June 10, 1985
In 1982, on the eve of the strategic arms reductions talks (START), I decided that the United States would not undercut the expired SALT I agreement or the unratified SALT II agreement as long as the Soviet Union exercised equal restraint. Despite my serious reservations about the inequities of the SALT I agreement and the serious flaws of the SALT II agreement, I took this action in order to foster an atmosphere of mutual restraint conducive to serious negotiation as we entered START.
Since then the United States has not taken any actions which would undercut existing arms control agreements. The United States has fully kept its part of the bargain, however, the Soviets have not. They have failed to comply with several provisions of SALT II, and we have serious concerns regarding their compliance with the provisions of other accords.
The pattern of Soviet violations, if left uncorrected, undercuts the integrity and viability of arms control as an instrument to assist in ensuring a secure and stable future world. The United States will continue to pursue vigorously with the Soviet Union the resolution of our concerns over Soviet noncompliance. We cannot impose upon ourselves a double standard that amounts to unilateral treaty compliance.
We remain determined to pursue a productive dialog with the Soviet Union aimed at reducing the risk of war through the adoption of meaningful measures which improve security, stability, and predictability. Therefore, I have reached the judgment that, despite the Soviet record over the last years, it remains in our interest to establish an interim framework of truly mutual restraint on strategic offensive arms as we pursue with renewed vigor our goal of real reductions in the size of existing nuclear arsenals in the ongoing negotiations in Geneva. Obtaining such reductions remains my highest priority.
The U.S. cannot establish such a framework alone. It will require the Soviet Union to take the positive, concrete steps to correct its noncompliance, resolve our other compliance concerns, and reverse its unparalleled and unwarranted military buildup. So far, the Soviet Union has not chosen to move in this direction. However, in the interest of ensuring that every opportunity to establish the secure, stable future we seek is fully explored, I am prepared to go the extra mile in seeking an interim framework of truly mutual restraint.
Therefore, to provide the Soviets the opportunity to join us in establishing such a framework which could support ongoing negotiations, I have decided that the United States will continue to refrain from undercutting existing strategic arms agreements to the extent that the Soviet Union exercises comparable restraint and provided that the Soviet Union actively pursues arms reduction agreements in the currently ongoing nuclear and space talks in Geneva.
As an integral part of this policy, we will also take those steps required to assure the national security of the United States and our allies which were made necessary by Soviet noncompliance. Appropriate and proportionate responses to Soviet noncompliance are called for to ensure our security, to provide incentives to the Soviets to correct their noncompliance, and to make it clear to Moscow that violations of arms control obligations entail real costs.
Certain Soviet violations are, by their very nature, irreversible. Such is the case with respect to the Soviet Union's flight-testing and steps towards deployment of the SS - X - 25 missile, a second new type of ICBM prohibited by the unratified SALT II agreement. Since the noncompliance associated with the development of this missile cannot be corrected by the Soviet Union, the United States reserves the right to respond in a proportionate manner at the appropriate time. The Midgetman small ICBM program is particularly relevant in this regard.
Other Soviet activities involving noncompliance may be reversible and can be corrected by Soviet action. In these instances, we will provide the Soviet Union additional time to take such required corrective action. As we monitor Soviet actions for evidence of the positive, concrete steps needed on their part to correct these activities, I have directed the Department of Defense to conduct a comprehensive assessment aimed at identifying specific actions which the United States could take to augment as necessary the U.S. strategic modernization program as a proportionate response to, and as a hedge against the military consequences of, those Soviet violations of existing arms agreements which the Soviets fail to correct.
To provide adequate time for the Soviets to demonstrate by their actions a commitment to join us in an interim framework of true mutual restraint, we will plan to deactivate and dismantle according to agreed procedures an existing Poseidon SSBN as the seventh U.S. Ohio-class submarine puts to sea later this year. However, the United States will keep open all programmatic options for handling such milestones as they occur in the future. As these later milestones are reached, I will assess the overall situation in light of Soviet actions correcting their noncompliance and promoting progress in Geneva and make a final determination of the U.S. course of action on a case-by-case basis.
I firmly believe that if we are to put the arms reduction process on a firm and lasting foundation and obtain real reductions, our focus must remain on making best use of the promise provided by the currently ongoing negotiations in Geneva. Our policy, involving the establishment of an interim framework for truly mutual restraint and proportionate U.S. response to uncorrected Soviet noncompliance, is specifically designed to go the extra mile in giving the Soviet Union the opportunity to join us in this endeavor.
My hope is that if the Soviets will do so, we will be able jointly to make progress in framing equitable and verifiable agreements involving real reductions in the size of existing nuclear arsenals in the Geneva negotiations. Such an achievement would not only provide the best and most permanent constraint on the growth of nuclear arsenals, but it would take a major step towards reducing the size of these arsenals and creating a safer future for all nations.