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Interview With the President Responses to Written Questions Submitted by Wilton Fonseca of the Portuguese News Agency, ANOP.

June 25, 1980


Q. Mr. President, you haven't traveled internationally for quite some time. Apart from your attendance at the Venice summit, what conditions have prompted your visits to Yugoslavia, Spain, and Portugal, and what do you hope to gain through these visits?

THE PRESIDENT. The visits I am making in Europe in addition to the economic summit meeting in Venice bring me together with friends and allies for frank talk at a time of serious challenge to our common interests. The challenges are as familiar as they are grave: the crises in Iran and Afghanistan, the search for peace in the Middle East, the issue of energy dependence for the industrialized world, and the aspirations for economic justice of the developing nations. Thorough discussion of these and other matters is not only necessary, it is also helpful in making strong relationships stronger and in shaping consensus from diverse ideas and outlooks.

Within this overall context, I attach special importance to my visit to Portugal. On the personal side, I am very pleased to have the occasion to come to Lisbon, to visit a capital which no American President has been fortunate enough to visit since 1960. Moreover, I am anxious to use my time in Portugal to express the profound admiration which I and Americans generally feel for your nation's remarkable transition to democracy. Your experience and that of Spain confound those pessimists who profess to see democracy in retreat around the world. You give heart, instead, to those who espouse freedom and individual dignity as the surest avenue to social and political progress.

Beyond paying tribute to your example, I am also looking forward to consulting with the leaders of Portugal, who have managed the transition with such skill and wisdom.

The Portuguese Government's forthright support of the standards of international law and civilized conduct against those who are violating those standards in Iran and Afghanistan has established the foundation on which we can continue to cooperate in addressing those crises. Portugal's continuing ties with lusophone Africa, moreover, assure me of valuable insights into ways we can work together on the pressing economic development needs of that continent.

Though the time is short, there is much to discuss, much to do, much to gain from talking and working together.


Q. Mr. President, as you know, Portugal has continued to maintain a strong interest in African developments (particularly its former colonies) simultaneously with its commitment to the Atlantic Alliance. Recognizing that many areas of international crisis today lie outside the traditional NATO regional concerns, could you comment on the advantages of NATO's adopting a more global strategy?

THE PRESIDENT. NATO was formed in 1949 in response to what was then viewed as the most visible threat—the Soviet Union's military buildup in Eastern Europe and designs on Western Europe. For over 30 years our Alliance has successfully resisted this expansionist threat to the NATO treaty area.

But throughout the years, our nations have also had to look beyond the NATO perimeter to Soviet actions elsewhere in the world and to their potential effect on European security. Such concerns have recurred throughout the history of the Alliance. For example, in June 1974 the North Atlantic Council Declaration in Ottawa—endorsed by all the heads of state later that month in Brussels—stated clearly that the interests of the Alliance could be affected by events in other regions of the world.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan has dramatized this reality more clearly than any other recent event. The invasion, although outside the NATO treaty area, has. affected the fabric of East-West relations by posing a threat to Southwest Asia and the Persian Gulf, a region vital to the security of the entire Western Alliance.

This new challenge to peace is one which NATO, as an Atlantic alliance, meets best by pursuing its original, primary mission: the defense of Europe. At the same time, NATO's members and our other friends and allies must also be prepared, as partners in peace and security, to contribute according to their capabilities to cooperative security efforts in other parts of the world. The best way to preserve peace is firmly to oppose aggression.


Q. How does the U.S. assess democratic development in the Iberian Peninsula, and, particularly in the case of Portugal? To what degree have these developments strengthened the country's security-defense role within the NATO structure?

THE PRESIDENT. The development of democracy in Iberia has strengthened the chances for lasting stability and economic progress in both Spain and Portugal. We have seen new constitutions with significant safeguards for human rights adopted in both countries enabling public opinion to play its vital political role.

In Spain, the transition to democracy passed a milestone when in December 1978 the Spanish people approved a new constitution establishing a constitutional monarchy with a sovereign parliament to which the President is responsible. Scarcely 4 years after Franco's death, the national parliament has been elected twice, and freely chosen municipal governments have taken office for the first time in many years.

Portugal's political development since the revolution of April 25, 1974, has been equally admirable. I am impressed by the rapidity with which the Portuguese people are recovering from the economic and political difficulties of the past several years. To have fashioned a constitution with as much concern for human rights as they have augurs well for the future of democracy in Portugal. The steady and consistent progress toward political stability sets the stage for major economic and social gains in the years to come.

The establishment of democratic institutions has, of course, accelerated the development of Portugal as a respected member of NATO. The actions of the Portuguese people in recent years have strengthened their standing and voice in the community of Atlantic nations. In recognition of Portugal's important role in the Alliance, the U.S. has assisted significantly toward equipping the Portuguese army and air force. Also, we are working with other allies in NATO to ensure their continuing effective contribution toward Portuguese force modernization in the interests of NATO's common defense.


Q. In light of the current situation, what do you project as future U.S. steps to secure the release of the hostages in Tehran? To what extent do the situations in Southwest Asia (Iran and Afghanistan) threaten overall world peace?

THE PRESIDENT. Iran's holding of diplomats as hostages violates every standard of international law and civilized behavior. While we are continuing to pursue a variety of diplomatic avenues to secure our citizen's safe release, we are also, through economic measures taken with our allies and other nations, bringing home to Iran the tangible costs of such irresponsible behavior. If Iran's leadership truly has the interest of the Iranian nation and the well-being of its people as its primary goals, I am confident it will free the hostages.

Even apart from the hostage question, the instability in Iran creates another uncertain situation in a turbulent and vital region. The brutal Soviet invasion of Afghanistan threatens the strategic balance in this critical region. The actions taken by our allies, as well as by scores of other nations, serve to let the Soviet Union know that its aggression—and that is the only word for it—will not go unpunished. Certainly, our concerns for the security of Southwest Asia and the Persian Gulf will be high on the agenda in my talks with President Eanes and Prime Minister Sa Carneiro.

Portugal's principled response to the crises in Iran and in Afghanistan has been as welcome as it was courageous. But the crises continue, and we have much to discuss.


Q. What aspects of U.S. diplomacy in Africa do you feel represent the best chance of countering long-term Soviet influence or the influence of their surrogates on the continent?

THE PRESIDENT. Soviet activity in Africa is based on a mixture of geopolitical, strategic, and ideological motivations. The objective is to expand Soviet influence in any way possible, seizing opportunities as they arise and relying heavily on military rather than economic assistance. But the consequence in those areas where the Soviets have increased their influence the most—as in Ethiopia and Angola-is that conflict and suffering have only intensified. Refugees—like those we see fleeing from communism in Kampuchea, Afghanistan, and Cuba—are the innocent victims of this Soviet interference.

We believe Africans should be free to build their own futures. Accordingly, we pursue a policy which recognizes fundamental African aspirations and priorities; self-determination, an end to racism and white minority rule, the maintenance of territorial integrity, and economic development. We Americans can and do identify with these priorities, and we continue to give diplomatic and financial support to advance them.

This long-range approach is the most effective answer to attempts by the Soviets and their Cuban surrogates to win influence in Africa at the expense of Africa's interests and real needs.


Q. We Europeans are obviously concerned about the question of international nuclear weapons safeguards, whether in the context of SALT and other disarmament negotiations or the recent computer failure in the U.S. defense alert system. Could you comment upon the question of the safeguards and the possibilities of accidental war?

THE PRESIDENT. The pursuit of arms control is itself a measure to prevent accidental conflict. Negotiations, for example, make possible a dialog between adversaries which can provide greater understanding of military thinking and systems generally. Arms control agreements, moreover, work to increase confidence between the sides in specific areas, as, for example, in the SALT II provision for advance notification of certain ICBM flight-tests.

Although our own alert systems are fully adequate to discern an attack clearly, it is nevertheless useful to exchange information of this type as part of a process to build confidence. The notification procedures on large-scale troop movements and exercises under the Helsinki accords of 1975 contribute in a somewhat similar fashion to security in Europe.

While we are concerned about the computer error, there was no possibility of aggressive response from the United States based on this isolated component indicator. During those two brief alarms our personnel followed standard procedures and immediately determined no attack was underway. We were not remotely close to launching any of our nuclear forces. All our warning sensors worked properly, as did our procedures for discriminating false from real alarms.


Q. The state of the economy has always played an important role in the outcome of U.S. Presidential elections. In the context of the current economic situation (e.g., recession, rising unemployment, etc.) will these domestic concerns outweigh U.S. foreign efforts both in terms of your own reelection and the possible direction of future U.S. priorities?

THE PRESIDENT. If you are suggesting that the United States will turn inward because of domestic economic concerns the answer is a clear no. We have a vital and responsible international role to play, as a member of the Atlantic Alliance, as a member of NATO, as a full partner in the Middle East peace process, as a responsible and constant force for conciliation and economic progress.

Our domestic economic situation, of course, would concern me whether or not this were an election year. In essence, our economic difficulties are no different from those affecting the other advanced nations of the world. Our agenda at the Venice summit addressed these economic issues, in particular the long-term issue of energy conservation, production, and resources, as well as the continuing struggle against inflation.

In our era domestic and international economic priorities cannot be separated. They must be addressed with as much responsibility and creativity at home as abroad. They call for frank assessments and sometimes difficult decisions that look beyond an election day.

Note: Mr. Fonseca met with the President at I:10 p.m. on June 16 in the Oval Office at the White House and submitted the questions for the President's response.

Jimmy Carter, Interview With the President Responses to Written Questions Submitted by Wilton Fonseca of the Portuguese News Agency, ANOP. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251370

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