October 4, 1983
Ladies and gentlemen, later today Ambassador Ed Rowny and the other members of the START delegation will depart for Geneva for the opening of the fifth round of the strategic arms reduction talks. They'll carry with them a new set of instructions. From the first day of these negotiations our highest goal has been to achieve a stable balance at reduced levels of nuclear arsenals. We want to reduce the weapons of war, pure and simple.
All our efforts in both the START and the INF negotiations continue to be guided by that objective. Just this morning, I repeated this commitment to President Carstens of the Federal Republic of Germany. As I pledged to the United Nations, the United States will accept any equitable, verifiable agreement that stabilizes forces at lower levels than currently exist. We want significant reductions, and that pledge stands.
In the last round of negotiations we proposed a number of new initiatives which where in harmony with the recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Strategic Forces and which provided additional flexibility to our negotiations. Those initiatives supported our basic goals, and they also responded to a number of Soviet concerns.
I deeply regret that the Soviet Union has yet to give any significant response. Throughout the negotiating process it's the United States who's had to push, pull, probe, and prod in an effort to achieve any progress. The heartfelt desire shared by people everywhere for an historic agreement dramatically reducing nuclear weapons could and indeed will be achieved, provided one condition changes: The Soviet Government must start negotiating in good faith.
Now, let me emphasize that the United States has gone the extra mile. We've removed the dividing line between the two phases of our original proposal; everything is on the table. We're still most concerned about limits on the fast-flying, most dangerous systems, but we're also prepared to negotiate limits on bomber and air-launch cruise missile limits below SALT II levels. We've shown great flexibility in dealing with the destructive capability of ballistic missiles, including their throw-weight. We've also relaxed our limits on the number of ballistic missiles.
We've gone a very long way to address Soviet concerns, but the Soviets have yet to take their first meaningful step to address ours. Particularly in the INF talks, but also in START, they've been stonewalling our proposals. When we proposed confidence-building measures that could be agreed to right now, they said wait. Apparently they believe that time is on their side, that they can exploit one democracy against another, and that their uncompromising attitude and delay will ultimately win out.
Well, we'll prove them wrong. The diversity of our democracies is a source of strength, not weakness. From free discussion among free people comes unity and commitment. The sooner this is understood, the sooner we'll reach an agreement in the interests of both sides. We'll continue to press Moscow for an equitable, fair, and verifiable agreement.
When the START negotiations resume tomorrow, the United States delegation will again have sustained flexibility. Within the framework of the basic principles that have guided us throughout these negotiations, I am directing Ambassador Rowny to offer the following new initiatives. We're incorporating into START a series of build-down proposals. The United States will introduce a proposal for a mutual, guaranteed build-down, designed to encourage stabilizing systems. The proposal will include specific provisions for building down ballistic warheads and, concurrently, for addressing a parallel build-down on bombers.
To discuss these major new initiatives, we will also propose the establishment of a U.S.-Soviet build-down working group in the Geneva talks. On another front, and in our effort, again, to be absolutely as flexible as possible, we will be willing to explore ways to further limit the size and capability of air-launch cruise missile forces in exchange for reciprocal Soviet flexibility on items of concern to us.
We seek limits on the destructive capability of missiles and recognize that the Soviet Union would seek limits on bombers in return. There will have to be tradeoffs, and the United States is prepared to make them, so long as they result in a more stable balance of forces.
The Soviet Union should not doubt the bipartisan support for our efforts. During our review process I looked for ways to broaden America's bipartisan approach to our overall arms control effort. We've consulted with many Members of the Congress and again with the Commission headed by Brent Scowcroft. Their counsel has been invaluable, and I want to thank them for their tireless efforts and helpful advice.
A solid, national, bipartisan consensus, sustained from year to year and from administration to administration, is crucial if we are to keep America safe and secure and if we're to achieve successful arms reductions. Therefore, I've decided to take a number of new steps. Among these are to designate a member of the Scowcroft commission, James Woolsey, as a Member at Large to our START negotiations. These actions reflect America's democratic process at its best.
Ambassador Rowny, as you and your team depart for Geneva, you go with the certain knowledge that you're negotiating with the full support of the American people. Our bipartisan support is stronger than ever before, and you carry with you fair, equitable proposals that are in the interest of both nations and all humankind.
It's fitting today to repeat what I said last week. The door to an agreement is open. All the world is waiting for the Soviet Union to walk through. Should the Soviet leadership decide to join us now in our good faith effort, the fifth round of these negotiations will be the one in which, finally, a breakthrough was made, and finally the world began to breathe a bit easier.
So, to the entire START delegation, Ambassador Rowny, good luck and Godspeed.
Note: The President spoke at 2:22 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. Prior to his announcement, the President met in the Oval Office with Ambassador Edward L. Rowny, Special Representative for Negotiations, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.