Remarks at a White House Briefing for Private Sector Supporters of United States Defense Policies
you, Mari. And thank you all for coming here to the Roosevelt Room this
morning. This room, of course, was named for two great Presidents -- one a Republican,
the other a Democrat. Both understood the vital importance of keeping
In the last 5\1/2\ years, we've begun to turn that desperate situation around. We've restored the morale, the training, and the equipment of our Armed Forces. And let me just say that around the world and here at home, I've met many of our young men and women in uniform over the last several years. It does something to you when you're standing up there on the demilitarized zone in Korea and a young fellow standing there in uniform says, ``Sir, we're on the frontier of freedom.'' Everyone who works with them will confirm what I've said about them. And those serving today are the best darn bunch who've ever served our country. I'm proud of all of them.
the last 5\1/2\ years, we've begun the necessary modernization of our nuclear
deterrent. We've begun research on strategic defense, the one great hope that
we might some day rid the world of the prison of mutual nuclear terror. As I
told the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, we're prepared right now to
enter an agreement with the
the last 5\1/2\ years,
all in all, in the last 5\1/2\ years, we've come a long way. You saw this when
Mr. Gorbachev and I met in
all this progress has now been placed in jeopardy by actions taken in the House
of Representatives, actions just as serious as the attempt to block aid to the
freedom fighters. If permitted to stand, these actions would pull the rug out
from under our arms negotiators in
And if the defense budget arrives on my desk looking anything like that, I'll veto it. All of these issues -- [applause]. Thank you, you make vetoing even more pleasant than I find it. [Laughter] But all of these issues are important. Each House action undermines our peace and security. But I'd like to use my time today -- what's left of it -- to discuss one area that I touched on yesterday that I believe needs more attention. With the Soviets orchestrating a major propaganda campaign to get us to declare a moratorium on nuclear testing, it's time to set the record straight on why we need that test. There are four important reasons.
First, nuclear testing is essential to guarantee that our weapons -- the key to deterring nuclear aggression -- actually work. We insist on the most rigorous field tests for nonnuclear weapons like airplanes, tanks, and guns. But nuclear weapons are far more complex, and they, too, must be tested. Some time ago, for example, we found that the safety on the warhead for the Polaris missile wouldn't release. Without the testing that helped us fix that, most of our sea-based deterrent would have been ineffective. Without testing we couldn't reduce the size and improve the effectiveness of our warheads and make them safer, as we have. So, until we can negotiate the elimination of nuclear weapons with the Soviets, we must have tests to make sure that our deterrent works and that it is safe.
Second, we use nuclear tests to design nonnuclear weapons and equipment -- for example, satellites, ships, tanks, and sensors -- so that they can better withstand a Soviet nuclear attack. This increases the chances that our military can survive and still fight, which reduces the Soviet incentive to attack us and our allies in the first place.
Third, testing helps us keep ahead of Soviet efforts, including nonnuclear efforts, to neutralize our deterrent. Several years ago improved Soviet air defenses threatened to make our B - 52's obsolete, so we began the production of the B - 1, which can get through those defenses. But some weapons designed for the old B - 52's weren't reliable7E at 7E7E the 7E7E altitudes 7E7E and 7E7E speeds 7E7E that 7E7E the B - 1 flies. So, testing was essential to developing weapons with a proven reliability.
And, fourth, testing ensures that the Soviets won't surprise us with breakthroughs that might alter the strategic balance. The Soviets have raced for years to modernize and expand their weapons systems. We're still playing catchup, and this imbalance is a threat to world peace. It'd be an even greater threat if the Soviets scored major breakthroughs.
Even if we were to agree to a moratorium or a test ban, we cannot be sure the Soviets would honor it or that it could be verified. In the early sixties the Soviets broke out of a 3-year moratorium, that they had agreed to, with the most intensive series of nuclear tests in history. They had been planning all during the moratorium for the testing they were going to do. And when they were ready, they just violated the moratorium. We, on the other hand, had abated. And so, it took us more than a year to restore our testing facilities to their condition before the moratorium, so we could begin to try and catch up. Any agreement to limit testing must be verifiable. We've made a number of proposals to improve verification of current treaties. The Soviets should accept these proposals or make one of their own and stop playing propaganda games.
highest arms control priority is to get the Soviets to agree to deep arms reductions
So, this is what we're up against and why I'm so grateful to all of you for what you are doing. Now, I don't dare look at the gentleman sitting right over here, because I've been telling a story the last couple of days, in some speeches, that I like to tell that illustrates the attitude of those in Congress that are bringing this about.
It has to do with three fellows that came out to get in their car and found they'd locked themselves out. And one of them said, ``Get a wire coathanger and we can straighten it out and manage to get in.'' And the other one says, ``We can't do that. Somebody would think we're stealing the car.'' And the third one said, ``Well, we'd better do something pretty quick. It's starting to rain and the top's down.'' [Laughter]
Well, thank you all. Thank you for everything that you are doing. God bless you.
Note: The President spoke at in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. Mari Maseng was Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Public Liaison.