Q. Mr. President, sir, we appreciate very much your having us here in the Oval Office, and we are most grateful that you are willing to take some time to answer our questions.
THE PRESIDENT. It's a pleasure.
IRAN U.S. SUPPORT FROM ALLIES
Q. Mr. President, it's apparent there's great disappointment in this country over insufficient support of your policy in the Iran crisis. What is it exactly that you want your European allies to do?
THE PRESIDENT. I think the most important aspect of the Iranian and the Afghanistan problems is not the disappointment that we feel with our allies, but the consistency and unanimity that we all share, in this country and in Europe, about the threat to peace that has been put forward, not only by the Soviet aggression in Afghanistan but by the terrorist attack on our Embassy and its officials in Iran. There has been a unanimous condemnation of these two acts as a threat to peace.
Our country has obviously moved forward much more aggressively in Iran, because our people are directly involved. We have tried for the last more than 5 months, through every peaceful means, through every diplomatic means, to bring about a resolution of this crisis, to protect the honor and integrity of our country, and to secure the safe release of our people back to freedom.
We've now found that because of many reasons the Iranian Government, what there is of it, has not been able to deliver on their commitments to transfer the hostages to safe care and then to release them altogether.
We do need the full and aggressive support of our allies. What we ask specifically of them is that they carry out now two basic proposals. One is to honor the sanctions against Iran that were voted and supported by all of them in the United Nations Security Council earlier this year. The final action of the U.N. Security Council was stopped by a Soviet veto. And secondly, if this should prove to be unsuccessful, then to join us in strong diplomatic moves against Iran, to show them that we all do stand together in this condemnation of terrorism, a threat to our country, to all of them, and particularly the smaller nations who don't have the economic or political or military power to protect its interests.
U.S. OPTIONS TO FREE THE HOSTAGES
Q. Mr. President, with reference to what you just said, Mr. Brzezinski, and I quote, in a statement last Thursday, said that "if all the allies gave their solidarity, such solidarity could render unnecessary the application of other measures." But that means that if they don't give their full solidarity, you'll think of enforcing other measures. Which ones, and when?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, we do, and we don't have much time left. The American people are ready and eager to see this matter resolved. Under international law we are a seriously aggrieved party, and we have a breadth of options available to us—economic, diplomatic, military options as well.
To the extent that the allies can join with us in making effective the diplomatic and economic pressures that might cause the Iranians to release the hostages, then we can forgo the requirement that we take additional, stronger action. We prefer to keep our action nonbelligerent in nature, but we reserve the right to take whatever action is necessary to secure the safe release of our hostages.
TIMING FOR RELEASE OF THE HOSTAGES
Q. You said, Mr. President, you have not much time. Can you give us an idea of timing?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, it's not a matter of many weeks or certainly not a matter of months. It's not appropriate for me now to set a specific date. But we have sent to the heads of nations, all of those represented by you, a specific date, at which time we would expect this common effort to be successful.
U.S. RESPONSE TO INJURY TO THE HOSTAGES
Q. Mr. President, Mr. Powell 1 said yesterday that the next moves won't be military. But if the militants take action against the hostages—physical action or a trial what will be your action?
THE PRESIDENT. Our action would be very strong and forceful and might very well involve military means.
1 Jody Powell, Press Secretary to the President.
What Mr. Powell said is consistent with my policy that we do intend to exhaust not only our own diplomatic and economic action—and there are other actions of an economic nature that we can take against Iran—but also to exhaust the common effect of concerted action on the part of our allies, which we have requested very clearly both privately and publicly. And following that, we will be required to take additional action which may very well involve military means.
But if our hostages are injured or if any of them are killed, then we would not delay in taking much stronger action of an incisive nature.
ECONOMIC SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAN
Q. Mr. President, yesterday the European Foreign Ministers have been received by President Bani-Sadr, and they hinted the possibility of a sanction. Is that step enough for you?
THE PRESIDENT. I think I've answered that question already by saying that economic sanctions, as supported by all of your nations in the U.N. Security Council, would be one of the steps, and we would expect additional diplomatic steps to be taken unless an immediate favorable response is received from the Iranians.
I have talked to the leaders of the countries represented here—some within the last 2 or 3 days, some within the last 2 or 3 weeks—and have made it plain to them that the experience that we have suffered with the Iranians is constant misleading statements, constant delay, constant failure to carry out commitments made, either because of a deliberate attempt to mislead or because of timidity and a failure to have authority enough to carry out a commitment even if it was made in good conscience.
But I think that we have now an opportunity, if strong and concerted action is taken by our allies in Europe and our friends and supported by additional economic measures that we are now contemplating, to avoid the military action or other stronger belligerent action that would be always an open option for us.
THE NATIONAL INTEREST AND RELEASE OF THE HOSTAGES
Q. Mr. President, in pursuing what you've said is an aggressive or a more aggressive policy towards Iran, and if we also were to join in with you in that, aren't you not only failing to get the hostages back but also driving Iran and its oil
into the arms of the Russians?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't think anyone could find fault with me because I have not been adequately patient. We have seen 53 innocent Americans held by terrorists, first of all, and then later supported by and condoned by the official Government of Iran in complete contravention to every standard of human decency and morality and in contravention of diplomatic procedures and international law. This has been a situation condemned on two occasions by the entire membership of the U.N. Security Council; the International Court of Justice has confirmed this opinion.
And we have been extremely patient. Our patience is running out. And if I have been criticized in my own country for any aspect of my behavior, it's been because we have been too patient, not too precipitous.
Q. Yes. I wasn't really questioning that you've been too patient. I was suggesting, now that you've switched from the patience to a course that is pushing up against Iran, that you might get to a point now where you would have to, say, choose between the American national interest and the lives of the hostages. How would you choose in a situation like that?
THE PRESIDENT. I have tried to avoid making that choice, and I think it would be inappropriate for me in a public forum to describe what I have done. But I don't think that, at least at this date, we have taken any action or made any decision that is inimical to our Nation's best interest and also to the interest of the hostages and their lives.
Obviously, the paramount interest has to be what's best for our Nation and its security, but we are trying to honor that commitment without endangering the lives of the hostages.
THE HOSTAGE SITUATION AND THE CAMPAIGN
Q. In grappling with this crisis, have you ever come to the point, in your heart, where you thought you should devote all your time to it and not seek a second term of office?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't see any incompatibility between the two. I have devoted an enormous amount of time to the hostage question. It never leaves my mind for any waking moment. It's a question and a problem that permeates the consciousness of our entire Nation.
What we have tried to do is to act with moral decency, with restraint, with sensitivity about the revolutionary and chaotic nature of the situation in Iran, to protect our Nation's interest, to honor as best we could the sensitivities of other countries, and to protect the lives of the hostages. This is a very complicated question. At the same time, obviously, I have to deal with the normal matters that fall on the shoulders of a President here in the Oval Office, and in addition, I have been managing the campaign for reelection. But I have never let the Iranian question suffer because of unwarranted attention to a campaign effort.
THE MODERATE FACTION IN IRAN
Q. Have your decisions to break off diplomatic relations and to enforce sanctions been based on the belief that the moderates in Tehran can be written off?
THE PRESIDENT. No. Some of the moderates in Tehran, I think, have made an honest effort to secure the transfer of the hostages from control of the terrorists and subsequently to achieve their release to freedom.
Quite often we have been informed, on several occasions, that the Revolutionary Council has made a unanimous decision to make this transfer, that the transfer was approved by the militants in the compound, and we have been informed by the top Iranian officials that this action had the approval of Khomeini himself. Subsequent events have proven that this degree of unanimity which seems to be required under President Bani-Sadr's government has not been achieved.
It has been a very frustrating experience, but we've not written off any element of possible support that might be available to make the crisis come to an end.
SITUATION IN AFGHANISTAN THE SOVIET INVASION
Q. Coming to another subject, Mr. President, Afghanistan: You surely knew what was going to happen; you surely knew about the buildup. Why didn't you warn anyone, and by warning, maybe prevent it or have the Russians think twice about it?
THE PRESIDENT. I didn't know what was going to happen. 2
Q. You were not informed that there was buildup at the border with Afghanistan?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, we obviously had extremely good intelligence about the placement of Soviet troops around the border of Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. They had been there for a long time-months, even years, some of them. We also knew about the increased Soviet presence in Iran [Afghanistan] of military personnel, in the nature of a few hundred.
2 The President misunderstood the last part of this question. Beginning as early as October 1979, the United States did publicly and privately warn the Soviet Union against invading Afghanistan. [White House clarification.]
It was only Christmas Eve when a massive airlift began to move strong Soviet troops into the area around Kabul, and it was only a day or two later, as you know, when the Soviets had the leader of Iran [Afghanistan], President Amin, assassinated, along with some of the members of his family.
This was the first time that the Soviets had used their own very powerful military forces for an invasion of a neighboring country since the Warsaw Pact itself was formed. It was an unprecedented action on their part, therefore, for the last quarter-century.
I have tried since I've been in this office not only to strengthen the constant moral commitment of this Nation and to strengthen that commitment in the part of other nations—human rights, the preservation of democracy, the honoring of international borders, the effectuation of peace among disputing parties—but also to increase our military strength, in NATO and in other places in the world. I think we've been successful in that.
What is required now, with this gross violation of the principles of detente and this gross violation of human decency and the principles of international law on the part of the Soviet Union, is a clear message to them, unified if possible, that they will not be permitted to continue this invasion with impunity, that the consequences of their invasion will be very severe for them.
I had, in the most powerful nation on Earth, the options of acting economically or politically or militarily. We chose to exercise, along with many other nations, a political and economic mute and to hold in reserve stronger action in the future, if necessary, to preserve peace in that troubled region.
A hundred and four members of the United Nations joined in condemning the Soviet invasion, calling for their withdrawal. They have not withdrawn. As a matter of fact, within the last few days they have moved additional major military units into Afghanistan. They are in direct violation of international law, and they are also threatening the advantages of detente, now and in the future.
To the extent that the Soviets are convinced not only that the United States is going to take economic action against them but other nations as well will take action against the Soviet Union—to that extent we believe that ultimately they will withdraw from Afghanistan. But they have certainly shown no evidence at this stage of any inclination to withdraw their forces. They are steadily building up their forces instead.
PRESENT INTERNATIONAL SITUATION
Q. Mr. President, Chancellor Schmidt said yesterday that the comparison between the present international situation and the situation which led, after Sarajevo, to the First World War, is not totally wrong. Nobody wanted war; nobody was able to avoid it. What do you think of that?
THE PRESIDENT. Chancellor Schmidt is a very wise statesman, and I think he's analyzed the situation accurately. To the extent that an unclear signal is sent to an aggressor nation, to the extent that a step-by-step increasing escalation of aggression is permitted by the rest of the world, the temptation comes for that aggression to reach proportions such that the vital interests of other countries are not only endangered but severely damaged.
We've got a volatile situation in the Persian Gulf-Southwest Asian region under any circumstances. And for the Soviets to exercise their massive military power to completely subjugate another nation, to kill literally thousands of its people every week, to wipe out villages, is a clear signal to the rest of the world that they have no regard for the advantages of detente and that they are not willing to live in accordance with international law.
And I believe that unless we let a clear signal go to the Soviet Union that we allies stand united in not only condemnation of this action but that we are going to take firm actions to show the Soviets that they will suffer because of it, that might lead to increasing encroachment by the Soviet Union against other countries.
U.S. FOREIGN POLICY
Q. Four years ago your campaign message was an act of faith. You were speaking of love and friendship between nations, and we were moved by this. But won't you be forced by the events of the eighties to speak in totally different terms?
THE PRESIDENT. No, the terms are not totally different. It's the Soviet action which has violated moral principles and human decency and international law. It's the Iranian terrorist action which has violated moral decency and international law and human principles.
We have combined a commitment to peace, a commitment to morality, the protection of human rights, the honoring of good relationships with all countries in every aspect of foreign policy that we pursue. This has been exhibited in our effort in the Middle East to bring about peace, to honor democratic principles and majority rule in Africa, the opening up of China to new friendship with our country, and in other areas around the world.
At the same time, however, we have seen that it is necessary to have a strong and consistent strengthening of the military capability of the United States and our allies. Six to 10 years ago there was a feeling in even my own Democratic Party that NATO could be partially abandoned, that we could draw down at least half our troops or maybe, some advocated, all the troops and that we could let our military strength deteriorate.
I have reversed that. And I think we've had extremely good response from the members of NATO who've now committed themselves to a long-term defense commitment, also made a decision on the theater nuclear force, which was difficult for some nations in Europe, who've committed themselves to build up the budget allocation for defense purposes on a steady, moderate, but sustained basis.
So, the relationship between strong moral commitments to human decency and human rights on the one hand and strong and adequate and predictable and sure and steady buildup in our military capability to match an enormous buildup in the Soviet Union are, I think, completely compatible one with another.
SOVIET AGGRESSION AND DETENTE
Q. Mr. President, after the invasion of Afghanistan, you said in a television interview then, and I quote: "My opinion of the Russians has changed more drastically in the past week than in the previous 3 years." Now, are you saying that you believe the Russians never themselves believed in detente?
THE PRESIDENT. I think the Soviets would like to avoid any sort of major confrontation with powerful nations like ourselves, including all those represented here.
The Soviets have shown a consistent inclination to extend its own influence, through violence, into other areas of the world. They've done this primarily through surrogates.
In Vietnam now, they are encouraging the Vietnamese to invade and to subjugate and to destroy the fabric of the nation in Kampuchea. In Angola, through their surrogates, the Cubans, they have 30,000 to 40,000 troops there to prevent the full expression of free will by the Angolan people to choose their own government. In Ethiopia, as you know, there are several thousands of troops there by the Cubans, supported financially and otherwise by the Soviet Union.
What happened in Afghanistan was, as I said earlier—this is the first time in more than a quarter of a century when the Soviets have used massive troops of their own to invade and to dominate a freedom loving, deeply religious, and independent nation. They now have more than 100,000 heavily armed troops devoted to the subjugation of Afghanistan. And this is a radical departure of the Soviet Union from their more recent policy as far as using military force is concerned.
STATE OF EAST-WEST RELATIONS
Q. But in suggesting that there can't be any normal East-West relations until they've now withdrawn from Afghanistan, aren't you in fact suggesting that we really have to return to a sort of semipermanent cold war?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would hope that our clear commitment to avoiding any acceptance of the status quo while the Soviets are involved in the violation of international peace and international law would send a clear signal to the Soviet Union that the consequences of their action will be severely adverse to themselves.
As you know, the leaders of some of your nations have made direct appeals to the Soviet Union to withdraw their troops and to establish a nonaligned or independent or neutral country or government in Afghanistan acceptable to the people of that country. We would support this effort. But the Soviets, contrary to the assurance given to me by Brezhnev and given to, I know, at least, President Giscard by Brezhnev, have not withdrawn their troops. In my judgment, they have no inclination to withdraw their troops at this time; they've shown no evidence of that.
And only by the Soviets realizing, finally, that they cannot prevail in this unwarranted aggression will they be induced to restore the previous boundaries and to let Afghanistan have a peaceful nation with a government of their own choosing. I would prefer that the government and the nation be nonaligned.
There is another very important, tangible, and symbolic action that we must take without delay, and that is to make it clear to the world that we will not send our nation and our nation's flags to Moscow for the Summer Olympics while the Soviets are invading Afghanistan. This is a morally indecent act on their part, and I cannot imagine the democratic or freedom-loving nations adding an imprimatur of approval to the Soviets' invasion by sending teams to the Moscow Olympics. Our Olympic team will not go to Moscow, and my hope and expectation is that the other nations represented here will take similar action.
ALLIED REACTIONS TO SOVIET ACTIONS
Q. Getting back to the problem of detente, we are, of course, close allies, and there's no doubt about it. But we have different positions; we in Europe live close on the East-West border. And do you take into account the fact that America may live with a serious deterioration of East-West relations, but Europe, particularly Germany, is much more strongly affected.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I am very clear in my knowledge of that difference. Each country has a different problem and a different need to have .an independent reaction to the threats that do present themselves to us all.
We know very clearly that Germany is a divided nation with 16 or 17 million people living under communism, a totalitarian government imposed upon them. We recognize the vulnerability of Berlin. We recognize the importance of trade, exports in particular, to Germany, which are greater than our own dependence upon exports. I recognize all those things.
But still, we feel that within the bounds of complete independence of a decision by each government to make, that a consistent approach must be made to the Soviet Union to let them know that we do want to have arms control, we do want to have the advantages of detente, but we are not going to accept armed aggression in a vital area of the world—where the interests of Europe are much more seriously threatened even than our own, because of a heavier dependence on exported oil from that region—and that further aggression will be severely met by a more consistent and a more forceful action.
This is what we advocate. Exactly what action we have taken, at substantial sacrifice to us, we do not expect that to be exactly mirrored by action among other nations.
Farmers are very similar to one another all over the world. I happen to be a farmer. We have taken action to eliminate 17 million tons of grain sales to the Soviet Union. This was a difficult decision for me to make, particularly in an election year. But I think the American farmers have decided, as demonstrated by votes in key agricultural States, that they are willing to make this sacrifice, a financial sacrifice, in order to let the signal go clearly to the Soviet Union.
So, I believe that if we want to have peace, want to have future trade, want to have a perpetuation of the advantages of detente, if we want to have a consistent commitment to controlling weapons and to lessening tensions in the world, we have got to respond effectively and forcefully and, I believe, peacefully to Soviet aggression when it's so blatant and so immoral as is taking place at this very moment in Afghanistan.
1980 SUMMER OLYMPICS
Q. Mr. President, coming back a moment to what you said a moment ago about the American team is not going to Moscow. Does this mean that you may apply those legal measures to prevent them to go, and will you expect the European countries to do the same?
THE PRESIDENT. I have had indications from all of the European leaders represented by you distinguished news reporters that we share a common commitment not to add our voice of approval to Soviet aggression by going to the Moscow Olympics.
The U.S. Olympic Committee has already made a public statement quite early this year—I think in February or March—that they would honor the decision made by me and an almost unanimous vote in the U.S. Congress in both Houses and also by overwhelming public opinion in this country that we should not attend the Moscow Olympics because of the invasion. I have no doubt that the U.S. Olympic Committee will make this decision.
Q. But then you will enforce, legally, if some athlete will try to go on his own. As I understand, France and England have such a situation.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, my understanding of Olympic rules and principles is that athletes are not recognized for competition in the Olympics representing themselves, that they must represent a nation. And therefore, a decision made by a nation's government or a nation's Olympic committee is a final decision, and individual athletes are not recognized as competitors in the Olympics.
Q. Yes. Mr. President, public opinion in Europe is not so sure that boycotting the Olympic games will be an effective measure to challenge the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Europe agrees with your ultimate aim in Afghanistan, but it doesn't necessarily agree with the means you suggest. It feels that going to the games and boycotting only the parade and all the ceremonial events will be more effective with the Russians. Wouldn't you agree?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't agree with that at all, but obviously each nation would have to make its own decision. We're not trying to force our will upon others, but we make our position clear.
The Soviets have, obviously, a great interest in the propaganda benefits to be derived for itself by an expression of participation with them in the Olympics in Moscow. Their own official publications and handbooks say that the granting to Moscow of a right to have the summer Olympics is an endorsement, in effect, of the Soviet foreign policy and a recognition of the peaceful nature of the Soviet Government.
I think for a country to go to Moscow to participate in the summer Olympic games, to raise its flag in the Olympic stadium when the host government is engaged at that moment in an unwarranted and inhumane invasion of a free and independent country is abhorrent to the moral principles on which democracy is founded. I feel very strongly about this subject, and I believe that the overwhelming number of American citizens do as well. The opinion of Europeans may or may not be different; I have no way to know that.
But I know that it will be a very difficult problem for the Soviet Union to explain to the rest of the world and to explain to its own citizens why 20 or 30 or 40 or 50 or maybe 70 other nations refuse to participate. As a matter of fact, when the United Nations voted earlier this year to condemn the Soviet Union, I think 104 countries voted in this way. The Soviet citizens never knew about the outcome of the United Nations condemnation. The Soviet Government is misleading its own people.
My own judgment is that many Soviet citizens do object to invasion of other countries, do object to a direct threat to peace that might bring great adverse consequences to themselves. And I believe that this would be a very clear signal to the world and to the Soviet people that the Soviets have made a serious mistake in Afghanistan.
I don't claim that not going to the Summer Olympics will be the single factor that would result in a withdrawal of their troops, but I believe that going to the Soviet Union is, in effect, an endorsement of the invasion and an endorsement of the violation of morality, human decency, and international law.
Q. Mr. President, I wanted to get you right, there, on the numbers you think countries might not be going; you said 50 or 60 or 70. Is that just a hope on your part, or do you have some indication? Because I think if as many countries as that were to boycott, it would possibly effect arrangements in all countries.
We have a problem in Britain, where we're split right down the middle. The Government supports your boycott totally, and the British teams want to go. Public opinion is not so sensitized as in America. Probably most of the public think they should go. But if you could bring some evidence that as many countries as that would stay away, I think it would have an effect.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, the evidence is in the final action. I think I gave a broad range of countries who might join us. I think 20 or 30 nations have announced already that they would not go.
Q. As many as that?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. And the question is: How many of the European countries will go to the Olympics, and how many are willing to announce their decision, hopefully, as early as possible?
I know that the Olympic Committee in Great Britain has announced that they prefer to go, but that they would assess future developments before they make a final decision. My understanding is that one of those future developments that they would assess is the willingness of the Soviet troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan.
I have no expectation at all that prior to the deadline date for the acceptance or rejection of the Moscow Olympics invitation—I think the 24th of May—that Soviet troops will be withdrawn. The contrary is the evidence. They are increasing their military involvement in Afghanistan. And it may be that when your own Olympic Committee assesses this fact that they might reverse themselves and decide not to send a team.
I have seen news reports that some of your superb athletes, whom I admire very much, have announced that they would like to go individually. I understand that the International Olympic Committee rules do not permit an athlete competing on his or her own, that it must be part of a national team.
But we are seeing very shortly the evolution of commitments. We have private assurances from some other nations that they will join in the boycott of the Olympics, but I am not trying to speak for them. They can speak for themselves.
Q. The Olympic question is just one example of diversity between the United States and Europe. You expect the Europeans to follow suit. Is it a surprise to you, Mr. President, that there is what you might call a lack of solidarity, if no proper and real consultation prior to your announcement of the boycott has taken place?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, let me correct the premise that seems to be the basis for your question. In the first place, there is no evidence that there are differences between us in whether we will or will not go to the Olympics. The U.S. Olympic Committee is going to decide very shortly, maybe today, that they will or will not go. Other Olympic committees will be deciding in the future. I don't think we'll have any clear evidence of either complete compatibility or incompatibility before May, when the final decisions are made.
There is a sharp difference of opinion in my own country. The athletes themselves, many of them, do prefer to go to the Olympic games. I believe the U.S. Olympic Committee itself, the Congress, the American people, and myself do not believe that we should go to the Olympics. And my statement to you is that we will not go.
On your other premise, we do not expect compliance with a decision made by us because we demand unanimity or demand some sort of action by other countries. Each country must make its own decision. We make our position very clear, and it's predicated not on what other nations might do, but on our own decision. If all of the nations go to the Moscow Olympics, we will still not go. But each country, including your own, must make that decision for itself.
I think in action concerning Iran we have let our allies and our friends know very clearly what our position is. We've tried to keep them informed about action that we would take before it was taken.
Sometimes it's not necessary or advisable to have complete consultation, because events change so rapidly that that's not possible, and sometimes we need to take unilateral action without complete consultation with anyone. But I would guess that in my own administration, in the last 3 years, we've had at least as good consultation as has ever been the case with our European allies, and particularly during a time of peace.
DIVERSITY OF NATIONS
Q. Mr. President, but just about that: You said that the allies have freedom of choice, and yet Thursday you were a little bit disappointed about the fact that the allies ask for protection, for leadership, and then they want to do whatever they want, which puzzles a little bit, with due respect, sir, our governments, about American foreign policy—some lack of communication, some mistakes, like the one Ambassador McHenry did at the United Nations. Now, don't you think that this makes all our governments think that such a government is accident prone, incident prone?
THE PRESIDENT. I think every government makes mistakes. And I would guess that there have been decisions made by all of your countries and their governments that didn't get my immediate approval or the approval of the American Congress or the approval of the American people or the approval of the American media.
We live in a pluralistic society, and each country is strong, forceful, independent, and also each country has a different perspective, depending upon its particular relationships with its neighbors and with other countries around the world. We expect that diversity. We're not the Warsaw Pact, where complete conformity is demanded and achieved within a group of nations. We recognize the necessity for diversity, and I think this diversity is very beneficial.
For instance, Germany has taken the leadership in strengthening the economy of Turkey. We follow this leadership, with appreciation of the initiative that Germany has taken. The French have been extremely effective in some elements of development of democratic principles and the protection, for instance, of the integrity of Zaire. Great Britain has done an extraordinarily good job, in my opinion in bringing about majority rule in Rhodesia, soon to be Zimbabwe. We look to Italy to help us with the entire Mediterranean area and to give me advice on how we can better have a policy for the southern regions of NATO.
So, each country is different. We have taken the leadership in the Mideast. Some of our decisions, some of our policies have been criticized within your own countries and also, I might say, within my own country. But we've made good progress: the present situation in the Mideast, with peace between Egypt and Israel, the two most powerful nations, the two nations aligned with the West, the two nations who are very strong, stabilizing factors there, and the present effort to move forward now with the preservation of Palestinian rights in the West Bank/ Gaza area, of full autonomy there, the realization of a solution to the refugee problem, the enhancement and protection of the security of Israel behind recognized borders—this effort is the only one that has a chance for success.
And even those who have criticized our own effort, for instance, in this particular instance have not put forward any alternative proposal that might even get the attention or participation of the parties who are in dispute. Obviously this is sometimes a fumbling, sometimes a disappointing, sometimes a frustrating, sometimes a highly argumentative relationship; all of these efforts were. But we're making progress.
And we recognize the independence and the autonomy and difference among our countries. But the common bind which holds us together, a belief in freedom, a belief in democracy, a belief in basic human morality, the preservation of human rights, a common, strong commitment to security—these kinds of things are much more important than any small differences that might exist among us as each nation tries to do the best it can to protect its own interests and to enhance those principles that I've just outlined to you.
MIDDLE EAST PEACE NEGOTIATIONS
Q. But you yourself, Mr. President, wish to see the Camp David agreement fully implemented. Unfortunately we seem still very far away from that end. How do you intend to make Mr. Begin change his mind?
THE PRESIDENT. We all change our minds. I think it would be a mistake for me at this point to predict what's going to happen in the future. I'll be meeting with Prime Minister Begin this next week; I met with President Sadat this week.
If you would go back 2 years at the situation then and compare what has been accomplished during this period, it is indeed almost a miracle. Then no Arab nation would even speak to Israel nor recognize its right to exist nor negotiate with it. Now we have the most powerful Arab nation of all recognizing Israel as a country; ambassadorial exchanges have been made; the borders are open; trade is being enhanced and negotiating taking place on a daily basis.
The commitment has been made by Prime Minister Begin himself to grant full autonomy to the Palestinians on the West Bank, to resolve the Palestinian question in all its aspects, to give the Palestinians a voice in the determination of their own future.
These are the kinds of things that were inconceivable 2 years ago. I know how difficult it was for Prime Minister Begin to agree, for instance, to withdraw from the Sinai and to commit himself to give up oil wells that were vital to Israel's security and also to agree that the Israeli settlers in the Sinai would be withdrawn in the next phase.
The Egyptian-Israeli treaty has been honored meticulously by both sides. And I don't anticipate any ease of success in future negotiations between Israel, Egypt, and all her neighbors, but we're making the best effort we can. And there have been very good and very profound concessions made on both sides in an effort to achieve peace in this vital area of the world.
Q. Mr. President, with the settlement policy, particularly on the West Bank, your Government has told Israel that you oppose that, and yet they go on snubbing you, if you like, even humiliating the United States by keeping on the settlements, like even in Hebron and so on. Why don't you actually take a step like reducing aid to Israel by the amount that it costs for the settlements?
THE PRESIDENT. We have a respect for Israel's independence and .autonomy as a nation, just as we respect the independence and autonomy—
Q. But the West Bank is not an independent nation, is it?
THE PRESIDENT. The decision made by Israel in their Government is worthy of respect as an independent nation, just as we respect the right of Great Britain to disagree with us, or other nations as well. Our position on the settlements is very clear. We do not think they are legal, and they are obviously an impediment to peace. The Israeli Government, however, feels that they have a right to those settlements.
Under the Camp David accords, the Israelis have committed themselves to withdraw their military government and its civilian administration and then to redeploy military forces in selected security locations. When and if this is done, in my judgment, the basic question of the settlements will effectively be resolved. The Israelis will still maintain that Jewish citizens, Israeli citizens have a fight to live wherever they choose. As you know, many Arabs live in Israel itself.
But the ultimate status of the West Bank and Gaza is to be negotiated among Israel, the people who live in the region, the Jordanians, and the Egyptians. And this is what has been already prescribed in the Camp David agreement. There are obviously very strong differences of opinion between Israel and her neighbors, and between Israel and us on this particular instance, but we have to honor those differences and work as best we can to resolve those differences peacefully.
U.S. MILITARY STRENGTH AND THE DRAFT
Q. Mr. President, can America regain credibility militarily without reintroducing the draft system?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, of course. I don't think, again, the premise of your question is well founded. We have no absence of credibility militarily. Our Nation is the strongest nation on Earth militarily.
We have been concerned for the last 15 years by the extraordinary buildup in Soviet military, strength. Year by year they have had a substantial real addition in commitment in their budget to their military forces. In the last 3 years, beginning in 1977, we have joined with our allies, including your country, in building up the strength of our own nations to match that extraordinary additional threat from the Soviet Union.
We are, at the same time, pursuing an effort to control weapons, including nuclear weapons. The SS-20, which is .a severe threat to all the nations represented here except our own—it can't reach us yet—is to be matched now, finally, by an increase in theater nuclear force commitments. We consider this a very strong step forward.
We are maintaining an adequate military force without a draft. I see no reason to have a draft. We will commence registration this year in order to prepare for some eventuality in the future that might bring about a military crisis calling for a draft, but whether we have a draft or not is not important issue at all as far as the overall strength of our country is concerned.
ECONOMIC SUMMIT IN VENICE
Q. Mr. President, changing the subject-in the context of your slight dissatisfaction about the behavior of the allies, how do you consider the possibility of success to our many economical problems at the forthcoming economic summit in Venice at the end of June?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, we all share the same basic problems: an extraordinary threat to our own security because we are so heavily dependent on imported oil; an almost unprecedented level of inflation, certainly within this generation; the threat that as we control inflation in the future effectively that the unemployment rate will go up in our nations; the need to avoid protectionist steps in international trade; the proper treatment of the less developed countries, who are often dependent on a single commodity and haven't let the advantages of a technological world be extended to them.
These kinds of problems are common among us, and it's extremely beneficial to me—I'm sure it's beneficial to the other participants in the economic summits-to share these problems with one another. In Venice, I think we'll have another opportunity to discuss these problems. I think we've made very good progress in the other three summits with which I have been involved, and I have no doubt that the beautiful setting in Venice and the hospitality of the Italian people and the common realization of our purposes and challenges and opportunities will make this next summit conference also effective.
MIDDLE EAST NEGOTIATIONS
Q. Mr. President, you refer to the French action in Africa. What about the Middle East? President Giscard d'Estaing has made a statement, and it looks like the European countries agree with his conclusions. According to your opinion, is that policy helping or damaging your own policy in that situation?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't agree with the statements made by President Giscard d'Estaing, but I certainly recognize his right to make them. And I'm not sure that all of the European countries agree completely with what he has said.
In my opinion, the best opportunity for the realization of our hopes, which are common among all of us, in the Mideast, surrounding Israel, rests in the further progress to be envisioned under the Camp David accords. It is a basis for an adequate peace settlement for Israel and all her neighbors. I don't believe that President Giscard d'Estaing has put forward an alternative negotiating process, that would be acceptable by the parties in dispute, that might replace the Camp David accords.
The Palestinians have legitimate rights, which we are trying to honor. They have a right to a voice in the determination of their own future. These two statements, among others, have been recognized by not only ourselves and the Egyptians but also by the Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Begin.
So, I believe that it would be better for the European countries to give us a chance to continue the Camp David process unless there is a clear vision or delineation of a preferable alternative, and I see no prospects of this being put forward.
Some have moved toward a recognition of the PLO. We have no intention of recognizing the PLO nor of negotiating with the PLO until they first acknowledge the effectiveness and authenticity of the United Nations Resolution 242 and also recognize Israel's right to exist. This is a clear policy of ours which will be honored.
But we are as determined as others to see the refugee question resolved, full autonomy established in the West Bank/ Gaza, a secure Israel, recognized borders, and peace.
Q. Thank you very much, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. It's been a pleasure.