Radio Address to the Nation and Peoples of Other Countries on Peace

September 24, 1983

My fellow Americans and fellow citizens of the world:

This is Ronald Reagan, President of the United States, speaking to you live from the broadcast studios of the Voice of America in Washington, D.C.

In 2 days I will be going to the United Nations General Assembly to speak for a cause that people everywhere carry close to their hearts -- the cause of peace. This subject is so important I wanted to share our message with a larger audience than I usually address each Saturday afternoon in the United States. So today I'm speaking directly to people everywhere, from Los Angeles to New Delhi, Cairo, Bangkok, and I'm attempting to speak directly to the people of the Soviet Union. I'd like to talk about ideas and feelings all of us share which I intend to communicate to the United Nations on Monday.

Let me begin by bringing you greetings from the American people and our heartfelt wishes for peace. In these times of stress, I believe that the people of the world must know and understand how each other feel, their fears as well as their dreams. We Americans are a peace-loving people. We seek friendship not only with our traditional allies but with our adversaries, too. We've had serious differences with the Soviet Government, but we should remember that our sons and daughters have never fought each other in war and, if we Americans have our way, we never will.

People don't make wars; governments do. And too many Soviet and American citizens have already shed too much blood because of violence by governments. The American people want less confrontation and more communication and cooperation, more opportunity to correspond, to speak freely with all people over our respective radio and television programs and, most important, to visit each other in our homes so we could better understand your countries and you could know the truth about America.

The treasure we Americans cherish most is our freedom -- freedom to lead our lives the way we choose, freedon to worship God, to think for ourselves, and freedom to speak our minds even to the point of criticizing our own government. We do not believe in censorship. When another government criticizes us, we know about it. And if they ever say something good, you can bet we'll know that, too. The trouble is, we don't always have that same freedom to speak to others, especially those who live in the Soviet Union. And one-way communication prevents us from better understanding each other.

For example, the Soviet Government has taken extraordinary steps to justify its firing on a Korean civilian airliner, killing 269 helpless people from 14 countries. But I ask those who have been told the United States is responsible: If you're hearing the truth, why has the outcry been so intense from members of the United Nations, the International Civil Aviation Organization, and why are pilots all over the world boycotting flights to Moscow? We have no quarrel with you, the Soviet people. But please understand, the world believes no government has a right to shoot civilian airliners out of the sky. Your airline, Aeroflot, has violated sensitive U.S. airspace scores of times, yet we would never fire on your planes and risk killing one of your friends or your loved ones.

Now, I guess the picture painted of me by the officials in some countries is pretty grim. May I just say -- and I speak not only as the President of the United States but also as a husband, a father, a grandfather, and as a person who loves God and whose heart yearns deeply for a better future -- my dream is for our peoples to come together in a spirit of faith and friendship, to help build and leave behind a far safer world. But dreams for the future cannot be realized by words alone. Words must be matched by deeds, by an honest, tireless effort to reduce the risks of war and the loss of life. In this era of nuclear weapons, no achievement could be more meaningful than a verifiable agreement that would dramatically reduce the level of nuclear armaments.

American negotiators in Geneva are offering fairminded, equitable proposals in the interests of both our countries. In the strategic arms reduction talks, we propose deep cuts in both the number of warheads carried by intercontinental ballistic missiles and in the number of missiles themselves. This proposal offered cuts to far below current United States levels. The Soviet Government declined to consider them. We tried again. Last June we proposed a more flexible approach. Then, during the last round of talks in Geneva, we presented a draft treaty responding to concerns expressed by the Soviet Government.

Also, from the outset of the intermediate-range nuclear force talks 2 years ago, I made clear that the United States was ready to join with the Soviet Union in the total elimination of an entire class of intermediate-range, land-based nuclear missiles. That offer still stands. I regret that the Soviet Government continues to reject this proposal. What could possibly be better than to rid the world of an entire class of nuclear weapons?

But in the effort to move the negotiations forward, we proposed an interim solution -- some number on both sides below current levels. Again, the Soviet Government refused. I'm deeply aware of people's feelings and frustrations. I share them. And I intend to keep trying. On Monday, I will go to the United Nations to propose another package of steps designed to advance the negotiations. All we seek are agreements to reduce substantially the number and destructive power of nuclear forces.

Yes, we insist on balanced agreements that protect our security, that provide greater stability, and that are truly verifiable, but these requirements are the essence of fairness. They would provide greater security for all nations.

We, the American people, deeply yearn for peace. If our dreams and hopes are to mean anything, we must sit down together and in good faith let honest negotiations bring us a safer world. But I must speak plainly. Just as government censorship is a barrier to understanding, the inflexibility of the Soviet Government on arms control is holding back successful negotiations.

I have said to my own people, you have the right to expect a better world and to demand that your government work for it. This Monday I will have the honor to carry that message to the 38th General Session of the United Nations. It will be a commitment from the heart and one that I know all people share. For the sake of our children and our children's children, I pray that the Soviet Government will not censor my words, but will let their people listen to them and then negotiate with us in good faith.

Thank you for listening, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from the broadcast studios of the Voice of America (VOA). The address was broadcast over VOA's worldwide network and carried live, with simultaneous translation in Russian, Ukrainian, Romanian, Lithuanian, Urdu, Bengali, and Hausa. The address was rebroadcast to Europe 1 hour later when VOA's English service to Europe began its regular broadcast cycle. VOA's 34 other language services broadcast the address as they began their programs throughout the remainder of the day.