Remarks to Reporters Announcing Endorsement of the Defense Department Recommendations for Direct Communication Links Between the United States and the Soviet Union

May 24, 1983

The President. When I became President, I made a solemn pledge that my administration would build a more stable and secure peace, one that would last not just for years but for generations.

The force modernization programs that we're preparing, the deep strategic and intermediate-range nuclear arms reductions we're seeking, and the confidence-building measures we've proposed in START, INF negotiations, at the U.N., and elsewhere are all designed to achieve this goal.

Over the years, the United States has taken extraordinary steps unilaterally and bilaterally to reduce the possibility that an accident, miscalculation, misunderstanding, or misinterpretation would somehow ignite armed conflict.

For over a year now, this administration, in close consultation with the Congress, has been studying the feasibility of a broad range of further measures to reduce that possibility. On April 12th, this year, '83, the Department of Defense delivered a report to the Congress which proposed four new confidence-building measures to strengthen communications and cooperation, thereby reducing the chances even further that war, especially nuclear war, could come about by accident or miscalculation.

It gives me special pleasure today to announce my endorsement of significant additional confidence-building measures. These confidence-building measures have the potential for reducing the possibility of unintended war and the outgrowth of close bipartisan consultation -- or they are the outgrowth, I should say, of close bipartisan consultation with the Congress. Three of them are designed to strengthen and broaden communications between the United States and the Soviet Union. They include the upgrading of the hotline between myself and General Secretary Andropov by adding a facsimile transmission capability.

Secondly, we propose to create a direct military communications link that could be used for the rapid exchange of technical military information, thereby preventing misunderstanding in a crisis.

And, third, we propose improving the existing diplomatic crisis-controlled related functions of both the United States and the Soviet Union by upgrading the communications links between Washington and Moscow and each nation's embassy in the other's capital.

Any one of these measures would significantly strengthen our existing crisis communication network. Together, they add new dimensions to our communications efforts, allowing us to contact each other rapidly at political, military, and diplomatic levels, improving our capability to contain crisis situations.

I encourage the Soviet Union to carefully examine these proposals. Extending the range of rapid direct communications between the United States and the Soviet Union would make an important contribution to stability. It's in our best national interest and in the best interest of all mankind.

The fourth recommendation we propose is an international agreement, open to all the world's governments, providing for consultation in the event a nuclear incident is precipitated by an individual or group. Establishing procedures among all interested nations in the event of such an incident would complement the steps that we already have taken in the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty and the 1980 Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials.

I endorse the proposal, not because I foresee an increasing risk of nuclear incidents -- I do not -- but because I believe that it is prudent to have in place the means to facilitate international communications should the unthinkable happen.

These four proposals are not the end of a process; rather, they add momentum to the process that's already underway in the administration, in the Congress, and within the international community.

In the coming days, I intend to consult closely with those Members of the Congress who've shown a great personal interest, such as these gentlemen here today, and especially Senators Nunn, Jackson, Warner, and Tower. Additionally, we intend to consult closely with the international community concerning these measures. These are reasonable proposals, and we will work diligently to reach early agreement on them with the Soviet Union.

End of statement.

Q. Mr. President, the Supreme Court ruled today 8 to 1 that the IRS does indeed have the right to take away the tax-exempt status of schools that discriminate.

The President. I'm going to take no questions at this. These gentlemen are going to be awaiting your attention out in front on the other end of the building here on this subject.

Q. Are you going to win on the MX, Mr. President?

The President. What?

Q. Looks like you've got the MX won.

The President. I don't know. We'll know this afternoon some time.

Note: The President spoke at 11:24 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. Present for the announcement were the Vice President, Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs William P. Clark, and Senators Henry M. Jackson of Washington, John W. Warner of Virginia, John Tower of Texas, and Sam Nunn of Georgia.