Written Responses to Questions Submitted by the Soviet Magazine Ogonek
Q. A few words about yourself, your own personal and political experiences, your career? Has your life thus far been a success? How do you evaluate the path you have traveled?
The President. Historians will make
the final judgment about my years as Governor of California and as President of
Q. You are an experienced politician. The years of your Presidency have made you even more experienced, and nevertheless, you have preserved the wonderful ability to change your mind. In my country, many people remember your words, expressed in December of last year, about the changed image of the ``evil empire'' in your statement -- to the effect that your attitude toward the U.S.S.R. had improved. What has changed in your perception of the U.S.S.R.?
The President. I have always believed
that people and nations must be judged by their actions and not their words. I
have tried to speak out about the positive developments I see as much as I try
to draw attention to the negative ones. My guiding principles have been candor,
realism, dialog, and strength. In that regard it is fair to say I have noted
some progress, such as the Soviet Government's commitment to withdrawal from
think what has changed is that both the
is why in
Q. You are coming to the U.S.S.R. for the first time. What do you expect from your meeting with our country -- not only from the negotiations but personally from your meeting with the U.S.S.R.?
The President. I am looking forward
with great anticipation to visiting
Political and Economic Freedom
The irreversibility of our chosen path, perestroika, is very important to us.
Do you feel that there is a link between the process
underway here and what is happening in the
The President. No country can compete
successfully in the global market today unless it unleashes the human spirit
and lets individuals drive toward their own goals. Society, as a whole,
benefits from the progress made by individuals.
Perestroika also can play an important role in information exchange. Your government is known for its high regard for secrecy, and you pay a price for that policy. Much of the progress made in the West comes about from information sharing. Free access to the body of knowledge possessed by the society enables our citizens to build on the advances made by others. As long as Soviet society remains off limits to the rest of the world, inhibiting the free flow of information and restricting travel in and out of the U.S.S.R., your economy will be limited in its ability to be part of the world economy.
Q. Your second term as President is coming to an end. You have achieved a great deal. What have you not succeeded in achieving in your relations with the U.S.S.R., but would like to achieve?
The President. I agree that we have made significant progress. The treaty on the elimination of an entire class of U.S. and Soviet intermediate-range nuclear missiles has been a milestone not only for what it accomplishes in its own right but as a precedent for future agreements which will actually reduce nuclear weapons and not just restrain them.
would like to see progress toward resolving conflicts around the world. For
example, the war between
are urgent issues I will be discussing with General Secretary Gorbachev. We
will also look at ways we can bring about settlements to conflicts in southern
What is the mechanism for succession of power in the
The President. Our mechanism for succession is a free and open election in which candidates from different parties compete vigorously against each other, arguing their positions in public debates, speeches, and media interviews for some months. Members of our press vigorously question the candidates. We have an election campaign underway right now. In November the American people will go into polling booths across the country and vote in complete secrecy for the candidate of their choice. In addition to electing a new President and Vice President in November, Americans will elect Senators, Members of Congress, State Governors, and local representatives. All of this is provided for under our Constitution.
have read the constitutions of many countries, including your own. Many nations
of the world have written into their constitution provisions for freedom of
speech and freedom of assembly. If this is true, some ask, then why is the
Constitution of the
Q. How do you imagine, or envisage, the future of mankind? How can we reach a future without war? Is such a future realistic?
The President. My vision is of a world
free of war. A nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought. General
Secretary Gorbachev joined me in affirming that basic truth when we first met
This is why I am seeking to move our strategy of deterrence toward defensive systems, which threaten no one, and away from offensive systems. That is the purpose behind my Strategic Defense Initiative: to make obsolete the most threatening weapon ever invented -- the ballistic missile. I call upon the Soviet leadership to join me in these efforts toward strategic defenses and to move to a world based on defense rather than offense. The reasonableness of this proposal is demonstrated by the fact that your government has been engaged in its own strategic defense programs long before we started SDI.
But we must also keep in mind that arms agreements alone will not make the world safer. We must also deal with the core source of mistrust between our nations. This is why our dialog must cover a broad agenda of human rights, regional and bilateral issues, as well as arms reductions.
Q. Recently, speaking at
The President. I hope that future generations of American and Soviet citizens will have closer relations and better understanding. But much depends on the way your government deals with the basic issue of human rights.
Cultural exchanges and individual travel are the underpinnings for establishing closer relations. I look forward to expanding these and thus broadening the scope of our mutual contacts. Americans hope for a world in which all people can enjoy the freedom they cherish. We will continue to work to fulfill our dreams for peace through understanding.
Note: The questions and answers were released by the Office of the Press Secretary on May 28.