Written Responses to
Questions Submitted by the Swedish Newspaper Tidningarnas
September 28, 1987
of Swedish Prime Minister Carlsson
Why is it important to the United States to receive the Swedish
Prime Minister as a visitor? Will this visit produce any tangible results?
The President. In view of the friendly
relations between the United States and Sweden, it is only natural
that there should be meetings at the highest level from time to time. The
meeting is symbolic of the basic friendship that underlies the relations
between our two countries, and it is also of practical value. It is useful to
examine our bilateral relationship and to share views on a range of global
issues where both the United States and Sweden take an active
interest. We need to continue to work even more closely together in a common
effort to promote our shared democratic goals and objectives throughout the
Criticism of U.S. Policies
Sweden has criticized the United States sharply over
disarmament issues, Vietnam, Central America, and South Africa. Could you explain what
effect, if any, this kind of criticism has on American decisions?
The President. No one expects that two
independent countries are always going to see eye-to-eye on every issue.
Responsible, constructive criticism is accepted as such. The United States has global
responsibilities and often sees issues from a different perspective than does a
neutral country like Sweden. The point is that we
should be able to express our differences clearly but also see if there are
ways that we could work together to bring about a solution of the issue. For
instance, I understand that Sweden does not agree with
American support of the democratic resistance in Nicaragua, but we both share the
goal of bringing about a true and full democratic system.
Do you expect Sweden to be less vocal in its
criticism of the United States after the visit of the
The President. No country likes to
hear itself criticized, but I cannot think of any country that has not been
criticized. Americans do not expect that Sweden will in the future
agree with every American policy or action. But I think that when two friendly
countries disagree it is only natural that they first discuss their differences
privately. They are then, of course, free to express themselves
publicly if they choose.
Military Threat to Sweden
Do you think there is a Soviet military threat against Sweden? If so, what is your
opinion of the Swedish countermeasures?
The President. I believe that the Soviet Union has not abandoned its
stated objective of promoting its Communist ideology throughout the world. I
also think that the Soviets have built up a massive military force that far
exceeds their requirements for simple defense. Continuing Soviet aggression in Afghanistan cannot be forgotten. Sweden itself is the best
judge of whether or not there is a Soviet military threat towards it. I am
aware that Sweden has long had a policy
of armed neutrality and that you have built up a strong military force.
However, Sweden itself must judge
whether its forces are adequate to the task it faces.
What is your view of Sweden's policy of neutrality?
Do you fear a slide toward ``Finlandization'' in Sweden?
The President. I do not like the term
``Finlandization,'' and I do not think the Finns do
either. The United States understands and
respects Sweden's policy of armed
neutrality. I know that this is a policy that is supported by a very large
majority of the Swedish people. But I trust that Swedes are not neutral when it
comes to promoting the values they cherish, values such as democracy,
individual freedom, and respect for the rule of law. I believe that Sweden can and should do what
it can to promote these fundamental beliefs and values. This is an area where
the independent policies of the United States and Sweden overlap, and I hope
that we can work together wherever possible.
General Secretary Gorbachev
What is your opinion of Gorbachev, both as a person and as a reformer?
The President. General Secretary
Gorbachev is an impressive Soviet leader with whom I have personally always
gotten along well. As for the reform policies pursued by him and his
government, I can only hope that they succeed in bringing greater openness,
respect for human rights, and eventually, genuine democracy to Soviet society.
This would benefit not only Soviet citizens but also U.S.-Soviet relations and
the cause of peace. I have mentioned in some of my recent speeches steps which
the Soviet Government could take to show that the new thinking in the Kremlin
is supported by action as well as words. These steps include dismantling the
Berlin Wall, renouncing the Brezhnev doctrine, or -- most urgently -- ordering
a prompt and unconditional withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. All of these steps
are, unfortunately, long overdue and would be a credit to any Soviet leader who
U.S. Security Interests
If Gorbachev is successful in his efforts to make the Soviet Union more efficient and if
you achieve a disarmament agreement, might this not make the Soviet Union much stronger
politically and economically? Is it really in the United States interest to contribute
The President. It is in the United
States interest to do whatever it can to deter war and promote a more peaceful
and democratic world. Properly negotiated and fully verifiable arms reduction
agreements can be an important means of strengthening security, but of course,
it is equally important to ensure that our defensive forces remain fully
capable of deterring any danger of conflict.
How close are you to a disarmament agreement with the Soviet Union on INF and START? After
solving the Pershing 1A issue, are there any remaining obstacles?
The President. We have agreed in
principle now on concluding a treaty eliminating an entire class of U.S. and Soviet
intermediate-range nuclear missiles, and I hope that we will be able to
accomplish this soon. Of course, verification remains an essential issue on
which important details still have to be worked out. We also agreed to seek
progress on a START treaty that would cut in half the number of strategic arms
held by the United States and the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, the
Soviets have not been willing to permit those negotiations to progress as far
as I would like and are continuing to link progress to their efforts to cripple
the United States SDI program, even though the Soviets themselves continue to
conduct extensive strategic defense programs of their own.
Note: The questions and
answers were released by the Office of the Press Secretary on September 29.