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

May 4, 1987

Since the early days of my administration, our number-one arms control objective has been the achievement of significant and verifiable reductions of offensive nuclear forces, particularly the most destabilizing weapons -- fast-flying ballistic missiles.

I have directed our U.S. START negotiator to intensify efforts to reach agreement on reducing strategic offensive nuclear arms by 50 percent. Toward that end, the United States will shortly table a draft START treaty text. This text will reflect the basic agreements on strategic arms reductions reached by General Secretary Gorbachev and myself in our meeting at Reykjavik last October. It will be responsive as well to Soviet concerns expressed subsequent to Reykjavik and will provide ample basis for the creation of a fair and durable START agreement.

Tomorrow marks the opening in Geneva of the eighth round in our negotiations with the Soviet Union on strategic arms reductions and strategic defense issues. With the negotiations on intermediate-range nuclear forces having resumed on April 23, all three negotiating groups of the nuclear and space talks will now be underway. We have made great progress in START. I am firmly convinced that a START agreement is within our grasp, even this year, if the Soviets are prepared to resolve the remaining outstanding issues. And most important among these issues is the need, for the purpose of ensuring strategic stability, to place sublimits on ballistic missile warheads.

We will likewise be making a new move in the defense and space area. Our negotiators return to Geneva ready to place on the negotiating table the new U.S. proposal, which Secretary Shultz discussed during his Moscow meetings. This new proposal incorporates the following elements:

-- Both the United States and the Soviet Union would commit through 1994 not to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

-- This commitment would be contingent on implementation of agreed START reductions; i.e., 50-percent cuts to equal levels of 1,600 strategic nuclear delivery vehicles and 6,000 warheads, with appropriate sublimits, over 7 years from entry into force of a START agreement.

-- The agreement would not alter the sovereign rights of the parties under customary international law to withdraw in the event of material breach of the agreement or jeopardy to their supreme interests.

-- After 1994, either side could deploy defensive systems of its choosing, unless mutually agreed otherwise.

To build mutual confidence by further enhancing predictability in the area of strategic defense and in response to stated Soviet concerns, we are also proposing that the United States and the Soviet Union annually exchange data on their planned strategic defense activities.

We also seek to have the United States and Soviet Union carry out reciprocal briefings on their respective strategic defense efforts and visits to associated research facilities, as we have proposed in our open laboratories initiative. In addition, we have proposed establishing mutually agreed procedures for reciprocal observation of strategic defense testing.

Since the April 23 opening of the INF negotiations in Geneva, there have been some new developments in these talks. Last week the Soviet Union presented a detailed draft INF treaty text which now joins our own draft text on the negotiating table. We are studying carefully the Soviet proposal and requesting the Soviets to clarify some important points in their text. The Soviet proposal appears to reflect the agreements General Secretary Gorbachev and I made at Reykjavik on longer range INF missile limits and to accept the principle of global equality between our two countries in regard to shorter range INF missile systems (SRINF).

Nevertheless, important issues remain to be resolved before an INF agreement can be concluded, including verification and shorter range INF missiles. Verification is a particularly crucial issue. While the Soviet draft indicates that they will seek agreement in some basic areas which we require for effective verification, they have yet to provide the all-important details which are essential to working out an effective verification regime. In addition, they have not met our requirements for inspection of sites suspected of violations of an INF agreement.

Another major issue is that of shorter range INF missile systems. We and our allies continue to insist that an agreement on these systems must be bilateral in nature, global in scope, concurrent with an initial INF treaty, and effectively verifiable. In addition, Soviet efforts to include the missiles of any country other than the United States and Soviet Union are patently unacceptable. We are continuing our close consultations with our allies in Europe and Asia on SRINF and other INF issues.

Our negotiators in Geneva -- led by Ambassadors Max Kampelman, Mike Glitman, and Ron Lehman -- have done an excellent job, and they continue to have very full agendas. We are well prepared for hard bargaining, and we are resolved to do our part to bring about -- for the first time in history -- actual reductions in nuclear weapons. It is up to the Soviets now to demonstrate similar determination to move ahead on these important issues.

Despite all the progress that has been made in Geneva, there are events occurring right here at home which could destroy the groundwork which we have laid so carefully in bringing the Soviets back to the negotiating table and getting them to negotiate seriously for the first time on deep reductions in our respective nuclear arsenals. An effort has been made by some Members of the House of Representatives to attach to the defense authorization bill amendments on arms control which would pull the rug out from under our negotiators and undermine our most vital defense programs, such as our Strategic Defense Initiative. And now it seems that some Senators want to move in the same direction.

Let there be no mistake about it: I will veto any bill which cuts back our ability to defend ourselves and leaves the Soviet Union free to continue its military buildup. The United States remains fully committed to achieving deep, equitable, verifiable, and stabilizing reductions in the U.S. and Soviet nuclear arsenals.