Richard Nixon photo

Radio Address on Foreign Policy

November 04, 1972

Good afternoon:

Through the long years of America's involvement in Vietnam, our people's yearning for peace has largely been focused on winning an end to that difficult war. As a result, there has often been a tendency to lose sight of the larger prospects for peace in the rest of the world. As peace in Vietnam comes closer, we can look to the larger world and the long-term future with hope and satisfaction.

Four years ago I promised that we would move from an era of confrontation to an era of negotiation. I also said that we would maintain our own strength and work to restore that of our alliances, because the way to make real progress toward peace is to negotiate from strength and not from weakness. Because we have done so, the world today is more peaceful by far than it was 4 years ago. The prospects for a full generation of peace are brighter than at any time since the end of World War II.

In the past 4 years, we have concluded more--and more significant--agreements with the Soviets than in all the previous years since World War II. We have ended nearly a quarter century of mutual isolation between the United States and the People's Republic of China. All over the world, the tide toward negotiation is moving. North and South Korea are negotiating with one another. East and West Germany are negotiating with one another. A cease-fire has been in effect for more than 2 years in the Middle East. The leaders of India and Pakistan are talking with one another. The nations of Europe, of NATO, and of the Warsaw Pact are preparing to meet next year in a European Security Conference, and preparations are underway for negotiations on mutual and balanced reduction of armed forces in Central Europe.

All this is evidence of solid progress toward a world in which we can talk about our differences rather than fight about them.

Nineteen hundred seventy-two has been a year of more achievement for peace than any year since the end of World War II. This progress did not just happen by itself.

In my Inaugural Address nearly 4 years ago, I said that the greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker, but I also pointed out that peace does not come through wishing for it, that there is no substitute for days and even years of patient and prolonged diplomacy.

For the past 4 years this Nation has engaged in patient and prolonged diplomacy in every corner of the world, and we have also maintained the strength that has made our diplomacy credible and peace possible. As a result, we are well on the way toward erecting what I have often referred to as a structure of peace, a structure that rests on the hard concrete of common interests and mutual agreements, and not on the shifting sands of naive sentimentality.

That term, "a structure of peace," speaks an important truth about the nature of peace in today's world. Peace cannot be wished into being. It has to be carefully and painstakingly built in many ways and on many fronts, through networks of alliances, through respect for commitments, through patient negotiations, through balancing military forces and expanding economic interdependence, through reaching one agreement that opens the way to others, through developing patterns of international behavior that will be accepted by other powers. Most important of all, the structure of peace has to be built in such a way that all those who might be tempted to destroy it will instead have a stake in preserving it.

In the past 4 years, my efforts to build that structure of peace have taken me to 22 countries, including four world capitals never visited by an American President before--Peking, Moscow, Warsaw, and Bucharest. Everywhere I have traveled I have seen evidence that the times are on the side of peace, if America maintains its strength and continues on course. For example, ever since World War II, the world's people and its statesmen have dreamed of putting the nuclear genie back in the bottle, of controlling the dreaded nuclear arms race, but always that race remained unchecked until this year.

In Moscow last May, we and the Soviet Union reached the first agreement ever for limiting strategic nuclear arms. We signed that agreement last month in Washington. This was an historic beginning. It moved back the frontiers of fear. It helped check the dangerous spiral of nuclear weapons. It opened the way to further negotiations on further limitations on nuclear arsenals which will soon begin.

As we pursue these negotiations, however, let us remember that no country will pay a price for something that another country will give up for nothing. If we had scrapped the ABM missile system, as many advocated, we would never have achieved the first arms agreement with the Soviets. If we unilaterally slashed our defenses now as our opponents in this election advocate, the Soviets would have no incentive to negotiate further arms limitations.

Or take another example. After 10 years of recurring international monetary crises, we took bold actions a year ago to strengthen the dollar and to bring about a reformed international monetary system that would be fair to the United States and fair to the world. The result of these actions has been a solid and substantial beginning on just such a system, and the stage is now set for an international effort to achieve some of the most important monetary and trade reforms in history. As we complete these reforms in the years ahead, we can usher in a new age of world prosperity, a prosperity made even greater by the rapid expansion of peaceful trade that is now taking place, not only with our traditional trading partners but also with nations that have been our adversaries.

I cite these simply as examples of the broad, unfinished agenda of peace that now lies before us, the agenda of new starts made, of negotiations begun, of new relationships established, which now we must build on with the same initiative and imagination that achieved the initial breakthroughs. As we move forward on this agenda, we can see vast areas of peaceful cooperation to be explored.

We agreed in Peking to pursue cultural, journalistic, educational, and other exchanges, so that the world's most prosperous nation and its most populous nation can get to know one another again.

We agreed in Moscow to cooperate in protecting the environment, explore in space, fight disease. This means the day is fast approaching when a Russian cosmonaut and an American astronaut will shake hands in space, when a Russian chemist and an American biologist will work side by side to find a cure for cancer. And each time our nations join hands in the works of peace, we advance the day when nations will no longer raise their hands in warfare.

Throughout the world today America is respected. This is partly because we have entered a new era of initiative in American foreign policy, and the world's leaders and its people have seen the results. But it is also because the world has come to know America. It knows we are a nation of peaceful intentions, of honorable purposes, true to our commitments. We are respected because for a third of a century under six Presidents we have met the responsibilities of a great and free nation. We have not retreated from the world. We have not betrayed our allies. We have not fallen into the foolish illusion that we could somehow build a wall around America, here to enjoy our comforts, oblivious to the cries or the threats of others. We have maintained our strength.

There are those today who condemn as a relic of a cold war mentality the idea that peace requires strength. There are those who ridicule military expenditures as wasteful and immoral. Our opponents in this campaign have even described the great bipartisan tradition of negotiating from strength as one of the most damaging and costly cliches in the American vocabulary. If the day ever comes when the President of the United States has to negotiate from weakness, that will be a dangerous day, not only for America but for the whole world.

Those who scoff at balance of power diplomacy should recognize that the only alternative to a balance of power is an imbalance of power, and history shows that nothing so drastically escalates the danger of war as such an imbalance. It is precisely the fact that the elements of balance now exist that gives us a rare opportunity to create a system of stability that can maintain the peace, not just for a decade but for a generation and more.

The years ahead will not be easy. The choices will not be simple. They will require an extra measure of care in distinguishing between rhetoric and reality, between the easy temptation and the hard necessity. We will be told that all the things we want to do at home could be painlessly financed if we slashed our military spending. We will be told that we can have peace merely by asking for it, that if we simply demonstrate good will and good faith, our adversaries will do likewise, and that we need do no more. This is dangerous nonsense.

A heavy responsibility lies on the shoulders of those who hold or seek power in today's world, a responsibility not to court the public favor by fostering illusions that peace can be either achieved or kept without maintaining our strength and meeting our responsibilities.

As we approach the end of the war in Vietnam, the great question is whether the end of that war will be only an interlude between wars or the beginning of a generation of peace for the world.

Five months ago, I delivered the first television address to the Soviet people ever made by an American President. I tried to tell them something about America, about the people of America, about our hopes, our desire for peace and progress, not only for ourselves but for all the people of the world. In that talk, I repeated an old story told in Russia about a traveler who was walking to another village, who stopped and asked a woodsman how long it would take him to get there. The woodsman replied he did not know. The traveler was angry, because he was sure the woodsman lived in the village and knew how far it was. But then as soon as he had gone a few steps further down the road, the woodsman called out to him to stop. "It will take you 15 minutes," the woodsman said. "Why didn't you tell me that in the first place?" the traveler demanded. And the woodsman answered, "Because then I didn't know the length of your stride."

In these past 4 years, we and the other nations of the world have had a chance to measure the length of our strides. At last we are traveling in the same direction toward a world of peace, toward an era of negotiation, and of expanding cooperation. In the next 4 years, the President of the United States, whoever he is, will negotiate with the leaders of many nations on a broad range of issues vital to America, vital to the world. As we cast our ballots next Tuesday, the world will see whether we have changed the length of our stride.

If you approve the beginnings we have made, then your vote on election day to support those policies will be a message to the leaders of all other nations that the American people are not going to retreat, are not going to surrender. It will strengthen the President's hand immensely as we continue to move from confrontation to negotiation to cooperation all around the world as we build toward a generation of peace.

Thank you, and good afternoon.

Note: The President spoke from a prepared text. His address was recorded at the White House for broadcast at 12:07 p.m. on nationwide radio. Time for the broadcast was purchased by the Committee for the Re-Election of the President.

Richard Nixon, Radio Address on Foreign Policy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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