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12 February 2004

Vershbow Describes Global Security Challenges to Russian Students

Feb. 12: U.S. Ambassador to Russia at International University in Moscow

The threats to global security in the 21st century are "shared threats that can only be overcome through partnerships," U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow told students at the International University in Moscow February 12.

Vershbow focused his remarks on five threats:

- international terrorism;
- the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD);
- the growing economic divide between developed and developing countries;
- "failed governance, especially the failure of some states to guarantee the basic human rights and freedoms of their citizens"; and
- the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

Regarding terrorism, Vershbow expressed the hope that the United States and Russia can "work ever more closely together, and with other countries ... not only through increased information sharing, but also through operational coordination by our militaries, law enforcement agencies, and intelligence services to break up terrorist networks and their sources of weapons and finance."

"And frankly," he added, "we must work to ensure that no country stands outside the coalition against terror, as we must deny terrorists even a single safe haven."

Turning to the subject of weapons of mass destruction, he said he hoped Russia "will seriously consider joining the efforts of the United States and other leading European and Asian countries under President Bush's Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) to stem this threat by working together to intercept dangerous weapons and WMD technologies before they fall into the hands of states or terrorist organizations that mean us harm."

Vershbow said the United States is addressing the gap between developed and developing nations through President Bush's Millennium Challenge Account, which conditions U.S. assistance on a demonstrable commitment to fighting corruption, respecting human rights, embracing the rule of law, investing in health care and education, and following responsible economic policies.

And while the United States acknowledges there is no single path to meeting human rights principles, Vershbow said it is committed "to speaking out honestly about violations of human rights and to making freedom and the development of democratic institutions key themes in our bilateral relations with all nations."

Vershbow also discussed the challenge to security posed by the "democratic deficit" in key regions of the world, where "[w]hole societies remain stagnant while the world moves ahead, which is a recipe for desperation and the violence that desperation breeds." Threats to basic human values in one country, he said, "breed resentment and social unrest that can pose a danger to neighboring states and to the stability of the international community."

The U.S. ambassador concluded his speech in Moscow by citing a threat to national stability and global security from a source that some people might consider surprising: new and emerging diseases, in particular, HIV/AIDS.

Vershbow said he truly believes that HIV/AIDS "may represent the single greatest threat to Russian society since the Great Patriotic War [World War II]." At the same time, he said, there is "perhaps no better example of two former rivals working as partners against a common enemy" than that of the United States and Russia working together to develop a vaccine and treatments for HIV/AIDS.

"Given their many common interests and threats, I believe that the United States and Russia share a common destiny in the 21st century, a destiny in which we and other like-minded nations will cooperate broadly to build a better and more secure future for ourselves and for all humanity," Vershbow said.

A Russian language version of the ambassador's speech is available on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow: http://moscow.usembassy.gov/ambassador/speechr.php?speech_id=78

Following is the English text as prepared for delivery:

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International University in Moscow
February 12, 2004

Global Security in the 21st Century: New Challenges, New Partnerships

Speech by Alexander Vershbow, U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation

It's a pleasure to speak today to the students of Moscow International University and I'd like to thank Rector Sergey Nikolayevich Krasavchenko for inviting me. I'm pleased to see President Gavriil Kharitonovich Popov here as well. This is not the first time I've spoken to the students and faculty here. On September 11, 2002, I was honored to take part in a commemoration held to mark the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States. It was a moving ceremony that reconfirmed my belief that the United States and Russia stand together in the fight against international terrorism. And with the tragic events last week in Moscow, I want to reaffirm that just as you stood with us after the catastrophic attacks of September 11, 2001, we stand with you today.

It's a privilege to participate in the February session of International University's lecture series. In the September session, you heard from an impressive group of speakers, who I am honored to follow, and I understand why you have been able to attract such speakers: Russia's university students, including those at the International University, are an impressively bright, articulate and well-informed group. I particularly appreciate your attendance at a ten o'clock session, as I know that is an intolerably early hour for university students. I promise to do my best to keep the session stimulating, and will limit my remarks to allow plenty of time for questions.

Today, I want to speak to you about global security in the 21st century, and in particular about the new and very different threats countries like the United States and Russia face in the post-Cold War era. I'd like to sketch briefly what I believe are some of the major challenges to global security today and explain what the United States is doing in cooperation with other countries to address such security challenges.

For many, especially people of my generation, the phrase "global security" conjures up images of missile silos and aircraft carriers. During the Cold War, security was usually defined within the context of the global political rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union and depended on a wide-ranging network of alliances. Competition for the support of nonaligned countries was fierce and one side's loss meant the other side's gain. Security was guaranteed by a balance of power; some fittingly called it a balance of terror. An array of arms control agreements designed to monitor and limit the military capabilities of the other side introduced a modicum of sanity into a seemingly irrational arms race.

I'm personally familiar with this aspect of security. Having joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1977, I spent the first decade of my diplomatic career working to manage the Cold War rivalry, participating in the SALT II, START and INF arms control negotiations, and in dozens of tense meetings with former Foreign Minister Gromyko, while responding to the many crises that confronted us in those days.

Then, in the late 1980s, we suddenly faced a new reality, which few expected and for which few were prepared. From the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 through the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 and beyond, the world has undergone a series of remarkable transformations. Freedom and the enjoyment of democratic liberties have begun to take root in many countries around the globe. At the same time, the integration of capital, information, technology and even people across national boundaries - a complex process often called "globalization" - has accelerated. These profound economic and technological changes have had a revolutionary effect on the nature of global security threats.

Until recently, the possession of vast territories, natural resources, and overwhelming military power were seen as the guarantors of peace, prosperity and security. Now, investment in human capital, economic and social development, and the formation of cooperative partnerships among nations are the keys to international security. The sources of national strength and security for one nation need no longer threaten the security of others and, indeed, they are likely to contribute to it. Happily, the zero-sum mentality that one's gain is the other's loss is no longer the operating principle of international relations. Today nations - especially the great powers - can pull in the same direction to solve problems common to all.

What are the problems that threaten global security and stability in the 21st century? Although they are many, I would like to briefly discuss five such threats: international terrorism; the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; the growing economic divide between developed countries and developing ones; failed governance, especially the failure of some states to guarantee the basic human rights and freedoms of their citizens; and the spread of virulent new diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

The attacks launched against the United States on September 11, 2001, convinced Americans that no nation was immune from the threat of international terrorism. Although terrorists have targeted Americans for several decades in various parts of the world, it literally hit home on that day. An outraged American public understandably wanted those responsible brought to justice, and future attacks on our homeland prevented. Thus, it is only natural that the war on terrorism has become the United States' number one foreign policy priority. But terrorism is not just America's problem; last week's tragic attack in Moscow again demonstrated that terrorism is, to quote President Putin, "the plague of the 21st century." The entire civilized world must unite against this plague, which knows no boundaries.

Muscovites know too well that terrorism threatens the most basic governmental function, which is to guarantee the physical integrity and safety of citizens. It often uses the intricate web of modern technology and communication that is a product of globalization to threaten the very civilization that made such advances possible. The threat of terrorism creates a common interest in cooperation among all countries that value peace, prosperity, and the rule of law. To quote Secretary Powell, "we must reassure people everywhere that the world has not just traded one kind of danger for another with the end of the Cold War. The victory of freedom will turn hollow if new fears replace old ones."

Defeating terrorism is a priority that drives not only our efforts to thwart individual terrorists and to deter their state supporters but also is the motive behind our cooperative efforts with many nations, including Russia, in law enforcement and intelligence sharing. The Taliban could not have been toppled so quickly and a representative government established in Kabul without the important logistical, intelligence, humanitarian and political assistance that Russia provided. And not only the United States, but also Russia, its Central Asian neighbors and many other countries are far more secure today because of the destruction of Al Qaeda's base of operations, the elimination of thousands of terrorist fighters, and the establishment of a responsible regime in Afghanistan.

We hope that the United States and Russia can work ever more closely together, and with other countries, to step up the fight against terrorism - not only through increased information sharing, but also through operational coordination by our militaries, law enforcement agencies, and intelligence services to break up terrorist networks and their sources of weapons and finance. And frankly, we must work to ensure that no country stands outside the coalition against terror, as we must deny terrorists even a single safe haven.

In his speech at the National Defense University in Washington yesterday, President Bush said: "The greatest threat before humanity today is the possibility of secret and sudden attack with chemical or biological or radiological or nuclear weapons." The thought that terrorists or their state sponsors could get access to weapons of mass destruction is indeed a terrifying one. That is why we view the spread of such weapons and related delivery technologies to be one of the most pressing threats to global security, a view that my government shares with yours. We have a unified stance against the two main challengers to the global nuclear nonproliferation regime, Iran and North Korea. We also hope that Russia will seriously consider joining the efforts of the United States and other leading European and Asian countries under President Bush's Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) to stem this threat by working together to intercept dangerous weapons and WMD technologies before they fall into the hands of states or terrorist organizations that mean us harm.

The United States and Russia already can look to some important achievements in our joint effort to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Thousands of former Soviet weapons scientists and technicians are making the difficult transition to civil, commercial and research applications of their skills, reducing the risk that a rogue scientist might sell his expertise to terrorists. Likewise, together we are working to secure nuclear material recovered from warheads demobilized under our arms control treaties. In these cases, by marrying American financial resources with Russian political will, we are helping to reduce the threat to the world at large.

Terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction represent two of the more immediate threats to global security, but there are many other, longer-term threats. Frankly, the growing economic, political and social divide between the developed and the developing world represents a long-term threat to global stability that we must address, not only out of a sense of moral responsibility, but also out of hard-nosed self-interest. The lack of economic security and human freedom across much of the globe creates fertile ground for religious fanaticism and political extremism, which in turn feeds terrorism.

Clearly, a world in which some live in comfort and plenty, while half the human race lives on less than $2 a day, is neither just nor stable. However, over the years, we have seen massive amounts of development assistance fail to spur economic growth in the poorest countries in the world. The United States is actively working now with other nations to confront the failure of traditional development programs. We support the emerging consensus that sustained growth and poverty reduction is impossible without the right national policies in developing nations.

At the recent United Nations Development Conference in Monterrey, Mexico, President Bush recognized that "Developed nations have a duty not only to share our wealth, but also to encourage sources that produce wealth: economic freedom, political liberty, the rule of law and human rights." His Millennium Challenge Account will increase development assistance in FY2006 to $5 billion annually, 50% more than current core development assistance. The assistance will go only to those developing nations that demonstrate a commitment to fighting corruption, respecting basic human rights, embracing the rule of law, investing in health care and education, and following responsible economic policies.

Industrialized countries are not exempt from the need to pursue sound economic policies. The global economy in the 21st century is based on a system of mutual trade and investment and the free flow of information. Economic growth supported by free trade and free markets creates new jobs and prosperity globally, and helps lessen resentments and social unrest. American economic security - and the economic security of other countries, including Russia - depends upon the proper functioning of the global economic system. We have learned that making our neighbors and partners more stable and prosperous makes us stronger and more prosperous as well. More specifically, it is in our interest that Russia be a strong partner to help us in confronting our common challenges.

The United States is engaged across the board in efforts to promote economic security, through the new global trade negotiations launched at Doha, through regional initiatives such as the Free Trade Area of the Americas, and through efforts to promote the connection between trade and development. In this context, the United States strongly supports Russia's efforts to join the World Trade Organization, and encourages it to continue all the liberalization and institutional reforms that WTO accession requires.

Just as the lack of economic security in some countries threatens global stability, so does the failure of some governments to guarantee their citizens basic human rights, political freedom and personal security. This "democratic deficit" in key regions of the world, especially the Greater Middle East, is the fourth of the threats to global security that I would like to address today. We believe firmly that there are certain unalienable principles of human dignity: the rule of law; free speech; freedom of worship; equal justice; equality for women and ethnic tolerance; and respect for private property. These basic principles of human rights are set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that reflects the consensus of the world community. There is no single path to meeting these principles. But many nations, with different histories, cultures and conditions, have successfully incorporated these core principles into their own unique systems of governance. Threats to these basic human values in one country breed resentment and social unrest that can pose a danger to neighboring states and to the stability of the international community.

The United States is committed to speaking out honestly about violations of human rights and to making freedom and the development of democratic institutions key themes in our bilateral relations with all nations. Increasingly, we find that by partnering with other like-minded nations in addressing human rights violations, poor governance and regional conflicts, we are able to leverage our influence and achieve even greater success.

Our commitment to democracy and reform has now led us to pursue a new strategy, what President Bush has called "a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East." The details of this approach are still being defined, but we are already talking with our friends and allies about the joint efforts needed to help the nations of the Greater Middle East confront real political and economic problems and achieve responsible government.

We recognize the challenge posed by the "democratic deficit" in the region. As a United Nations report by Arab scholars noted last year, the global wave of democracy has barely reached the Arab states. But the consequences of this lagging political development demand our attention - poverty is deep and spreading, women are denied rights and opportunities. Whole societies remain stagnant while the world moves ahead, which is a recipe for desperation and the violence that desperation breeds. We believe that only by encouraging Middle Eastern efforts to achieve democratic freedoms and economic reforms can we hope to address the appeal of extremists who thrive where liberty does not flourish, and who attract people to terrorist groups. In Afghanistan, our efforts to promote a free and stable democracy have already met with some success, with the approval by the Afghans of a new constitution that guarantees the rights of all its citizens. We are now working closely with Iraqi citizens, the United Nations and our coalition partners to help the Iraqis to build a democracy after three decades of tyranny. We know it will not be easy, but our hope is that what can be achieved in Iraq can serve as an example for other nations in the region.

There is one other final threat to global security that I wish to discuss today, one that was unimaginable a generation ago, the threat from new and emerging diseases. The crisis of HIV/AIDS in particular threatens a basic principle of human development: that each generation will live better than the one before it. You may be surprised that I would address a disease in a discussion on global security, but I believe that HIV/AIDS threatens the stability of numerous countries around the world.

According to UNAIDS, there are presently approximately 50 million individuals worldwide infected with HIV/AIDS. In the last year alone, five million people have been infected with HIV. Three million more have died, leaving behind anguished loved ones, abandoned children, ravaged communities. HIV/AIDS has deepened poverty, reduced life expectancy, diverted state resources, and left a generation to grow up without the love, guidance, and support of parents and teachers. There are more than 11 million children under the age of 15 in sub-Saharan Africa who have lost at least one parent to AIDS. By 2010, there will be approximately 20 million children in sub-Saharan Africa who have lost at least one parent to AIDS.

The devastating effects of this disease are not limited to Africa alone. There are over 250,000 officially registered cases in Russia, although many experts estimate the real numbers are far higher. In fact, the rate of increase of HIV infections in Russia is one of the fastest in the world, approximately one every 12 minutes, or some seven new infections during our time together today. In Russia, over 90% of infections are occurring among people under age 30, promising young people like you who are just entering their productive years. HIV/AIDS is reaching the general population, not just marginal groups such as intravenous drug users or homosexuals. I truly believe HIV/AIDS may represent the single greatest threat to Russian society since the Great Patriotic War.

Although HIV/AIDS poses an enormous threat, it is a threat that sensible public policy and responsible personal behavior can overcome. The United States has worked with other nations and the UN to set up a Global Trust Fund to fight AIDS and other diseases. In response to this new plague, President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief represents the largest commitment in history by a single nation for an international health initiative to combat a specific disease. It offers $15 billion over the course of five years to prevent new HIV infections, provide medicine to millions of HIV-positive individuals, care for millions of people living with HIV/AIDS, and help children orphaned by the disease. With Russia, the United States is committed to working together as allies in the war against HIV/AIDS. American experts and community organizations are sharing their experience with their Russian counterparts while U.S. and Russian researchers are joining forces to work on vaccine development and the treatment of HIV. There is perhaps no better example of two former rivals working as partners against a common enemy.

I hope that my remarks today illustrate that in the post-Cold War era, threats to global stability and security arise not from military rivalry, but rather from such problems as terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and disease, and ultimately from poverty and lack of democratic governance. There are no easy solutions to these threats, and "going it alone" is not an option. The threats that we face today are shared threats that can only be overcome through partnerships. The United States seeks to build such partnerships, with new friends as well as with traditional allies. Given their many common interests and threats, I believe that the United States and Russia share a common destiny in the 21st century, a destiny in which we and other like-minded nations will cooperate broadly to build a better and more secure future for ourselves and for all humanity.

And Russia's success in shaping that future will depend on you. The Russian Federation is a young and still emerging democracy. The choices your leaders make in response to the challenges I have described must reflect the consensus and the wisdom of the Russian people. You no longer have the luxury of being a passive consumer of the fruits of freedom; you must be an active participant in the affairs of you nation. Whether, at the end of your studies, you pursue a career in business, journalism, government or an NGO, you must ensure that your voice and your views on the direction your country is taking are heard. Thomas Jefferson said that the safest place to keep the awesome power of the state was among the people themselves, so long as the people were well-informed. And the responsibility for that, ultimately, rests with you.

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