March 2, 1988
The President. I promised a statement. I have a statement. Today's meetings have been extremely productive. There is a strong sense of unity in the alliance, as reflected in the statement on conventional imbalance in Europe. This document is a major step forward for the alliance. The most direct threat to our security and to stability in Europe lies in the Soviet Union's massive military presence at a level far exceeding its defense needs.
First, effective defenses are vital. We're determined to ensure that the alliance's defenses remain strong. We'll continue to cooperate on better and more efficient ways to maintain our defenses. Second, we also seek to strengthen stability through effective and verifiable conventional arms reduction. Large asymmetrical reductions in the Warsaw Pact tanks and artillery, which pose the greatest threat to peace, are essential in meeting this goal; but arms reduction is not enough. Arms are only the symptom, not the cause of the political division of Europe between free and unfree societies. In addition to arms reductions, we also look for greater respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms on which lasting security and stability in Europe ultimately depend.
During my meetings in Brussels, I have kept close watch on the situation in the Middle East. Secretary Shultz briefed me fully on his negotiating efforts, and it's clear all countries in the region believe it is useful for the United States to remain engaged in this process. We'll spare no effort in our search for a comprehensive peace settlement. I have directed Secretary Shultz to return to the Middle East tomorrow to continue his discussions.
Reporter. Mr. President, if I could try a question I asked you earlier: Some critics are saying that at this summit you're papering over some of the real differences within NATO about burden-sharing and what to do about modernizing with short-range nuclear weapons.
The President. I have to say first that that is the only question. I'm going to get back where it's warm now. But that's the only question -- that actually there's no foundation for the question. There are no great fundamental differences there. I have never seen such harmony and togetherness as we have. And all of the statements that were made today -- and every head of state had an opportunity to speak in there -- all of them were supportive of what's going on and what we're doing.
Q. Disagree about anything, sir?
The President. What?
Q. Disagree about anything in all those hours?
Secretary Shultz. Here's the conventional arms -- --
Q. Mr. Secretary, I never got it hand-delivered. [Laughter] Did the President disagree about anything, though, sir?
The President. No.
The President. No.
Middle East Peace Process
Q. Mr. President, what do you think that the Secretary can accomplish by going back to the Middle East when, in fact, he returned last night with no concrete signs of progress there?
The President. Well, he came back here temporarily to participate in what was going on here today, and now he's going back.
Note: The President spoke at 5:30 p.m. outside of Chateau Stuyvenberg. A tape was not available for verification of the contents of the remarks.