Remarks on the 35th Anniversary of the North Atlantic Alliance

May 31, 1984

It has been a pleasure and an honor to welcome the Ministers of the North Atlantic Council to the White House. And I'm so pleased that the United States is hosting this meeting, because we're also celebrating the 35th anniversary of the signing in Washington of the North Atlantic Treaty.

Last night at dinner and again this morning, we had the opportunity to discuss the major challenges facing the alliance, including the security and defense of the West, relations with the Soviet Union, and arms control.

We all recognize that there is no more important consideration than the development of a better working relationship with the Soviet Union -- one marked by greater cooperation and understanding and leading to stable, secure, and peaceful relations. This has been and will continue to be a primary goal of the United States and the NATO alliance.

The alliance is dedicated to peace. And thanks to the courage and vision of our member nations and their leaders, we can reflect on the past with pride and look to the future with confidence.

For us, our NATO partnership is an anchor, a fixed point in a turbulent world. And it's our sincere hope that the Soviet Union will soon come to understand the profound desire for peace which inspires us. And I hope that the Soviet leadership will finally realize it is pointless to continue its efforts to divide the alliance. We will not be split. We will not be intimidated. The West will defend democracy and individual liberty. And the West will protect the peace.

At the same time, we remain ready to negotiate fairly and flexibly and without preconditions. It is our hope that the Soviet Union will soon return to the negotiating table. Our commitment to dialog and arms reduction is firm and unshaken. No other step in the near term would do so much for the cause of peace and stability as a return to constructive negotiations and agreements reducing the levels of nuclear arms.

I've said many times and will say again that when the Soviet Union returns to the negotiating table, we'll meet them halfway. I also hope that the Soviet leadership will respond positively to the range of proposals which we and our allies have advanced in other areas of arms control.

Our proposals serve the cause of peace: the draft treaty to abolish chemical weapons, presented by Vice President Bush in Geneva; the recent NATO proposal seeking to break the deadlock in the conventional force talks in Vienna; and the measures introduced by NATO in Stockholm in our effort to reduce the risk of surprise attack in Europe.

Tomorrow, I will leave for Europe. I'm looking forward to the trip and the opportunity to underscore the enduring importance of the political, cultural, and economic ties that bind the industrialized democracies.

The meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers has reinforced my own confidence in the strength and durability of the alliance and the common destiny of free societies.

And, so, I want to thank all these NATO Ministers. We're pleased to have had all of you with us as our guests and proud to have you as our partners.

Thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 9:22 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House following a meeting with the Foreign Ministers in the Cabinet Room.