June 11, 1982
Mr. Governing Mayor, Mr. Chancellor, Excellencies, you ladies and gentlemen:
It was one of Germany's greatest sons, Goethe, who said that ``there is strong shadow where there is much light.'' In our times, Berlin, more than any other place in the world, is such a meeting place of light and shadow, tyranny and freedom. To be here is truly to stand on freedom's edge and in the shadow of a wall that has come to symbolize all that is darkest in the world today, to sense how shining and priceless and how much in need of constant vigilance and protection our legacy of liberty is.
This day marks a happy return for us. We paid our first visit to this great city more than 3 years ago, as private citizens. As with every other citizen to Berlin or visitor to Berlin, I came away with a vivid impression of a city that is more than a place on the map -- a city that is a testament to what is both most inspiring and most troubling about the time we live in.
Thomas Mann once wrote that ``A man lives not only his personal life as an individual, but also consciously or unconsciously the life of his epoch.'' Nowhere is this more true than in Berlin, where each moment of everyday life is spent against the backdrop of contending global systems and ideas. To be a Berliner is to live the great historic struggle of this age, the latest chapter in man's timeless quest for freedom.
As Americans, we understand this. Our commitment to Berlin is a lasting one. Thousands of our citizens have served here since the first small contingent of American troops arrived on July 4th, 1945, the anniversary of our independence as a nation. Americans have served here ever since -- not as conquerors, but as guardians of the freedom of West Berlin and its brave, proud, people.
Today I want to pay tribute to my fellow countrymen, military and civilian, who serve their country and the people of Berlin and, in so doing, stand as sentinels of freedom everywhere. I also wish to pay my personal respects to the people of this great city. My visit here today is proof that this American commitment has been worthwhile. Our freedom is indivisible.
The American commitment to Berlin is much deeper than our military presence here. In the 37 years since World War II, a succession of American Presidents has made it clear that our role in Berlin is emblematic of our larger search for peace throughout Europe and the world. Ten years ago this month, that search brought into force the Quadripartite Agreement on Berlin. A decade later, West Berliners live more securely, can travel more freely and, most significantly, have more contact with friends and relatives in East Berlin and East Germany than was possible 10 years ago.
These achievements reflect the realistic approach of Allied negotiators, who recognized that practical progress can be made even while basic differences remain between East and West. As a result, both sides have managed to handle their differences in Berlin without the clash of arms, to the benefit of all mankind.
The United States remains committed to the Berlin agreement. We will continue to expect strict observance and full implementation in all aspects of this accord, including those which apply to the eastern sector of Berlin. But if we are heartened by the partial progress achieved in Berlin, other developments make us aware of the growing military power and expansionism of the Soviet Union.
Instead of working with the West to reduce tensions and erase the danger of war, the Soviet Union is engaged in the greatest military buildup in the history of the world. It has used its new-found might to ruthlessly pursue it goals around the world. As the sad case of Afghanistan proves, the Soviet Union has not always respected the precious right of national sovereignty it is committed to uphold as a signatory of the United Nations Charter. And only one day's auto ride from here, in the great city of Warsaw, a courageous people suffer, because they dare to strive for the very fundamental human rights which that Helsinki Final Act proclaimed.
The citizens of free Berlin appreciate better than anyone the importance of allied unity in the face of such challenges. Ten years after the Berlin agreement, the hope it engendered for lasting peace remains a hope rather than a certainty. But the hopes of free people -- be they German or American -- are stubborn things. We will not be lulled or bullied into fatalism, into resignation. We believe that progress for just and lasting peace can be made, that substantial areas of agreement can be reached with potential adversaries when the forces of freedom act with firmness, unity, and a sincere willingness to negotiate.
To succeed at the negotiating table, we allies have learned that a healthy military balance is a necessity. Yesterday, the other NATO heads of government and I agreed that it is essential to preserve and strengthen such a military balance. And let there be no doubt: The United States will continue to honor its commitment to Berlin.
Our forces will remain here as long as necessary to preserve the peace and protect the freedom of the people of Berlin. For us the American presence in Berlin, as long as it is needed, is not a burden; it is a sacred trust.
Ours is a defensive mission. We pose no threat to those who live on the other side of the wall. But we do extend a challenge, a new Berlin initiative to the leaders of the Soviet bloc. It is a challenge for peace. We challenge the men in the Kremlin to join with us in the quest for peace, security, and a lowering of the tensions and weaponry that could lead to future conflict.
We challenge the Soviet Union, as we proposed last year, to eliminate their SS - 20, SS - 4, and SS - 5 missiles. If Chairman Brezhnev agrees to this, we stand ready to forgo all of our ground-launched cruise missiles and Pershing II missiles.
We challenge the Soviet Union, as NATO proposed yesterday, to slash the conventional ground forces of the Warsaw Pact and NATO in Central Europe to 700,000 men each and the total ground and air forces of the two alliances to 900,000 men each. And we challenge the Soviet Union to live up to its signature its leader placed on the Helsinki treaty, so that the basic human rights of Soviet and Eastern Europe people will be respected.
A positive response to these sincere and reasonable points from the Soviets, these calls for conciliation instead of confrontation, could open the door for a conference on disarmament in Europe.
We Americans -- we Americans are optimists, but we are also realists. We're a peaceful people, but we're not a weak or gullible people. So, we look with hope to the Soviet Union's response. But we expect positive actions rather than rhetoric as the first proof of Soviet good intentions. We expect that the response to my Berlin initiative for peace will demonstrate finally that the Soviet Union is serious about working to reduce tensions in other parts of the world as they have been able to do here in Berlin.
Peace, it has been said, is more than the absence of armed conflict. Reducing military forces alone will not automatically guarantee the long-term prospects for peace.
Several times in the 1950's and `60's the world went to the brink of war over Berlin. Those confrontations did not come because of military forces or operations alone. They arose because the Soviet Union refused to allow the free flow of peoples and ideas between East and West. And they came because the Soviet authorities and their minions repressed millions of citizens in Eastern Germany who did not wish to live under a Communist dictatorship.
So, I want to concentrate the second part of America's new Berlin initiative on ways to reduce the human barriers -- barriers as bleak and brutal as the Berlin Wall itself -- which divide Europe today.
If I had only one message to urge on the leaders of the Soviet bloc, it would be this: Think of your own coming generations. Look with me 10 years into the future when we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Berlin agreement. What then will be the fruits of our efforts? Do the Soviet leaders want to be remembered for a prison wall, ringed with barbed wire and armed guards whose weapons are aimed at innocent civilians -- their own civilians? Do they want to conduct themselves in a way that will earn only the contempt of free peoples and the distrust of their own citizens? Or do they want to be remembered for having taken up our offer to use Berlin as a starting point for true efforts to reduce the human and political divisions which are the ultimate cause of every war?
We in the West have made our choice. America and our allies welcome peaceful competition in ideas, in economics, and in all facets of human activity. We seek no advantage. We covet no territory. And we wish to force no ideology or way of life on others.
The time has come, 10 years after the Berlin agreement, to fulfill the promise it seemed to offer at its dawn. I call on President Brezhnev to join me in a sincere effort to translate the dashed hopes of the 1970's into the reality of a safer and freer Europe in the 1980's.
I am determined to assure that our civilization averts the catastrophe of a nuclear war. Stability depends primarily on the maintenance of a military balance which offers no temptation to an aggressor. And the arms control proposals which I have made are designed to enhance deterrence and achieve stability at substantially lower and equal force levels. At the same time, other measures might be negotiated between the United States and the Soviet Union to reinforce the peace and help reduce the possibility of a nuclear conflict. These include measures to enhance mutual confidence and to improve communication both in time of peace and in a crisis.
Past agreements have created the hot line between Moscow and Washington, established measures to reduce the danger of nuclear accidents, and provided for notification of some missile launches. We are now studying other concrete and practical steps to help further reduce the risk of a nuclear conflict which I intend to explore with the Soviet Union. It is time we went further to avert the risk of war through accident or misunderstanding.
We shortly will approach the Soviet Union with proposals in such areas as notification of strategic exercises, of missile launches, and expanded exchange of strategic forces data. Taken together, these steps would represent a qualitative improvement in the nuclear environment. They would help reduce the chances of misinterpretation in the case of exercises and test launches. And they would reduce the secrecy and ambiguity which surround military activity. We are considering additional measures as well.
We will be making these proposals in good faith to the Soviet Union. We hope that their response to this Berlin initiative, so appropriate to a city that is acutely conscious of the costs and risks of war, will be positive. A united, resolute Western Alliance stands ready to defend itself if necessary. But we are also ready to work with the Soviet bloc in peaceful cooperation if the leaders of the East are willing to respond in kind.
Let them remember the message of Schiller that only ``He who has done his best for his own time has lived for all times.'' Let them join with us in our time to achieve a lasting peace and a better life for tomorrow's generations on both sides of that blighted wall. And let the Brandenburg Gate become a symbol not of two separate and hostile worlds, but an open door through which ideas, free ideas, and peaceful competition flourish.
My final message is for the people of Berlin. Even before my first visit to your city, I felt a part of you, as all free men and women around the world do. We lived through the blockade and airlift with you. We witnessed the heroic reconstruction of a devastated city, and we watched the creation of your strong democratic institutions.
When I came here in 1978, I was deeply moved and proud of your success. What finer proof of what freedom can accomplish than the vibrant, prosperous island you've created in the midst of a hostile sea. Today, my reverence for your courage and accomplishment has grown even deeper.
You are a constant inspiration for us all -- for our hopes and ideals, and for the human qualities of courage, endurance, and faith that are the one secret weapon of the West no totalitarian regime can ever match. As long as Berlin exists, there can be no doubt about the hope for democracy.
Yes, the hated wall still stands. But taller and stronger than that bleak barrier dividing East from West, free from oppressed, stands the character of the Berliners themselves. You have endured in your splendid city on the Spree, and my return visit has convinced me, in the words of the beloved old song that ``Berlin bleibt doch Berlin'' -- Berlin is still Berlin.
We all remember John Kennedy's stirring words when he visited Berlin. I can only add that we in America and in the West are still Berliners, too, and always will be. And I am proud to say today that it is good to be home again.
God bless you. Danke schon.
Note: The President spoke at 11:35 a.m. in front of the Charlottenburg Palace.
During his appearance at Charlottenburg Palace, the President attended a reception hosted by Berlin Mayor Richard von Weizsacker.