Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session with Reporters on the Soviet-United States Summit Meeting
The President. I have just finished meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze, and Mr. Shevardnadze presented a letter to me from General Secretary Gorbachev, who has accepted my invitation to come to Washington for a summit beginning on December 7th. At that time, we expect to sign an agreement eliminating the entire class of U.S. and Soviet intermediate-range nuclear forces, or INF. In his letter, General Secretary Gorbachev set forth his views of other arms reductions topics that should be discussed during that meeting and indicated the Foreign Minister had authority to agree on the agenda and duration of the meeting. I am studying that letter carefully, and it appears forthcoming and statesmanlike, and I welcome it.
In our discussions, Foreign Minister Shevardnadze and I reviewed the status of outstanding issues incident to completing an INF agreement and discussed progress in Geneva. The remaining details, while technical, are important in ensuring effective verification of any agreement. Verification remains a major concern of the United States. Our proposals will result in the most comprehensive verification regime in history. We also reviewed recent developments in other negotiations, as well, and I stressed the importance I place on reaching an agreement on reducing strategic offensive arms by 50 percent. In particular, I emphasized that we seek a formal, verifiable treaty and do not believe either nation should settle for anything less. We agreed to work toward such an agreement, which I hope to sign during a visit to Moscow next year.
Foreign Minister Shevardnadze and I also discussed the general state of relations between our two countries. We agreed that in addition to arms reductions, a meeting between myself and the General Secretary should deal with the whole range of issues that concern us, including bilateral, regional, and human rights issues.
Secretary Shultz and Mr. Shevardnadze will continue their discussions this afternoon. And I am very pleased with the results of my discussion today. A formal announcement on behalf of the two Governments will be forthcoming shortly. I'm looking forward to welcoming Mr. Gorbachev to Washington and to productive discussions with him that will advance the U.S. agenda of peace and freedom.
Now, I have time for just a few questions, because the gentlemen with me have not had lunch yet.
Q. What caused Gorbachev to have a change of heart? Why is he more comfortable in coming in December, and how long will the visit last, and will it go beyond Washington?
The President. Well, I don't know about the term of the visit. I think it will be simply for that conference, because he has some scheduling problems, too, just as we do here. But as to the other things there, I can't say. I don't know.
Q. You don't know why he has changed his mind?
The President. Well, there has never been, to my knowledge, any negative from him. Back in Geneva, in our first meeting, we agreed to two more summits. And the first one to be here, and the second one to be there.
Q. I thought he said he wasn't comfortable coming to Washington at this time.
The President. Well, he seems to be.
Q. Mr. President, you talked about 50-percent reductions on strategic weapons. Do you think, as a result of the letter from General Secretary Gorbachev that there is some movement possible on strategic defense that would make the other kinds of reductions possible? Are they still linked?
The President. Not in the sense of making one a condition for the other. All of these things are going to be discussed between our people. But I've made it clear, and-they've not rejected this—that there's no way that we can give up SDI, which we believe is offering an opportunity for peace for the world.
Q. But are you saying that there could be reductions on the missiles side without progress on strategic defense?
The President. Well, we think we've made some progress on strategic defense in that it is no longer put down as a fiat demand.
Q. Mr. President, there have been some indications from the administration in recent days that there is some flexibility on the deployment schedule for your Strategic Defense Initiative. Could this come in to play in your discussions with Mr. Gorbachev?
The President. This would be one of the things that would be discussed. There are some things that we've agreed to discuss about that.
Q. So, you think it's possible that that could help you get an agreement on strategic missiles?
The President. Yes.
Q. Mr. President, if I heard you correctly, you seem to be talking about the fact that there are still some remaining details, including some on verification, to be completed. Am I correct? Have you announced a summit and the fact that you will sign an INF agreement, when in fact it isn't done yet?
The President. I think that will be taken care of in a statement that will be given to you shortly after I take one more question, and then I have to go. These gentlemen have to go, but there is being released a joint communique that will answer a number of these questions.
Q. Did I misread you, sir? Is it in fact done? In other words, every "I" is dotted and every "T" is crossed?
The President. No, I don't think we could say that.
Secretary Shultz. It's not done, but if it doesn't get done, Mr. Shevardnadze and I are going to get kicked in the rear end very hard by our leaders. [Laughter]
Q. Mr. President, some conservatives are already saying that this is nothing but a PR summit and that signing this INF treaty is going to endanger Europe. This week during the Republican debate, the majority of the candidates from your own party were against the INF treaty. Why are you having such trouble convincing your old friends that this is a good deal?
The President. I think there's a great deal of misunderstanding having to do with our relationship with our European allies and all of that. I can only assure you that none of us feel that way. We believe that we're leading a situation that is equal between our two countries with the things yet to be tied down in verification and so forth. And as I say, I have great confidence in it.
Q. Sir, could we perhaps ask Foreign Minister Shevardnadze to explain what appears to much of the Western World to have been a flip-flop by Mr. Gorbachev in the course of the last week?
The President. We have promised him that he would not be answering any questions in here now, because they still have further meetings to go. And as I say, they haven't had lunch yet, and I—
Q. Why are these talks starting on Pearl Harbor Day? [Laughter]
The President. Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International], it must be ESP. Do you know that I hadn't even thought about that until we were sitting in the Cabinet Room in this recent meeting, and I thought to myself, wouldn't it be wonderful if Pearl Harbor Day would become superseded by the day that we began the path to peace and safety in the world through disarmament?
Q. How disappointed are you that you will not be able to take Gorbachev around the country and show him what you had wanted to show him, like your ranch?
The President. Well, maybe that could be another meeting. He would come purely for that purpose, and I would still like to do that, just as I know when we discussed these two meetings in Geneva he suggested that there might be things in the Soviet Union that he would like to show me
Q. Like the Gulag.
Q. Mr. President, do you think verification will be a problem? Ratification—do you think ratification will be a problem?
Q. Senate ratification.
Q. Yes, the Senate.
Q. Senate ratification—will that be a problem?
The President. Not if they're thinking correctly.
Q. You say we'll be flexible on strategic defense, Mr. President, but the Soviets haven't even admitted yet that they've been working on their own strategic defense for 17 years.
Q. Mr. Shevardnadze, did Mr. Gorbachev flip-flop?
Mr. Shevardnadze. There was no flip-flop. There was no flip-flop. Everything is going on according to plans.
Note: The President spoke at 2 p.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.
Ronald Reagan, Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session with Reporters on the Soviet-United States Summit Meeting Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251224