January 15, 1986

Tomorrow marks the opening of the fourth round of the nuclear and space arms talks. These negotiations are devoted to seeking ways to reduce the U.S. and Soviet arsenals of nuclear weapons and simultaneously to strengthen strategic stability. I have no higher priority than to achieve agreements which would strengthen America's security and that of our allies by establishing a more stable strategic balance at radically reduced levels of weaponry. And it is my hope that we can one day eliminate them altogether.

The upcoming session represents an important opportunity to give new momentum to arms negotiations. Building upon the fresh start in our relationship that General Secretary Gorbachev and I made at our meetings in Geneva, it is my hope that we can see the general agreement on principles that we reached in Geneva translated into real progress at the negotiations. General Secretary Gorbachev and I made a commitment to accelerate Soviet-American arms reduction negotiations where there is common ground. Specifically, we agreed to the principle of 50-percent reductions, appropriately applied, in nuclear offensive arsenals and to seek an interim agreement on limiting intermediate-range missile systems. We hope that during this new round of talks progress can be made toward achieving these mutually beneficial objectives.

During the previous round of the negotiations, the Soviet Union made counterproposals to the concrete American arms reduction positions. After careful study, we found the Soviet counterproposals to have some positive elements, but also to be seriously one-sided in a number of key areas. To move the negotiations forward, the U.S. made a fresh offer. Our offer encompassed a proposal to cut in half the offensive nuclear arsenals of both sides in an appropriate and equitable way. The U.S. proposal takes account of expressed Soviet concerns and builds on the common elements in our respective positions. It seeks deep cuts, no first-strike advantage, continuing defensive research -- because defense is much safer than offense -- and no cheating. Our proposal is fair, balanced, and, if accepted, would result in the most dramatic cuts in offensive arms ever achieved.

The new U.S. offer is not a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. I have instructed our negotiators to press ahead in laying out the details of our position and in seeking and expanding common ground. Our objective remains an agreement for 50-percent reductions, appropriately applied, in the strategic nuclear arsenals of both the United States and Soviet Union and for enhanced stability by reducing the capability to conduct a first strike. With respect to intermediate-range nuclear forces, our objective remains the eventual elimination of the entire category of LRINF [Longer Range Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces] missile systems, but we are prepared to work out an interim agreement based on the principle of equality which limits LRINF missiles. In the defense and space forum, we will continue to seek to expand our dialog with the Soviets concerning the offense-defense relationship. We will also push for Soviet agreement to our new proposal for reciprocal visits to laboratories engaged in strategic defense research.

U.S. negotiators are ready for tough but honest bargaining. The challenge ahead is formidable, but they have the flexibility to explore any promising avenues for agreement. As we have said before, we are more interested in results than in methods of reaching them. If the Soviets approach this round in a similar spirit, the prospects for progress will be greatly increased. Our two countries have it within our power to make 1986 a year of genuine peace and progress in arms control. Fair, equitable, and verifiable reductions of the weapons of massive destruction will serve Soviet and American interests and that of all humanity. It is a noble goal and an awesome responsibility. I wish our negotiators good luck and Godspeed.

Note: Larry M. Speakes, Principal Deputy Press Secretary to the President, read the President's statement to reporters at 9:24 a.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.