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Remarks at a Meeting With Duma and Regional Leaders in Moscow

September 02, 1998

Thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador. I'd like to thank all of you who have come here today to Spaso House. I have met with several of you before here, and as always, I attempt to come to Russia with the view of listening to a wide variety of views and meeting everyone I can who is involved in the activities of the day.

I am pleased to be joined by the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright; our Secretary of Commerce, Bill Daley; and the Secretary of Energy, Bill Richardson; and with some distinguished Members of Congress. I see Senator Bingaman and Congressman King. I don't know if Senator Domenici and Congressman Hoyer are here or not. But we all want to get to know all of you.

I am proud of what America and Russia have achieved together in reducing the threat of nuclear war and in cooperating in areas like Bosnia. Today we announced two other steps to cooperate: First, in the sharing of early warning information on missile firings; and second, in a commitment to dramatically reduce our stocks of plutonium, a move that might also be of benefit to the Russian economy.

I'd like to, before I go out and start to visit with you individually, make just a couple of observations about the economic challenges facing Russia today. First of all, I recognize that around this room there are many different points of view represented, and I think that is a good thing for the strength of Russian democracy. Second, I think it's important to point out that all over the world there are many countries that have democratically-elected leaders and successful economies and rather dramatically different social systems, different approaches to achieving success economically with elected leadership. So Russia must have its own approaches that keep the nation strong, that care for the people who are in need, that prepare for the future of your children. And no other country can define that approach, and no other country's approach would be exactly right for Russia. But I do not believe you can find one country in the world that is economically successful that has completely ignored the ground rules of the global economy.

For all their differences, all the countries that are succeeding have some things in common. They have tax systems that are fair and bring in revenues adequate to meet their spending requirements. They have marketing systems that regulate and provide for effective banking and trading in the country. They have a rule of law which permits commerce to succeed and to proceed on predictable terms in which individual interests are properly protected.

Now, when countries have this, whether they're large or small, whether they're in Latin America, Asia, or Africa, wherever they are, they see that money flows into the country instead of flowing out of it.

I come here as someone who considers himself a friend of your country and someone who deeply believes that in the century just ahead of us, America and Russia must be partners. I hope you will be able to bridge your differences to agree on, first, a program to stabilize the current situation, and then, a path to finish the framework of basic things that every successful economy has; then, within your democratic system, whatever decisions you make about how to organize your society are your decisions to make, and we will support you and find a way to work together.

But if the basic framework is not in place, as a friend I say, I do not believe that you can defy the rules of the road in today's global economy anymore than I could defy the laws of gravity by stepping off the top floor of Spaso House. It has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the way the world is working today. But if you can find a way to work together and work through this crisis, the United States will stand with you and will not presume to judge on the specific social systems you decide to put in place within a democratic system with a strong economy that has integrity of its fundamental elements.

Thank you again for coming.

NOTE: The President spoke at 3:20 p.m. in Spaso House. In his remarks, the President referred to James F. Collins, U.S. Ambassador to Russia, who introduced the President.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Meeting With Duma and Regional Leaders in Moscow Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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