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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 46, May 2000

Speech by Vice President Gore

'Remarks as prepared for delivery by Vice President Al Gore, International Press Institute,' Boston, April 30, 2000

"Just as we have an extraordinary prosperity, we also stand at an extraordinary time in our history. We are the only superpower. We are the strongest force for peace and prosperity that the world has ever known. Twenty-five years ago today, the last helicopters lifted off from the roof of our embassy in Saigon. Although that brought an end to the war in Vietnam - a conflict I witnessed with my own eyes - it did not bring an end to its influence on our thinking about foreign policy.

Even now, a decade after the end of the Cold War, we hear echoes of the old arguments. Some seem to believe that with the fall of the old Soviet empire, we have nothing more to fear in the world and should dramatically cut our defense budget. Others keep insisting that we continue to prepare to face down a Cold War threat that no longer exists, and persistently ignore the world as it is. I believe that both groups are locked in a self-destructive argument over a false choice.

For all of my career, I have believed that America has a responsibility to lead in the world. That's why I was one of only a few Democrats in the United States Senate to vote in support of the use of force to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. And even as I was working hard in the Congress to help develop new approaches to arms control, I often disagreed with the predominant view in my own party as I pushed for a strong national defense and a new generation of less destabilizing missiles.

We are now in a new era. To label this time 'the post-Cold War era' belies its uniqueness and its significance. We are now in a Global Age. Like it or not, we live in an age when our destinies and the destinies of billions of people around the globe are increasingly intertwined. When our grand domestic and international challenges are also intertwined. We should neither bemoan nor naively idealize this new reality. We should deal with it.

We must now view what could be called the classic security agenda - the question of war and peace among sovereign states - in light of these new realities. But we must also recognize that there is a New Security Agenda, which I discussed at the United Nations Security Council in January - a set of threats that affect us all and that transcend political borders; a set of challenges equal in magnitude to the challenges of the past. Today, at the dawn of the 21st Century, we need a foreign policy that addresses the classic security threats - and understands the new ones as well. … We need to pursue a policy of 'forward engagement' - addressing problems early in their development before they become crises; addressing them as close to the source of the problem as possible; and having the forces and resources to deal with those threats as soon after their emergence as possible. …

In that context, I want to make three essential points to you today. First, although the nature of the challenges we face are new, the bedrock of our foreign policy is not. America must always maintain a strong defense, and unrivalled national security... Second, from our position of unrivalled affluence and influence, we have a responsibility to lead the world in meeting the new security challenges. … Third, we must resist those who would meet new global challenges with a newfound fear of the world itself. …

Let me consider each of these points in turn.

First, America must have a strong defense. We must never forget that our national defense is about much more than the land within our borders. Just as we fought and conquered totalitarianism during World War Two - just as we fought and conquered communism during the Cold War - we are defending the idea of freedom itself. … That is why America must have a military capability that is second to none. It is central to the continuing demands of the classic agenda - to resist aggression, and to stop armed conflict. It is crucial to our security in this era of rogue states and international terror. And it is absolutely essential if we hope to wage peace through diplomacy. In our dealings with Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic, we have learned the importance of diplomacy backed with force. I look forward to the day when Serbia and Iraq will be free from the grip of Milosevic and Saddam and the terrors they have wrought on their own people. We prevailed in those conflicts with minimal American casualties because we have maintained a superbly well-trained fighting force - and because the American people have supported investments in weapons that give us a technological edge.

Today, we need to ensure that our military personnel have adequate pay and benefits and continue to receive the training and leadership which makes them the finest in the world. And we are on the threshold of manufacturing and deploying the next generation of military weapons: weapons that are vitally needed to replace equipment that has been in service for far too long. Weapons that are critical to meeting changing needs on today's battlefields.

If I am entrusted with the Presidency, I will lead the effort to ensure that America has the new generation of weapons we need. But we need not only a new generation of weapons. We need a new generation of thinking.

That means strengthening and renewing our key alliances. We must remain open to further enlargement of NATO, we must bolster our trans-Atlantic ties, and we must build a strong, stable relationship with the European Union. We must encourage Japan…to combat the flow of drugs, to increase the flow of trade and the pace of economic development and continued political reform and modernization.

In the Global Age, we must be prepared to engage in regional conflicts selectively - where the stability of a region important to our national security is at stake; where we can assure ourselves that nothing short of military engagement can secure our national interest; where we are certain that the use of military force can succeed in doing so; where we have allies willing to help share the burden, and where the cost is proportionate. America cannot be the world's policeman. But we must reject the new isolationism that says: don't help anywhere, because we cannot help everywhere. …

On the Korean peninsula, we must continue to work with our South Korean allies to maintain the peace. And that means not only exercising creative diplomacy toward the North, but standing ready to honor our commitments to the defense of South Korea.

In South Asia, we have to work with India and Pakistan to dampen down a nuclear arms race on the sub-continent and to continue to urge them to deal with their differences over their conflict in Kashmir with peaceful means. …

We need to intensify cooperation with civilized governments all over the world to combat the common threat of terrorism.

But perhaps the biggest change in our approach to the classic agenda is how we engage two countries that once were only known to us as enemies: Russia and China. During the Cold War, we worked to contain these two powers and limit their reach. Our task in the 21st Century is not making them weak - but instead to encourage forces of reform.

That is why we have worked hard these past seven years to help Russia make a transition to a market-based democracy. We have helped Russia privatize its economy and build a civil society marked by free elections and an active press. We have brought Russia into a working relationship with NATO through the Permanent Joint Council and the Partnership for Peace program. We have been able to work with Russian forces successfully inside a NATO framework in the Balkans.

We have helped safeguard Russian nuclear material against the danger of theft. We have made it possible for thousands of Russia's nuclear scientists and weapons experts to find peaceful pursuits. And we have helped Russia to reduce its nuclear arsenal by nearly 5,000 warheads. This work has not been without difficulty, or controversy. We strongly disagree with Russia's course in Chechnya. Russia must intensify its own work to stop the flow of dangerous technologies that irresponsible groups and rogue states can use to create weapons of mass destruction. Russia must still take decisive steps to combat corruption and achieve reform.

But a new Cold War is not the right path to progress. Engaging Russia is the right thing to do. That's why I took on the task of leading our effort to work with Russia - not because it was politically popular, but because it was right for America's security, and right for the spread of democracy around the world.

For these same reasons, we must also follow a policy toward China that is focussed on results, not rhetoric. Make no mistake: we have strong disagreements with China over human rights and religious freedom, and over Chinese treatment of Tibet. … We also have concerns over tensions building between China and Taiwan. We need to maintain our commitment to the One China policy, but urge China and Taiwan to intensify their dialogue and to resolve their problems by peaceful means. The Administration is honoring its obligation to make defensive weapons available to Taiwan. But I am deeply concerned that those in the Congress who are pushing the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act are blind to its consequences: a sharp deterioration in the security of the region.

It is wrong to isolate and demonize China - to build a wall when we need to build a bridge. As all of you know, I have friends and supporters who disagree with me on the best way to bring change and reform to China. … But the question is not whether we should be dealing with China. The question is whether we can afford not to. Can we really abandon the kind of frank and open exchange that allows us to raise our differences in the first place? Can we really isolate a nation with 1.2 billion people and a nuclear arsenal? Can we really turn our backs on one of the most dynamic economies on the planet? …

There is another reason for principled engagement with Russia and China, and a renewed commitment to our alliances. And that brings me to my second major point today.

While the old threats persist, there are new things under the sun - new forces arising that now or soon will challenge our international order, raising issues of peace and war: a New Security Agenda.

Because of the historically unprecedented power of the technologies now widely available around the world, mistakes that were once tolerable can now have consequences beyond our calculation. Threats that were once local can have an impact that is regional and global. Damage that might once have been temporary and limited can now be permanent and catastrophic. A rogue state or terrorist group with biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons - or the technical skill to disrupt our computer networks - can bring destruction far out of proportion to its size. …

A responsible foreign policy must harness all our economic and military might - but it must also make use of our values and principles. And that is what concerns me about the foreign policy pronouncements of George W. Bush. From what we can tell of his foreign policy, Governor Bush does not prepare us to meet the grand challenges of both the classic and New Security Agendas.

Just as we are about to deploy the next generation of military weapons, Governor Bush wants to 'skip' that generation of weapons. Instead, he talks in vague terms about undefined new technologies. This would leave our armed forces ill-equipped for the battlefields of the next two to three decades. Is that a responsible approach to foreign policy?

Meanwhile, Governor Bush dangerously fixates on the Cold War past when speaking of the use of force. … Stuck in a Cold War mindset, Governor Bush continues to view Russia and China primarily as present or future enemies. While we must remain vigilant against any deterioration in our relationships, the reality of the Global Age is that Russia and China are indeed competitors, but also vital partners in our efforts to tackle problems menacing to us all.

Just this past week, Governor Bush used his brief meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov to issue a warning that his intention would be to build and deploy a global 'Star Wars' system that he believes could defend the US and all our allies against any missile launch from any source. In the 1990s, most serious analysts took a look at the implausibility of this endeavor, the fantastical price that our taxpayers would be expected to pay, and the dangerously destabilizing consequences of traveling down that path - and rejected this notion. Governor Bush wishes to return to it, and chose the worst possible venue in which to launch - for lack of a better phrase - his risky foreign policy scheme. … Instead I favor - and we are negotiating with the Russians - changes in the ABM treaty that would lead to a responsible and practical defense against a nuclear attack from a rogue state. …

One has to assume that these gaps in Governor Bush's foreign policy views and experience will be filled by the ideologies and inveterate antipathies of his party - the right-wing, partisan isolationism of the Republican Congressional leadership. Since 1994, the Republicans in Congress have recklessly tossed aside decades of bipartisan cooperation on foreign policy.

They have refused to adequately fund our diplomatic and international development efforts - from promoting peace in the Middle East to fighting drugs in South America. They have held our contributions to the United Nations hostage to their own political agenda for years. They have repeatedly tried to sabotage this Administration's programs, even in places like Bosnia and Kosovo where what is needed is steadiness and continuity of purpose. They have made themselves the sworn enemies of a worldwide effort to deal with the global environment.

And in the end, despite their constant assertion of concern for our alliances, they have rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. In one blatant partisan move, they have profoundly shaken the confidence of our allies in American steadiness, purpose, and in our capacity to lead. Governor Bush joined with the isolationist, partisan Republican majority in Congress in opposing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. He chose politics over principle.

Last Thursday, Governor Bush called for a return to 'comity': to an era when men and women of good will could reach across party lines for the sake of the national good. I couldn't agree more. But on the very same day, one of the Republican Party's great institutions, Senator Jesse Helms, out of overt distaste for the President - said that he will block any new arms control pact until a new President is inaugurated in January.

Well, this Administration is working on the entry into force of the START II Treaty, the negotiation of a START III Treaty providing for even deeper reduction in weapons pointed at the United States, and an agreement with Russia to adjust the ABM Treaty to make it possible to defend ourselves against rogue states.

If Governor Bush were to inherit from us an arms control agreement so clearly in the best interests of the American people, is Senator Helms the last word? Is Governor Bush willing to put aside partisanship for the cause of peace? …"

Source: Vice President Gore's official Presidential campaign website, http://www.algore2000.com

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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