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Statement by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on Soviet and United States Compliance With Arms Control Agreements

May 27, 1986

Since the President came into office, he has done everything that he could to try to persuade the Soviet Union to meet its obligations with respect to SALT and to agree to significant reductions in U.S. and Soviet nuclear arsenals. In 1982 he said the United States would continue not to undercut the flawed SALT agreements so long as the Soviets exercised equal restraint. Regrettably, the Soviets didn't. In June 1985 the President tried again. He once again stated his great concern that Soviet noncompliance was ever more deeply undermining the SALT structure. He called upon the Soviet Union to join us in building an interim framework of truly mutual restraint until a START agreement replaces the SALT structure.

Today the President announced that the United States cannot continue to support unilaterally a flawed SALT structure that Soviet noncompliance has so grievously undermined and that the Soviets appear unwilling to repair. Therefore, in the future, the United States will base decisions regarding its strategic forces on the nature and magnitude of the threat posed by the Soviet Union, rather than on standards contained in expired SALT agreements unilaterally observed by the United States.

The President has decided to retire two older Poseidon submarines as the eighth Trident submarine begins sea trials tomorrow. This means the U.S. will stay in technical observance of SALT for some months. This gives the Soviet Union still more time to correct their erosion of SALT. If they do, the President will take this into account. Our attempt to use the structure of SALT as the basis for interim restraint until a START agreement can be achieved has always been based on the assumption of Soviet reciprocity. It makes no sense for the United States to continue to hold up the SALT structure while the Soviet Union undermines the foundation of SALT by its continued, uncorrected noncompliance. Therefore, the President believes we must now look to the future, not to the past. The primary task we now face is to build a new structure, one based on significant, equitable, and verifiable reductions in the size of existing U.S. and Soviet nuclear arsenals. This is what we are proposing in the ongoing Geneva negotiations.

Until this is achieved, the United States will continue to exercise the utmost restraint. Assuming no significant change in the threat we face as we implement the strategic modernization program, the United States will not deploy more strategic nuclear delivery vehicles or strategic ballistic missile warheads than the Soviet Union. It is high time that the Soviets honor their obligations, match U.S. restraint, and get down to negotiating seriously in Geneva. If they do, we can move together now to build a safer and more secure world.

Note: Larry M. Speakes read the statement to reporters at 1:01 p.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.