Radio Address to the Nation on Soviet-United States Relations


November 1, 1986


My fellow Americans:


I'd like to talk with you for a few minutes about a cause that I know is as dear to you as it is to me -- the cause of peace. America's at peace today, and for any President that's cause for real satisfaction. Still, a President's job is more than that -- it's to make the peace we enjoy today even more secure.


Since my meeting just 3 weeks ago with General Secretary Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland, the capital city of that island nation in the North Atlantic, I believe that prospects for strengthening peace between our country and the Soviet Union have become better than at any time in the last 40 years. Today I want to tell you how we're building on what we accomplished there and what it will take to make the most of the opportunities that opened up in these discussions. We're pursuing agreements on some of the most vital issues of our time, but success will depend -- as it should -- on your support and on that of the Congress.


In Iceland, Mr. Gorbachev and I made major gains in addressing the many key issues in U.S.-Soviet relations. For the first time, we came close to an historic agreement on dramatic reductions in strategic nuclear weapons. For the first time, the Soviets talked seriously about removing all intermediate-range missiles from Europe and doing it in a way that would not threaten our Asian allies. And they accepted the principle that human rights issues must be a permanent part of our dialog. It's no wonder that some have said that we made more progress in those 2 days than negotiators for our countries have made in the past 2 years toward true arms reductions. It's no longer a matter of if we reach agreement; it's now a matter of when.


One of the keys to our success in Iceland was our Strategic Defense Initiative, SDI -- our program to find a way to defend against ballistic missiles. SDI helped to bring the Soviets to the bargaining table, and it will keep them there. SDI will help assure compliance and implementation with eventual agreements, and it will provide a vital insurance policy for peace in a world without ballistic missiles. As I've said many times in the past week, no responsible President should rely solely on a piece of paper for our country's safety. We know the record on Soviet treaty violations. We can either have American technology as insurance for keeping us safe, or we can rely on Soviet promises alone. Our technology and their promises each have their own track record. And I'll take our technology any day.


Since Reykjavik, our negotiators at Geneva have made clear that, as far as America is concerned, everything that we proposed in Iceland is still on the table. We're ready to move forward, for example, on achieving a 50-percent reduction of both U.S. and Soviet strategic forces in the next 5 years, on eliminating intermediate-range missiles in Europe, and on scrapping all ballistic missiles on both sides in the next decade. To continue our dialog at the highest level, I've asked Secretary of State Shultz to meet next week in Vienna, on November 5th and 6th, with Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze to discuss these and other issues on our agenda. A spokesman for the Soviet Government said last week that the meeting between Secretary Shultz and Mr. Shevardnadze was an opportunity for continuing the Reykjavik talks. Well, we agree. Every time our countries meet we have that opportunity. We will use this meeting to solidify and advance the progress we made in Reykjavik.


But as we build on Iceland -- whether in Vienna or Geneva or Washington, where our two countries held talks on civil space cooperation this week -- let's not forget why relations with the Soviets have come so far, so fast. A great deal of the credit for this progress belongs to you, the American people. You've supported our program to build America's strength. Today our men and women in uniform have the best equipment and training available. And I might add that our men and women in uniform are the best available, too. And I know you join in my pride in them. America also firmly supports the forces of freedom around the world, and we go to every negotiating table in a position of strength. You know, as I look back on the last few weeks of remarkable progress, I can't help remembering something Winston Churchill once said. ``There is nothing,'' he said, ``for which the Soviets have less respect than weakness, particularly military weakness, and nothing they admire so much as strength.'' Churchill's wisdom points to a simple truth: that peace is strong today because America is strong.


In the last few months, some in Congress tried to ignore that truth. They tried to cut vital defense programs, including SDI, even as I was preparing to go to Iceland. I hope you'll let your elected representatives know that that's not what you want, that you want to continue to build a strong America so that, together, we can continue to build a more peaceful, stable world.


Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.


Note: The President spoke at 9:06 a.m. from the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, CA.