Statement on the Soviet-United States Nuclear and Space Arms Negotiations

 

November 12, 1986

 

Since today marks the close of round six of the nuclear and space talks (NST) between the United States and the Soviet Union, I want to take this occasion to reaffirm our commitment to achieving deep, equitable, and verifiable reductions in the U.S. and Soviet nuclear arsenals. Such reductions would reduce the risk of nuclear war and create a far safer world.

 

When this round opened 8 weeks ago, it held the promise of important progress in our effort to get Soviet agreement to deep reductions in nuclear arms. Those hopes were heightened by the progress made during my meeting with General Secretary Gorbachev at Reykjavik last month. We discussed there the full range of issues between our countries, including human rights, regional conflicts, arms reductions, and expanded bilateral contacts and communication. And specifically, in regard to arms control, the General Secretary and I made significant headway in narrowing U.S.-Soviet differences on several key issues:

 

 -- We agreed to a 50-percent reduction in strategic offensive arms over the next 5 years, to be implemented by reductions to 1,600 strategic nuclear delivery vehicles and 6,000 warheads on those delivery vehicles.

 

 -- We recognized the need for significant cuts in Soviet heavy ICBM's, the most destabilizing missiles of all.

 

 -- We agreed to a global limit of 100 warheads on longer range INF missiles, with no such missiles in Europe.

 

The United States proposed that neither the U.S. nor U.S.S.R. deploy advanced strategic defenses for 10 years, while conducting research, development, and testing, which are permitted by the ABM treaty. This would be coupled with agreement that during the first 5 years of this period, strategic offensive arms would be reduced by 50 percent, and that during the second 5 years all remaining U.S. and Soviet offensive ballistic missiles would be totally eliminated. We made clear that at the end of the 10-year period, either side could deploy defenses if it so chose, unless the parties agreed otherwise. Mr. Gorbachev did not accept this proposal and instead insisted on making the ABM treaty more restrictive by limiting our research exclusively to the laboratory and, in effect, killing the United States Strategic Defense Initiative.

 

During this round, our negotiators in Geneva formally tabled new U.S. proposals reflecting the areas of agreement I reached with Mr. Gorbachev in Reykjavik, as well as our other proposals. On November 7, the Soviet Union took some new steps as well, by tabling proposals that partially reflect the headway made at Reykjavik. These areas of agreement can serve as the starting point from which United States and Soviet negotiators could hammer out significant arms reduction treaties. But this has not yet been the case. While this may have been the most productive round to date, the Soviet negotiations have still not followed up adequately to build on the progress made at Reykjavik. Instead, at times the Soviets have seemed more interested in conducting a public relations campaign than in pursuing the serious give-and-take of the bargaining table.

 

This is particularly true in the case of reductions in intermediate-range nuclear forces. One year ago, at our summit meeting in Geneva, Mr. Gorbachev and I agreed to build upon areas of common ground, including an interim agreement in INF. The Soviets reiterated this position in proposals they made earlier this year. And they reaffirmed the goal of a separate INF agreement only days before our meeting in Iceland. Now, however, the Soviets have taken a major step backwards by insisting that progress in every area of nuclear arms control must be linked together in a single package. This attempt to hold progress in other areas of arms control hostage to acceptance of the Soviet effort to kill our SDI program is patently unacceptable.

 

In light of the continuing Soviet offensive buildup, the longstanding and extensive Soviet programs in strategic defense, and continued Soviet noncompliance with existing arms control agreements, SDI is crucial to the future security of the United States and our allies. Americans recognize that SDI was essential in getting the Soviets to return to the negotiating table, and that it is essential as well to our prospects for concluding an agreement with the Soviets to reduce nuclear arms. Effective strategic defenses would be insurance against Soviet cheating or abrogation of such an agreement. In addition, they would provide a continuing incentive to the Soviets to pursue further reductions in offensive weapons. SDI is, therefore, a vital insurance policy that we cannot and will not bargain away. That is a commitment which I have made to the American people, and I stand by it.

 

United States negotiators have worked hard in translating the progress made at Reykjavik into concrete new arms reduction proposals. These new American proposals, along with some new Soviet proposals, are now on the table in Geneva. Let us hope that when the talks resume on January 15, as we have already agreed, the Soviets will move with us to bring about, for the first time in history, significant reductions in nuclear weapons. Such reductions are now within our grasp if the Soviet Union will join us in serious pursuit of agreements which are equitable and stabilizing for both sides and in the interest of the entire world. We are ready for this. We await Soviet readiness to move forward.