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We have witnessed, over the last few years, breathtaking changes in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. For over 4 centuries, Russia had been an imperial, authoritarian state, dominating its neighbors and threatening stability in both Europe and Asia. But, now, the collapse of the Soviet empire and the discrediting of communism have provided new hope for freedom and prosperity for over 400 million people in the region. As a consequence, we enjoy the prospect of a democratic Russia which has dismantled its empire and is turning its energies inward toward reform rather than outward toward expansion. This is a prospect which bears directly on the national security of the United States, and it is, therefore, something which is in our national interest to support.
But is is also a prospect which is as yet fragile, one which could easily give way to a more historically familiar state of affairs. There is no guarantee that the new states of Central and Eastern Europe or those of the former Soviet Union will evolve into friendly, prosperous democracies. They face formidable obstacles along the path of reform, as communism has driven these countries and their economies to the brink of ruin. In the final analysis, success will depend on the will and determination of the governments and peoples of the region. But Western assistance can make a difference, and we have an obligation before history and to future generations to do our part in helping to make their democratic experiment a success. What is at stake for us is whether the recent transformation of dangerous adversaries into friends and partners is a permanent or a passing phenomenon.
Clearly, the United States does not possess limitless resources, especially in a time of serious economic difficulty at home. But the American people, who spent trillions of dollars to wage and to win the Cold War, hopefully are willing to allocate comparatively modest sums today in order to ensure that we do not face, once again, an old threat under a new guise. If we do the right thing today, we will have done what we could to spare our children from the specter of nuclear war and from the colossal expenditures on national defense which our generation has had to live with since World War II.
Our economic well-being is also at stake. The peoples of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union present an enormous new market for Western trade and investment. We must actively seek to involve …