Nixon: 'Aid to Russia . . . Is Not Charity.'

March 15, 1992

In a conference in Washington last week sponsored by his presidential library, former president Richard M. Nixon called for increased action by the United States to aid democracy in Russia. Following are excerpts from his speech, based on a transcript prepared by Federal News Service.

We meet at a very challenging time, a challenging time in American history. We meet at a time when we have been through three years of events that have changed the world. I refer, of course, to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, to our victory over aggression in the gulf war. As a result of those events, we live in a new world, and the question now is: What should the leadership position of the United States be in that New World?

I'm going to direct my remarks in this political year not just to what our policy should be, but what is possible politically. In that respect, incidentally, I should point out that if you follow political campaigns, it's rather standard practice for the candidate to get up and say, "This is the most important election in history." I know. I said it a lot of times.

Now over the past 44 years I have had the opportunity to observe 12 presidential elections. I have been a candidate in five of them, and in that period of time there has never been a campaign . . . in which foreign policy was less discussed, and there has never been a time in which foreign policy was more important, because whoever is president in the next four years will provide the leadership that will make the difference as to whether peace and freedom survive in the world. Since that is the case then, it is vitally important that foreign policy be front and center, front and center in our considerations.

We have been on a roller-coaster ride as far as foreign policy is concerned. After the communist victory in Vietnam, the attitude of most Americans was that there was nothing we could do in foreign policy. Then after our victory in the gulf war, the conventional wisdom was that we could do anything. And then after the collapse of communism, particularly in the Soviet Union, the conventional wisdom was that there was nothing left to do.

As a result of these events we see developing a new isolationism in both of the political parties. The general theme . . . [is] that the United States no longer should play or can play a leadership role in the world. There are some who say we can't afford to, there are others who say it is not necessary for us to play that role, and there are still others who say that others should play that role.

. . . What they fail to realize, those who take that line, is that foreign and domestic policy are like Siamese twins; neither can survive without the other. . . . We can't be at peace in a world of wars, and we can't have a healthy American economy in a sick world economy. For example, we all can recall -- I can at least; you've read about it, I lived through it -- the great Depression. It began as a recession . . . [and] became a depression in great part because the United States adopted a protectionist policy. . . .

[Boris] Yeltsin is one who has repudiated not just communism but socialism, as well. He is one, too, who has completely vetoed all of the foreign aid programs that he inherited from [Mikhail] Gorbachev, which in the year 1990 took $15 billion from the Russian budget, which provided aid to a number of countries including Cuba which were antagonistic to the West and to the United States. And we all know that in the field of arms control . . . he has not only matched what President Bush has courageously taken the initiative on, he has exceeded it.

So what do we find? We find that Yeltsin is the most pro-Western leader in Russian history. Under those circumstances, then, he deserves our help.

What does he need? He needs a number of things. Just to tick off a few of them, he needs, for example, help from the [International Monetary Fund] and other sources, and that will take billions of dollars, to stabilize the ruble. He needs more open markets for the exports which Russia would want to make, the new Russia, to the West and to other parts of the world.

He needs, in addition, the help of the West insofar as humanitarian aid is concerned. And there needs to be, without question, one facility, a Western group which would analyze and assess all of the needs and then would develop a program for working out with private enterprise and with governments how they meet those needs.

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