November 23, 1983
The President. Good morning. Any significance to the fact that you're now on the left of me instead of the right? [Laughter]
Q. That's what we want to know. What do you think of the Soviet walkout, and does this increase the possibility of a nuclear confrontation in the world?
The President. No, I still don't believe there's danger of a nuclear conflict as long as we have the deterrent power that we have. I don't think that I'm surprised by what they did this morning, but I am disappointed. And I can't believe that it's going to be permanent. We'll be ready to continue negotiations at any time that they want to come back.
Let me just point out the two superpowers are the only force that can preserve the peace and maintain peace. And we have, for 2 years, and we were the ones who initiated these discussions about eliminating, if possible, the intermediate-range weapons in Europe at a time when NATO had none. And during these 2 years or so of negotiations and talks, they have continued to add a hundred of their triple-warhead SS - 20 missiles to the stock they already had. At the same time, they are proclaiming that we are the aggressors in wanting to accede to NATO's demand and put any missiles at all in Europe, where there are none.
Now, we, at present, have plans and are going to continue with withdrawing tactical and theater weapons, 1,400 more than we've already withdrawn. So, I think the evidence is very plain as to which country of the two is sincerely and honestly working toward a reduction of armaments.
Q. What do you think motivated them, and will they put missiles in Eastern Europe?
The President. What's that?
Q. What do you think motivated the Russians, and will they put missiles, their missiles, now directly in Eastern Europe?
The President. Well, they have announced that this is their intention, but I understand that there's also some unhappiness and dissatisfaction on the part of some of the Eastern European countries about their doing that.
Q. Mr. President, do you think they will come back, and how soon?
The President. I don't know how soon. I can't put a time on it. I think they'll come back, because I think they must be aware, as much as we are, that there cannot and must not be a nuclear confrontation in the world by the only two nations that truly have the great destructive capability, nuclear capability. So, I have to believe they'll come back. And I can tell you that we're not going to sit here with false pride. We will do everything that we can to bring them back.
Q. Like what, Mr. President?
The President. What?
Q. Like what? What will you do to bring them back?
The President. Continuing to persuade them that it's to their advantage as well as anyone else's.
Q. Are you investigating your own staff?
The President. I don't comment on any security violations or any investigation of the same.
Okay. Well, happy Thanksgiving.
Note: The exchange began at 9 a.m. at the South Portico of the White House. Following the exchange, the President left for Rancho del Cielo, his ranch near Santa Barbara, Calif., where he spent the Thanksgiving holiday.