you for the work that you do every single day. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
MS. DUBICHINA: Ladies and gentlemen, before I open the floor for questions, and I will use the right to first question that I have as a moderator. I would like to tell you that we have around 45 minutes for questions, so I would like to ask you to keep your interventions as short as possible so that we have more time for people to ask questions or to make short interventions.
I will be calling those of you who I know by name, and those who I don’t I will describe their appearance, so sorry if I miss a thing or two about your outfit because it’s really not visible from here. But let me use my right – or abuse my right, I don’t – know as moderator to ask the first question, and it will be about the OSCE because we are here in Astana because of this organization.
So in the ‘90s, OSCE was high on the list of U.S. foreign policy priorities, and it was then when the OSCE adopted a number of key documents stressing the importance of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law as requisites for security. However, in the last few years this model is somewhat challenged by a number of member states of the OSCE and other countries, and that the OSCE as an organization is experiencing some difficulties and tough negotiations are held, some observers are even questioning the value-added of the organization. So how high is the OSCE on the list of your priorities?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Iva, first, it’s very high on the list of my priorities and this Administration’s priorities. It won’t surprise you to hear that I agree with you that in the 1990s, when my husband was president, the OSCE was considered a very important part of our foreign policy. And the Obama Administration agrees with that, and I have taken steps to reaffirm our commitment to the OSCE, including coming here to Astana, to be sure that the good work that was started 35 years ago continues.
Now, the times change and there are new challenges, but I think the core values of the OSCE remain as important today as they were in the past. And it is, in my view, part of the foreign policy of the United States to be more involved in supporting multilateral organizations like the OSCE. And one of the difficult issues that we are grappling with in the OSCE is whether or not countries that once signed up to the core documents and principles underlying the OSCE will continue to support them.
And so we are very committed to making the OSCE more active, more vital, more relevant, and frankly, challenging any members who are not willing to abide by the very principles that they agreed to support when they joined the OSCE. Nobody is made to join the OSCE. It is a voluntary organization. But if you join it and then you say, “But I don’t really believe in the human dimension pillar of the OSCE, I don’t really support the Helsinki Act,” then why did you join?
And so what I want to do is keep the emphasis on the importance that the OSCE plays and the very significant connections between successful countries and following Helsinki principles. Because if you want to be a successful country in the 21st century, eventually you’re going to have to accept that you must do more on behalf of human rights. So I think that from my perspective, we are reinvigorating our commitment to the OSCE.
MS. DUBICHINA: That’s really encouraging to hear. So now I am opening the floor for questions. And because we are in an academic institution, I will give the first question to a student, so let me try to locate a student. Yes, that young lady there with a white shirt.
QUESTION: (inaudible.) My microphone is not working? Good evening, Madam Secretary. I am a student of Eurasian National University. My name is Camila and my question is if you have chance to meet a politician of any period of time of human history, who would you like to meet with, and why?
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s a wonderful question. I have been very privileged in my life to meet many extraordinary people, many brave and courageous people, many people that risk their lives for freedom and for human rights and for women’s rights. I think that the person who I have been most impressed by in my meeting has been Nelson Mandela. I think what Nelson Mandela demonstrated through all those years in prison, which could make you a very bitter person – you could come out of prison hating – but he came out of prison determined to create a society in South Africa that didn’t look backwards but looked forwards.
And I’ll tell you a quick story about why I am so impressed with him. I’ve had the privilege of spending a lot of time with him over the last 18 years, and I went to his inauguration as president in 1994 in South Africa. And after the big ceremony where he gave the speech and the bands played, he invited a large group of visitors from around the world to a lunch at the presidential house. In the morning it had been inhabited by the last white Afrikaner president, in the afternoon it was inhabited by the first African president.
And at this lunch, then-President Mandela stood up and he said, “I am very honored to have all of these distinguished visitors from around the world, but the three most important people to me who are here that I personally invited are three of my former jailers from Robbens Island.” And he asked these three white men to stand up, and he said, “I had many jailers over 27 years,” I think it was. “These three men treated me with dignity and respect. They may have been my jailers, but they related to me as a fellow human being.” And I will never forget that.
And I thought in politics and civil society, we often draw lines against people, the good people and the bad people. And sometimes things are done to you that are very hard to forgive. But here was a man who was telling the world, “I can see through the prejudice, the stereotypes, and I can see the human beings because they saw me as a human being. And I will never forget that.” So he is someone who I highly admire and deeply believe is one of the great leaders of the world and of all time. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: (Inaudible) but you will have to go out of the row and find the microphone. Yeah, you will have to move forward to the microphone (inaudible). I’m sorry. It’s so complicated, but –
MODERATOR: I will translate it for you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. Please translate.
MODERATOR: The microphone was not working. So what do you think will happen (inaudible) the government (inaudible) the situation in Kyrgyzstan, the events in Kyrgyzstan.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Madam Secretary, what do you think about the future of Kyrgyzstan, and what do you think – and what kind of role the civil society of Kyrgyzstan can play in the future?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I will be going to Kyrgyzstan the day after tomorrow because I want to meet with not only the president, but other leaders there, talk to civil society, and get my own firsthand impression. But I will say three things. First, I think that the people of Kyrgyzstan have spoken very forcefully in favor of representative government and democracy, and all of us need to help them. Secondly, as with any society, there are tensions. There are tensions between ethnic and nationality groups, and all of us need to try to help ease those tensions and to support efforts by civil society and by the government to punish the wrongdoers who were behind a lot of the rioting, but to do so in accordance with the rule of law, but to also look for ways that people can work together and create more a inclusive society.
And finally, the elections which were held, nobody knew who was going to win. That was a remarkable election. It was an election where people really had to go out and think for themselves and cast their votes. And now they have to try to put a government together, which means they have to what I call “practice politics.” They have to actually listen to each other and try to figure out what they can give and what they can ask as they put together a government. It is a very difficult path they have chosen for themselves, but the United States will do everything we can to support them. I very much appreciate the role of the government of Kazakhstan, which has been extremely helpful in supporting Kyrgyzstan, and we have to keep working together. We have to do everything possible to help them succeed at their important effort to bring democracy to Kyrgyzstan. So let’s work together on that. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Trying to get some gender balance, so (inaudible) please.
QUESTION: Thank you, your Excellency. By giving the (inaudible) the world’s (inaudible), which was (inaudible) in the United States recently and includes one very landmark provision requiring transparency from energy in many companies, do you think that assuring energy security should play a more important role at the OSCE agenda? And more specifically, do you think that OSCE, as an organization, should endorse (inaudible) EITI? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think the EITI is a very important development. And that is, for those of you who may not know, the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative. And it is an effort for civil society, the private sector, and governments to work together. Really any country consists of – it’s like a three-legged stool. You have a government, you have an economy, and you have a civil society. And sometimes if it gets out of balance, if the government is too strong, the stool is not stable. If the economy is unregulated, as we have seen in the world in the last two years, the stool is unstable. So the EITI is a good example of government, the private sector marketplace, and civil society working together.
And I appreciate the commitment that Kazakhstan has made to the EITI. I think it’s the kind of initiative that the OSCE should be looking to replicate. What else can we do to enhance that kind of cooperation, that commitment to an outcome that will actually benefit everyone, even though in the short term it might take away the privileges of some? So I’m looking forward to reviewing the recommendations that have come from the NGO meetings, the civil society gatherings that have taken place her Astana, because I know that you all have made some very specific recommendations. But I certainly believe – to go back to Iva’s point – that the human dimension part of the OSCE has to be supported strongly, and we intend to do so. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Okay. The wheelchair (inaudible) – I’m sorry. The lady in the wheelchair. Yes.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Clinton. My name is (inaudible). I represent here the network of organizations of women with disabilities in Kazakhstan. And my question is, we know that U.S. embassy and the national (inaudible) in Kazakhstan on women’s affairs has signed a memorandum on cooperation in gender equality issues. So my question is: How do you see the role of the interests of women with disabilities in this cooperation and the role of our organizations and our network in this process?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you for asking the question. I don’t know if you could hear her, but she was asking about the memorandum of understanding that our embassy has with organizations on gender equality, but what about women with disabilities. Well, let me broaden your question. What about people with disabilities? I think in many societies in the world today, people with disabilities are seriously discriminated against. They are not given opportunities for schooling, for jobs, to live independently, even if they are able to. So I think that the struggle for the rights of people with disabilities is one of the big question marks that hangs over human rights work.
The United States in the last 30 years has made progress in how we treat people with disabilities. We change laws and we’ve enforced them. In fact, the very first job I did right out of law school when I went to work for this group, the Children’s Defense Fund, was going door to door as part of a big national survey – and this was back in 1974 – as part of big national effort to find out how many children were not in school. Because if you looked at the data, you would see, according to the census figures, the number of births in a year, and you would then go up in a couple of years and then you would look at school enrollment figures, and you would see that they were not the same. So I went to a couple of communities, and I knocked and doors, and I asked people, “Do you have any children who aren’t in school?” Now, some had children who were working already. They had gone to work to help support their families. But the majority of children who were not in school were children with disabilities. They were children who were deaf, or blind, or in a wheelchair. And the schools were not equipped to educate them. They were not what we call “handicap accessible.” The children couldn’t even get into some of the schools if they were in a wheelchair or other – suffering from another disability.
So we began to pass laws to open up our schools to children with disabilities, and then to open up our places of employment, and then to require accessibility so that if you went to a public facility there would be a way in, if you were in a wheelchair for example. So we’ve made progress, but we still are working on it. And I think that worldwide this is an area that doesn’t yet have enough attention. I’ve appointed a special representative for people with disabilities in the State Department to work with activists and governments around the world. So really, the short answer to your question is we want to make sure that people with disabilities are on the agenda of their countries and that the countries can share information about how to help.
And then let me say the final thing is some disabilities are preventable – polio, which we still have problems with in many parts of the world and there was a slight epidemic of polio here in Central Asia which Kazakhstan helped us address; spinal bifida, which can be prevented with folic acid and other supplements. So we need to do more in – during of a woman’s pregnancy and labor and delivery to make sure we prevent disabilities that are preventable. And then we have to work to make sure that people with disabilities, either because of a genetic issue, or an accident, or a disease get a chance to live up their own potential. We have blind judges; we have deaf doctors; we have people in our country who have overcome their disabilities, but we need to make sure every person with a disability gets a chance to do that. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Person in back.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, my name is (inaudible). I represent two NGOs. One of them observes election in this country, and another on women leadership fund. First of all, of course, I would love to emphasize my exciting with your brilliant, I would say, career . (Inaudible) politics, political. And here’s my question related to this. What would be your key suggestions, recommendations to women in this country, Kazakhstan women, who wants to get in this (inaudible). Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, let me go back to something the ambassador said when she was here talking. I helped to start an organization called Vital Voices, and I know some of you know it because some of you have attended some of its programs. And we’re going to bring a women’s conference — and Vital Voices will be part of it — to Central Asia next year because we want to reach out and renew our relationship with so many of you who are doing such good work. And I think that – I received the book of women in Astana who are doing astonishing things, and I am very impressed by that.
But I think that organizations like Vital Voices or like Women in Business and others that are represented here have to be constantly reaching out to young women. Young women need to be brought in and given the opportunity to participate when they’re in a university, like here, and creating more avenues for women to develop their own interests, to start their own businesses, to become an academic, to become an advocate, a lawyer, go into government, go into the Foreign Service. And that takes a lot of encouragement, because it is still hard. And it’s not only hard in Kazakhstan; it’s hard everywhere. It is still challenging, and it is something that I see all the time.
And as I traveled around the world and I do events like this, I’m very often asked a question like yours – well, how does a woman become active in politics or become whatever she chooses in her own interests? There is no substitute for preparation and for the best education you can get. But there’s also no substitute for the encouragement and support of other people. And that’s why I think a lot of these organizations that are represented in the book you gave me can take an even bigger role in helping to encourage and support and prepare women to take leadership positions.
And I would offer the continuing support of the United States – not just our government, because we do try to support women’s activities –and I made it a core priority in American foreign policy because I know from so much that I both have seen and so much research that had been done, countries that utilize the skills and talents of half their population will actually become stronger and more prosperous and secure. But also because I think that this is – this century really is the century for women’s full empowerment and for women to make the choices that are right for them.
And I say this everywhere. Not every woman wants to be a secretary of state, or an ambassador, or an activist on behalf of freedom and human rights. But every woman should have the same choices as her brothers, her husband, her father, her son, and then make that choice as to what is best for you consistent with your own responsibilities and how you see your life. And that’s what we’re trying to achieve. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Because you mentioned the (inaudible) conference and because the event is on empowerment of (inaudible) in Central Asia, I see an organization that works in many countries in Central Asia, the (inaudible).
You have to step — you have to step out. Yeah.
QUESTION: Is it working? Yeah. Madam Secretary, thank you for coming here, (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: Can you move it up? Yeah, it’s hard to hear. Yeah, there it goes.
QUESTION: I’m from the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, one of several organizations which have been part of organizing the Parallel Civil Society Conference these last two days. And as we finished yesterday, some of our colleagues are struggling in prison, and many of them could not be present at our conference. The U.S. Administration is now two years into reengagement on Uzbekistan, and during this time, the human rights situation continues to deteriorate, and it’s now actually 14 human rights defenders in prison. The Parallel Conference discusses their fates and the fate of political prisoners in Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan is, in fact, such a repressive country that no organization is able to find out how many political prisoners there are.
When you go to Uzbekistan next week, would you be able to raise this question with the Uzbek Government, that there is great international concern for our colleagues in prison? And what could you be able to do for our colleagues in Turkmenistan? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you for the work that you’re doing. And of course, I will raise that. I will raise it at the very highest levels of the Government of Uzbekistan. And I think that this is an issue that we face everywhere around the world. It is deeply distressing to us because there should be the rule of law. There should be an inclusive society where different voices can be heard. And I raise it in every corner of the world with leaders where we believe it continues to be a problem. And I will certainly raise it in Uzbekistan. And although I will not be going to Turkmenistan on this trip, I will see the leaders. And as I have in the past, I will continue to raise that issue with them. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: There is a desperate student right there.
QUESTION: Good evening, Mrs. Clinton. My name is Damira. I am a student of Eurasian National University. And I know you were a student, and as we know, you were the head of student government of Wellesley College. Can you recall some mostly interest in events, projects, and things which you did? It’s really interesting for me because I’m a member of student government.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good, I’m glad you are. And I appreciate your question. I met three other – where are the two young men and the young woman that I met earlier who are members of the student government? And I’m a very big believer that if you care about government, politics, if you want to be active, starting by being involved in the student government teaches you some good lessons. When I was president of the Wellesley College Student Government many years ago, it was during the height of the Vietnam War, and there was a lot of protests in college campuses in my country. And as the president of the college government, I had to deal with a lot of issues that I never would have dealt with if I had not been in that position.
And I think that it’s not for everyone; some people have other interests, they’re not concerned about it. But no matter what you decide to do in the future, if you want to go into government, if you want to run for office, if you want to head an organization, if you want to be active in your society, it teaches you good skills, and it teaches you the basics of what it’s like to be in a democratic political system. You have to get along with people. You have to listen to them even if you disagree with them. You have to try to find compromise. In some circles, even in my own country now, compromise is considered a bad thing. But in fact, compromise is often the only way to resolve any issue peacefully – you give a little bit, the other person gives a little bit, and then you try to move forward, and you make incremental progress.
So I learned a lot being in student government, and I’m glad to hear you are in student government, and I hope that it proves to be an interesting experience with a lot of useful lessons for you. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Yes, you, sir, in the middle. Yes. Just you have to – yes, you are.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Why don’t you come around the front?
MODERATOR: The gentleman, if you –
SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s too hard. Just come around the front and let – yeah, that’s fine.
MODERATOR: That’s probably –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you. Your Excellencies, I am representing (inaudible) Association of Kazakhstan. So we have discussed a lot, what kind of questions that I can to — ask from you, from favorite music tools or to your favorite internet websites. So – but however, we agreed that for us – what you can suggest for us for internet owners? Where is balance between freedom of expression and responsibility for information, what we are providing in internet? Because it’s our business and we have to understand, is it legal or it’s illegal information? So what is the balance?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s a really good question. Obviously, I’m thinking about that a lot these days. (Laughter.) I’m a big believer in internet freedom. I gave a speech about it at the beginning of this year. Because if you think about freedom of expression, in my own country, in our Constitution, we protect freedom of expression. But freedom of expression used to be person-to-person, newspapers that were distributed maybe to 10- or 20,000 people, and that was a lot.
And today, you have the vehicle of the internet, where you can say anything about anyone, and it can be all around the world, and people don’t have a chance to respond, they don’t say, “You’re taking that out of context, that’s inaccurate, that’s not true.” You just are at the mercy of whoever puts the information in and whoever takes it out. So we know that this is a difficult line to draw. And I respect the seriousness of your question. And I think it is always better to err on more – err on the side of more expression, more information, and then try to counter it with other information and make it clear what the context is.
But it’s also true that some information is very hurtful. We have cases in my country where teenagers went on the internet and said terrible things about other teenagers, totally lies, made up. And it’s so distressing to – it was usually girls or boys. Sometimes it was about their behavior or their character. Sometimes it was true, like to say that a young boy was gay. But that was a private matter, but they put it on the internet. And these young people have killed themselves. I mean, we’ve had a number of young people killing themselves because they felt so embarrassed, so humiliated because anything can be put on the internet.
So it’s a question we’re all going to have to deal with going forward, because it’s a wonderful means of communication. I mean, we can sit here in Astana and have a conversation with somebody in New York, and we can punch a button or move your mouse and get information about anything that you’re interested in. So it’s a great gift to human knowledge and communications. But just as we found in the past, where what you said could be harmful, we have to come up with the right kind of framework.
But we also have to be very careful that governments don’t overreact. Governments could say, “Well, now it’s even worse if you say something bad about us because it’s not just talking to a small group in an auditorium. You can tell everybody in the country, so we’re going to have to throw you in jail.” A lot of governments are throwing bloggers in jail because they get on the internet and they say, “Our leaders are corrupt, or our leaders are dishonest, or our leaders did this, that or the other thing,” and for expressing that opinion they go to jail. So that’s an overreaction, and we cannot permit that.
So somewhere, we’ve got to support that freedom of expression, whether it’s from an individual or from a journalist, but there also have to be some rules of – or some sense of responsibility that has to be inculcated. So that’s what we’re all struggling with, because this is a new phenomenon. This is something that, 10 years ago, we didn’t deal with even. So I think your question is a very important one, and human rights activists, as well as governments, are going to have to come together to understand how best to deal with this. (Applause.)
MS. DUBICHINA: Another guest from (inaudible).
QUESTION: My name is (inaudible) and I represent the NGO division of Georgia, which works for minorities in need of protection in Georgia. First of all, Madam Secretary, let me – is it a possibility to send a person to U.S. Department of State and its employees and policies which provide very strong protection to human rights (inaudible) of Georgia, in particular as it was the case of (inaudible) organization with other (inaudible) authorities. There’s a great problem in protection (inaudible) by ambassador of United States in Georgia.
But my question is that in your intervention, you mentioned (inaudible) and you mentioned how important this deal is to keep human rights and human (inaudible) agenda, even with some of the policy problems. But, unfortunately, in our countries, these issues are often put aside by our governments. And that is why external support and support of U.S. is very important for us always.
Now, unfortunately, some representatives of civil society feel that new foreign policies of Obama Administration may be (inaudible) less support. But returning to your statement today, it’s still very much hope that you, U.S., will still advocate for us and will support the ideas of human rights priority in our developing countries. Thank you very much, Madam Secretary.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, and let me reassure you that we are absolutely committed to supporting human rights. We continue to look for ways that have most likelihood of success, because we know that in some countries, we can try one approach and it doesn’t work, so let’s try another approach and see if it does work. So what I have directed our teams, our embassies, our diplomats to do is try many different approaches.
And look, I think in some countries, if an American ambassador or other diplomat creates a relationship with a leader or a set of leaders, and behind the scenes pushes, that’s more effective than going public. In other countries, going public is more effective. So we’re trying to expand what we call the toolbox so that we have many different tools to work on and support human rights.
MS. DUBICHINA: Thank you. And (inaudible).
QUESTION: (inaudible) (Applause.) My name is (inaudible). I’m a graduate of (inaudible) of Technology, and I’m a councilmember of (inaudible) Association. And I have a question. For example, I am a native Kazak, I speak Kazak language. And here in this community, when the discussion started, everybody started speaking Russian and English, even though it’s Kazakhstan and here we have a role of taking our native language – and I was just informed that I can ask a question only in Russian or English.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, no, ask it in Kazak, so then translate –
QUESTION: So – but –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Ask it in Kazak and then translate it. So that –
QUESTION: The point is that here in Kazakhstan, if I don’t speak Russian and English, I wouldn’t be able to ask a question, okay? My first question is: How many politicians, successful politicians, do you have in U.S. who don’t speak English?
SECRETARY CLINTON: None, none. (Applause.)
MS. DUBICHINA: (Inaudible.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: But let me just say a word. I think that’s a very legitimate question. I mean, the issue of language is still a very complicated and controversial one in many places. And it is – in my country, for example, we have many, many different languages. I think – when I was senator from New York, I think in the New York City schools, there were something like 170 different languages and dialects. Now, the school system was able to provide support for large groups of children. So children whose first language was Spanish got support; children whose first language was Chinese got support. But if you had a language that were – that there were not many people who understood it or spoke it, it was very difficult.
So our emphasis has always been, in the United States, to respect your native language but to encourage and educate everyone to learn English so that we have a common language. And we tried to accommodate people like – again, obviously, the example from New York. We might have ballots written in both English and Spanish, where we have a lot of older people who came to the United States from Latin America – they have not yet been able to learn English – or in what we call Chinatown or Koreatown, where we have large groups of people who speak Chinese or Korean.
But my point is that there should be respect for native languages. And I wish I spoke another language. I only speak one language, and I feel very disadvantaged in the modern world because I only speak one language. So I think that you’re lucky you speak and understand three languages.
QUESTION: Oh, yeah.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And I think it’s important to respect other languages but also to have a common language. So I understand the personal feeling behind your question, and I hope that maybe you can become a professor of the Kazak language and keep it alive and vital for the future and look for ways that people can communicate with each other. (Applause.)
MS. DUBICHINA: Ma’am?
QUESTION: Mrs. Secretary, I’m (inaudible) government association, where I work in Kazakhstan with civil society organizations. Well, right now, participation in civil society (inaudible) for institutional support of international society, but also increasing of support from the social (inaudible). But for us as well as for human rights NGOs or for social NGOs, it’s still a question for institutional support or technical assistance for institutional support. Is there any interest from State Department to provide such kind of support to (inaudible) technology? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I would like to know more about what you mean by institutional support. Because I think it is important to look for ways to help build stronger civil society institutions. And perhaps I can ask our Ambassador or Embassy to meet with you to get a better idea of what you mean by that. We provide a lot of support for individuals. We provide opportunities, one you told me that you missed in Los Angeles, working on human trafficking issues and learning what we have been doing. So there’s a lot we can do with individuals, and there’s a lot that we can do giving support to organizations. So please let us know more about what you mean by institutional support.
MS. DUBICHINA: And I just said that we (inaudible) person in this room because they are – all 600 people want to (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: We’ll take questions. We’ll take maybe five more.
MS. DUBICHINA: Okay.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Five more.
MS. DUBICHINA: Okay. Five more questions. So, you.
QUESTION: Good morning, Madam Secretary. My name is (inaudible) and I represent the future* leader exchange. My situation – I spent a year in America the previous year, and as you already mentioned in your conference, American Government is going to support exchange (inaudible) countries. But I have experienced, both at your country and my country, they have low level of cultural understanding. And what is your perspective on that issue? Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that’s it’s often the experience when a student comes to the United States to find that many Americans don’t know much about Kazakhstan, for example. They don’t know much about Central Asia. And part of the importance of your coming is that now many more people know about Kazakhstan than did before you came, because you were able to educate people. And I think that the United States has such a diverse population, and we kind of take it for granted that people basically live the way we live, because most Americans don’t have that experience outside of a pretty small number comparatively who have travelled to places like Kazakhstan.
So one of the things that I did as First Lady and when I came here in 1997, I would go on a trip and we would, of course, bring United States journalists with us so that there would be some coverage. So maybe people would say, “Oh, she’s in Kazakhstan. Where’s that? Let me find out more about that country.” And then when I would got back, I would kind of do a presentation and invite people to the White House or some other setting to talk about the places that I had been. Because I’m well aware of the fact that – even when I was growing up, I never went to foreign countries until I was an adult because I had never had that experience.
So for many Americans, it’s a real opportunity. You may be coming to my country to experience the United States, but the people you come into contact with, you’re like an ambassador for Kazakhstan, and we think that’s a good, cooperative relationship. And that’s why we want to do more of that, and try to enhance awareness on both sides, learn more about America and have more Americans learn about other countries.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. (Applause.)
MS. DUBICHINA: Nobody there is raising their hand. Over here.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) national office of Central Asia. I would like to ask you about what do you think about the future of (inaudible) and what do you think about including (inaudible) issues in priority issues of office for (inaudible) institutions of human rights?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Future of what?
QUESTION: The future of office for (inaudible) insufficient in human rights, OSCE (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. I think it’s a very important part of the OSCE and I think we need to do more to expand support for democracy and institutions in civil society working on behalf of democracy, and create more opportunities so that government leaders will meet with and hear the views of civil society members, including those working on behalf of democracy within the OSCE framework. Really, when the Helsinki principles were adopted 35 years ago, it was democratic countries and nondemocratic countries who adopted them together. And I think it was one of the most important human rights documents ever adopted. And it gave a lot of hope to people inside the former Soviet Union that change could happen and that people outside cared about what was going on in their situation.
And I think now we need to send a similar message, that yes, we – the Soviet Union no longer exists, we have many new countries at different levels of democratic development, and we need to keep working to support the democratic institutions in those countries and to support the democratic defenders and activists as well. And that should be part of what OSCE stands for.
MS. DUBICHINA: (Inaudible) right there.
QUESTION: Yes, (inaudible). Let me welcome you once more to Astana, Kazakhstan. My name is (inaudible). I’m president of program, the company that administered (inaudible) program. In most mainstream newspapers today, an article was published quoting the address of Ambassador Hoagland to our state secretary. And I quote: “The real international story of Kazakhstan will not be the official conclusions of the public meetings. The real story of Kazakhstan will be that Kazakhstan is a more confident state which respects the freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.”
So does that reflect your official position? Can we confirm, as of today (inaudible), that Kazakhstan is a modern, confident state which is open and democratic? Thank you. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think Kazakhstan has made remarkable progress. And I think certainly, in the economic sphere, it has grown and developed at a very fast and steady pace, even through the economic slowdown that the world has experienced. I think that Kazakhstan has set goals for itself and has been meeting those goals. And I think that being willing to be the chairman in office for the OSCE and a hold this summit was a very important commitment by the Government of Kazakhstan. But I know that there is still much more work to be done. I know that there are many issues that are not yet satisfying the people about what should be done in the human rights regime, in the democracy development.
So I think it has to be a balanced picture. There is a positive story to tell in the fact that all of you are here. I go to many countries where this would not have been permitted, to be honest. The fact that you all are here, that you’ve been here for a couple of days, that you’ve had the meetings that you’ve had, that the government is committed to the OSCE, I think that’s all a very positive story. Yet every country can do better. Kazakhstan may be further along than the countries in this region, but if you compare where I know Kazakhstan wants to be in 10 or 20 years, there’s a long road ahead. But let’s be proud of the positive success, let’s be fair about the criticisms, and let’s encourage the changes that will benefit the people of Kazakhstan in terms of democracy and human rights.
So I think it’s important not to be either too optimistic or too pessimistic. I think you have to strike the right balance, and I’m certainly supportive of the steps that have been taken, and I’m also more than willing to raise issues like the human rights defenders and others who work in this society to make sure that they can play a productive role in the new Kazakhstan. So let’s look at it from a balanced perspective and try to be positive where we can positive and be constructive about what changes are needed where they are needed. (Applause.)
MS. DUBICHINA: (Inaudible.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay. There are a couple of hands way back there.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Madam Secretary, we’re very proud to see that – we all over the world are very proud to see that your husband, Bill Clinton, went himself to North Korea to free journalists for imprisonment. That is the way that he showed his respect not only to the citizens of his own country, but also to the members of the press, to the journalists.
Unfortunately, my husband, who is a journalist, is here in this country, the country who is now the chairman of OSCE. The chairman of the country who is hosting the OSCE summit is still holding my husband in jail. And I know that he is jail termed, (inaudible), but there is no way to see that he will be free in the time that he is supposed to go free. (Applause).
Unfortunately, my husband did not have a chance to use his own attorney at his trial. He has no way to seek support from the outside. And no matter how I was trying to help him, there’s no success. So I was trying to seek support from my own government, from some organizations that fight for human rights, and there is no success. So my question to you, first of all, what is your opinion about something like this, and will I be able to ask you for your support when you meet with the members of my government?
SECRETARY CLINTON: First, I am sorry about your husband. I cannot comment. I don’t know anything about his case. But let me make three points.
Number one, we believe strongly in the rule of law, and that includes the right to counsel, to have your own attorney, to have someone who will advocate for you and will, if necessary, go all the way through the court system to try to get justice for you. And that is, to me, a fundamental human right, that you have a rule of law and a system of justice. And since most people are not lawyers, they cannot defend themselves and they need competent counsel to be able to do so.
Secondly, journalists are particularly vulnerable in the world today. Journalists are being killed, attacked, imprisoned all over the world, and particularly in the OSCE countries, where it’s contrary to the Helsinki principles, where journalists are supposed to be protected. I have spoken out about the abuse of journalists in Russia, where you know a number of leading journalists have been brutally attacked and even killed. And that, to me, is – runs counter to the claims that the Russian Government is making on behalf of a new and different and democratic future.
So whether it’s Russia or Kazakhstan or anywhere else, journalists are particularly vulnerable and deserve protection. Even though many people don’t focus on what happens to journalists, it is an indicator of the rights and freedoms of everyone else to speak out and to not be imprisoned or persecuted by their government.
Thirdly, when I meet with governments, I raise the issue of political prisoners, of journalists who have been imprisoned. And if you would talk with our Embassy, then we will have information about your situation and we will certainly follow up on it.
MS. DUBICHINA: Thank you, (inaudible). (Applause.) Out there, the lady in pink or red.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much. For now, a journalist has an opportunity to ask a question. Just recently, we knew of the proclamation by WikiLeaks of some correspondence of U.S. embassies, including the representatives with their governments. Will you raise this question to your meetings here in Astana with other government leaders and with members of other countries? I know that some of the questions that probably you will be discussing in your meetings in Astana were already covered by the WikiLeaks correspondence.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I, of course, have been reaching out to governments and leaders around the world over the last week. I will continue to do so. As I said before I left Washington yesterday, we consider it regrettable that the information that was meant to be confidential has been made public.
And I am particularly worried about the human rights activists, the religious leaders, the critics of governments who speak to members of our Embassy about abuses in their own country, whose names may either be in a reported cable or who may be identifiable because of the description of the person. So I believe that this was a very irresponsible, thoughtless act that put at risk the lives of innocent people all over the world without much regard for those who are most vulnerable, including journalists.
I also think that it’s important always to maintain a level of candor in discussions. That’s not only true for governments; it’s true for journalists, it’s true for academics, it’s true for doctors, lawyers, and businesspeople. Everyone has a right to depend, to some extent, on confidential communication. And that, of course, has been breached in this incident.
But I think that the foreign policy of the United States is very clear. We have moved vigorously in the last 22 months in the Obama Administration to repair the damage that we inherited to reinvigorate organizations like the OSCE to become much more internationally oriented, to work with friends, partners, and allies around the world on threats that we face, like Iran becoming a nuclear power by nonproliferation. And so we will continue to pursue the policies that we are, despite the efforts by some to disrupt that.
And let me say one other word about Kazakhstan. I think Kazakhstan deserves the warmest credit for removing the nuclear material that you inherited on your territory. And the United States has been your partner in doing this. I think nonproliferation is a human rights issue. I think the effort to go after the nuclear material that can fall in the wrong hands, that can be used to terrorize, maim, kill people, contaminate large areas is a fundamental human rights issue. And in this area, Kazakhstan has been a world leader, and I want to publicly express my appreciation for that. (Applause.)
MS. DUBICHINA: Thank you very much for showing (inaudible), but that you would actually stay for half an hour longer than planned. That shows your (inaudible). (Applause.)
The United States is deeply saddened by reports of the abduction and murder of respected human rights activist Natalya Estemirova. We call upon the Russian government to bring those responsible to justice.
A member of the NGO Memorial HRC in the North Caucasus, Natalya Estemirova was uncompromising in her willingness to reveal the truth regardless of where that might lead. She was devoted to shining a light on human rights abuses, particularly in Chechnya, and received a number of international awards for her brave work, including the 2007 Anna Politkovskaya prize by the Nobel Women’s Initiative and awards from the Swedish and European parliaments. We extend our deepest sympathies to her family.
Thank you, Madam Chairwoman.
I had not intended to take the floor a second time, but I am very grateful to the Russian Ambassador for bringing us down to facts and incidents because I think that it helps to illustrate the overall problem, which is recognized in Mr. Haraszti’s report, which is the all-too-frequent attacks on journalists and the all-too-little prosecution of people for those attacks.
He raised many cases which have a little bit more historical importance, but with regard to the case raised by the Ambassador in the United States, that is, the killing of journalist Chauncey Bailey, I’m pleased to report to the Permanent Council that immediately after that murder took place, the police launched an extensive investigation. It led to the arrest of one Mr. Broussard, who confessed to the shooting. It is true he later recanted that confession, but he still remains in custody and, in fact, was scheduled to go to trial this month. According to press reports, his lawyer requested another delay in the trial date to allow him to further prepare his case. But that’s the sort of action that we believe necessary in cases of violence against journalists: an immediate and resolute investigation. Yes, it is true a case may not always be resolved, but it shows the need for full work.
Just as we saw with the attack of human rights activist Lev Ponomariov a few days ago, we were very pleased to see the immediate reaction of the authorities, with the Head of the Moscow Police in fact taking charge of the investigation into the attack. We think that’s the sort of reaction that is necessary because the series of attacks on press officials and on human rights activists has a clearly chilling effect on the development of civil society in Russia.
We’ve heard, of course, all of the cases. The Representative from Russia seemed to think that there was some sort of focus only in one direction or another, but I think it’s the trends that are so worrying, and that have been highlighted by Mr. Haraszti in his case. We hear so much about Anna Politkovskaya and the problems of Novaya Gazeta, and they are very serious, and ones which I think the Freedom of Media Representative has rightly highlighted. But it’s very unfortunate that they are not alone. Local and regional journalists seem to be facing the similar problems of physical attacks on them and the failure — or inability — of the authorities to investigate thoroughly.
Just in the last few days, a journalist from a local paper in the outskirts of Moscow, Sergei Protazanov, was brutally beaten and later died. The investigation into this one seems to be of mixed results, with some saying he died as a result of his beating and others saying that he died as a result of poisoning. Clearly, this is an area which needs work. Mr. Pultazonov worked for a paper Grazhdanskaya Soglasia, which was investigating charges of fraud in the local elections in Khimkhi. Unfortunately, it’s not an isolated incident.
On November 13, Mikhail Bekatov, editor of Khimkhinskaya Pravda was severely beaten. His lawyer, Stanislav Marakov, as we know because this issue was raised in the Permanent Council, was shot dead on the streets of Moscow alongside another journalist.
The editor of Grazhdanskaya Soglasia, was stabbed 10 times outside his home in February of 2008. His attackers remain at large.
On February 3, the editor in chief of Solichkoski Forum, a newspaper in the nearby city of Solichnogosk, was assaulted.
On March 12, a managing editor of Volnya Yuzhnaya Prognos Pod Moskovoi was beaten in the Moscow oblast city of Serblukov.
I raise these issues because they reveal a very disturbing trend here. We call upon all countries to realize the importance of the contribution of journalism and especially investigative journalism to the creation of a democratic society and towards valuable checks of the power of authorities. When journalists are attacked, it’s not just the person who is attacked; it is in fact the institution of freedom of expression that is under attack. It is inherent on authorities to investigate with all vigour, and we would like to encourage all countries to ensure that their authorities are taking this matter seriously and engaging seriously on it.
Thank you, Madam Chairwoman.
Yesterday, Russia lost one of its most remarkable citizens, Natalya Estemirova. I was shocked and saddened to learn of her murder and my heart goes out to her family and to her colleagues at Memorial. Natalya was a tireless crusader for the rights and dignity of all individuals. All of us who knew her deeply respected her and her work, and many Americans have asked me to express their condolences to her family.
Natalya understood the danger of her work in Chechnya, but refused to be intimidated. Natalya’s courage and dedication are sources of inspiration; she will truly be missed. We fully support every effort to bring those responsible for this cowardly crime to justice. Natalya would expect that of us.
Thank you for coming this evening to recognize the important work of the Committee to Protect Journalists. It is an honor for me to welcome Paul Steiger, the Chairman of the Board of the CPJ; Joel Simon, the Executive Director; and of course Kati Marton, a member of the board and leader of the delegation.
The Committee’s independence and impartiality is the source of its authority in the United States, in Russia, and around the world. It holds all to the same standards of accountability: the CPJ recently called on the American Secretary of Defense to conduct an independent investigation of the 19 American media workers who lost their lives during the fighting in Iraq.
In supporting the work of the Committee, the United States government makes a clear statement of its commitment to the safety of journalists around the world. As Americans, we deeply believe that a free society depends upon a free press; and a free press cannot exist unless journalists feel safe. If journalists are afraid to report the truth, the press is not free. If those who threaten to kill journalists are not identified and brought to justice, society as a whole is weakened.
Being a jouralist has been a dangerous profession in many countries including my own. The murder of Don Bolles, an investigative reporter killed by the mafia in Arizona, is a well-known but not unique example. Russian history also has known many journalists and writers who were exiled, imprisoned or killed for criticizing injustice, for exposing corruption, or for simply telling the truth. Many of you here tonight knew Natalia Estemirova. She was one of several journalists who spoke about the murder of innocent people, and other violations of human rights in Chechnya. She was killed in July 2009, and her murder has never been solved.
American journalist Paul Khlebnikov was murdered in Moscow in July 2004. He was the author of several books and many articles about the connections between business and organized crime.His killers, and those who ordered this killing, have never been brought to justice.
In October 2006 an unknown assassin killed Anna Politkovskaya, who was widely known for her reporting about the conflict in Chechnya, and her reporting about violations of human rights. Anna was a true voice of freedom. Her children, Vera and Ilya, are here with us tonight.
Tonight we recognize the courage and determination of journalists in all countries who seek to report the truth; and we remember those who have lost their lives because they were not willing to be silent. And we recommit ourselves to work for the day when all journalists around the world can work without fear.
And now it’s my great honor to ask Kati Marton to say a few words.
Today we honor the life and work of Natalya Estemirova, a brave Russian human rights defender and journalist, who was abducted and murdered in the North Caucasus region of Russia on July 15, 2009.
Ms. Estemirova devoted her career to bringing awareness and pressing for accountability for human rights abuses, particularly in Chechnya. The international community justifiably gave Ms. Estemirova a number of awards for her important work. A year has passed since her tragic death, yet those responsible for this horrible crime have yet to be brought to justice. We will continue to shine the spotlight on this case as part of our efforts to protect the brave journalists and civil society activists across the globe who, like Natalya, speak out against abuses and work to secure fundamental freedoms for their fellow citizens.
Thank you for that kind introduction. I’m truly honored to be at the Center for American Progress, whose commitment to renewing America’s global leadership I deeply admire. I can’t think of a better forum for offering a few reflections on relations between the United States and Russia. Nor can I think of a better moment to take stock, a little over a year after President Obama launched an effort to “reset” our relationship with Russia, and just days after he and President Medvedev signed an historic arms control agreement in Prague.
Let me acknowledge at the outset my own abiding interest in relations between Russia and America. During the course of my checkered diplomatic career, including my most recent posting in Moscow, as U.S. Ambassador from 2005 until 2008, I have seen many ups and many downs in our relationship. Along the way, I have no doubt made my own share of missteps and misjudgments. I have learned that few things come quickly or easily in our relationship; that interactions between Russia and America are often an uneasy mix of competition and cooperation; and that navigating past the mistrust and misapprehensions of the past will take considerable time and effort, from both of us. But I have also learned to deeply respect Russians and their history, culture and language; to realize how much we have to gain by working together on the main challenges of a new century; and to understand that opportunities are unfolding before us that far outweigh our differences. Rarely has there been a time when getting relations right between our two countries, and between our two societies, mattered more than it does today.
Where We Were
I’ll start by taking a quick look backward. By the end of 2008, in the wake of the Russia-Georgia war, relations between the United States and Russia were as sour as they had been in more than twenty years. Mutual frustration obscured mutual interest. A steady adversarial drift threatened to lead us down paths that were neither in our own interests nor in those of the wider international community. Americans believed that Russians were too quick to assume the worst about American motives, and prone to bully their neighbors and manufacture images of enemies at the gate to justify over-centralization of power at home. Russians believed that Americans were too quick to lecture and preach, and prone to double standards; they were becoming convinced that Americans were fundamentally uncomfortable with the reemergence of Russia as a Great Power and determined to constrain it. While U.S. and Russian officials rightly noted that there was no ideological basis for a “new Cold War,” we lacked the diplomatic architecture, the political and economic ballast, and most of all the basic trust, that might have helped manage differences and preserve perspective. It was, all in all, an unhappy mix.
President Obama and Secretary Clinton came to office without illusions about our difficulties with Russia or the complexities of our relationship, but with a firm commitment to making a fresh start. Their approach was guided by several assumptions.
First, and perhaps most obvious, Russia and the United States matter to one another, and how well or how poorly we manage our interactions matters to the rest of the world. The two of us control more than 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons, and our leadership can do more than anyone else’s to help secure nuclear material globally and prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Russia is today the world’s biggest producer of hydrocarbons; America is still the biggest consumer. We are both permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. Russia sits astride Europe, Asia and the broader Middle East – three regions whose future will shape American interests for many years to come. And in an era in which common challenges – nonproliferation, climate change, energy security, the struggle against terrorism, and many more – demand common action more than at any other period in human history, the United States and Russia have a lot more to gain by working together than by working apart. As President Obama put it in Moscow last July, “on the fundamental issues that will shape this century, Americans and Russians share common interests that form a basis for cooperation.” And the President made clear that “America wants a strong, peaceful and prosperous Russia,” acknowledging that only if Russia “occupies its rightful place as a Great Power” can we achieve the partnership on key strategic issues that we both need.
Second, mutual respect must underpin a fresh start in relations. For America’s part, that means acknowledging the greatness of Russia’s contributions to human civilization over the centuries, in literature and science and many other fields. It means understanding what more its immensely talented people can contribute in the future. It means understanding what Russians have endured, in the unimaginable brutalities of Stalinism, in the enormous sacrifices that we honor once again in this year’s 65th anniversary of our collective victory over Fascism, and in the troubles and humiliations that flowed after Soviet Communism collapsed of its own contradictions. And it means understanding that Russia is still in the midst of a complicated transition, still coming to terms with itself after hundreds of years of empire, 70 years as an ideological warrior, and decades as a military superpower. Mutual respect does not, however, mean that we cannot speak plainly about our disagreements. We can, and we do, on questions ranging from human rights to Russia’s neighborhood, where we will continue to urge the same respect for the sovereign choices of Russia’s neighbors that we will accord to Russia’s own sovereign choices.
Third, it’s important to build a structure for our relationship, based not only on personalities and rapport amongst leaders, but also on institutions and practical mechanisms at every level. As George Kennan once put it, the business of diplomacy and of advancing our interests with other countries is a little like tending a garden, with painstaking cultivation of a range of connections and common concerns, and careful attention to the weeds and differences that often obstruct progress.
And finally, we assumed that it was possible – indeed, essential – to try to pursue each of the issues before us on its merits. We were not so naïve as to think that areas of agreement and common ground could be fully insulated from areas of disagreement and friction, but our starting point was that problems in one area of our relationship should not preclude progress in others. In a more mature relationship between Great Powers, even one with all the historical baggage that Russia and America bring, we ought to be able to build on shared interests while not pulling our punches on differences, and take steps that benefit both of us without grand bargains or tradeoffs that come at the expense of others. That is admittedly easier said than done, but it’s the spirit and mindset in which the new Administration approached a badly broken relationship with Russia.
Where We Are
At the beginning of 2010, we are in a significantly better place with Russia than we were at the beginning of 2009. Many challenges and difficulties remain, and we have a great deal of work to do together to widen and strengthen the base of cooperation, but we’ve made a promising start.
President Obama and Secretary Clinton have both invested substantially in relations with Russia, and made it a high priority. The President’s meeting with President Medvedev in Prague last week was their seventh face to face discussion in a little more than a year; they’ve had some sixteen substantive phone conversations over the same period, and have developed a very effective pattern of communication. The same is true of Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov, and of U.S.-Russian contacts at many other levels. All this diplomatic effort has produced practical results. Let me describe briefly a few of them.
The first is renewed nuclear leadership by Russia and the United States. The new START agreement signed by President Obama and President Medvedev in Prague on April 8 enhances American security, reduces the threat of nuclear war, and sets a powerful example of responsible U.S.-Russian leadership in managing and reducing our remaining nuclear arsenals on the eve of the NPT Review Conference in May. New START reduces the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads on each side by roughly 30%, from the upper limit of 2200 in the Moscow Treaty of 2002 to 1550. The allowable number of nuclear delivery vehicles will be reduced from the existing START level of 1600 to 800, with no more than 700 deployed at any one time. The new treaty contains modernized and streamlined verification and transparency measures that will build confidence and predictability on both sides. It does not constrain our own capacity to pursue missile defense programs. New START continues the vital work of arms reductions pursued by Administrations of both parties since the end of the Cold War, a moment when Russia and America together deployed some 20,000 strategic nuclear warheads.
Russia and the United States have also led the way in the crucial work of safeguarding nuclear materials. Building on the vision and determination of Senator Richard Lugar and former Senator Sam Nunn, we have helped Russia improve security at its facilities. The U.S. and Russia lead the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, whose critical task was strongly supported at this week’s Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. Yesterday, Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary Clinton signed a new bilateral agreement that will dispose of 34 metric tons each of weapons-grade plutonium, enough to make some 17,000 nuclear weapons.
Even as we have worked to reduce our nuclear arsenals and safeguard nuclear materials around the world, Russia and America have increased our cooperation to ensure that other countries do not acquire nuclear weapons. We are both key partners in the Six Party talks, and resolute in our determination to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. And we are equally committed to holding Iran to its international responsibilities and preventing it from developing nuclear weapons, which would have catastrophic consequences for stability in a part of the world that matters enormously to both of us, and to the global economy. We have worked painstakingly from the beginning of the new Administration to build a habit of close consultation with Russia, along with our other partners in the P5+1 group which leads international diplomacy on the Iranian nuclear issue. We collaborated carefully with Russia on a creative confidence-building proposal regarding the Tehran Research Reactor, which the IAEA offered to Iran last autumn. We constructed this proposal with Russia in the sincere hope that it would be something to which Iran could say “yes.” It would have met an Iranian humanitarian need; enabled the Iranian leadership to offer tangible proof of the exclusively peaceful nature of its intentions, by using much of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium for a clear civilian purpose; and in the process it would have provided time and space for serious negotiation. The TRR proposal was meant both to test Iran’s intentions, and to invest in partnership with Russia.
After an initial positive reaction to our joint proposal in early October in Geneva, Iran’s actions have been uniformly negative. We and the Russians, along with the Chinese and our European partners, have begun serious work on a new UNSC sanctions resolution, aimed at taking intelligent, targeted measures to try to change the calculus of the Iranian leadership and produce the negotiated resolution to which we remain committed. That level of cooperation was unimaginable in the depths of U.S.-Russian acrimony at the end of 2008; while we will no doubt continue to have our share of tactical differences, we have come a long way in a relatively short time in our efforts together on Iran.
A second area of significantly improved cooperation is fighting violent extremism and resolving regional conflicts. The attacks on the Moscow Metro two weeks ago are a horrific reminder of what we have both suffered at the hands of terrorists, and of our common stake in defeating them. We have stepped up joint work among our intelligence and law enforcement authorities, and reinvigorated our Counterterrorism Working Group. At the same time, Russia has become a much more active operational partner in the collective effort to help stabilize Afghanistan, and prevent violent extremists from regaining a platform there from which they could once again threaten all of us. We negotiated an unprecedented military transit accord with Russia last spring, providing a new air corridor which now averages two flights a day, transporting nearly 20,000 American troops to Afghanistan so far. Most of those flights transit the Manas facility in Kyrgyzstan, an arrangement which remains of fundamental importance to our shared objectives in Afghanistan. We have stepped up counter-narcotics cooperation, also a crucial common interest. And Russia is exploring ways in which it can contribute to Afghan economic recovery, for example by supporting a joint assessment team to visit the Salang Tunnel.
We have worked well together on other regional conflicts. Russia hosted a valuable Ministerial meeting of the Quartet last month, and remains an important partner in the long and often frustrating struggle to foster Arab-Israeli peace. We have also been effective partners in encouraging reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia, and in promoting diplomatic progress on Nagorno-Karabakh.
A third advance is the creation of a new structure for more systematic cooperation between us, the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission. Overseen by Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov, the Commission now includes some 16 working groups, spurring engagement and new ideas for partnership that go well beyond the traditional Cold War confines of arms control and security. The working groups have already stimulated a number of creative initiatives, on mutual interests ranging from energy efficiency to youth sports exchanges to health care to university partnerships to preserving the Arctic environment. A delegation of CEOs from leading American technology companies just returned from a long trip to Russia, excited by the prospects for cooperation in innovation, and full of new ideas for using social media to promote better governance, combat trafficking in persons, and improve education and health care. Much more is possible in the months and years ahead.
Many hard challenges obviously remain in the U.S.-Russian relationship, alongside the considerable gains of the past year. We disagree fundamentally about the situation in Georgia, and the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Each of us has genuine concerns for the regions closest to our borders, but 21st century values and expectations — and not 19th century views about spheres of influence — should drive a frank dialogue over our interests in the world as a whole, as well as in areas closer to home. Even as basic differences persist, we both have an obligation to help ensure that tensions do not erupt into violence again.
The United States will also continue to be plainspoken and unapologetic about our interest in universal human rights, and our conviction that democratic institutions and the rule of law are the keys to unlocking the enormous human potential of Russia, America and any other society in the 21st century. We make those arguments with humility, and well-aware of our own considerable imperfections. Winston Churchill once remarked that ”what I like most about Americans is that they always do the right thing in the end … it’s just that they always like to exhaust all the alternatives first.” Churchill had a point; we make our share of mistakes, as recent history will attest. But our institutions, and our commitment to freedom of speech and equal administration of justice, have helped us correct those mistakes, and guard against corruption and abuse of power. We do not seek to impose our system on anyone else, but we do believe firmly, as President Obama put it in his speech to the New Economic School in Moscow last July, that “the arc of history shows that governments which serve their own people survive and thrive … governments which serve only their own power do not.”
Russia will make its own choices as it seeks to modernize, innovate, diversify beyond hydrocarbons, and compete effectively in a new century. It will not be easy to translate into practice President Medvedev’s admirable emphasis on fighting corruption, empowering civil society and building respect for rule of law – especially against a backdrop in which the murders of seven journalists in 2009 go unpunished, a high-profile lawyer apparently dies of neglect while being held in pre-trial detention, and peaceful expressions of dissent are met with intolerance. Russians, in my experience, generally contain their enthusiasm for the preachy and patronizing tone which we have sometimes employed on these matters, but that doesn’t mean that we should shy away from expressing our concerns. And far more importantly than what Americans think, it is deeply in the self-interest of Russians and their future to address all of those challenges.
The Road Ahead
Alongside the concrete accomplishments of the past year, the atmospherics of bilateral relations are improving. Pollsters report that over 50% of Russians now have a positive view of the United States, compared to around 30% at the end of 2008. But we will not sustain that progress unless we build on the foundation which has been laid, and widen the arc of cooperation. We need a relationship that is about more than New START and nuclear security, important as those issues are. We need a relationship that connects us more actively and intimately on the other great challenges before us in the 21st century, from economic modernization to climate change and energy security. And we need a relationship that connects our societies, and especially our young people, in ways that can help shape a more hopeful future for both of us.
Nowhere is that task more important in 2010 and the years beyond than in economic cooperation. The truth is that this is one of the most under-developed areas of our relationship. In the wake of the battering that we’ve both taken during the global economic crisis, it’s time to consider a more ambitious approach to strengthening our economic ties. In his state of the federation address last November, President Medvedev acknowledged that Russians have not freed themselves from a “humiliating dependence” on raw materials exports. Just as importantly, he cited Russia’s weak rule of law and pervasive corruption as anchors on Russia’s economic performance and potential. He noted that Russia remains the only G20 member outside the World Trade Organization, which serves neither Russia’s long-term interests nor those of the rest of us. Both President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin have pointed to demographic decline as another serious impediment to Russia’s revival. That is hardly an academic problem for the barely 30 million Russians living east of the Urals, in all of the vastness of Siberia and the Russian Far East, sitting on just about everything in the periodic table of elements.
It is very much in the interests of the United States to contribute to Russia’s economic modernization, to its full integration into international economic institutions like the WTO and OECD, and to the full development of its remarkable resources – not only those in the ground, but especially those in the minds and intellects of its talented people. Two way trade between our countries was a paltry $24 billion last year, with two way investment even smaller. We can, indeed we must, do better, as Prime Minister Putin and Secretary Clinton discussed in Moscow last month. Major American firms like Boeing, Alcoa and Microsoft have expanded investments as a sign of confidence in Russia’s long-term health, and the long-term promise of our economic relationship. Russian interest in the American market is rising, reflected in Aleksey Mordashov’s multi-billion dollar bet on the U.S. steel industry. It is worth it for both of us to take a hard look at how we might reenergize Russia’s WTO accession bid, despite the considerable complications posed by Russia’s decision to enter into a customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus, both of whom are also still outside the WTO. And it is long past time to repeal the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which has long since served its original purpose.
The visit to Russia of the American innovation delegation that I mentioned earlier highlights the promise of mutually-reinforcing, knowledge-based sectors in both our economies, essential to building a multi-dimensional relationship with Russia that takes us beyond the confines of government ministries. The tens of thousands of Russians who live and work in Silicon Valley, and the steadily increasing pool of young, tech-savvy entrepreneurs in Russia, are evidence of what Russia has to offer, and of the possibilities for much greater cooperation in science and technology. Energy efficiency is another area in which both of us have a lot to gain by working together. Russia can save significantly if it reduces wasteful gas flaring and increases commercial energy conservation, and we can jointly develop the technology and practices to help make that possible. We can also do more together to pursue clean, renewable energy sources. Civilian nuclear cooperation is an area of particular promise, and reviving the effort to seek Congressional approval of the 123 agreement signed by Russia and the United States two years ago would be a concrete, positive step. Progress along these fronts would help Russia reduce carbon emissions, and help it protect the hugely important clean water and forest resources of Siberia.
As we seek to expand the base of the Russian-American relationship, and begin to put into it more of the economic ballast which is such a critical feature of some of our other Great Power relationships, we must also obviously continue to preserve and build upon the progress we’ve made in security and other areas over the past year. We have tough work ahead of us to sustain our partnership on Iran. We need to use New START and the successful Nuclear Security Summit as a springboard to strengthen the global nonproliferation regime at the NPT Review Conference, and set a careful agenda for further arms reductions.
Missile defense, which has been a source of such suspicion and tension between us, can instead be a transformative opportunity for the United States and Russia. Our two countries have devoted more study and resources than any other to defending against the threat from ballistic missiles. We have much to learn from each other. We have already begun a joint threat assessment. It would make sense to take a fresh look at the Joint Data Exchange Center initiative which we began a decade ago. And we can explore practical steps toward cooperation on missile defense, consistent with the new phased adaptive approach of the Obama Administration.
We have a chance to build better understandings on European security issues, preserving mechanisms which have worked well in the past and taking up President Medvedev’s call to examine ways of improving transparency and preventing conflict. There is more we can do together on Afghanistan, and in counter-narcotics cooperation. We can enhance bilateral cooperation on disaster relief and emergency situations, and use that as a stimulus for wider multilateral cooperation, including through the G8. We can do much the same in expanding the G8 Global Partnership, completing ongoing projects to secure nuclear and chemical materials in Russia, and applying the lessons we’ve learned to other countries. We can further develop our partnership in the Arctic. We can focus more attention on our trans-Pacific connections, pursuing the possibility of a shared heritage area across the Bering Strait, designating protected parklands on the coasts of Alaska and Chukotka. We can continue the cooperation in space which our two countries have led for so many years. And we can seek to expand exchanges among students, athletes, scientists and artists.
A Final Note, and A New Start
John Maynard Keynes once wrote that “the difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas, as in escaping from old ones.” The past has indeed been a heavy burden on the future of relations between Russia and America, from the complex inheritance of Cold War animosity to the perceived humiliations of the 1990s to the adversarial drift that emerged at the end of the last Administration. Over the past year, President Obama and President Medvedev have made a promising new start, beginning to move beyond past frustrations and grievances, and producing tangible results. The New START agreement which they signed in Prague six days ago is the most impressive, and most fittingly named, example.
There is certainly much that is tentative and fragile about that progress. Sustaining a positive direction will take continued hard work, and a strong mutual commitment to widen our cooperation beyond nuclear and security issues, and to invest broader contacts with deeper content. The concept of “reset” carried with it the misleading notion that the slate could be wiped clean with the push of a button, starting anew unburdened by the past. Reality, of course, is a little more complicated. But for the first time in a long time, the possibilities before us outnumber the problems. That is a very good thing for Russians and Americans, and for the entire world.