Statement by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on the Soviet Proposal on Nuclear and Space Arms Reductions

January 16, 1986

The Soviet response is another step in what we hope will be an increasingly positive process of give and take. We will, together with our allies, give it careful study, keeping in mind our basic objectives. Many elements of the Soviet proposal appear unchanged and cause us concern. Others, at first glance, appear constructive. We also have proposals on the table that we hope the Soviets will respond to. We look forward to exploring both sides' proposals at the negotiating table in Geneva. We welcome the Soviet Union's response and its support for the goal of the elimination of nuclear weapons, a goal toward which we have long been committed. We hope the details of the Soviet proposal will prove to represent a helpful step in the arms reduction process and the implementation of the joint statement's call for early progress.

At first glance many elements in the new Soviet proposal appear unchanged from their previous proposals and cause us concern; for example, the continued linkage of reductions to a ban on ``space-strike arms.'' We believe strategic defenses can make a significant contribution to stability in a world free from nuclear weapons. In other areas there may be some constructive steps; for example, the Soviet statement addressed verification measures, including on-site inspection. This offer, of course, needs to be translated into specifics for it to be properly evaluated. Other parts of the Soviet offer also require more concrete detail, and we hope Soviet negotiators will explain their proposals promptly and fully in the proper negotiating forums.

We wish to emphasize that Geneva is the proper place for detailed explorations of both U.S. and Soviet proposals on nuclear and space arms. The Soviets mentioned ideas regarding progress in other arms control fields, such as MBFR [Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction negotiations], chemical weapons, and CDE [Conference on Disarmament in Europe]. We hope they will explain their ideas fully in those negotiations, as well. The United States tabled new proposals in the nuclear and space talks (NST) at the end of the last round, and we expect a further Soviet response to those proposals. Our goal remains equitable, verifiable, and stabilizing agreements. We will evaluate the Soviet proposals in that light.

Note: Larry M. Speakes read the statement to reporters at 9:30 a.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.