Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Radio and Television Report to the American People: Security in the Free World

March 16, 1959

My Fellow Americans:

Tonight I want to talk with you about two subjects:

One is about a city that lies four thousand miles away.

It is West Berlin. In a turbulent world it has been, for a decade, a symbol of freedom. But recently its name has come to symbolize, also, the efforts of Imperialistic Communism to divide the free world, to throw us off balance, and to weaken our will for making certain of our collective security.

Next, I shall talk to you about the state of our Nation's posture of defense and the free world's capacity to meet the challenges that the Soviets incessantly pose to peace and to our own security. First, West Berlin.

You have heard much about this city recently, and possibly wondered why American troops are in it at all.

How did we get there in the first place? What responsibilities do we have in connection with it and how did we acquire them?

Why has there developed a situation surrounding this city that poses another of the recurring threats to peace that bear the stamp of Soviet manufacture?

Let's begin with a brief review of recent history.

We first acquired rights and responsibilities in West Berlin as a result of World War II. Even before the war ended, when the defeat and capitulation of Nazi Germany were in sight, the Allied Powers, including the Soviet Union, signed agreements defining the areas of occupation in Germany and Berlin which they would assume.

As a result, Germany and the City of Berlin, were each divided into four zones, occupied by American, British, French, and Soviet troops, respectively.

Under the wartime agreements I have mentioned, the Western Allies entered into occupation of West Berlin and withdrew our Armies from the Soviet Zone. Accordingly, the boundary of the Soviet Zone, like our presence in Berlin, was established upon the basis of these same agreements.

Also by agreement among the occupying powers, the Western Allies-the United States, the United Kingdom, and France--were guaranteed free access to Berlin.

Here in my office is a map of Germany. The light portion of the map is West Germany--the darker portion is East Germany. The lighter gray lanes are the air corridors to Berlin--and the dotted lines show both the main roads and railroads that give us access to the city. Notice that the City of Berlin is one hundred and ten miles inside East Germany; that is, it is one hundred and ten miles from the nearest boundary of West Germany.

Here is the territory, now in East Germany that was taken by our Army in World War II and was turned over to the Russians by political agreement made before the end of the War.

Now at the end of World War II our announced purpose and that of our wartime associates was the pacification and eventual unification of Germany under freedom.

We jointly agreed to undertake this task. Ever since that time, the United States has continuously recognized the obligation of the Allied Governments under international law to reach a just peace settlement with Germany and not to prolong the occupation of Germany unnecessarily.

The public record demonstrates clearly that such a settlement has been frustrated only by the Soviets. It quickly became evident that Soviet leaders were not interested in a free unified Germany, and were determined to induce or force the Western Powers to leave Berlin.

Ten years ago Senator John Foster Dulles, now our great Secretary of State, described the basic purpose of the Soviet government. He said that purpose was, and now I am quoting: "no less than world domination, to be achieved by gaining political power successively in each of the many areas which had been afflicted by war, so that in the end the United States, which was openly called the main enemy, would be isolated and closely encircled." That is the completion of the quotation.

The current Berlin effort of the Soviets falls within this pattern of basic purpose.

The first instance of unusual pressure, dearly evidencing these purposes, came in 1948 when the Communists imposed a blockade to force the protecting Western troops out of Berlin and to starve the people of that City into submission.

That plan failed. A free people and a dramatic airlift broke the back of the scheme.

In the end the Communists abandoned the blockade and concluded an agreement in 1949 with the Western Powers, reconfirming our right of unrestricted access to the city.

Then, last November, the Soviets announced that they intended to repudiate these solemn obligations. They once more appear to be living by the Communist formula that "Promises are like pie crusts, made to be broken."

The Soviet Government has also announced its intention to enter into a peace treaty with the East German puppet regime. The making of this treaty, the Soviets assert, will deny our occupation rights and our rights of access. It is, of course, clear that no so-called "peace treaty" between the Soviets and the East German regime can have any moral or legal effect upon our fights.

The Soviet threat has since been repeated several times, accompanied by various and changing suggestions for dealing with the status of the city. Their proposals have included a vague offer to make the Western part of Berlin--though not the Eastern part, which the Soviets control-a so-called "free city."

It is by no means clear what West Berlin would be free from, except perhaps from freedom itself. It would not be free from the ever present danger of Communist domination. No one, certainly not the two. million West Berliners, can ignore the cold fact that Berlin is surrounded by many divisions of Soviet and Eastern German troops and by territory governed by authorities dedicated to eliminating freedom from the area.

Now a matter of principle, the United States cannot accept the asserted right of any government to break, by itself, solemn agreements to which we, with others, are parties. But in the Berlin situation, beth free people and principle are at stake. What, then, are the fundamental choices we have in this situation?

First, of course, there is the choice which the Soviet rulers themselves would like us to make. They hope that we can be frightened into abdicating our rights--which are indeed responsibilities--to help establish a just and peaceful solution to the German problem--rights which American and Allied soldiers purchased with their lives.

We have no intention of forgetting our rights or of deserting a free people. Soviet rulers should remember that free men have, before this, died for so-called "scraps of paper" which represented duty and honor and freedom.

The shirking of our responsibilities would solve no problems for us. First, it would mean the end of all hopes for a Germany under government of German choosing. It would raise, among our friends, the most serious doubts about the validity of all the international agreements and commitments we have made with them in every quarter of the globe. One result would be to undermine the mutual confidence upon which our entire system of collective security is founded.

This, the Soviets would greet as a great victory over the West.

Obviously, this choice is unacceptable to us.

The second choice which the Soviets have compelled us to. face, is the possibility of war.

Certainly, the American and Western peoples do not want war. The whole world knows this. Global conflict under modern conditions could mean the destruction of civilization. The Soviet rulers, themselves, are well aware of this fact.

But all history has taught us the grim lesson that no nation has ever been successful in avoiding the terrors of war by refusing to defend its rights--by attempting to placate aggression.

Whatever risk of armed conflict may be inherent in the present Berlin situation, it was deliberately created by the Soviet rulers.

Moreover, the justice of our position is attested by the fact that it is ardently supported with virtual unanimity by the people of West Berlin.

The risk of war is minimized if we stand firm. War would become more likely if we gave way and encouraged a rule of terrorism rather than a rule of law and order. Indeed, this is the core of the peace policy which we are striving to carry out around the world. In that policy is found the world's best hope for peace.

Now our final choice is negotiation, even while we continue to provide for our security against every threat. We are seeking meaningful negotiation at this moment. The United States and its allies stand ready to talk with Soviet representatives at any time and under any circumstances which offer prospects of worth-while results.

We have no selfish material aims in view. We seek no domination over others--only a just peace for the world and particularly, in this instance, for the people most involved.

We are ready to consider all proposals which may help to reassure and will take into account the European peoples most concerned.

We are willing to listen to new ideas and are prepared to present others. We will do everything within our power to bring about serious negotiations and to make these negotiations meaningful.

Let us remind ourselves once again of what we cannot do.

We cannot try to purchase peace by forsaking two million free people of Berlin.

We cannot agree to any permanent and compulsory division of the German nation, which would leave central Europe a perpetual powder mill, even though we are ready to discuss with all affected nations any reasonable methods for its eventual unification.

We cannot recognize the asserted right of any nation to dishonor its international agreements whenever it chooses. If we should accept such a contention the whole process of negotiation would become a barren mockery.

We must not, by weakness or irresolution, increase the risk of war.

Finally, we cannot, merely for the sake of demonstrating so-called "flexibility" accept any agreement or arrangement which would undermine the security of the United States and its Allies.

The Soviet note of March 2nd appears to be a move toward negotiation on an improved basis. We would never negotiate under a dictated time limit or agenda, or on other unreasonable terms. We are, with our Allies, however, in view of the changed tone of the Soviet note, concerting a reply to that note.

It is my hope that thereby all of us can reach agreement with the Soviets on an early meeting at the level of foreign ministers.

Assuming developments that justify a summer meeting at the Summit, the United States would be ready to participate in that further effort.

Our position, then, is this: we will not retreat one inch from our duty. We shall continue to exercise our right of peaceful passage to and from West Berlin. We will not be the first to breach the peace; it is the viets who threaten the use of force to interfere with such free passage. We are ready to participate fully in every sincere effort at negotiation that will respect the existing rights of all and their opportunity to live in peace.

Today's Berlin difficulty is not the first stumbling block that International Communism has placed along the road to peace. The world has enjoyed little relief from tension in the past dozen years. As long as the Communist empire continues to seek world domination we shall have to face threats to the peace, of varying character and location. We have lived and will continue to live in a period where emergencies manufactured by the Soviets, follow one another like beads on a string.

Whatever the length of that period, we shall have to remain continuously ready to repel aggression, whether it be political, economic, or military. Every day our policies of peace will be subjected to test. We must have steadiness and resolution, and firm adherence to our own carefully thought-out policies.

We must avoid letting fear or lack of confidence turn us from the course that self-respect, decency, and love of liberty point out. To do so would be to dissipate the creative energies of our people upon whom our real security rests. This we will never do.

Now to build toward peace and maintain free world security will require action in every field of human enterprise. It can only be done by the nations of the Free World working together in close cooperation, adjusting their differences, sharing their common burdens, pursuing their common goals. We are carrying out just such an effort. We call it mutual security.

We recognize that freedom is indivisible. Wherever in the world freedom is destroyed, by that much is every free nation hurt.

If the United States, alone, had to carry the full burden of defending its interests from the Communist threat, we would have to draft a much larger portion of our manhood into the armed services, spend many more billions of treasure, and put a more intense strain on all our resources and capacities. We would become more and more like a garrison state.

Fortunately, we do not have to adopt such a desperate course. Nearly 50 nations have joined with us in a cooperative effort to protect freedom.

This system of mutual security allows each nation to provide the forces which it is best able to supply.

Now what is the strength of these forces? What are we contributing to the joint effort? What can we count on from our Allies?

Let's look first at our own contribution. Let us look at it from the viewpoint of our own security.

Of late I--and I am sure the American people--have heard or read conflicting claims about our defenses.

We have heard that our military posture has been subordinated to a balanced budget, jeopardizing our national defense.

We have heard that our defenses are presently--or they will be sometime in the future--inadequate to meet recurrent Communist threats.

We have heard that more manpower in our forces than I have recommended is essential in the present circumstances, for psychological reasons if for no other.

My friends, such assertions as these are simply not true. They are without foundation. It is not likely, however--and this is indeed fortunate--that such assertions will lead the Soviet Union to miscalculate our true strength.

The design of our defense is the product of the best composite judgment available for the fulfillment of our security needs.

First, we are devoting great sums for the maintenance of forces capable of nuclear retaliatory strikes. This capability is our indispensable deterrent to aggression against us.

The central core of our deterrent striking force is our Strategic Air Command with its long range bombers. They are reinforced by naval aircraft, missiles of varying types, and tactical fighter bombers. This array will soon include weapons of even greater power and effectiveness.

The capacity of our combined striking forces represents an almost unimaginable destructive power. It is protected by a vast early warning system and by powerful air defense forces.

More and more this great retaliatory force will feature intermediate as well as long-range missiles capable of reaching any target on the earth. As we steadily go through the transition period from bomber to missile as the backbone of this striking force, we nevertheless continue replacing bombers, powerful as we know them now to be, with others of greater power, greater range, and greater speed. In this way we take care of the needs of this year and those immediately ahead, even as we plan, develop, and build for the future.

We are engaged in an endless process of research, development, and production to equip our forces with new weapons.

This process is tremendously costly, even should we consider it only in terms of money. If we are to master the problem of security over a prolonged period, we cannot forever borrow from the future to meet the needs of the present.

Therefore, we must concentrate our resources on those things we need most, minimizing those programs that make less decisive contributions to our Nation. Effective defense comes first.

Today there is no defense field to which we are devoting more talent, skill, and money than that of missile development.

I'd like to have you look at this chart showing three lists of missiles.

The first list shows seventeen different types of missiles now in use by our Armed Forces.

The second list shows missiles that will be available for use in 1959. There are eleven different types.

The third list shows thirteen more types of missiles now in the research and development stages. In all there are forty-one types of missiles.

Now there is, of course, a constant parade of improvement, with newer and better weapons constantly crowding out the older and less efficient ones.

The first model of any new piece of equipment is always relatively primitive. The first sewing machine, the first typewriter, the first automobile--all left much to be desired. And even the rockets that dazzle us today will soon become the Model T's--the Tin Lizzies--of the Missile Age.

We must never become frozen in obsolescence.

In addition to the forces comprising our retaliatory striking power, we have potent and flexible naval, ground, and amphibious elements. We have a growing array of nuclear-powered ships, both submarines and surface vessels.

World-wide deployment of Army divisions, including missile units, increases the ability of the U.S. Army and the Marines to rapidly apply necessary force to any area of trouble. At home, the Strategic Army Corps is ready and able to move promptly as needed to any area of the world.

I believe that the American people want, are entitled to, can indefinitely pay for, and now have and will continue to have a modern, effective, and adequate military establishment. In this overall conviction, I am supported by the mass of the best military opinion I can mobilize, and by scientific and every other kind of talent that is giving its attention to a problem to which I personally have devoted a lifetime.

As all thoughtful citizens know, our own security requires the supplemental and reinforcing strength provided by the free world's total.

In the Far East, nations with which we are associated in a common defense system have over a million trained soldiers standing watch over the free world frontiers.

In Europe, the efforts of fifteen nations are united in support of freedom.

In global totals, our friends are contributing over 200 ground divisions, 30,000 aircraft, and 2500 combatant naval vessels to the task of defending the free world.

For every soldier we have under arms, our free world Allies have five.

Through each of these stout efforts we strengthen the bonds of freedom.

Our mutual security program supports this joint undertaking by helping to equip our partners with the weapons they cannot by themselves provide, and by helping them keep their economies strong.

This mutual effort provides a constructive, long-term answer to the recurrent crises engineered by the Communists. It strengthens the stability of free nations, and lessens opportunities for Communist subversion and penetration. It supports economic growth and gives hope and confidence to the cause of freedom. It is America's strongest instrument for positive action in the world today.

Last Friday I sent to the Congress a special message presenting my recommendations for this important part of our defense and security program for the coming year. Let me repeat that definition of that program: it is an important part of our defense and security program for the coming year. In my judgment, there is no better means of showing our resolution, our firmness, and our understanding of the Communist challenge than to support this program in full measure.

These funds are vital to our national and free world security.

Any misguided effort to reduce them below what I have recommended weakens the sentries of freedom wherever they stand.

In this conviction, also, I am supported by the military experts of our Government.

Fellow Americans, of one thing I am sure: that we have the courage and capacity to meet the stern realities of the present and the future We need only to understand the issues and to practice the self-discipline that freedom demands.

Our security shield is the productivity of our free economy, the power of our military forces, and the enduring might of a great community of nations determined to defend their freedom.

We Americans have been, from the beginning, a free people--people who by their spiritual and moral strength and their love of country provide the mainspring for all we have done, are doing, and will do. In those truth we place our faith.

So, together with our Allies we stand firm wherever the probing finger of any aggressor may point. Thus we lessen the risk of aggression: thus we shah with resolution and courage, struggle ever forward to the dream of a just and permanent peace.

God helping us, we shall stand always equal to the challenge.

Thank you, and goodnight.

Note: The missile chart to which the President referred is published in the Congressional Record of March 18, 1959 (vol. 105, p. A2312).

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Radio and Television Report to the American People: Security in the Free World Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/235326

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