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Statement on the Soviet-United States Nuclear and Space Arms Negotiations

May 7, 1986

Tomorrow marks the opening of round five of the nuclear and space talks in Geneva (NST). Our overriding priority in these negotiations is the achievement of deep, equitable, and verifiable reductions in the nuclear arsenals of the United States and U.S.S.R. and the strengthening of strategic stability. Through agreements on such reductions, we seek to achieve a safer world and to work toward our ultimate goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons.

The session that begins tomorrow is an important one. In Geneva last November, General Secretary Gorbachev and I agreed to accelerate the negotiations on nuclear and space arms, particularly where we had already identified areas of common ground. This includes the principle of 50-percent reductions in nuclear arms, appropriately applied, as well as the objective of an interim agreement limiting intermediate-range missile systems (INF). Unfortunately, little progress was made during the most recent round of the negotiations, largely due to the failure of the Soviet Union to act on the commitments it undertook in the November 21 joint statement.

In January Mr. Gorbachev advanced publicly a ``plan'' calling for the elimination of all nuclear weapons by the end of the century. While we are pleased that the Soviet Union has embraced in principle our ultimate goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons, we believe this must be accomplished through a progression of practical measures. Our immediate focus should remain the prompt accomplishment of the necessary first steps in this process: 50-percent reductions in strategic nuclear arms and an interim INF agreement, as agreed last November in Geneva. Toward this end, the United States has put forward fair and balanced proposals in all three areas of the NST negotiations. Our new strategic arms (START) proposals adopt the concept of 50-percent reductions in the nuclear arsenals of the United States and U.S.S.R. and seek to enhance stability by reducing the capability to conduct a first strike. These new proposals are designed as well to take into account concerns expressed by the Soviet Union and to build on areas of common ground in our respective positions.

In the defense and space forum we want to initiate a dialog with the Soviets on the vital relationship between strategic offense and defense. Furthermore, as a demonstration of our peaceful intentions, we are proposing an exchange of information on our respective strategic defense research programs and reciprocal visits by U.S. and Soviet experts to laboratories which are engaged in such research. Unfortunately, neither in their January announcement nor in their statements at Geneva have the Soviets provided a constructive response to our proposals in either the START or defense and space area. We hope they will do so this round.

On the other hand, Mr. Gorbachev's announcement did seem to show a potential for progress in the INF area. Taking this into account, I therefore made another new U.S. offer: a concrete, phased plan for the global elimination of this entire category of U.S. and Soviet missiles by the end of this decade. This new proposal, developed in close consultation with our allies in Europe and Asia, builds upon areas of common ground, as called for in the summit joint statement. Our previous INF proposals also remain on the table. In INF we also are proposing very concrete verification measures. After resisting for years U.S. proposals for verification, the Soviet Union recently has professed in its public statements that it now shares our interest in effective verification. We are seeking to put these Soviet pronouncements to the test at the negotiating table. In light of the unfortunate events of the past week, moreover, the need for effective verification measures has become clearer than ever.

In sum, our key objectives in the Geneva negotiations are: deep cuts; no first strike advantage; continuing defensive research, because defense is safer than offense; and no cheating. We are making a sincere and determined effort to see the promise of the November summit fulfilled, and the instructions I gave to Ambassadors Kampelman, Glitman, and Lehman on their return to Geneva provide them with the flexibility they need to explore all promising approaches for agreement. It is high time now for the Soviet Union to get down to business by addressing seriously with us in Geneva the practical implementation of the mutual commitments which Mr. Gorbachev and I made at the summit. If the Soviets truly join us in this vital effort, real progress in nuclear arms reductions is clearly within our reach.

I want to emphasize in closing that the way to make progress is at the bargaining table in Geneva, in the confidential atmosphere provided by these negotiations. I therefore call on the Soviet Union to study these practical, yet far-reaching, U.S. proposals carefully and to respond in an equally concrete and constructive manner at the negotiating table. Only this will establish the kind of dialog that can lead to progress.