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New Year's Messages of President Reagan and President Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union

January 01, 1989

President Reagan's Message

On behalf of the American people, I send you greetings on the coming of the New Year.

In your country and mine, the New Year is a time of hope and renewal. Never have these qualities of the spirit been more necessary than now, as Soviet Armenia begins to heal from its wounds. You have our deepest sympathy. You have our prayers. And you have a personal hope from my wife, Nancy, and me that in the effort to rebuild what was shattered you will find your solace.

I am confident that relations between our two countries will continue on the positive course they have followed in the year just ending. And despite our disagreements, we have been able to find some common ground. When I visited Moscow and met with President Gorbachev, we advanced our mutual understanding on the vital issues of human rights, arms reductions, regional problems, and bilateral relations. Although much remains to be done, we're making progress in all of those areas.

In Moscow, we signed the documents of ratification for the treaty eliminating an entire class of U.S. and Soviet intermediaterange nuclear missiles, and the implementation of that historic treaty has proceeded smoothly. Soviet and American negotiators continued to discuss a 50-percent reduction in strategic nuclear weapons. And we are preparing to enter into new negotiations about conventional military forces in Europe. President Gorbachev, during his recent speech to the United Nations, announced significant reductions in Soviet conventional forces. This is certainly a step in the right direction of correcting the imbalances in the European military situation, but much more remains to be done. Thus, while much has been accomplished in the area of arms control and reductions, we must continue efforts to ensure a lasting peace.

In human rights, progress is being made in reunification of families, freedom of people to travel as they please, and in other areas. The cessation of jamming is also a positive step; for if we're to understand each other better, we must be able to talk freely with each other, and listen freely as well. In bilateral relations, for example in cultural and educational exchange, improvements mean that the barriers that artificially separated our peoples are slowly being lowered. And in regional issues, from Afghanistan to the Persian Gulf and southern Africa, solutions are being found to conflicts of many years' standing. Perhaps your country will join ours in the effort to bring peace, democracy, and security to Central America.

In all of these areas, these improvements represent only the beginning of a long, difficult road to better understanding and cooperation. We are ready to continue moving along this road. Important differences remain between our countries and will continue for years to come. But I am confident that we have been witness in 1988 to progress that, if we are careful and diligent, can continue next year and during the years to come.

President Gorbachev's visit to New York—cut short by the catastrophe in Armenia-gave us a chance to meet once more during my term as President. On January 20, George Bush will be sworn in as my successor. The American people have chosen him in part because he represents continuity in the policies, foreign and domestic , that the United States has pursued over the past 8 years. I know that Mr. Bush will continue on the same course with equal commitment.

This is my final message to you as President, and so, let me close by saying this: I believe the world is safer than it was a year ago, and I pray it will be safer still a year from now. I wish you, the Soviet people, well in the New Year. Thank you, and may God bless you and keep you all the days of your life.

President Gorbachev's Message

Dear Americans, on this first day of the New Year, I am pleased to have the opportunity to convey, on behalf of the Soviet people and on my own behalf, our best wishes to the American people and to every American family.

Seeing out a year gone by and ushering in a new year is always a moving experience. Each time, we take stock of the past year: happy about some things, sad about others, and hoping that many of our concerns will be left behind as we cross the threshold of the year and that our wishes will be fulfilled in the coming year.

Last year was rich in momentous events. It also brought many good changes in relations between our peoples and countries. Today they are more dynamic and more humane. We have become closer, and we have come to know each other better. Americans seem to be rediscovering the Soviet Union, and we are rediscovering America. Fears and suspicion are gradually giving way to trust and feelings of mutual liking. I could see all of this for myself in my meetings with Americans in Washington and, quite recently, in New York. We regard the warmth and good will shown to the Soviet delegation during those days as something very important for our relations. I think President Reagan, too, will remember his meeting with Soviet people during his visit to the Soviet Union.

We in the Soviet Union are in favor of the most wide-ranging ties between our peoples; I hope you are, too. And that means we can look ahead with optimism to the future of our relations. This is what we talked about with President-elect Bush.

1988 is memorable for all of us as a year when we began reducing the most terrifying nuclear weapons. That alone is enough for it to go down in history as a landmark, a great turning point in world affairs. Many other facts, too, prove that changes for the better, very important for all of us, are taking place in the world. The Afghan issue is close to a settlement. Hostilities have ceased between Iran and Iraq. Real opportunities are emerging for resolving painful and complex issues in Southeast Asia and southern Africa. The situation in the Middle East is also changing. All this is very encouraging.

And let me mention one thing in particular. You know how much misfortune and suffering was caused by the earthquake in Armenia, how great was the human tragedy it wrought. I went to see the ruins of the devastated Armenian towns. You can't even look at what the forces of nature have done without shuddering. All Soviet people took the misfortune of the people of Armenia as their own. In this hour of grief, they extended a helping hand to them, as brothers. The devastated towns and villages will be reborn—that is the will of all the peoples of the Soviet Union. Armenia's tragedy has evoked great sympathy throughout the world. We are grateful to the American people and to all peoples who have come to our aid.

Seeing all this, one cannot help thinking that all people who live on this Earth, all of us, however different, are really one family. I am sure we will find enough wisdom and good will to establish together a true period of peace for all humankind. If we are capable of a new way of feeling, then we must surely be capable of a new way of thinking. If we are capable of a new way of thinking, then instead of merely surviving we can live in a new way: on the basis of equal rights, justice, trust, humanism, and wide-ranging cooperation. This is the message I wanted to convey in addressing the United Nations in New York.

There are, of course, still many problems in the world, and they are intricate and complex. But that only heightens the need to solve them together—as we say in our country, with everyone pitching in. It is good that we understand this and, moreover, that we are taking the first steps in that direction. Both our countries have a lot of problems. Quite naturally, you know your problems better, and we know ours. We intend to solve our problems in the course of perestroika. But the Soviet Union and the United States also have some common problems. I am convinced that today, on the basis of growing mutual understanding and trust, we can solve them better than we could yesterday.

Once again, I salute you, citizens of a great nation. Once again, I wish all of you peace, good health, and well-being. May there be more happiness and joy in your life. May your best hopes be fulfilled. May our common achievements shine brighter and brighter, filling every Soviet and American home and all our planet with an abiding will for peace, development, and construction.

A Happy New Year!

Note: President Reagan's message was recorded at 3:46 p.m. on December 15, 1988, in the Map Room at the White House. President Gorbachev's message follows the White House press release. They were televised in the United States and the Soviet Union on January 1.

Ronald Reagan, New Year's Messages of President Reagan and President Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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