Statement by Assistant to the President for Press Relations Fitzwater on the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction Negotiations


September 24, 1987


In Vienna today representatives of the North Atlantic alliance and the Warsaw Pact opened the 43d session of the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction Talks (MBFR). The United States remains committed to achieving a sound, verifiable agreement in MBFR to reduce and limit conventional forces. The main threat to security and stability in Europe is the substantial Warsaw Pact conventional superiority based on massive forward-deployed Soviet forces. In MBFR, the U.S. and its NATO partners seek to redress the conventional imbalance in central Europe through negotiated force reductions to equal levels.


The U.S. and the other Western MBFR participants believe that their proposal of December 5, 1985, provides for an effectively verifiable accord that meets this objective. The Western proposal accepts a time-limited, first-phase framework as suggested by the Eastern side. It calls for initial U.S. and Soviet troop reductions, followed by a 3-year, no-increase commitment on manpower in the central European zone, during which time both sides would verify remaining force levels.


The President has instructed the U.S. delegation to the negotiations to press for an Eastern response to this initiative. Thus far, the Eastern side has failed to give a meaningful response to the West's proposal. The United States and its allies call upon the East to acknowledge the benefits for both sides in the Western proposal and to respond positively in the new negotiating round.