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Letter to Ambassador Edward L. Rowny, Special Representative for Arms Control and Disarmament Negotiations, on the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks

June 29, 1982

Dear Ambassador Rowny:

You are about to undertake one of the most important tasks of our age—the negotiation of an effective and equitable strategic arms reduction agreement. Your efforts in this endeavor are vital to the citizens of the United States and the Soviet Union, and to all mankind.

Despite more than a decade of intensive negotiations, nuclear weapons continue to accumulate, and the strategic relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States has steadily become less stable. A major reason for this has been the massive buildup of the Soviet Union's ballistic missile force over the past 15 years.

An historic opportunity now exists for both the United States and the Soviet Union to reverse this process, and to reduce substantially both the numbers and the destructive potential of nuclear forces. Such reductions to equal levels must immediately focus on the most destabilizing elements of the strategic balance if we are to promptly enhance deterrence and stability and thereby reduce the risk of nuclear war. Further, the achievement of this goal should greatly reduce the nuclear anxiety that has become such a conspicuous feature of public concern throughout the world.

I do not underestimate the monumental nature of the task of effectively reducing forces. But while the task is formidable, the importance of undertaking these negotiations is fully appreciated by the American and, I believe, by the Soviet people. We must learn from the shortcomings of earlier efforts for, as you are well aware, the American people will not accept an agreement unless it is equal and verifiable, and contributes to stability.

The proposals you take to Geneva represent a practical, phased plan which will protect the legitimate security interests of both sides. It is designed to enhance deterrence and to achieve stability by reducing nuclear forces on both sides to equal levels in a verifiable manner. Its provisions significantly reduce the forces of both the Soviet Union and the United States and, therefore, contain benefits for both sides, as well as for the rest of the world.

I know that you and your delegation will present these proposals clearly and persuasively, along with the fundamental considerations that lie behind them. And, I want the Soviet delegation to know that concerns and proposals put forward by them will be given careful consideration by us. For our part, the United States is ready to move forward rapidly toward an agreement reducing strategic nuclear arms, and I am confident that if our efforts are met with the same seriousness of purpose by the Soviet Union, we can seize the historic opportunity that lies before us.

As the two leading nuclear powers in the world, the United States and the Soviet Union are trustees for humanity in the great task of ending the menace of nuclear arsenals and transforming them into instruments underwriting peace. I am convinced that this can be done if both nations fully accept the principle that the only legitimate function of nuclear arms is to deter aggression.

I wish you Godspeed in your efforts, and assure you that these negotiations will have personal attention.



Ronald Reagan, Letter to Ambassador Edward L. Rowny, Special Representative for Arms Control and Disarmament Negotiations, on the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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