Statement on the Strategic Defense Initiative

March 23, 1987

It was 4 years ago today that America's Strategic Defense Initiative was set in motion. Then, in a television address to the Nation, I called on America's scientific community to determine if it were possible to develop a defense against ballistic missiles, a system based on deterring aggression through protection rather than threatening retaliation, a system that could, perhaps, free the world from the threat of these deadly weapons. And so, in March 1983 America and its allies began on the journey toward finding a defense against ballistic missiles.

Today, 4 years later, we have made remarkable progress towards that great objective. This is to the credit of the many members of our scientific and technical communities who joined this effort and to the Members of the Congress who have supported this plan. They understood that the Soviet Union has been working for more than a decade on its own strategic defense systems, even while it has been deploying hundreds of new offensive nuclear weapons. They understood how dangerous it would be if the Soviet Union had a defense and we did not. They understood, also, that it is possible for us to design and build a strategic defense. And they understood that a system not only had to work but also had to be able to survive attacks itself and be more cost-effective than proliferating offenses. Now, thanks to them and their hard work and vision, and to the vision and perseverance of the American people and of our allies, all humanity can begin to look forward to a new era of security when the burden of nuclear terror is lifted from its shoulders.

One thing is clear: SDI truly serves the purposes of offensive weapons reduction. SDI can help us move toward a safer world. I have repeatedly pledged that SDI capabilities will never be used for offensive purposes. Like an effectively verifiable arms reduction agreement with which all parties comply, SDI can reduce the risk of war and the threat of ballistic missiles to mankind. It can reduce the danger of accidental warfare and give us the kind of insurance policy we need against violations of a future arms reduction treaty. And it has been a singularly effective instrument for bringing the Soviets to the bargaining table. In 4 years we have come far, and together we can continue on this journey toward achieving humanity's ancient dream: a world in which swords are beaten into plowshares and war is preached no more.