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Public Papers - 1992

Remarks at the State Dinner for President Boris Yeltsin of Russia

1992-06-16

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the White House. Mr. President and Mrs. Yeltsin, and distinguished guests all, Barbara and I are delighted to welcome you here tonight on a day that I think history will record as something very, very special. I am very pleased with the arrangements that we were able to work out with President Yeltsin today. I think it's good for mankind. I think it's good for the generations here and the generations to come. So you're here on an historic occasion, and we couldn't be more pleased.

Mr. President, tonight's dinner is a little bit more formal than the blue jeans and sweaters that we wore back up there at Camp David in February, but I believe the progress we made today would not have been possible without that private time we spent together and then without the hard work of our Secretary and your Foreign Minister, our Secretary of Defense, your Defense Minister, our Ambassador, your Ambassador. As I said this morning as I welcomed you to the White House, this meeting marks a new kind of summit, not a meeting between two powers that are struggling for global supremacy but between two partners striving to build a democratic peace.

This new relationship has its roots in the new Russian revolution, and that revolution owes so much to our guest here tonight. Just as crises show the mettle of a man, so too they show the strength of an idea. When, back in August of 1991, the old guard threatened to take Russia backward, Boris Yeltsin led the defense of democracy from the building the Russians call the White House. The coup plotters set out to destroy democracy, and instead, thanks to the courage of this man, they made it stronger.

Mr. President, you've been described many times as a maverick, a word coined in the American heartland to capture the independent streak that sets some individuals apart from the crowd. Well, I think our fellow Texans Jim Baker and Bob Strauss would agree you possess a certain spirit that you find on the plains of the West. And tonight we honor your courage and celebrate the new possibilities now open to us.

Think back to the cold war climate that marked earlier summits and how far we've come. How much safer, how much more hopeful to meet tonight as friends united by common ideals. More than 150 years ago de Tocqueville predicted that the United States and Russia would one day be the world's two great powers, rivals for world dominance. We must prove that prophecy was only true for a time and that our two nations can forge a new future in freedom.

Our governments will work to build stronger ties for the sake of peace and prosperity. We in this country must reach out, provide the assistance that can help Russia's democratic revolution succeed.

But the bonds that knit democracies together can never be created by government alone. Democracies grow together through the countless encounters that take place every day between private individuals -- professionals, business and labor, artists and educators -- in your country and ours. Gone are the days when vast parts of our countries were off-limits to foreign visitors. Under our new open lands agreement, for the first time Russian and American officials, and more important, Russian and American citizens, will be free to travel anywhere in each other's country to witness the customs and heritage that set us apart and the common humanity that draws us together.

So tonight, Mr. President, I offer this toast in the spirit of friendship to the new partnership between our people, to the success of the new Russian revolution, and to the health and happiness of Boris Yeltsin, the President of Russia.

Note: The President spoke at 8:20 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.

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