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Radio Address to the Nation on United States-Soviet Relations and the Vice President's Trip to Europe

January 08, 1983

My fellow Americans:

Today I'd like to share with you some thoughts on one of the most important aspects of America's role in the world—our relations with the Soviet Union. Keeping the peace for both countries—for that matter, for all mankind, depends on our wise and steady management of this relationship.

As you know, a new leader has come to power in Moscow. There's been much speculation about whether this change could mean a chance to reduce tensions and solve some of the problems between us. No one hopes more than I do that the future will bring improvement in our relations with the Soviets and an era of genuine stability. What could be more important than reducing the danger of confrontation, increasing the prospects for enduring peace, lowering nuclear arsenals, relieving human suffering in Afghanistan, Kampuchea, and elsewhere?

With your support, this administration has embarked on an effort to restore our nation's strength, credibility, and clarity of purpose in the world. Our aim has been to ensure that America has the will and the means to deter conflict and to defend the interests of freedom. We've done this for one reason and one reason only—because a strong, respected America is the surest way to preserve the peace and prevent conflict.

In this effort, we must learn from history. We all experienced the soaring hopes and then plunging disappointment of the 1970's, when the Soviet response to our unilateral restraint was to accelerate their military buildup, to foment violence in the developing world, to invade neighboring Afghanistan, and to support the repression of Poland.

The lesson is inescapable. If there are to be better mutual relations, they must result from moderation in Soviet conduct, not just our own good intentions. In recent days, some encouraging words have come out of Moscow. Clearly the Soviets want to appear more responsive and reasonable. But moderate words are convincing only when they're matched by moderate behavior.

Now we must see whether they're genuinely interested in reducing existing tensions. We and our democratic partners eagerly await any serious actions and proposals the Soviets may offer and stand ready to discuss with them serious proposals which can genuinely advance the cause of peace.

We do not insist that the Soviet Union abandon its standing as a superpower or its legitimate national interests. In fact, we hope that the new leadership in Moscow will come to realize that Soviet interests would be improved by ending the bloodshed in Afghanistan, by showing restraint in the Middle East, by permitting reform and thus promoting stability in Poland, by ending their unequaled military buildup, as we have proposed, by reducing the most dangerous nuclear arms to much lower and equal levels.

We stand ready to work towards solutions to all outstanding problems. Now, this doesn't mean that we should neglect our own defenses. That would undercut our ability to maintain peace and jeopardize whatever chance we may have for changing Soviet conduct. But it does mean that we're always ready to sit down with the Soviets to discuss practical steps that could resolve problems and lead to a more durable and genuine improvement in East-West relations.

Next month, Soviet and American negotiators will resume talks in Geneva on strategic and intermediate-range nuclear forces. We've proposed drastic cuts in those threatening intermediate-range forces. The Soviets have responded in both negotiations with proposals of their own. So, a serious foundation for progress has been laid. America will negotiate energetically and in good faith to achieve early agreements providing for reduced and equal levels of forces. The Soviet leadership must understand that the way to reduce the nuclear threat is by negotiating in the same sincere spirit and not by trying to sow division between the American people and our NATO partners. That kind of negative tactic is certain to fail and can only delay real progress.

A cornerstone of our approach to relations with the Soviet Union is close consultation with our allies on common political and security issues. In this spirit, I've asked Vice President Bush to travel to Europe. Beginning at the end of this month, he will visit the Federal Republic of Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, France, and Great Britain, and at the Vatican he will meet with Pope John Paul II. In Switzerland the Vice President will meet with the negotiating teams for the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks, which we call START, and the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces arms control talks we call INF and will attend a meeting of the Committee on Disarmament in Geneva.

The Vice President's visit to these close friends and allies and his discussions at the Vatican and in Geneva underscore our fundamental commitment to peace and security in Europe and to genuine arms reductions.

So, the new year begins with reason for all of us to hope that if we continue to act firmly and wisely, 1983 can be a time of peaceful progress for America, for our allies, for the people of the U.S.S.R., and for the entire world.

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

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Camp David, Md.

Ronald Reagan, Radio Address to the Nation on United States-Soviet Relations and the Vice President's Trip to Europe Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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