Statement by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on the Resumption of the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction Negotiations

September 25, 1986

Representatives of NATO and the Warsaw Pact resume the mutual and balanced force reduction (MBFR) talks today in Vienna. It has long been NATO's goal to reach a verifiable agreement that would reduce and limit conventional forces in the crucial region of central Europe. This round of talks offers an opportunity to make progress toward that end.

For its part, NATO has made every effort to lay the groundwork for success. On December 5, 1985, in order to achieve a breakthrough in these negotiations, the West tabled a proposal that accepted the framework the Warsaw Pact had proposed for a time-limited, first-phase agreement calling for initial reductions by U.S. and Soviet ground forces, followed by a no-increase commitment on all forces of the two alliances in the area. Underscoring further its desire to achieve tangible progress in Vienna, the West at the same time changed its long-held position that there should be agreement on the numbers of forces of both sides in central Europe before initial reductions were taken -- a major compromise step in the East's direction.

The Eastern response to this significant move has not contributed to progress in the talks. Despite public claims by Warsaw Pact leaders that they were willing to incorporate reasonable verification measures in an agreement, the Warsaw Pact, in the draft MBFR agreement it tabled on February 20, 1986, again proposed inadequate and unacceptable measures for ensuring compliance. Moreover, the East actually took a step backward from its 1983 verification position and would now exempt the half-million Soviet troops on annual rotation into and out of central Europe from any requirement to pass through monitoring points.

Despite this lack of movement by the East in the previous two negotiating sessions, the United States and its allies remain hopeful that success can be achieved at the Vienna negotiating table. We look to the Soviet Union to seriously respond to the important compromise proposal tabled by the West last December.

The President has instructed the U.S. delegation under Ambassador Robert D. Blackwill, in conjunction with other NATO delegations, to continue to make every effort to demonstrate how the Western position in MBFR would enhance peace and stability in central Europe. All NATO nations hope that the East is capable of mustering the political will necessary to do its part to advance the Vienna negotiations. It is time for the Warsaw Pact to demonstrate that it is indeed committed to meaningful and verifiable reductions in conventional forces.

Note: Larry M. Speakes read the statement to reporters at 12:20 p.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.