Written Responses to
Questions Submitted by the Finnish Newspaper HelsinginSanomat
May 19, 1988
Visit to Helsinki
Why did you choose Helsinki as your stopover on
your flight to Moscow?
The President. For starters, 1988 is
an official U.S. Year of Finnish-American Friendship. I was most pleased to
have welcomed Prime Minister Holkeri in Washington and to have this chance
to stop in your capital. Moreover, Secretary of State Shultz, who as you know
has visited Finland on several occasions
during the past year, made two persuasive points. First, he told me that
Finnish hospitality is too good to be missed. He has found Helsinki an excellent place to
rest and prepare for the work ahead and thought that I would, too. Second, he
pointed out to me that Finland is a country that has
learned to live in close proximity to the Soviet Union. Finnish leaders have a
unique perspective on that country, which Secretary Shultz has found
informative on his previous trips. I hope to benefit in the same way from my
conversation with President Koivisto and other
and Air Forces in Europe
The President of Finland, MaunoKoivisto, has proposed talks on confidence- and
security-building measures in the NorthernSea areas. Do you think
such talks could be linked to other negotiations on conventional force
reductions or with proposals for a Nordic nuclear free zone?
The President. We consider freedom of
navigation in international air and sea spaces vitally important to the
maintenance of peace and security. Western naval and air activities, including
those in the NorthernSea areas, form an
essential element in current NATO defensive strategy. Unconstrained access to
air and sea lines of communication constitute the lifeline between North America and all of our European
friends. The strength of Warsaw Pact ground forces on the European land mass
makes it all the more important that Western naval and air forces remain free
from restriction on the periphery of the continent. Constraints would, in our
view, weaken Western deterrence against those who might contemplate military
aggression or political intimidation, thereby diminishing stability and
security in Europe.
naval and air forces tend to have global, not region-specific, commitments and
responsibilities, it would seem inappropriate to regulate their activities in
the context of a regional security regime. Moreover, compliance with
restrictions on naval/air maneuvers over the high seas would be extremely
difficult -- indeed, impossible for most countries -- to verify.
these and other reasons, East and West have traditionally agreed to omit naval
forces from conventional arms control negotiations in Europe. This is true for the
Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction (MBFR) talks taking place in Vienna, for the upcoming
Conventional Stability Talks (CST), and for the Conference on Security and
Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). In the concluding document of the Madrid CSCE followup meeting, for example, the 35 participating states
acknowledge that independent naval and air force activities fall outside the
scope of CSCE security-related negotiations. We continue to believe this is the
Helsinki Final Act
The final document of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe was signed in Helsinki in 1975. How do you
assess the implementation, or lack of implementation, of the document? How do U.S. friends and allies
around the world measure up to the human rights aspects of the document?
The President. In the strictest sense,
the Helsinki Final Act applies only to the 35 signatory states. Among those
states, implementation has varied widely between East and West.
the Western countries, the United States and our NATO allies as
well as the neutral and nonaligned states in CSCE, the Final Act, in many
respects, merely codified existing practice with regard to human rights and
fundamental freedoms. The West has fully met its commitments in all three
dimensions of the Helsinki process --
humanitarian, military security, and economic/scientific cooperation.
the Eastern record has been poor. During the period 1975 - 85, Soviet
performance with regard to the human rights provisions of the Final Act
actually deteriorated. The Soviets continued to arrest and jail their citizens
for expressing their political and religious beliefs. Prohibitions continued on
religious teaching. Emigration rates decreased dramatically
by the early 1980's, particularly following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The invasion itself was
a clear violation of the basic principles of the Final Act. Similar repression,
in varying degrees, occurred in Eastern Europe, such as the
declaration of martial law in Poland in 1981 and the
suppression of the free trade union Solidarity. In all Eastern states, citizens
who had joined together to monitor their governments' implementation of the
Final Act were imprisoned, harassed, or forced into exile. Even in the security
area, which the Soviets have tried to emphasize over humanitarian issues, the
East did only the minimum necessary to comply with the Final Act's provisions
and in some instances failed to comply at all.
there has been some improvement in the Soviet Union's human rights
practices in the past 2 years. A number of political and religious prisoners
have been released, and some limited voices of dissent have been allowed to be
heard under the policy of glasnost. Emigration rates have increased, although
they remain well below those of the late 1970's. There have been promises of
institutional reform, although concrete steps have been slow to materialize.
with these improvements, the East still has far to go to meet the standards set
down in the Final Act. Accordingly, at the current CSCE followup
meeting in Vienna, we and our NATO allies
continue to press the East to improve further its human rights performance. We
have made improved performance one of our requirements for a successful
conclusion to the meeting. I should note that Eastern implementation of the
military confidence- and security-building measures adopted in Stockholm has been generally
good. We are pressing the East to show the same spirit with regard to all of
its CSCE commitments.
you asked about other countries around the world. As I pointed out earlier, the
Helsinki Final Act applies only to the 35 signatory states. Of course, the
human rights standards embodied in the Final Act are universal principles also
set forth in documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which
all United Nations members subscribe. If we take this document as a literal
checklist of what ought to be, the world has a very long way to go to meet the
standards which its member nations have set for themselves.
progress is being made. This year we will see an investigation by the United
Nations Human Rights Commission of human rights practices in Cuba, and we are seeing some
improvements in other countries in the world. We and our friends and allies
continue to work as hard as we can to encourage improved human rights practices
throughout the world.
Criticism of U.S. Policy
The United States has on occasion shown
considerable irritation when Sweden, for example, has
criticized American policies in Central America and elsewhere. Is it
then the U.S. view that neutral
countries, such as Sweden and Finland, should as a rule avoid
taking stands on international issues? How should neutral countries behave?
The President. The United States is a leading proponent
of free speech and firmly believes neutral countries have the same full right
as any other country to express their views publicly and privately on any issue
that they wish. Every country is of course individually responsible for its own
foreign policies and pronouncements. We have questioned the appropriateness of
foreign leaders offering public advice to U.S. legislators on issues
under heated domestic partisan debate, but this is a consideration that would
apply to any country, neutral or otherwise.
U.S. and World Economies
How does the United States plan to assure the
world's unstable financial markets of the strength of its own economic
policies? What kinds of agreements does the United States want with Japan and Western Europe on the revitalization
of the global economy?
The President. The strength of United States economic policies is
clear when one examines U.S. economic performance.
The United States is in the sixth year of
the current expansion. Productivity is rising. Over 16 million new jobs have
been created, while inflation, previously in double digits, has come down to
about 4 percent per year. Real GNP grew 4 percent in 1987 (fourth
quarter). Real exports increased nearly 17 percent in 1987 and made a
significant contribution to real growth for the first time in 7 years. We have
also made considerable progress in reducing the Federal deficit; the recent
agreement between the administration and Congress produced a 2-year $76 billion
deficit reduction package. In addition, the United States continues to eliminate
structural rigidities in its own economy through various policy measures. The
deregulation of the airline industry, for example, has increased competition,
expanded the market, improved consumer choice, and lowered prices. We encourage
our European partners to adopt fiscal, labor, social, welfare, and industrial
policies which free up resources and make them more responsive to market
are many ways in which the United States, Europe, and Japan are cooperating to
sustain world growth. The major industrial nations are supporting the economic
policy coordinating process adopted at the Tokyo and Venice summits. This will be
reaffirmed at the Toronto summit as well. Another
step involves redressing the current external imbalances. As I pointed out
earlier, the United States has taken bold steps to
reduce its fiscal deficit. We are also determined to continue reducing the
trade deficit and have begun to see results in this area as well. The surplus
countries must also do their part in this readjustment process. Economic growth
remains strong in the industrial economies, while domestic demand in Europe and especially in Japan has begun to rebound.
This is a welcome and positive contribution.
countries must also make a concerted effort to reduce trade barriers in all
areas through negotiations in the Uruguay Round [multilateral trade
negotiations], particularly in agriculture. Costly and inefficient agricultural
subsidies distort comparative advantages, drain national treasuries, and
ultimately cost consumers dearly. We must all do our share. I am determined to
fight protectionist pressure in the United States in the belief that open
markets benefit everyone and closed markets harm everyone. As the European
Community moves toward a single market, both Finland and the United States have an interest in
encouraging not only the European Community but all nations to resist the
temptation to erect barriers which keep out the rest of the world.
This will be your fourth face-to-face meeting with the Soviet leader, Mr.
Gorbachev, whose country you once called the evil empire. Have you seen him
develop or change as a leader? Has the Soviet Union changed? How can
U.S.-Soviet relations develop?
The President. General Secretary
Gorbachev has spoken clearly about the need for a broad range of political and
economic reforms in the Soviet Union. At this point, it is
not clear, and it may not be for years, whether significant change has
occurred. We would like to see a Soviet Union that deals with its own
people and with its neighbors through dialog rather than intimidation.
think there has been a change in the nature of the U.S.-Soviet dialog in recent
years. It used to be that we met only infrequently, and the subject was almost
exclusively arms control. Now we have a regular dialog embracing a four-part
agenda that includes human rights, regional affairs and bilateral matters, as
well as arms reduction. This maturing relationship has already borne some
fruit, including the INF agreement, the Afghanistan withdrawal accords,
progress in human rights, and a great expansion of opportunities for U.S. and Soviet citizens to
have contacts. We have a great many other subjects under discussion, including
a treaty on 50-percent reductions in strategic nuclear arms and agreements on
expanded cultural exchanges, as well as scientific and technical cooperation.
United States and Soviet Union will always have
differences because our political systems and views of the role of the
individual in society are so different. We must be frank with each other about
that. But we can also -- and this has been at the root of our policy since I
have been President -- have a constructive relationship which is sustainable
over the long term. We have made progress with this four-part agenda, and I
think it provides us a good blueprint for future progress.
How would a 50-percent reduction of long-range strategic arms affect the power
realities and the political atmosphere in the world? What would be the next
The President. One of my highest
priorities as President has been the achievement of deep reductions in
strategic nuclear arms. As you know, we've made important progress toward that
goal and have agreed on the basic outline of a treaty calling for 50-percent
reductions in U.S. and Soviet strategic
offensive nuclear arms. These reductions would make an historic contribution to
international stability and security and would reduce the risk of war by
establishing a framework of mutual restraint and responsibility.
challenges of concluding such an agreement are extraordinary, and several
difficult issues remain unsolved. Nonetheless, we will continue our efforts to
reach agreement on a treaty that is both equitable and effectively verifiable.
As we look ahead, we must also seek constructive solutions to other priority
areas of security and arms reduction, including chemical weapons and
conventional forces, where the Soviets have a marked advantage. The United States and its NATO allies are
committed to making concrete progress in these areas: We seek greater stability
at lower levels of conventional forces in Europe and a truly global and
effectively verifiable ban on chemical weapons.
course, arms reduction alone is not a solution to the problems of East-West
relations. We must address the root causes of mistrust and tension between the
superpowers, such as our differing political systems and values, our
contrasting views of the role of the individual within society, and the need to
protect basic rights and freedoms. Our dialog over the coming years must
include all issues -- human rights, regional conflicts, bilateral matters, as
well as arms reduction -- as we continue our efforts to build a safer world.
Are you today as committed to space defense and rendering ballistic missiles
obsolete as you were when you gave your celebrated speech in 1983? In Reykjavik you seemed to come
close to accepting the idea of a world completely free of nuclear weapons as a
viable goal. Do you do so now? Under what conditions?
The President. I remain committed
today to reducing our reliance for deterrence on ballistic missiles and
ultimately to rendering them obsolete. I also support, as a long-term goal, the
ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons. However, a world free of nuclear
weapons is still far from becoming a reality. In the interim, I believe
strongly that we should establish a stable peace which relies more on defense
than on the threat of nuclear retaliation to deter war.
are also many other factors that must be addressed before we can realistically
hope to achieve the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons. For example, we
must bring about a stable balance of conventional forces, a verifiable global
ban on chemical weapons, greatly expanded confidence-building measures, and an
overall improvement in East-West relations. Until we achieve these objectives,
we must ensure that our security is protected through a safe and stable
Are you planning to write your memoirs? What would you most want your
Presidency to be remembered for, and what is your greatest regret?
The President. I haven't given much
thought to writing my memoirs. I am still too busy with my agenda for my
remaining time in office. In terms of what I will list as my successes, on the
domestic side, I think all Americans can take pride in the great economic
success we have witnessed over the past few years. Inflation is well in the
single-digit numbers, and economic growth is in its 66th consecutive month. We
have restructured our tax policy, which has assisted in this economic growth.
On the foreign policy side, we have taken real steps toward the actual
elimination of nuclear weapons by the signing of the INF treaty. We have
witnessed a growth of democracy worldwide, particularly in the Western Hemisphere. In Central America now, for example, of
the five states we have four democracies, where when I came into office there
was only one. These are just limited examples of what I would consider
successes not just of my administration but of the American people. But I will
leave it to historians to judge the record.
Note: The questions and
answers were released by the Office of the Press Secretary on May 26.