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Remarks at a Reception in Moscow

January 13, 1994

Thank you very much. I want to begin by thanking Ambassador and Mrs. Pickering for having us here tonight and for giving us all a chance to meet and to visit in what I imagine is an extraordinary and unprecedented gathering not only of Americans but of Russians who come from different political perspectives. I am told that 60 years ago at a Christmas Eve party here, three trained seals went crazy in the ballroom. Now, in the United States, when people from different political parties get together, they sometimes behave the same way. [Laughter] So I'm glad to see you all getting along so well tonight.

It is a great honor for me and the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Treasury, and all the other members of our party to be here with so many representatives of the new Russia. Each of you who have participated in this new democratic process have my respect, my admiration, and my pledge of equal partnership. It is difficult for most Americans to even imagine the size and scope of the changes going on in your nation now. When I leave you, I am going home to attempt to reform our Nation's health care system. It is a very big job. It comprises one-seventh of our entire economy. You are in the process of transforming your entire economy while you develop a new constitutional democracy as well. It boggles the mind, and you have my respect for the effort.

Over the years, over the centuries, the Russian people have shown their greatness in many ways: in culture, on the battlefield, in government, in space. And now on the brink of the 21st century, this great nation is being called upon to redefine its greatness again in terms that will enable your nation to be strong and vital and alive for hundreds of years into the future.

We live in a curious time where modern revolutions are transforming life for the better, revolutions in communications, in technology, and in many other areas. And yet the oldest of society's demons plague us still, the hatreds of people for one another based on their race, their ethnic group, their religion, even the piece of ground they happen to have been born on. In the midst of this conflict of historic proportions, I believe that greatness of nations in the 21st century will be defined by how successful they are in providing the opportunity for every man and woman, every boy and girl living within the nation's borders to live up to the fullest of their natural capacity.

If we are to have any chance at all to realize that future in the world, I believe this nation must be strong democratically and strong economically. And I believe we will have to write a new future for all of Europe and create a future which, for the first time in history, Europe is not divided by some political line which leads to war or which is the product of a destructive isolationism born of past divisions.

So as I look around this room at the faces of tomorrow's Russia—people from different political parties, people who are members of the Duma and people who are governors and people who represent local government, people who are in private enterprises—I say to you there is lots of room for difference of opinion. Indeed, the world we are living in and the world we are moving toward is so complicated and changes so fast, all of us desperately need to listen to one another's opinions. But if we are to realize the measure of the true greatness in your nation and in mine, we must keep our devotion to democracy, to a certain freedom in our economic affairs, and to a respect for one another's neighbors. For greatness in the next century will be defined not by how far we can reach but by how well we do by the people who live within our borders.

I came here as a friend and supporter of the democratic changes going on in this country. I hope that together we can make a positive difference in a genuine and equal partnership. But in the end, you will have to decide your future. American support can certainly not make all the difference, and American direction is unwarranted. The future is for you to write and for you to make. But I come to say, from the bottom of my heart, the people of the United States and the President of the United States wish to be your partners and your friends.

Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 6:28 p.m. at Spaso House.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Reception in Moscow Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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