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Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters on the Upcoming Meeting With Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev at Malta

November 30, 1989

The President. In recent years, our relations with the Soviet Union have changed greatly, and clearly they've changed for the better. And tonight, I leave for the island nation of Malta and the historic meeting with Chairman Gorbachev. And I know many of you here have worked long and hard in preparations. We've had very thorough preparations, and I'm grateful to each and every one of you.

This meeting represents a point of departure, the beginning of a process as full of promise as any that we've known. And given the remarkable and rapid change in Eastern Europe, our meeting will be yet another important step in this long but hopeful journey toward a Europe that is, indeed, whole and free.

Our dreams for this transformation began 40 years ago when the NATO alliance was formed in the hope that one day new freedom would finally belong to the millions in Europe still yearning for it. In 1949 the people of Berlin searched the skies for the airplanes that would bring food and supplies through the blockade, and today the people of Berlin toast the dawn of a new Europe. Governments across Eastern Europe are undergoing extraordinary change and reform and acknowledging at last the citizens' right to choose.

America understands the magnitude of Mr. Gorbachev's challenges. And let there be no misunderstanding: We support perestroika. We support Chairman Gorbachev's efforts to relax the grip of the centralized government, to move toward pluralism and the free expression of ideas. No one can deny that there is a new openness in the Soviet Union -- the change is dramatic.

Yesterday, I was gratified to see Chairman Gorbachev's rousing reception in Italy. I believe it demonstrates how deeply the people of Europe want to see change and reform continue to move forward. And I believe the people of Europe can see that Mr. Gorbachev and I, East and West, are not in some kind of competition; rather, we're both working to make the world a more peaceful one.

Last night, here at the White House, Barbara and I had dinner with Prime Minister Mulroney, and we spoke at length with him. And this morning, I had a similar chat with Prime Minister Andreotti of Italy who met just today with Chairman Gorbachev. And their comments to me -- Mulroney and Andreotti -- only reinforce my confidence that Mr. Gorbachev and I see eye to eye on what our upcoming meeting is all about. We both want to build a sustained relationship for real achievements over the long term. He is looking for ways to keep those reforms moving forward, and I'm looking for ways to promote democracy and freedom, and the one way is to support his efforts toward reform.

We can move beyond containment in the U.S.-Soviet relation, and we can find areas of shared concern and mutual advantage. Above all, we can work toward a level of European security, prosperity, and peace as yet unknown in our lifetime. It is in that spirit that I will be talking to Chairman Gorbachev about our hopes, our concerns, and our aspirations for the future.

Ours is a powerful and historic opportunity made possible by a continuing American commitment to the alliance and its defense. The last decade of this century marks the beginning of a new era, the gateway to a new millennium of freedom, and yet the outcome is not predestined. It depends on our continued solidarity as an alliance and as an American people committed to providing leadership, protection, and encouragement for this process of peaceful transformation.

So, as envoys for positive, productive change, Chairman Gorbachev and I can contribute to a new Europe born in our lifetime -- a Europe where self-determination replaces coercion, where individual freedom replaces centralized control, and a lasting peace is preserved by a common respect for the rights of man. And in that spirit, I will extend the offered hand with confidence, conviction, and real hope.

And I thank you, and God bless you, and God bless freedom-loving people everywhere. This is a historic moment. And thank you all very, very much.

Q. Mr. President, why didn't you mention El Salvador?

Q. Mr. President, are you ready for any possible surprises by President Gorbachev?

The President. I'm ready for this meeting, ready and confident.

Q. Why didn't you mention El Salvador, sir?

The President. And it will be discussed.

Note: The President spoke at 1:15 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.

George Bush, Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters on the Upcoming Meeting With Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev at Malta Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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