Informal Exchange With Reporters on the Soviet-United States Summit Meeting

 

December 7, 1987

 

Q. Mr. President, do you think that Gorbachev will be willing to pursue START negotiations without linking it to Star Wars?

 

The President. Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International], I don't want to make any comments on that right now. It all begins in the morning, and I have some opening remarks here for our meeting here that I want to get --  --

 

Q. Okay.

 

The President. So, anyway, well, thank you all for coming.

 

Q. What are your opening remarks?

 

The President. And in less than 24 hours, I'll be welcoming General Secretary Gorbachev. With our earlier meeting, we will pursue a broad range of issues. The highlights of the summit will be the signing, I think, of the INF treaty. I've always said that I'd rather have no treaty than one that doesn't add to our security and that of our allies, and the INF treaty meets that test. It's an accomplishment of the United States and our allies. And for the first time, we will reduce nuclear weapons rather than just limit their building. By having global limits, we'll make Asia as well as Europe more secure. We've done this without weakening the other elements of our defensive posture in Europe, and we'll have the toughest verification provisions of any treaty on the books.

 

It's only because I know that I can get the candid views of America's military leaders that I can have confidence in the wisdom of going forward with this agreement. Our regular meetings to discuss our national security have been invaluable to me. I remember we talked about the issue of European security at our last meeting, when we were joined by General Galvin, the NATO Supreme Allied Commander; and I am looking forward to continuing that discussion. What I get from such discussions is that our security and Europe's remain firmly linked, and we're going to keep it that way.

 

In addition to signing a treaty that will eliminate an entire class of offensive nuclear missiles, I want to use the summit to move forward in other areas. I want a START agreement, but only if it's a good one -- one we can verify and which enhances our security. At the same time, I want to set the stage for one day deploying effective defenses in a manner that will strengthen our strategic stability. Admiral Crowe has given me your thoughts on how to move toward these goals in several recent meetings.

 

And now, that's enough from me. I think it's time for me to listen to you.

 

Q. What are the prospects for a START agreement -- progress on a START agreement, Mr. President?

 

The President. You know me, I'm always optimistic.

 

Q. Are you up to going one-on-one with Mr. Gorbachev? How are you feeling?

 

The President. What's that?

 

Q. Are you up to going one-on-one with Mr. Gorbachev? Feeling spunky?

 

The President. As I told you, he can't be tougher than Errol Flynn. [Laughter]

 

Q. What do you make of some of the ugly things that the conservatives said last week about you?

 

The President. I don't think I better comment on that.

 

Q. What do you think of books being written about you and your wife by your former aides?

 

The President. I'm not going to comment on that either right now. [Laughter] But I think that it's time for us to start this meeting.

 

Note: The exchange began at 2 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. Following the exchange, the President met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.