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Stephen Oxman, the assistant secretary of state for Canadian and European affairs, said at the Institute of Politics last night that the U.S. must not abandon Eastern European countries along the tortuous path to lasting democracy.
"The Clinton administration, as the President has demonstrated in Prague, is committed to an activist policy in the region by supporting prosperity and security," Oxman said. "Our interests demand nothing less."
Oxman stressed the need for economic development in the 15 countries of Eastern and Central Europe, citing the need for increased revenue form private business interests.
"I am hardly revealing a state secret when I tell you that the transition to democracy in these countries will require hundreds of billions of dollars," Oxman said. "In my view, the bulk of that must come from the private sector."
Oxman said the uncertainty of the nations' economic security jeopardizes their political stability as well.
"The region has been plagued with soaring inflation and plummeting employment," Oxman said. "The result--pain, confusion and frustration--are godsends to demagogues of the left and right."
With the recent democratization of many European nations, Oxman said, there remain "legitimate concerns about security, as old nationalistic tensions frozen for nearly five decades are released."
Quipping on a recent film, he said, "These developments have left many people sleepless in Slovakia--and elsewhere."
Oxman said that American private investment in Eastern European markets had been modest, and that both sides benefit from increased American contributions.
"So far private investment there has been a trickle, not a flood," he said. "Our well-being calls for reaching out to new trading partners."
He insisted, however, that the administration motives in economically embracing Eastern Europe are not purely financial ones.
"So much for our self-interest," Oxman said. "We must also help Eastern Europe because it is right."
Oxman did not discount the need for direct aid from the United States government to Eastern European nations, citing the success of the Marshall Plan earlier this century.
"President Clinton is convinced that the time is right for a series of new initiatives," he said.
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