Statement on the Resumption of Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions Negotiations

May 24, 1984

Today in Vienna, negotiators from East and West resume the talks on mutual and balanced force reductions, or MBFR. The purpose of these talks, in which 18 NATO and Warsaw Pact nations are participating, is to reach an agreement to reduce conventional forces in Central Europe.

On April 19, near the end of the last round, the West presented a major new initiative aimed at moving these negotiations forward. The new Western proposal seeks to overcome the longstanding disagreement over the number of Warsaw Pact soldiers in Central Europe. Our proposal will permit the two sides to focus initial attention on counting just their most highly structured and visible forces, since this is the area where East and West are already closest to agreement.

The timing of this offer gave the Warsaw Pact the opportunity to study it in their capitals during the break between rounds. We therefore hope that the Soviet Union and its allies are prepared now to respond constructively to our initiative and to move the negotiations forward. By reaching agreement on lower, equal, and verifiable levels of conventional forces in Central Europe, we will be able to enhance the security of both sides and to strengthen peace and stability in Europe. The force reductions themselves and the associated verification measures called for in the Western proposal would enhance mutual confidence between East and West.

The MBFR negotiations resume at the same time that another part of the East-West security dialog, the Conference on Confidence and Security Building Measures and Disarmament in Europe (known as CDE), is continuing in Stockholm. There, too, the West presented a package of proposals that would enhance confidence and trust among the 35 participating countries. And in both Stockholm and Vienna, the West is fully prepared to discuss any serious counterproposals from other participants.

The West is doing its part to achieve progress in other areas of arms control as well. In the same week that we made the new MBFR proposal, Vice President Bush presented to the 40-nation Committee on Disarmament in Geneva a comprehensive U.S. proposal for a global ban on chemical weapons. This proposal will again be under discussion when the Committee on Disarmament reconvenes in June.

We are just as prepared to move forward in negotiating reductions in nuclear forces. But the Soviet Union still refuses to return to the START and INF negotiations which it left last fall. I repeat what I have said on many occasions: We are prepared to resume those negotiations at any time and without preconditions. We again invite the Soviet Union to return to the negotiating table to resume the serious work of reducing nuclear arsenals and the risks of nuclear war.