Statement on the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction Negotiations

September 21, 1984

Today I met with Ambassador Maynard W. Glitman, the new U.S. Representative to the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction (MBFR) talks in Vienna. This negotiation, which involves members of both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Warsaw Pact, aims at enhancing stability and security in Central Europe through the reduction of conventional forces to equal, lower levels of manpower on both sides. Such reductions would reduce the risks of war in Europe and promote mutual confidence.

Ambassador Glitman and I discussed the current status of the negotiations and the prospects for progress when the talks resume at the end of this month. We reviewed recent efforts by the U.S. and our NATO allies to give renewed momentum to the negotiations and to produce an equitable and verifiable agreement. Specifically, on April 19, 1984, the West put forward a major new initiative which addresses in a flexible manner the basic issues which stand in the way of an MBFR agreement. These issues include the ``data problem'' -- i.e., the dispute over the size of Warsaw Pact forces in Central Europe -- and the question of verification.

The Eastern response to this latest Western initiative to move toward an effective agreement has been disappointing. The Soviet Union and its allies have refused to engage in a detailed discussion of the proposal. If our proposal is examined on its merits, substantial progress could be achieved in these negotiations. Now that the Eastern negotiators have had several weeks during the summer recess to address the Western proposal in their capitals, we hope they will return to Vienna with a constructive response.

Ambassador Glitman and his Western colleagues have my full support in their efforts to move these negotiations forward. We in the West will do our part to achieve concrete results, and I have urged Ambassador Glitman to take every opportunity to probe for possible areas of movement.

Our efforts in MBFR are part of our broader commitment to achieving progress in arms reduction and other security negotiations. About 2 weeks ago, the Stockholm Conference on Disarmament in Europe resumed its efforts to negotiate confidence-building measures designed to reduce the risk of surprise attack. The United States and other NATO participants have put forward major, concrete proposals in Stockholm that would significantly enhance security in Europe. Similarly, in the 40-nation Committee on Disarmament in Geneva, the United States has put forward a proposal for a complete, verifiable ban on chemical weapons.

In the Geneva negotiations on both strategic and intermediate-range nuclear forces, the START and INF talks, the United States has put forward major proposals that would radically reduce or -- in the case of INF -- totally eliminate an entire class of nuclear missiles in U.S. and Soviet arsenals. Unfortunately, the Soviet Union walked out of these talks late last year and still has not agreed to return.

In June the United States agreed without preconditions to the Soviet offer to hold talks on space arms control issues. However, the Soviet Union has thus far been unwilling to follow up their own proposal by beginning such negotiations.

It is my firm belief that the U.S. and the Soviet Union share a special responsibility to take the lead in bringing about real reductions in the levels of forces. We will continue to keep this issue at the top of our agenda in discussions with the Soviet Union.