Address to U.S. Congress
Joint Session of Congress, Washington, D.C., 1992 (Transcribed from the video, GREAT SPEECHES, VOLUME X)
Please don't count the applause against the time that I have been allotted for speaking.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, members of Congress, ladies and gentlemen, it is indeed a great honor for me to address the Congress of the great land of freedom as the first everover 1,000 years of history of Russiapopularly elected president as a citizen of the great country which has made its choice in the favor of liberty and democracy.
For many years our two nations were the two powers, the two opposites. They wanted to make us implacable enemies, that effected the destinies of the world in a most tragic way. The world was shaken by the storms of confrontation. It was close to exploding, close to perishing, beyond salvation. That evil scenario is becoming a thing of the past. Reason begins to triumph over madness. We have left behind the period when America and Russia looked at each other through gun sites ready to pull the trigger at any time. Despite what we saw in the well-known American film, THE DAY AFTER, it can be said today, tomorrow will be a day of peace, a day less of fear and more of hope for the happiness of our children. The world can sigh in relief.
The idol of communism which spread everywhere social strife, animosity and unparalleled brutality which instilled fear in humanity has collapsed. It has collapsed never to rise again. I am here to assure you we shall not let it rise again in our land.
I am proud that the people of Russia have found strength to shake off the crushing burden of the totalitarian system. I am proud that I am addressing you on behalf of the great people whose dignity is restored. I admire ordinary Russian men and women who in spite of s...severe trials have preserved their intellectual integrity and are enduring tremendous hardships for the sake of the revival of their country. Russia has made its final choice in favor of a civilized way of life, common sense and universal human heritage. I am convinced that our people will reach that goal. There is no people on this earth who could be harmed by the air of freedom. There are no exceptions to that rule.
Liberty sets the mind free, fosters independent and unorthodox thinking and ideas, but it does not offer instant prosperity or happiness and wealth to everyone. This is something that politicians in particular must keep in mind. Even the most benevolent intentions will inevitably be abandoned and committed to oblivion if they are not translated into everyday effort. Our experience of the recent years has conclusively born that out. Liberty will not be fooled. There can be no co-existence between democracy and a totalitarian state system. There can be no co-existence between market economy and power to control everything and everyone. There can be no co-existence between a civic society which is plura...pluralist by definition and communist intolerance to dissent. The experience of the past decades has taught us communism has no human face. Freedom and communism are incompatible.
You will recall August 1991, when for three days Russia was under the dark cloud of dictatorship. I addressed the Muscovites who were defending the white house of Russia. I addressed all the people of Russia. I addressed them standing on top of the tank, whose crew had disobeyed criminal orders. I will be candid with you, at that moment I feared. But I had no fear for myself. I feared for the future of democracy in Russia and throughout the world because I was aware what could happen if we failed to win.
Citizens of Russia upheld their freedom and did not allow the continuation of the 75 years of nightmare. From this high rostrum I want to express our sincere thanks and gratitude to President Bush and to the American people for their invaluable moral support for the just cause of the people of Russia.
Last year citizens of Russia passed another difficult test of maturity. We chose to forego vengeance and the intoxicating craving for summary justice over the fallen colossus known under the name of the CPSU. There was no replay of history. The Communist Party citadel next to the Kremlin, the Communist Bastille, was not destroyed. There was not a hint of violence against communists in Russia. People simply brushed off the venomous dust of the past and went about their business. There was [sic] no lynch law trails in Russia. The doings of the Communist Party over many years have been deferred to the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation. I am confident that its verdict will be fair.
Russia has seen for itself that any delay in strengthening the foundations of freedom and democracy can throw this society far back. For us the ominous lesson of the past is relevant today as never before. It was precisely in a devastated country with an economy in near paralysis that bolshevism succeeded in building a totalitarian regime. Creating a gigantic war machine and an insatiable military industrial complex. This must not be allowed to happen again. That is why economic and political reforms are the primary task for Russia today. We are facing the challenges that no one has ever faced before at any one time.
We must carry through unprecedented reforms in the economy that over seven decades has been stripped of all market infra...infrastructure; lay the foundations for democracy and restore the rule of the law in the country that for scores of years was poisoned with social strife and political oppression; guarantee domestic, social and political stability as well as maintenance of civil peace. We have no right to fail in this most difficult endeavor, for there will be no second try as in sports. Our predecessors have used them all up. The reforms must succeed. I am given strength by the support of the majority of the citizens of Russia. The people of Russia are aware that there is no alternative to reform and that this is very important. My job, as everybody else's in Russia, is not an easy one, but in everything I do I have the reliable and invaluable support of my wife and of my entire large family.
Today, I'm telling you what I tell my fellow countrymen: I will not go back on the reforms, and it is practically impossible to topple Yeltsin in Russia. I am in good health, and I will not say "uncle" before I make the reforms irreversible. We realize our great responsibility for the success of our changes, not only toward the people of Russia, but also toward the citizens of America and of the entire world. Today the freedom of America is being upheld in Russia. Should the reforms fail, it will cost hundreds of billions to upset that failure.
Yesterday we concluded an unprecedented agreement on cutting down strategic offensive arsenals. They will be reduced radically in two phases, not by thrity percent or forty percent as negotiated previously over 15 years. They will be slashed to less than one third of today's strength, from 21,000 nuclear warheads on both sides down to 6, 7,000 by the year 2000, and it has taken us only 5 months to negotiate. And I fervently hope that George Bush and myself will be there in the year 2000 to preside over that.
We have simply no right to miss this unique opportunity. We must know that nuclear arms and the future of the Russian reforms designed to make impossible any restoration of the totalitarian dictatorship in Russian are so dramatically interrelated. I am here to say that we have the firm determination and the political will to move forward. We have proved that but [sic] what we have done. It is Russia that has put an end to the imperial policies and was the first to recognize the independence of the Baltic republics. Russia is a founding member of the Commonwealth of Independent States which has averted uncontrolled disintegration of the former empire and the threat of a general interethnic bloodbath. Russia has granted tangible powers to its autonomous republics. The Treaty of Federation has been signed, and our nation has escaped the fate of he Soviet Union. Russia has preserved its unity. It was Russia that has substantially slowed down the flywheel of militarization and is doing all it can to stop it altogether. I am formally announcing that without waiting for the treaty to be signed we have begun taking off alert the heavy SS-18 missiles targeted at the United States of America, and the defense minister of Russia is here in this room to confirm that. Russia has brought its policies towards a number of countries in line with its solemn declarations of the recent years. We have stopped arms deliveries to Afghanistan where the senseless military adventure has taken thousands of Russian and hundreds of thousands of Afghan lives. With external props removed, the puppet regime collapsed. We have corrected the well-known imbalances in relations with Cuba. At present that country is one of our Latin American partners. Our commerce with Cuba is based on universally accepted principles and world prices. It is Russia that once and for all has done away with double standards in foreign policy. We are firmly resolved not to lie any more either to our negotiating partners or to the Russian or American or any other people. There will be no more lies, ever.
The same applies to biological weapon experiments and the facts that have been revealed about American prisoners of war, the KAL 007 flight and many other things. That list could be continued. The archives of the KGB and the Communist Party Central Committee are being opened. Moreover, we are inviting the cooperation of the United States and other nations to investigate these dark pages. I promise you that each and every document and each and every archive will be examined in order to investigate the fate of every American unaccounted for. As President of Russia, I assure you that even if one American has been detained in my country and can still be found, I will find him. I will get him back to his family.
I thank you for the applause. I could see everybody rise. But I have also...But I...Some of you who have just risen here to applaud me have also written in the press that until Yeltsin gets things done and gets all the job done, there should be no act...no Freedom Support Act passing through the Congress. Well, I don't really quite understand you, ladies and gentlemen. This matter has been investigated and is being investigated. Yeltsin has already opened the archives and is inviting you to join us in investigating the fate of each and every unaccounted for American. So now you are being...You are telling me: first do the job and then we shall support you in passing that act. I don't quite understand you.
We have made tangible moves to make contacts between Russian and foreign business communities much easier. Under a recent legislation, foreign nationals who privatize a facility or a building in Russia are given property rights to the plot of land on which they are located. Legislation on bankruptcy has been recently been enacted. Mandatory sale of foreign currency to the state at an artificially low rate of exchange has been ended. We are ready to bring our legal practice, as much as possible, in line with world standards, of course, on the basis of symmetry with each country. We are inviting the private sector of the United States to invest in the unique and untapped Russian market and I'm saying, "Do not be late."
Now that the period of global confrontation is behind us, I call upon you to take a fresh look of [sic] the current policy of the United States towards Russia and also to take a fresh look at the longer term prospects of our relations. Russia is a different country today. Sometimes the obsolete standards brought into being by a different era are artificially imposed on new realities. True, that equally applies to us. Let us together, therefore, master the art of reconciliating differences on the basis of partnership which is the most efficient and democratic way. This would come naturally both for the Russians and the Americans. If this is done, many of the problems which are now impeding mutual, advantageous cooperation between Russia and the United States would become irrelevant, and I mean legislative frameworks too. It will not be a wasteful endeavor. On the contrary, it will promote a more efficient solution of your problems as well as of ours. And, of course, it will create new jobs in Russia as well as in the United States. History is giving us a chance to fulfill President Wilson's dream, mainly to make the world safe for democracy.
More than 30 years ago President Kennedy addressed these words to humanity: "My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America can do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man." I believe that his inspired call for working together towards a democratic world is addressed above all to our two peoplesto the people of America and to the people of Russia. Partnership and friendship of our two largest democracies is strengthening democracy, is indeed a great goal.
Joining the world community, we wish to preserve our identity, our own image and history, promote culture and strengthen moral standards of our people. We find relevant the warning of the great Russian philosopher [unintelligible] who said, "To negate Russia in the name of humankind is to rob the humankind." At the same time, Russia does not aspire to change the world in its own image. It is the fundamental principal of the new Russia to be generous and to share experience, moral values and emotional warmth rather than to impose and curse. It is the tradition of the Russian people to repay kindness with kindness. This is the bedrock of the Russian lifestyle, the underlying truth revealed by the great Russian culture. Free and democratic Russia will remain committed to this tenet. Today, free and democratic Russia is extending its hand of friendship to the people of America. Acting on the will of the people of Russia, I am inviting you, and through you the people of the United States, to join us in partnership, in the quest for freedom and justice in the 21st century.