Statement on the 40th Anniversary of the Yalta Conference

February 5, 1985

Forty years ago this week, the leaders of the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union met at Yalta, to confer on the approaching end of World War II and on the outlines of the postwar world. The agreements they reached, including the Declaration on Liberated Europe, committed all three governments to the reconstruction of a democratic continent.

Since that time, Yalta has had a double meaning. It recalls an episode of cooperation between the Soviet Union and free nations, in a great common cause. But it also recalls the reasons that this cooperation could not continue -- the Soviet promises that were not kept, the elections that were not held, the two halves of Europe that have remained apart.

Why is Yalta important today? Not because we in the West want to reopen old disputes over boundaries; far from it. The reason Yalta remains important is that the freedom of Europe is unfinished business. Those who claim the issue is boundaries or territory are hoping that the real issues -- democracy and independence -- will somehow go away. They will not.

There is one boundary which Yalta symbolizes that can never be made legitimate, and that is the dividing line between freedom and repression. I do not hesitate to say that we wish to undo this boundary. In so doing, we seek no military advantage for ourselves or for the Western alliance. We do not deny any nation's legitimate interest in security. But protecting the security of one nation by robbing another of its national independence and national traditions is not legitimate. In the long run, it is not even secure.

Long after Yalta, this much remains clear: The most significant way of making all Europe more secure is to make it more free. Our 40-year pledge is to the goal of a restored community of free European nations. To this work we recommit ourselves today.