Statement by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on United States-Soviet Relations

October 17, 1984

We agree with President Chernenko that there is no sound alternative to constructive development in relations between our two countries. We are pleased to see the emphasis he puts on positive possibilities for U.S.-Soviet relations. We will be studying his remarks carefully, and as was agreed during Deputy Prime Minister Gromyko's recent meeting with President Reagan, we will be pursuing our dialog with the Soviet Union and exploring the possibilities for progress through diplomatic channels.

President Reagan has repeatedly demonstrated that we are ready for cooperation with the Soviet Union. In April 1981, he sent a handwritten letter to President Brezhnev describing his feelings about the issue of war and peace, and to ask President Brezhnev to join him in removing the obstacles to peace. Since then, the United States has made practical proposals for forward movement in all areas of the relationship, including arms control.

Over the past year, for instance, the United States and its allies have put forward new proposals for limits on strategic weapons, on intermediate-range nuclear weapons, on chemical weapons, and on coventional forces. On June 4 in Dublin, President Reagan stated our willingness to discuss the Soviet proposal for a mutual non-use-of-force commitment, if this would lead to serious negotiation on the Western proposals for practical steps to enhance confidence and reduce the risk of surprise attack in Europe. This summer we accepted a Soviet proposal to begin space arms control negotiations in Vienna without preconditions. At the United Nations last month President Reagan reiterated his desire to move forward in these fields and put forward a number of concrete new proposals for U.S.-Soviet cooperation. In his subsequent meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Gromyko, the President emphasized our strong desire to move to a more productive dialog across the board and put forward specific suggestions as to how we might do so.

We cannot agree with President Chernenko's version of recent history. It is the Soviet Union which has broken off negotiations on nuclear arms and backed away from its own proposal to begin space arms control talks. The United States stands ready to negotiate on these and other issues, but we cannot concur in the apparent Soviet view that it is incumbent upon the United States to pay a price so that the Soviet Union will come back to the nuclear negotiating table.

President Chernenko has stated that improvements in the U.S.-Soviet relationship depend on deeds, not words. We agree. When the Soviet Union is prepared to move from public exchanges to private negotiations and concrete agreements, they will find us ready.

Note: Larry M. Speakes read the statement to reporters assembled for the daily press briefing in the Briefing Room at the White House, which began at 12:35 p.m.