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


September 17, 1986


The nuclear and space talks (NST) resume tomorrow with the opening of round six in Geneva. This could prove to be a very important phase in the strong effort being made by the United States to get Soviet agreement to deep reductions in nuclear arms. If the Soviets are as determined as we are, there is a real chance for such reductions.


The United States is fully committed to achieving genuine arms reductions -- and soon. It is in this spirit that I wrote to General Secretary Gorbachev in July, further amplifying our positions on the full range of arms control issues. In this letter I specifically sought areas of common ground where we and the Soviet Union could most productively focus our efforts to reach agreement. My letter dealt with expressed Soviet concerns and identified immediate, practical steps that can move us in the direction of our ultimate goal: the total elimination of nuclear arms. We are now awaiting a constructive Soviet response. Our ideas offer a solid basis for negotiations toward agreements beneficial to both sides. If the Soviets offer a serious response, we can look forward to a productive round.


In the weeks leading up to Friday's meeting between Secretary [of State] Shultz and [Soviet] Foreign Minister Shevardnadze, the United States has undertaken expert-level discussions with the Soviets in the four key areas of the U.S.-Soviet agenda. This includes human rights, regional, bilateral, and arms control issues. We hope that these discussions have helped to facilitate progress in some areas, including the nuclear and space talks.


Our goals in the nuclear and space talks, and in arms control in general, remain constant. We seek to strengthen strategic stability and truly diminish the risk of nuclear war. This means removing the capability and incentive for the Soviet Union to conduct a disarming first strike. It means preserving the ability to deter war at the lowest possible level of forces. Therefore, our overriding priority in these talks is the achievement of agreements which will bring about deep, equitable, and verifiable reductions in the nuclear arsenals of both the United States and the Soviet Union.


Of course, if the benefits of such agreements are to be realized, they must be fully complied with by both sides. The Soviet Union has continued to violate key provisions of existing arms control agreements, and this pattern of violations threatens to undermine the entire arms control process. We therefore will continue to press the Soviets to correct their noncompliance, and thereby strengthen the prospects for achieving real arms reductions. We also will insist that verification be a key feature of any new agreement.


In the Geneva negotiating forum, the United States has put forward concrete proposals in all three areas of the nuclear and space talks:


 -- Our strategic arms (START) proposals are based on the concept -- on which Mr. Gorbachev and I agreed at the Geneva summit last November -- of 50-percent reductions in the strategic, offensive nuclear arsenals of both sides. Further, we seek to enhance stability by concentrating on reductions in ballistic missiles, since they are the most destabilizing in a crisis.


 -- In the intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) talks we have proposed a phased approach for global elimination of the entire class of U.S. and Soviet longer range INF missiles.


 -- In the defense and space negotiations, we have advanced new ideas on how to ensure a stable transition to strategic defenses, should these prove feasible. Additionally, we have proposed an ``open laboratories'' exchange to enable each side to reassure itself concerning the other's strategic defense research.


In my July letter to Mr. Gorbachev I expanded upon these American proposals and offered some new ideas. In Geneva our negotiators will be able to offer concrete new details in all three areas. In addition, Secretary Shultz is prepared to discuss these issues -- along with our human rights, regional, and bilateral concerns -- with Foreign Minister Shevardnadze. These discussions can help to lay the groundwork for a second summit meeting between Mr. Gorbachev and myself in the United States later this year, as agreed at our first summit meeting in Geneva.


I want to emphasize, however, that the Soviet treatment of American journalist Nicholas Daniloff continues to limit severely what is achievable in our bilateral relations. I therefore urge the Soviet Union to resolve this case promptly before it does even more damage to the relationship between our two countries.


The time has come for practical achievements in all areas of our relations. As far as the Geneva negotiations are concerned, the United States has demonstrated that we are doing our part to bring about meaningful arms reductions. This round should tell us whether the Soviet Union is similarly dedicated. If the Soviets do share our commitment, there can be real progress on nuclear arms reductions, and it can begin soon.