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Public Papers - 1990 - September

Remarks to Members of the American Embassy Community in Helsinki, Finland


Well, I'm delighted to be here. And what I really want to do is to shake hands and say hello, cut these ropes down if we can, and just have a quick visit before we go off to accept more of this fabulous Finnish hospitality staying at the Guest House.

I want to pay my respects to the Finnish business people that are here and their families, and thank them very much for adding to what's been a wonderful welcome so far. Of course, I'm very proud of our Ambassador. He and Virginia have been our friends for a long time. And I knew they would do a superb job in Finland, and sure enough, they have. And I'm delighted, and I thank them for welcoming this invasion squad from the United States.

And to your new DCM, and to your admin officer, and to everybody else who has anything in the world with the planning on this visit, we make a solemn promise. And that promise is that we will leave on time -- [laughter] -- and you won't have to put up with us for long.

But, you see, I have a little inkling of what this Embassy has gone through because -- as I said, I think, when I was here 5 years ago -- I was on the receiving end of a visit like this when Barbara and I had the mission in China. And we survived one visit from President Ford and two visits from Henry Kissinger. [Laughter] So, if you think you have it rough, you ought to have been where we were. [Laughter]

But in all seriousness, I know the logistics and the communications and all of these things are very complex, and I am grateful to you, the Ambassador telling me that you all have pitched in. And it's gone, from our standpoint anyway, very well.

I must say, I don't know how an American feels living here and working in the Embassy exactly, but if it's anything like the feeling Barbara and I got when we came in in separate cars and saw all those people and the warm welcome for the United States, why, it really is very touching and very moving. And we are very grateful.

We're in tough times. Finland is an important player in all of this international action. As a member of the Security Council, the Finns have been in a very out-front position. And I am very pleased that we are side by side with Finland as we try to stand up against aggression down in the Persian Gulf.

I know that we have several Finnish employees or workers or coworkers in our Embassy. And to you I would simply say: You enrich our staff by your knowledge of and love of your own country, and it's good. You know, I think some countries don't permit foreign nationals in their embassies, and they miss something. We get a lot from that all around the world. And I know it's true here just as it is in so many other embassies. So, to those from Finland who have worked here -- and I talked to some of them inside -- those out here I want to simply say: We appreciate what you do working with us. We respect your country, and we think we're enriched by your being a part of all of this.

I'll simply say one last word, and that is that this meeting tomorrow with Mr. Gorbachev is indeed an important meeting. We are very fortunate to be trying to coordinate and, in a sense, lead in an international effort here to stop aggression in the Persian Gulf -- fortunate to have the Soviet Union very much in accord with what we're trying to do and what Finland is trying to do. And if you wanted to think of a complicated situation, shift the clock back several years and think about how difficult it would be to work this equation now, get the international support that has been gotten, but try to do it without the Soviet Union being a part of it.

So, tomorrow we'll be speaking not to some adversary but to a leader of a country with whom I think we're going to have increasingly productive relations. And clearly, I hope that we'll come out of this meeting tomorrow not with every difference ironed out but with the common purpose so that Finland and the United States and the Soviet Union will all be seen by others around the world to be in accord in our determination to stop this ugly aggression, this brutal treatment of civilians that's being put into effect by Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

We've got a major national challenge, but I'm very proud of the way countries around the world have come together. And I view it as a very important part of my responsibility to see that we keep this cohesion and that the aggression against Iraq [Kuwait] be rectified and that the rightful rulers of Kuwait be restored to their place. And I can tell you the United States is determined.

And for those of you who might have relatives -- brothers, cousins, sisters, whatever it might be -- in Saudi Arabia, let me simply tell you what the Joint Chiefs have told me, and what General Colin Powell, our distinguished Chief Chairman has said, and that is that never in the history of the United States -- and perhaps our military attaches would agree -- have we had finer men and women serving in the Armed Forces.

So, when you take a large force like this, send it on a mission of peace halfway around the world, and see the way it all came together, it is phenomenal what our military has done. And I am grateful to them every single day. And it's not just the United States, it's not just the President that's grateful, it's many, many other countries that don't have the forces and don't have the ability to stand up who are counting on us and counting on those kids that are over in Saudi Arabia.

So, I think we -- wherever we are, if it's Helsinki or Washington, DC -- I think we can be grateful to these young men and women who are serving over there -- 135-degree heat and all of that, 120 or whatever, and downing gallons of water -- but they're doing a first-class job. And I just want you to know how proud I am, as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, of these young people. What a marvelous signal it sent around the world.

So, with no further ado except, once again, to say thank you to you, I'd love to come out there, and maybe we can get some pictures with the families. And Barbara -- Bar is suggesting we get the kids, all children, all you guys under -- let's see, how old are you? Twelve and under, all come here, and we're going to get a family picture with all the children. And then we'll get a chance to visit with everybody.

Note: President Bush spoke at 1:57 p.m. in front of the U.S. Ambassador's residence. In his remarks, he referred to U.S. Ambassador John G. Weinmann and his wife, Virginia; Max Robinson and William J. Burke, deputy chief of mission and administrative officer at the Embassy; and President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

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