Radio Address to the Nation on Soviet-United States Relations

 

December 10, 1988

 

My fellow Americans:

 

On Wednesday, this week, I met with Soviet President Gorbachev for the fifth time. Together we stood under the gaze of Lady Liberty, speaking of the prospects of peace for the peoples of our two nations and for all the world. Yes, since our first summit in Geneva 3 years ago, we've traveled a great journey that has seen remarkable progress, a journey we continue to travel together. I am pleased that the Soviet Union has accepted our offer of humanitarian aid in the wake of their devastating earthquake tragedy.

 

This has also been a period of important change inside the Soviet Union. The greater openness permitted by Moscow can be found in films, art, and literature. There is greater tolerance for those seeking to peacefully assemble, and the official press carries more independent opinions and factual reporting.

 

And just a few years ago, who would have anticipated seeing a Soviet leader stand before the world community, heralding a plan for economic restructuring and military redeployments, and promising to meet the world community's highest standards of human rights? If this vision is realized and these promises are turned into deeds, we would be witnessing a dramatic change in the Soviet system, a long-awaited break with the past, and the opening of a new era in international affairs.

 

Certainly the Soviet reforms have their limits, and brave dissenters within that country who have sought a fuller measure of openness continue to be dealt with harshly. But I was encouraged by the new promises of reform that Mr. Gorbachev made before the United Nations and hope to see these and past promises translated into permanent institutional changes that will signal to the peoples of the Soviet Union and the world a courageous commitment to a new path of democratization. We already see unprecedented diversity in Eastern Europe, with some countries pursuing reforms that go even beyond the Soviet example, while other countries continue to lag behind. We hope to see the day when all countries of Eastern Europe enjoy the freedom, democracy, and self-determination that their peoples have long awaited.

 

Just a decade ago, some intellectuals widely predicted what they called convergence: the idea that the democratic world and the Communist world would merge into one hybrid system. The main question amounted to how much freedom would democratic nations have to give up in the bargain. But instead, the free world held firm to its democratic values, cleaving to truths deeply rooted in Western culture and our Judeo-Christian tradition.

 

Moreover, we spoke openly of the moral superiority of our ideal of freedom. We candidly criticized the violations of human rights occurring behind the Iron Curtain. We rebuilt our defenses and with our allies worked to counter international aggression by our totalitarian adversaries. And we exhibited that scarcest of commodities: patience. And our steadfastness, our policies, our whole approach has borne fruit. Perhaps the most dramatic achievement came 1 year ago, when Mr. Gorbachev and I signed the historic INF treaty to eliminate an entire class of U.S. and Soviet nuclear missiles.

 

Next week, the Prime Ministers of two of our key NATO allies, Turkey and Italy, will visit Washington. And certainly, along with other issues, we plan to discuss this week's visit by Mr. Gorbachev and the strategic situation in Europe.

 

For some time now, the Soviet bloc has had overwhelming superiority in conventional forces in Europe, so we welcome the Soviet force reductions that are promised. But let's remember this: Even after these redeployments are completed in 1991, the Warsaw Pact will still have a large conventional advantage -- an edge of about 5-to-2 in tanks and artillery and some 300,000 more troops. These unilateral reductions would, however, give a long-awaited encouragement for our efforts to achieve the genuine balance in conventional forces that would assure greater security and stability in Europe.

 

Well, in these brightest of times, let us recall that in the darkest days of World War II, when hopes for the free world seemed most bleak, Winston Churchill rallied us to carry on, saying that ``We have not journeyed all this way because we are made of sugar candy.'' By summoning all their strength and courage, and by pulling together, the allies prevailed. The war was won.

 

The decades following World War II were filled with political tensions and threats to world freedom. But in recent years, we've seen hopes for a free and peaceful future restored and the chance for a new U.S.-Soviet relationship emerge. To the American people and to our allies, I would echo Churchill and say we have not come this far through lack of strength or any weakness in our resolve, nor has there been anything inevitable about what we've achieved. The unity, confidence, power, and firmness of the democracies has brought us forward, and maintaining a strong alliance will keep us moving forward.

 

Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

 

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Camp David, MD.