Statement by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on the Death of General Secretary Konstantin U. Chernenko of the Soviet Union

March 11, 1985

The President has sent a message of condolence to Acting Head of State, Vasiliy Vasil'yevich Kuznetsov, on the death of Chairman and General Secretary Konstantin Ustinovich Chernenko. In his message the President reaffirmed his commitment to peace and to working for a cooperative relationship with the peoples of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Government. The President called upon the Soviet leadership to seize the opportunity offered by the negotiations about to begin in Geneva to make progress toward our shared goal of eliminating nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.

In our relations with the Soviet Union, the United States has three basic goals: to reduce significantly the unacceptably high numbers of weapons which now exist; to eliminate the use and the threat of force in international relations; and to develop greater trust and confidence in our relations with the Soviet Union overall. Our nations share an interest in the development of stable and constructive relations for the long term.

We believe that the problems which exist in U.S.-Soviet relations can be resolved and that progress is possible in the near term. We cannot achieve progress singlehandedly, but we will do our part to bring it about. The United States hopes to work with the Soviet leadership to build on common interests in order to help create a better and safer world.

Note: Larry M. Speakes read the statement to reporters at 4:07 p.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.