May 25, 1988
My fellow Americans and all our Ambassadors of our friends and allies who are here: On the eve of my first meeting with General Secretary Gorbachev in 1985, I told you that my mission, simply stated, was a mission for freedom and peace. I wanted to sit down across the table from Mr. Gorbachev and try to set out with him a basis for peaceful discourse and cooperation between our two countries, at the same time working to advance the cause and frontiers of human freedom. As I approached that first meeting in Geneva, I wanted to establish a better working relationship with the Soviet Union -- one no longer subject to the dangerous highs and lows of the past; a working relationship that would be based on realities, not merely on a seeming relaxation of tensions between our two countries that could quickly disappear. To accomplish that, the United States needed to see solid and steady progress in four major areas: human rights, regional conflicts, arms reductions, and bilateral exchanges. Well, we've come a long way since then.
Now, as I depart on this trip to Moscow, fulfilling the agreement I made with General Secretary Gorbachev back in 1985 that we would visit each other's country, I can point to achievements we can all be proud of in each of the areas of our four-part agenda. The United States and the Soviet Union have signed the Geneva accords providing for the withdrawal of all Soviet troops from Afghanistan, and the first withdrawals have begun. We have signed an arms reduction treaty that will reduce the level of nuclear arms for the first time in history, eliminating an entire class of U.S. and Soviet nuclear missiles. We've made progress on the main points of a treaty that will cut in half our arsenals of strategic offensive nuclear weapons. Our new nuclear risk reduction centers are already transmitting messages that reduce the risk of conflict.
Our representatives have held broad-ranging discussions on human rights, and we've seen concrete steps taken. The levels of emigration have risen. Some political and religious prisoners have been released, and a number of divided families have been reunited. Somewhat more diversity of expression is permitted. There has been a recognition of religious persecution in the past and a pledge that some restrictions on the right to worship will be eased. We have greatly expanded our bilateral exchanges. The number of travelers between our two countries is rising sharply, with unprecedented totals expected this year. There's more, of course, but I'd miss my plane if I went through the entire list. [Laughter] And yet impressive as these achievements may be, they represent only a beginning.
In my talks with General Secretary Gorbachev next week, we will be looking to the future, for there remains much to be done. Permit me to outline the substance of our four-part agenda for those talks:
On human rights, I will press to see that the positive trends I've mentioned continue and the reforms are made permanent. We certainly welcome the recent signs of Soviet progress toward greater freedom of religion, greater freedom of speech, greater freedom of movement. There have been indications that this progress may be written into Soviet law and regulations so that it can be a more permanent part of Soviet life. We will be doing all we can to encourage just that.
Concerning regional conflicts, we'll be looking for Soviet actions to help advance negotiations on the Angola and Namibia problems and to support U.N. efforts to end the Iran-Iraq war. We will ask the Soviets to use their influence with the Ethiopian Government to prevent a manmade crisis of starvation there. We'll urge the Soviets to help move the Middle East peace process closer to a just and lasting solution. And we'll look for ways to help the parties resolve other regional conflicts in Africa, Asia, and, yes, Central America.
Regarding arms reductions, we'll strive to resolve the issues that still stand in the way of our agreement to cut U.S. and Soviet strategic offensive nuclear arms in half. As we make progress, our negotiators will be able to move forward in their work on the draft START treaty. We'll continue to seek ways to improve the verification procedures of two existing treaties on nuclear testing -- the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions treaty and the Threshold Test Ban treaty -- so that those treaties can be ratified. And I will urge the Soviets to move ahead at the Vienna followup meeting of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. At these discussions, negotiators from 35 nations are working on ways to advance human rights and strengthen the confidence- and security-building measures they negotiated at Stockholm in 1986. Separately, the 23 members of the Atlantic alliance and Warsaw Pact are negotiating a mandate for new talks on conventional forces. Success here means the Soviets must make continued progress on human rights, for the security in Europe involves much more than military arrangements. It must be based on a solid foundation of respect for the rights of individuals.
Concerning the final portion of our four-part agenda, our bilateral relations, we will address both new agreements and renewals of existing agreements to extend the areas in which we cooperate. This will include everything from practical matters of nuclear safety to radio navigation and the protection of our global environment. We'll seek to broaden still further our people-to-people contacts and, especially, to give more of our young people the opportunity to participate in such exchanges.
So, as you see from the outline of that agenda, there will be plenty of work for Mr. Gorbachev and me in Moscow next week. I don't expect it to be easy. We may have many differences, deep differences, moral differences, but we're still fellow human beings. We can still work together to keep the peace. And in working with the Soviet Union, the United States can still remain true to its mission of expanding liberty throughout the world.
Since my first meeting with Mr. Gorbachev, we have, as I've said, come a long way. My task next week will be to go still farther -- farther in the interests of peace, farther toward a universal respect for fundamental human rights, farther toward world freedom, and farther toward a safer world for all people. And now, as I embark upon this great task, I ask for your prayers. Thank you, and God bless you all.
Note: The President spoke to supporters and members of the White House staff at 9:51 a.m. at the South Portico of the White House.