12 February 2004
Vershbow Describes Global Security Challenges to Russian Students
Feb. 12: U.S. Ambassador to Russia at International University
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
- "failed governance, especially the failure of some states
to guarantee the basic human rights and freedoms of their citizens";
- 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:
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.