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Text: Challenges for American Leadership in the 21St Century

I'd like to talk with you today about the challenges for American leadership in the world as we head into the 21st Century -- about how we've met the challenges of today and how we are preparing for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow. We are entering a period of extraordinary opportunity for America. Our nation is at peace. Our economy is strong. Democracy and free markets are on the rise. Our values are ascendant around the world.

But even though circumstances are as hopeful as at any time in our history, we face clear threats that demand America's global leadership as much as ever. While the end of the Cold War has left us without a single monolithic threat, we confront old dangers -- such as rogue states bent on destruction as well as ethnic and religious conflict -- as well as a host of new ones demanding new priorities, including terrorism, transnational organized crime and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

In addressing these threats, our leadership must be firm, far-sighted and it must be backed by the American people. Time and again, we have seen that it is as important today to have bipartisan consensus behind our foreign policy as it was when our nation addressed itself to the great tasks of the postwar period. The creation of the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions ... the Marshall Plan ... the founding of NATO ... and the long hard struggle to victory in the Cold War -- all these efforts succeeded because they had bipartisan support. More recently, this kind of support undergirded our efforts to advance our interests by passing NAFTA and GATT, promoting both reform in the former Soviet Union and the Middle East Peace Process. Today we must maintain that consensus or our efforts will be hampered and our success in doubt.

If we have bipartisan backing ... and if we continue to lead ... we have an extraordinary opportunity to advance our interests and ideals. The purpose of American leadership abroad remains, first and foremost, to safeguard our nation and our citizens against all threats to security and our prosperity. With strong leadership, we can help shape events around the globe to advance our interests and promote our values. In an era when information -- and disinformation -- is catapulted across the globe in the fraction of a second --- when capital, ideas and individuals cross borders at a staggering speed ... our engagement must be broad and constant. Isolation is no longer an option. As much as ever, America must lead.

To see just how vital America's leadership abroad is for our nation's well-being, let's look back at some of the challenges that faced President Clinton when he entered the White House.

-- When the President took the oath of office, Europe's worst war since 1945 raged in the former Yugoslavia, killing thousands and threatening the security of our allies. But because America led, the bloodshed in Bosnia has stopped. The Bosnian people have held elections, and are turning from the horror of war to the tasks of peace.

-- In Haiti, a vicious dictatorship scorned the will of the people and the international community ... and prompted thousands of refugees to take to the seas ... and flood our shores. But because America led in Haiti, the generals are gone, the flow of refugees has stopped and the Haitian people have the best chance to build a democracy in their history.

-- In North Korea, a nuclear capacity that had been brewing since the mid-1980s could have led to nuclear facilities there churning out enough plutonium for dozens of bombs a year. But America led, marshaling an international coalition to face this threat. Now, North Korea's nuclear program is frozen under international supervision, it will be dismantled and a proposal for discussing a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula is on the table.

-- In the Gulf, Saddam Hussein continued to menace our allies and stability in this vital region. Yet America, with strong support from both parties, has led there too. We have tightened the strategic straitjacket on Saddam ... made it harder for him to threaten Saudi Arabia and Kuwait ... and easier to stop him if he does.

-- The collapse of the former Soviet Union left the possibility that there would be three new nuclear weapons states -- and that the nuclear danger that has hung over our nation for half a century might become more threatening than during the Cold War. The U.S. and both parties in Congress took the lead. Now, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakstan will give up the weapons left on their soil by the end of the year. And, through START I and START II, Russian and American arsenals will be reduced by two-thirds from Cold War levels.

These were urgent crises that the President faced when he took office in 1993. As is the nature of foreign policy, these issues aren't "solved," but we have made substantial, meaningful progress.

Now, we face a new set of opportunities in foreign policy -- opportunities to continue laying the foundation for security and prosperity in the 21st Century. Because of America's unrivaled strength, prestige and history, we have a unique capability to shape a future that will benefit us and the generations to come. I'd like to talk today about how we can build on this record and the priorities the next President -- whoever he may be -- must set.

I'd like to focus on five key challenges: first, the more traditional task of refitting the architecture of our security alliances for the next century. Next, with the end of the Cold War, we face four new opportunities demanding new priorities, even as we build on previous efforts. These include: reducing the threat of weapons of mass destruction ... attacking the scourge of terrorism ... preparing for the humanitarian crises of tomorrow --- and building the international economic system for this new era.

First, the foremost responsibility of any President is to maintain our security. The next President must continue to strengthen the security alliances that are at the heart of our nation's defense and have served us well for nearly half a century enjoying strong bipartisan support. Our commitment to these alliances has been unwavering, and we have maintained roughly 100,000 troops in Europe and 100,000 in Asia. Now, we are adapting these alliances to serve us for the next half century -- and beyond.

In Europe, we seek the goal of building a single, undivided, peaceful continent in history -- a development that is profoundly in America's interest. Beginning in 1994, the President laid out a strategy for European integration that included political, economic and military dimensions. The Partnership for Peace was created. And last week in Detroit, the President announced the next step when he declared that it is America's goal that the first group of new NATO members be admitted by 1999. The prospect of NATO membership will continue to be open to those of Europe's emerging democracies that seek it -- and that have strengthened their institutions and are prepared to shoulder the burdens of membership. And, in parallel with NATO enlargement, we are pressing to build a strong NATO-Russia relationship that will advance our goal of an undivided Europe.

In Asia, we must continue to reinvigorate our key alliances. Last April, President Clinton and Prime Minister Hashimoto signed a new security charter that will benefit all of Asia. Since 1952, our security ties with Japan have been essential to creating the stable environment that has enabled countries in the region to focus more on their economies than their weaponry. Our work with South Korea in confronting the North Korean nuclear program has reduced tensions that threatened all of Northeast Asia. We have also strengthened our alliances with Australia, Thailand and the Philippines -- ties that President Clinton looks forward to deepening on his visit to those countries next month. And we have magnified the power of our forward-deployed forces by expanding our access to military facilities in the region.

But to meet the new, less traditional threats and challenges of the post-Cold War era, we can no longer rely solely on our traditional alliances. In confronting dangers that know no boundaries -- the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or terrorism and international crime -- we must create new priorities if we are to achieve the security our people require. As the world's sole superpower, only America can provide the leadership to meet the demands of this fast-changing era. Doing so will require strong bipartisan support and new thinking.

Second, the end of the Cold War offers us new opportunities to place a new priority on reducing the nuclear threat to our cities and citizens. Especially in this age of terrorism, this is one of the most serious responsibilities facing any American President. That is why this Administration has pursued the most ambitious nonproliferation agenda in history -- and made real strides in improving the security of our nation.

Last month, at the United Nations, President Clinton was the first world leader to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the longest-sought, hardest-fought achievement in arms control history. Now, because of vigorous American diplomacy ... we have been able to work with China and Russia in ways that only a few years ago would have been inconceivable ... and we have forged a coalition for a safer future. As a result, the likelihood of future arms races has been dramatically reduced -- and the chance that other nations will acquire nuclear weapons has been reduced. Last year, the same kind of American effort led to the unconditional and indefinite extension of the Nonproliferation Treaty, which is the cornerstone of our arms control efforts. Together with the gains we made through these initiatives ... the START treaties --- and the President's agreement with President Yeltsin to detarget missiles, these accomplishments have helped lift the cloud of nuclear danger that hung over our nation for nearly half a century. And they would not have been possible without strong bipartisan support.

President Clinton is convinced we can build on this record. He is determined to win ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which fell victim to partisan politics this year -- but which, can provide essential tools to prevent chemical weapons from ever being used against our citizens and soldiers. He will seek a cutoff of production of fissile material -- to further reduce the ability of rogue states and terrorists to acquire the materials they want to build nuclear weapons. He will work to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention, adding provisions requiring declarations of weapons stocks and on-site inspections. And he has resolved to negotiate as soon as possible a global ban on the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of landmines -- so, as he said, "the children of the world can walk without fear on the earth beneath them."

Third, as global borders come down, the threat of terrorism is increasing, demanding that we make the fight against terrorism one of our highest priorities. We know that terrorists benefit from the same openness in communications and transportation that has contributed so much to our prosperity. And as the world's only superpower, America remains a target at risk. That is why the President sought and received an additional $1 billion from Congress to give our own law enforcement the most powerful counter-terrorism tools available and to increase security in our airports and on our aircraft. We must also work harder to enlist the support of our allies for our anti-terror efforts. To that end, the President has called for a world coalition with zero tolerance for terrorism. We must see to it that terrorists find no haven from which to launch their attacks. The world community must turn up the pressure on states and parties that support terror. That's why the President signed into law a bill mandating sanctions against those entities who seek to invest large sums in Iran or Libya. Our friends and allies must not do business by day with those who seek to kill our citizens by night.

With these goals in mind, President Clinton shifted the priorities of this year's G-7 summit -- and won the adoption of 40 American proposals to combat transnational crime and terrorism. One month later in Paris, G-7 experts agreed on how to implement these steps to increase law enforcement measures, intelligence sharing, extradition and cooperation in other areas. Earlier this year, after the spate of terrorist bombings in Israel, the President called for and co-hosted the historic Summit of the Peacemakers at Sharm el-Shaikh, which brought together 29 regional and world leaders -- many from the Arab world -- for the first such broad-based stand against terror and for the Middle East Peace Process. Tough bipartisan promotion of these initiatives -- coupled with our non-proliferation efforts -- is making us better prepared in the battle against terror.

Fourth, one of the toughest but most important bureaucratic struggles is to make preparing for the humanitarian crises of the future a high priority. In the age of the all-seeing camera, we know that Americans want their government to lend a hand when disaster strikes -- and they should. But we shouldn't wait until there is a catastrophe. Prevention is cheaper -- first and foremost in human lives, but also in financial and moral terms. Let me give you an example of one area in which we are getting ahead of the curve.

Two years ago, the world watched in horror as hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were slaughtered in genocidal violence. Now, we are deeply concerned about the instability in eastern Zaire, where ethnic fighting is driving hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees from their camps. In addition, in nearby Burundi, violence threatens to explode. Whether in the Great Lakes region or elsewhere, a massive humanitarian crisis is highly likely in Africa. And yet, the international community is no better equipped to respond to a humanitarian disaster in Africa today than it was two years ago in Rwanda.

To address this urgent need, President Clinton has proposed a long-term partnership between African states and donor nations to build an indigenous capability to cope with such humanitarian emergencies. Last month, he authorized efforts to create what we call an African Crisis Response Force (ACRF), which would provide limited training and equipment from donor nations to 5,000-10,000 troops from several African countries, enabling a quick and effective response to humanitarian crises and conflicts.

The ACRF would not be a standing African army, but rather a "stand-by" capability in which troops from various nations could be trained, equipped, and stationed in their home countries until a decision is taken to deploy. Once authorized by the UNSC, we envision an African-led and manned force that would conduct limited missions.

This is not a short-term fix but a long-term effort to help Africans and the international community save lives. It is not an excuse for Western nations to disengage from Africa. Rather, it gives us another tool for responding to crises. It also has real long-term benefits by developing relationships with responsible African militaries that will help promote stability on the continent and elsewhere. In the last two years, the United States has spent more than $800 million coping with the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide. For a fraction of that amount, we can work cooperatively with other donors and African nations to help them respond effectively and swiftly to crises on the continent. We are especially pleased to have secured $20 million from Congress last month for this initiative -- and encouraging sign that we can make such preventative planning a bipartisan priority.

Lastly, just as we must make meeting new threats a priority, we must also make creating the opportunities that are essential for our nation's well-being a priority. Indeed, President Clinton came into office convinced not only that our definition of national security must encompass our economic well-being, but that the economic and security components of our foreign policy must go hand-in-hand if either is to succeed. Today, the revolutionary advances in information technology ... which have eliminated so many of the barriers of time and space ... have made it even more imperative that we seize the chance before us to clear the way to the prosperity of the future. That's why from the beginning of his term, the President has dedicated himself to building an open trading system for the 21st century which enjoys the support of the American people.

With the most far-reaching trade agenda ever, the Administration, working with our Congress, has made great strides toward the creation of a new global trading system. In fact, we have turned an historic corner: the question is no longer whether to promote free and fair trade but how quickly we can do so. The more than 200 trade agreements that we have concluded over the last four years -- including NAFTA and the Uruguay Round of GATT -- have opened more markets than ever before to our products, created almost one-and-a-half million export-related jobs, and made our country the world's number one exporter again.

We must now work to set forth the blueprints to achieve the ambitious goals of free trade areas in Latin America by 2005 and in Asia by the year 2020 -- the latter of which will be a central focus of the President's trip to the Asia Pacific Economic Council Summit (APEC) in the Philippines. Time and again, we find that by working to promote economic prosperity, we hasten progress on issues of peace and democracy, nonproliferation and terrorism. From South America to Southeast Asia, our promotion of open markets and economic development also supports our commitment to democracy and human rights. Because as societies open up economically, they inevitably become more open politically and develop a growing stake in peace and stability.

Whoever wins on November 5 will be faced with these challenges, and I hope will choose these priorities. The next President must fulfill the possibilities of this moment in Europe and Asia -- by taking alliances that were so vital in the long struggle of the Cold War and updating them for a new century. He must lead the fight against the threats and seize the opportunities this new era has brought. In efforts to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction, turn the tide on terrorists, prepare for the next humanitarian crisis and shape the economic architecture of the 21st century, it is clear that American leadership and a bipartisan consensus is vital. The challenge of the next President will be to meet these threats and opportunities forcefully with the right priorities and with the support of the American people. If he does, we can all be assured that the next century will be another American century as well.