Address to the People of
Western Europe on Soviet-United States Relations
November 4, 1987
Greetings. I'm speaking with you from here in Washington via the satellite
channels of WORLDNET and Voice of America. This is but another demonstration of
the dramatic effect technology is having on our lives. Science is shrinking
distances, overcoming obstacles, and opening borders. Today individuals in
distant lands are working, trading, and even playing together on a global
scale. We are, as would never have been thought possible a century ago, truly
becoming a community -- perhaps even a family -- of free people, united by humane
values and democratic ideals, and sharing in a prosperity that is closely
linked to the trade and commerce between us.
in this century, during a time when fascism and communism were on the rise,
there were those who believed that the light of democracy might well be
extinguished. It was feared that the era of representative government, of
political and economic freedom, would prove to be a short interlude of history
and would disappear just as the democracy of Greece and the Roman republic
our cause may have seemed precariously perched, fragile, and without the power
projected by strutting troops and mass political spectacles; but it should be
clear now that the courage and resilience of free people are too easily underestimated,
as is our resolve to cooperate, to see a common purpose, and to act together in
our own defense.
Hugo once wrote: ``People do not lack strength; they lack will.'' Well, in my
life, I have time and again seen evidence that gives me great confidence that
those who live in freedom do indeed have the will to remain free, even under
enormous pressure, even against great odds. Those of us who lived through the
Second World War saw that in the British people, whose indomitable spirit never
broke under heavy bombardment. We saw it in the French troops and resistance
fighters, who battled to free their homeland; in Polish Home Army soldiers, who
rose in Warsaw; in the moral heroes throughout the continent, including within
Germany itself, who resisted nazism often at the cost
of their own lives; and others who risked all to save Jews, sometimes perfect
strangers, from the death camps. We saw it in Normandy, where Americans joined
with people from all over Europe to breach the Atlantic
Wall and head inland, joined together in one mighty crusade to rid the
continent of Hitler's National Socialism and all the horrors that went with it.
and in the four decades since the end of the Second World War, the free peoples
of the world have continued to prove their courage and, just as important, as
never before to demonstrate their solidarity with one another. The North Atlantic alliance, a lasting
triumph of unity and cooperation among free peoples, has maintained peace on
the European continent for four decades. It has been the shield of democracy
and the greatest deterrent to war in history.
decades of European peace have been no accident. They have been earned by those
in uniform who stood guard, and paid for by all of us whose taxes kept our allied
forces manned, equipped, and armed with the conventional and nuclear weapons
needed to deter aggression. We've all had to do our part, or it wouldn't have
worked. But it has worked. The alliance has been prepared to meet any
challenge. The message to anyone who would threaten the peace has been simple
and direct: ``Don't even think about it.''
when our will has been tested, we've come together as allies, as people whose
destinies are inextricably linked, and have acted in unison to meet the challenge.
It has not been easy, yet we've done what was necessary to keep our countries
free and to preserve the peace. That certainly was true of the alliance's
response to the vast expansion of Soviet military power in the late 1970's,
especially their introduction of the new SS - 20 intermediate-range missiles.
It was in 1977 when the Soviet Union deployed its first SS -
20's. This triple-warhead weapon could hit anywhere in Western Europe and much of Asia. Though NATO had no
comparable missile to counter this new threat, by August of 1982 the number of
Soviet INF missiles had climbed to over 300, with more than 900 warheads.
we were witnessing was an attempt to tip the military balance of power in Europe and erode the security
bond between Europe and the United States. It tested our cohesion
and could well have had serious, even catastrophic, long-term consequences had
the alliance not acted with resolve. But we did act.
December of 1979 Western leaders made the decision to move forward on a
two-track approach. First, the United States would negotiate with
the Soviets in an attempt to convince them to withdraw their new missiles.
Second, as long as the Soviets continued on their course and kept their
missiles in place, NATO would deploy in Europe a limited number of
Pershing II and ground-launched cruise missiles. What the alliance sought,
however, were fewer missiles, not more.
plan depended upon unflagging solidarity and steadfastness of purpose, even
under immense pressure. And the pressure was put on. Had the nuclear freeze and
unilateral disarmament protesters won, Europe would now be condemned
to live under the shadow of Soviet nuclear-armed INF missiles. To democracy's
credit, the political courage of farsighted European leaders carried the day.
That resolve has now made it possible to achieve an historic agreement -- an
agreement that will eliminate a whole class of United States and Soviet INF missiles
from the face of the planet.
agreement we are now hearing is based upon the proposal that the United States, in full consultation
with allied leaders, put forward in 1981: the zero option. The plan will
require the Soviets to remove four times as many nuclear warheads as the United States. Not only will the
entire Soviet force of SS - 20's and SS - 4's be
destroyed but also the shorter range SS - 12's and SS - 23's. It'll be the
first mutual reduction of the world's nuclear arsenals in history. And more
than that, the shorter range Soviet missiles that will be eliminated are capable
of carrying not just nuclear but also chemical and conventional warheads. Thus,
we will be making a promising start in cutting back these threats to Europe as well.
like this are not the result of wishful thinking, nor are they made more likely
by loud proclamations of a desire for peace. Lasting progress derives from
hardnosed realism, strenuous effort, and firmness of principle. I can assure
you that any treaty I sign will be realistic and in the long-term interest of
all the members of the alliance, or no agreement will be signed.
for example, has a poor record of compliance with past arms control agreements.
So, any new treaty will contain ironclad provisions for effective verification,
including on-site inspection of facilities before and during reductions and
short-notice inspections afterward. The verification regime we've put forward
is the most stringent in the history of arms control negotiations. None of us
in the alliance can settle for anything less.
reduction -- if done with care to ensure the continuing credibility of our
deterrent, both nuclear and conventional -- is in the interest of all Western
countries. And any INF agreement should be viewed not as the end of the process
but the beginning, a first big step. We and the Soviets have also been
negotiating possible reductions in our strategic arsenals, which for us is a
high priority. Again, it's an American proposal that is the centerpiece of the
negotiation -- a dramatic proposition to cut our strategic arsenals in half.
Considerable progress has been made, and further movement can be expected if
Soviet flexibility is evident.
is totally unacceptable, however, is the Soviet tactic of holding these
offensive reductions hostage to measures that would cripple our Strategic
Defense Initiative. We won't bargain away SDI, which offers the promise of a
safer world in which both sides would rely more on defenses, which threaten no
one, than on offensive forces. It shouldn't escape our attention that the
Soviets themselves have been spending billions on a strategic defense program
of their own.
has been heard as of late about reforms being instituted within the Soviet Union. Glasnost, we are told,
is ushering in a new era. Well, who cannot but hope these reports are true,
that the optimism is justified? Good sense, however, dictates that we look for
tangible changes in behavior -- for action, not words -- in deciding what is
real or illusionary. We will, for example, closely watch the condition of human
rights within the Soviet Union. It is difficult to imagine that a government
that continues to repress freedom in its own country, breaking faith with its
own people, can be trusted to keep agreements with others.
this year some people, including a few very prominent individuals, were
permitted to leave the Soviet Union. It's better than the
record of recent years, yet many more emigration and divided-family cases
remain. And let us remember: Denial of the right to emigrate is only a small
part of the problem of the repressive Soviet system. A recognition of freedom
of speech, religion, and press; a release of all prisoners of conscience; an
ending of the practice of sending perfectly sane political dissidents to
psychiatric hospitals; tolerance of real opposition; and freedom of political
choice -- these things, which we all take for granted, would signal that a true
turning point has been reached and would offer hope of positive changes in the
international arena, as well.
there's one observation that rings true in today's changing world, it is that
freedom and peace go hand in hand. The further the Soviet leadership opens
their system and frees their people, the more likely it will be that the
tensions between East and West will lessen. Reflecting this, we also hope to
see changes in Soviet foreign policy. The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan is most certainly a
dreadful quagmire. The Afghan people have proven themselves the bravest of the
brave. They will continue to have the sympathy and support of free nations in
their struggle for independence. Soviet leaders can win accolades from people
of good will everywhere and free their country from a no-win situation by
grounding their helicopter gunships, promptly
withdrawing their troops, and permitting the Afghan people to choose their own
destiny. Such actions would be viewed not as a retreat but as a courageous and
sign to look for -- this one closer to home for you on your side of the Atlantic -- would be a loosening
of the Soviet hold over Eastern Europe. Why should the peoples
of Europe remain divided as they
are with barbed wire, watch towers, and machineguns? Why shouldn't all
Europeans be free to travel, to visit one another, or to conduct business with
each other? Shouldn't the Brezhnev doctrine finally be renounced? Four decades
after the war, why should 17 million Germans be
treated like prisoners in their own land? A true opening-up and recognition of
their sovereign independence would be welcomed by all the peoples of Eastern
and central Europe, and it would not
threaten the security of the Soviet Union or anyone else.
few months ago, I visited Berlin. I stood there
alongside the cruel wall that symbolizes so powerfully the scar that divides the
European continent. It's time for that wound to heal and that scar to
disappear. Wouldn't it be a wonderful sight for the world to see, if someday
General Secretary Gorbachev and I could meet in Berlin and together take down
the first bricks of that wall -- and we could continue taking down walls until
the distrust between our peoples and the scars of the past are forgotten.
few moments ago, I recalled the valiant fight 40 years ago to liberate the
European continent. Who cannot help but appreciate that, in that epic struggle,
the peoples of the Soviet Union fought bravely and sacrificed so immensely to
defeat the common enemy. After the war, we became adversaries, at times bitter
adversaries. Yet this need not have happened and need not continue. Any
philosophy or leader suggesting that there is a predetermined course of history
and that conflict between our peoples and systems is inevitable is wrong. We
are not condemned by forces beyond our control. We, all peoples in every land,
can shape the world in which we live and determine the future. We in the
Western democracies have been doing just that. Together we've built a freer and
more prosperous way of life, a community of free people. I'm certain you agree
with me that the door is open to all who would join with us.
literary figure Heinrich Heine has written: ``Do not
mock our dreamers. Their words become the seeds of freedom.'' Well, today our
vision, not only of a more peaceful world but of a world of freedom in which
democratic rights are enjoyed in every land, seems ever more in focus, almost
as if it is within reach. We will continue to watch and to be hopeful, yet we
must also remain vigilant. The strength and viability of the alliance remains
essential, even as an agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union opens new opportunities
for peace. It is just such strength as NATO has demonstrated that is a
precondition to such progress. Weakness, vulnerability, and wishful thinking
can undo what has been accomplished by standing firm.
nevertheless, can be a time of great change. As you're likely aware, General
Secretary Gorbachev has accepted my invitation to come to Washington for a summit in early
December. We'll be discussing face-to-face the wide spectrum of issues I've
spoken to you about today. I, in fact, expect we'll sign that agreement
concerning U.S. and Soviet INF missiles
during the time of our meetings.
our part, the commitment of the United States to the alliance and to
the security of Europe -- INF treaty or no INF treaty -- remains
unshakable. Over 300,000 American servicemen with you on the continent and our
steadfast nuclear guarantee underscore this pledge. Those who worry that we
will somehow drift apart or that deterrence has been weakened are mistaken on
both counts. Our ties will be strengthened, not diminished, by this success. Such an historic reduction in nuclear weapons, as now appears on
the way, will be a resounding vindication of the unity, strength, and
determination of the alliance.
far as our ability to keep the peace, the NATO strategy of flexible response
will continue to ensure that aggression, at any level, is blocked. A viable
deterrent force of nuclear weapons of many types, including ground-based
systems as well as those carried by aircraft and submarines, still protects Europe and remains in place.
And we have agreed with our allies that the existing imbalances in conventional
forces and chemical weapons must be redressed prior to any further nuclear
reductions in Europe.
alliance has had underway for some time a program of modernizing our forces so
that a credible deterrent is maintained over the long term. That is why major
initiatives are moving forward to upgrade NATO's conventional strength. And
after 18 years of unilaterally refraining from any production of chemical
weapons, improvements are being made in our modest chemical weapon inventory.
of course, possesses what is by far the world's most extensive chemical weapon
just as we're doing in our INF talks, we're also seeking through negotiation to
correct the disparities we face in both the chemical and conventional areas. In
fact, in 1984 the United States, with allied support,
proposed an effective global ban on chemical weapons. As far as conventional
forces, the alliance stands ready, if the East meets us halfway, to make
reductions in central Europe through mutual balanced
force reductions, or MBFR, as they are called. At the same time, in Vienna an agreement between East
and West is being sought that would mandate new negotiations on conventional
stability from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains.
common security agenda, as you can see, is broad and ambitious. An INF
agreement is an important first step, but only the first one toward our greater
goal. And let there be no doubt, the citizens of the United States fully
understand and appreciate that we are partners for peace with you, the peoples
of our fellow Western democracies. That's why we applaud what we see as a new
willingness, even eagerness, on the part of some of our allies to increase the
level of cooperation and coordination among themselves in European defense. The
growing cooperation between France and Germany is a positive sign, as
is the modernization of the British and French independent nuclear deterrents,
which are both vital components of the Western security system. Last week the
foreign and defense ministers of the Western European union issued an
impressive declaration. It reaffirmed the importance of maintaining our nuclear
and conventional deterrents and affirmed a positive Western European identity
in the field of defense within the framework of the Atlantic alliance. We
welcome these developments.
these last four decades, all too often the United States has been viewed as the
senior partner of the alliance. Well, today when the economic strength of Western Europe and the United States are fully comparable,
the time has long since come when we will view ourselves as equal partners, and a more equal relationship should not diminish
our bonds but strengthen them. It should not limit our potential but expand it.
the soul of German literature, once wrote: ``If you would create something, you
must be something.'' Well, in these last four decades the people of the United States and Europe have been a force for
progress and freedom on this planet. And only a few short years from now, as
mankind literally enters into a new millennium, we will have laid the
foundation for a prosperous and free future. We've proven wrong -- dead wrong
-- those doubters and despots who earlier in this century thought democracy was
soon to be extinct. We have ensured that, in the centuries ahead, it is free
people who will dominate the affairs of mankind. And let me predict that,
someday, the realm of liberty and justice will encompass the planet. Freedom is
not just the birthright of the few, it is the
God-given right of all His children, in every country. It won't come by
conquest. It will come, because freedom is right and freedom works. It will
come, because cooperation and good will among free people will carry the day.
a story that was brought to my attention a few years ago about an elderly
couple who live in the small town of Marstel on the island of Aero in Denmark -- Natalia
and Nels Mortensen. For the last 40 years they have
tended the grave of a young man they never met. They dig the weeds and place
flowers, and always there's a small American flag. When it becomes worn, they
replace it with another.
are watching over the final resting place of U.S. Air Force Sergeant Jack
Wagner, who died when his plane was shot down on June
near Aero, which was then occupied territory. Jack Wagner's body washed up on
shore a few days later, and the word quickly spread through the tiny community.
When the Nazi occupation troops came to bury the young American, they found
nearly the whole town of 2,000 had been waiting by the grave since early in the
morning to pay tribute to the young flyer. The path had been lined with
flowers. And when the troops laid young Jack Wagner in his grave, the
townspeople conducted a funeral service and placed red, white, and blue flowers
on his grave, along with a banner that read: ``Thank you for what you have
was a 19-year-old American from Snyder County, Pennsylvania. The Danish townspeople
had never met him, but they knew this young man had given his life for them. He
cared enough for people he'd never met to make the supreme sacrifice for their
freedom. The Mortensens never forgot this. They still
care for that grave as if he was a member of their family, and in a way, he
was. Just as we are all part of the family of free people.
young people from all of our countries have died to preserve the freedom we now
enjoy. Many of our children still serve. They stand together on the ramparts of
freedom. We care about each and every one of them as if he or she was our own.
Let us be as brave as they are brave, as proud as they are proud.
you for letting me share these moments with you. God bless you.
Note: The President's
address was recorded on November 3 in the Roosevelt Room at the White House for
broadcast by the U.S. Information Agency on WORLDNET television and the Voice of America at on