Written Responses to
Questions Submitted by Bild-Zeitung of the Federal Republic of Germany
August 7, 1986
On August 13, 1961, the East Germans
erected the wall that has been separating the city of Berlin. Twenty-five years
later it is still there, and 74 people have been killed trying to escape to the
West. What does this mean for East-West relations?
The President. The Berlin Wall is an
affront to the human spirit. It symbolizes the failings of totalitarian regimes
and their inability to crush the innate human striving for freedom. Its very
existence reminds us of the need to defend our democratic way of life and to
continue our work for freedom and peace. The wall also reminds us of the
continued, forced division of Europe, of Germany, and of Berlin. Dismantling the wall
would be a major step towards improvement of East-West relations. Its continued
existence will remain a burden on our relations with those regimes responsible
When do you believe the wall can be torn down?
The President. I would like to see the
wall come down today, and I call upon those responsible to dismantle it. No
regime can attain genuine legitimacy in the eyes of its own people if those
people are treated as prisoners by their own government.
Soviet Secretary Gorbachev has made a series of proposals for arms reduction.
Will there soon be fewer nuclear weapons and conventional arms in Europe?
The President. We welcomed the recent
Soviet proposals as a signal that the Soviets have begun to make a serious
effort. I have responded in a constructive spirit. The arms control process is
gaining momentum. The ball is now in their court. If they respond
constructively, we can make important progress.
highest priority is reaching a balanced and verifiable agreement on deep,
stabilizing reductions of nuclear arms. This is an attainable goal. I am ready
to work with the Soviets and Mr. Gorbachev to achieve this. Separately, NATO,
through the decision readied at Montebello in October 1983, is
proceeding to unilaterally reduce its nuclear inventory to reach the lowest
inventory consistent with credible deterrence.
continue to work for progress in negotiations on conventional weapons as well.
In the CDE negotiations in Stockholm, we seek to negotiate
verifiable confidence and security building measures. In MBFR, NATO proposed a
major new initiative last December which addressed the East's primary concerns.
In both of these fora our proposals contain fair and
reciprocal measures for verification, including onsite inspection. At the CDE
the East has recently been more responsive to our concerns. In MBFR, however,
the Soviets have so far failed to respond seriously, especially with respect to
following up on Mr. Gorbachev's January 15 endorsement of ``reasonable''
verification measures. Nonetheless, we continue to hope that the Soviets will
return to us with a constructive response.
is continuing to study General Secretary Gorbachev's proposal for a new
conventional arms control approach encompassing all the territory from the Atlantic to the Urals. NATO has
also launched a study designed to examine conventional arms control in Europe in its totality and
find the best way to achieve a stable, verifiable balance of conventional
forces at a lower level. We will continue to pursue with the Soviets these
proposals designed to strengthen security and peace in Europe.
In 1952 Stalin proposed that Germany could be reunited as a
neutral country in central Europe. Under what conditions
would you today see a chance for a united Germany?
The President. The United States is committed to ending
the unnatural division of Europe. We support the goal of
reunification of Germany through peaceful means
and in accordance with the democratically expressed will of the German people.
The Soviets are trying to raise the status of Berlin again and again. What
guarantees can you give to the people of West Berlin that they can live on
in peace and freedom?
The President. There should be no
doubt of our enduring commitment to Berlin and to its future. We
have sustained this commitment for over 40 years, and it will continue to be
the centerpiece of our European policy. We have demonstrated on numerous
occasions our readiness to stand firm in defense of Berlin. At the same time, we
are continually striving to establish a normalization of conditions in and
around the city.
In the past few months there has been some dissension between Washington and Bonn -- for instance, SDI,
the Libya crisis, and the threat
of a trade war. How are German-American relations now?
The President. I would disagree with
your use of the word ``dissension.'' In fact, our relations with the Federal Republic are excellent. Let's
look at the examples you mentioned. On SDI, we have concluded an agreement with
the FRG on cooperation in SDI research, and our Department of Defense has just
awarded the largest overseas SDI research contract yet to a West German firm.
On Libya, while we have had some
differences of views on our counterattack against Libyan terrorism, your
government agrees on the need to work together with the United States and other governments
to fight terrorism, which threatens all civilized nations. On trade issues, we
and the FRG are united in our desire to combat protectionism, avert the threat
of a trade war, and work together to reach mutually acceptable trade
arrangements. So, I don't see ``dissension'' in our relationship -- just the
opposite. We have a longstanding close and deep relationship with the FRG and
ties of great friendship and regard for the German people.
Chancellor Kohl calls you one of his best friends. How is your relationship?
The President. I agree with Chancellor
Kohl. That close relationship is based, first and foremost, on the warm
relations between our two countries and peoples. The FRG and the United States share the preeminent
goals of economic and political freedom for all, of liberty for the individual,
and of pursuit of a just and stable peace throughout the world. The Chancellor
and I agree on the philosophy underlying many of the policies he advocates in Bonn and I pursue here --
for example, on the importance of the private sector and on the need to
preserve basic human and family values, as well as our common security.
Finally, we've established a very close and warm personal relationship.
When is your next meeting with Gorbachev, and do you think there should be
regular summits of the two world powers?
The President. At our meeting last
November, General Secretary Gorbachev and I agreed to meet again in the United States in 1986, and he invited
me to the Soviet
in 1987. We have made suggestions to the Soviets about this year's summit to
which they should now respond. While no dates have been set, Secretary [of
State] Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze will meet September 19
and 20 here in Washington to discuss details, and
we are working on the assumption that there will be a summit this year as
agreed. At the Geneva summit we also agreed
to intensify the dialog between our two countries at all levels. Since then
there's been a lot of discussion as well as a number of meetings on the whole
range of issues: arms reduction, humanitarian questions, bilateral matters,
regional affairs. This process, mostly at the expert level, has been useful and
The questions and answers were released by the Office of the Press Secretary on