May 7, 1988
My fellow Americans:
Next week the full United States Senate is expected to begin floor debate on the treaty on intermediate-range nuclear forces, known as the INF treaty. You'll recall that Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev and I signed this treaty at our summit meeting in Washington last December. The treaty represents a landmark accomplishment, an historic accomplishment, because, once implemented, it will bring about the elimination of an entire class of American and Soviet nuclear missiles.
Before our nation can commit itself to a treaty, our Constitution provides that the Senate must give its advice and consent. And therefore, last January I formally submitted the INF treaty to the Senate for its consideration. The duty of the Senate in giving its advice and consent to treaties is vital to maintaining our separation of powers, and the role of the Senate is considering the -- in considering, I should say, the INF treaty -- it's essential.
Senior officials of the administration have been working closely with the Senate. Officials from our State and Defense Departments, our intelligence community, and our arms control agency have provided many hours of testimony before three separate Senate committees, painstakingly responding to the detailed questions posed to them by the Senators on these committees. In addition, Senators have addressed to the administration numerous letters about the treaty and more than 1,200 written questions. We have provided full written responses. So, you'll see that we've worked very hard to meet any Senate concerns over the treaty. And as I've assured the Senate, we'll continue to do so.
Now that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved the INF treaty, the entire Senate will be called on to discharge its constitutional responsibility to provide its advice and consent to the INF treaty. As this debate is about to begin in the historic Senate Chamber, permit me to take a moment to review with you the treaty's background.
The INF treaty is the result of years of hard work by American officials, officials who, in representing you in our negotiations with the Soviet Union, held fast to the key security objectives that had been set out by the United States and our NATO allies. At one point the Soviet Union actually walked away from the table and stayed away from the talks for almost a year and a half. When in early 1985 the Soviets finally returned, we repeated our call for the elimination of this entire class of U.S. and Soviet missiles -- my zero option proposal, first put forward all the way back in 1981.
And in 1987 it was the Soviet Union that finally, after 2 1/2 more years of negotiating, came around to the American position. To sum up: In the INF negotiations, we held fast to what we wanted, and we got it. And this is what comes of negotiating from strength. It's the same successful formula -- dealing from strength -- that we're applying to our other negotiations with the Soviet Union as well. And I assure you: If we don't get what we want in these other areas -- in other words, if we do not get good treaties -- there will be no treaties.
It's my hope that, in recognition of the important role they play in this process, the 100 Members of the United States Senate will now proceed expeditiously in their debate on the INF treaty. It is, after all, a solid treaty, carefully negotiated; a treaty that stands on its own substantive merits; a treaty that will enhance the security of our country and that of our European and Asian allies now threatened by the various Soviet missiles that will be removed once the treaty is implemented. Senate approval of the treaty will enable us to get on with the job of eliminating these nuclear missiles. It will also allow us to put into action the elaborate verification regime that we achieved in the INF treaty. The most stringent in arms control history, it will enable us to verify effectively that the Soviets are indeed complying with all of the treaty's provisions.
I know that you, the American people, strongly support this INF treaty. And on Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives has already given the treaty its endorsement by an overwhelming vote of 393 to 7. Now that the treaty is moving to floor debate in the Senate, let the debate be vigorous and full, and let it proceed without delay. For I'm confident that the final vote will indeed give advice and consent to this historic treaty, the historic step toward a safer peace.
Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.
Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Camp David, MD.