Ronald Reagan picture

Radio Address to the Nation on Foreign Policy

October 20, 1984

My fellow Americans:

Tomorrow, my opponent and I will debate foreign policy in Kansas City, so I'd like to talk to you about the foreign policy choices for our future as I see it.

In speaking about his economic policies, I've said my opponent is a man of the past whose administration's domestic policies failed and made America weak. Well, that goes for foreign policy as well. Mr. Mondale as a Senator, later as understudy to Jimmy Carter, and still today has seemed possessed with one simple but very wrong idea: American strength is a threat to world peace. And he's devoted a political career to opposing our strength, exposing us to dangerous, unnecessary risks.

As a Senator, he voted time and again against American strength, against technological advances meant to better protect our security. He voted against the cruise missile, the B-1 bomber, the Trident submarine, and against salary increases for the military. Yes, he did vote for certain things. He voted for cutting U.S. troops in Europe, for cutting our military manpower, and for cutting our defense budgets.

How could a politician even face the young people who protect our freedom after he's voted to deny them the equipment and protection they need? My opponent's Senate voting record on defense was so weak, he ranked right next to George McGovern.

The Carter-Mondale administration echoed this defeatist spirit. By the late 1970's, the policies of unilateral concession were giving the Soviet Union military advantages over the United States and the West. The Soviets installed missiles that created new vulnerabilities in Europe and put new strains on the NATO alliance. During those years, the Soviet Union expanded its influence in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and here in our own hemisphere. They overturned or took control of a new country every year.

Meanwhile, the Carter-Mondale administration negotiated an arms agreement so weak they couldn't get it approved in a Senate controlled by their own party. My opponent talks about the Carter-Mondale years as a period of relaxed tension. Well, it's true they relaxed—but the Soviets didn't.

What troubles me most is how little he seems to have learned about the dangers of weakness and naive thinking. I don't question his patriotism; I do question his judgment. In 1968 he said that the days of Soviet suppression by force were over. Then, the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia. But he didn't learn. He voted against American military strength during the 1970's, even as the Soviets were embarking upon the most massive military buildup in history.

After the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Mr. Mondale still hadn't learned. He said, "I cannot understand. It just baffles me why the Soviets these last few years have behaved as they have. And why do they have to build up all those arms?" Well, today he still advocates unilateral cuts in important weapons systems, still argues for a freeze, which his own running mate admits is not fully verifiable and Mr. Carter's former national security adviser describes as a hoax.

Senator Glenn, a Democrat, has warned that "Walter Mondale's defense policies would emasculate America." Senator Hollings, a Democrat, said, "Walter Mondale thinks the Soviet Union would never violate an arms agreement. I think he's naive."

Well, to borrow Mr. Mondale's expression, he seems baffled by so much. He was confused about the rightness of freeing our students on the island of Grenada. He said that liberation took away our moral authority to criticize the Soviets about Afghanistan. Yet he could not bring himself to repudiate the Reverend Jesse Jackson after he had traveled to Cuba and said, "Long live Cuba! Long live Castro! Long live Che Guevara?

Well, in the past 3 1/2 years, our administration has demonstrated the true relationship between strength and confidence and democracy and peace. We've restored our economy and begun to restore our military strength. This is the true foundation for a future that is more peaceful and free.

We've made America and our alliances stronger and the world safer. We've discouraged Soviet expansion by helping countries help themselves, and new democracies have emerged in El Salvador, Honduras, Grenada, Panama, and Argentina. We have maintained peace and begun a new dialog with the Soviets. We're ready to go back to the table to discuss arms control and other problems with the Soviet leaders.

Today we can talk and negotiate in confidence because we can negotiate from strength. Only my opponent thinks America can build a more peaceful future on the weakness of a failed past.

Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from the Oval Office at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Radio Address to the Nation on Foreign Policy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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