News - Harvard Gazette

Clinton reflects on foreign policy triumphs and challenges

  • Christina Pazzanese
| Apr. 08, 2021

Former president discusses Russia, China, North Korea in inaugural Bosworth Lecture

Former President Bill Clinton is credited most often for his domestic record, accomplishments made possible largely by eight years of historic economic expansion that unfolded on his watch. But he also took a number of significant international actions — some realized, some not — that still reverberate in U.S. foreign relations today.

Clinton gave the inaugural Stephen W. Bosworth Memorial Lecture in Diplomacy in honor of the late, much admired U.S. ambassador on Wednesday. He recalled some of his major foreign policy triumphs and challenges with Russia, China, and North Korea in a conversation with Nicholas Burns, retired U.S. ambassador and Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations and founder of the Future of Diplomacy Project at Harvard Kennedy School.

“I thought it was my job to try to build a world that America would be happy to be a leader in, but could no longer dominate,” said Clinton during the 45-minute talk.

Soon after taking office in 1993, Clinton began building a rapport with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, hoping to guide the communist nation toward democracy. That U.S.-Russia relationship would develop into what Burns, who was on the National Security Council staff, then a State Department spokesperson, and finally U.S. ambassador to Greece during the Clinton administration, called Clinton’s “major” foreign policy achievement.

“Russia was really important to me because it’s a great country with a storied history, and they were in bad shape when I took office,” Clinton said.

Yeltsin sought billions in U.S. aid from Clinton, with Russia too broke to pay for the withdrawal of its occupation forces from the Baltic states. Over the ensuing years, Clinton also expanded the Group of 7 to include Russia and helped secure additional relief from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Clinton said he thought helping Russia, not “humiliating” it, was the best course at the time.

“Yeltsin, I think, was the best leader we could’ve gotten out of Russia at that time,” he said. “I liked working with him, and I think we got a lot done.”

  – Via the original publication source.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Pazzanese, Christina. “Clinton reflects on foreign policy triumphs and challenges.” News, Harvard Gazette, April 8, 2021.

The Author