Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks in New York City Before the National Conference of Editorial Writers.

October 07, 1966

Mr. Clendinen, Mr. Secretary, Mr. Ambassador, members of the Conference of Editorial Writers, ladies and gentlemen:

I am a little baffled by this room. It makes a speaker have to talk out of both sides of his mouth.

Since the Secretary took you on a quick trip around the world, I hope you will pardon me if I just ask you to go across the Atlantic with me.

I remember some years ago President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the Daughters of the American Revolution. His opening words were not his usual, "My friends," but instead he said, "My fellow immigrants."

And he was right, because most of our fathers came from Europe--east or west, north or south. They settled in London, Kentucky; Paris, Idaho; and Rome, New York. Chicago, with Warsaw, is one of the great Polish cities of the world. And New York is the second capital of half the nations of Europe. That really is the story of our country.

Americans and all Europeans share a connection which transcends political differences. We are a single civilization; we share a common destiny; our future is a common challenge.

Today two anniversaries especially remind us of the interdependence of Europe and America.

--On September 30, 17 years ago, the Berlin airlift ended.

--On October 7, just 3 years ago, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was ratified.

There is a healthy balance here. It is no accident. It reflects the balance the Atlantic allies have always tried to maintain between strength and conciliation, between firmness and flexibility, between resolution and hope.

The Berlin airlift was an act of measured firmness. Without that firmness, the Marshall plan and the recovery of Western Europe, of course, would have been impossible.

That hopeful and progressive achievement, the European Economic Community, would never have been born.

The winds of change which are blowing in Eastern Europe would not have been felt here today.

All these are the fruits of our determination.

The Test Ban Treaty is the fruit of our hope. With more than 100 other cosigners we have committed ourselves to advance from deterrence through terror toward a more cooperative international order. We must go forward to banish all nuclear weapons-and to banish war itself.

So a just peace remains our most important goal. But we know that the world is changing. Our policy must reflect the reality of today--not yesterday. In every part of the world new forces are standing at the gates: new countries, new aspirations, new men. In this spirit let us look ahead to the tasks that confront us today in the Atlantic nations, as I will look ahead a little later to the tasks that confront us in another part of the world as I travel 25,000 miles in the Pacific area.

Europe has been at peace since 1945. But it is a restless peace that's shadowed by the threat of violence.

Europe is partitioned. An unnatural line runs through the heart of a very great and a very proud nation. History warns us that until this harsh division has been resolved, peace in Europe will never be secure.

We must turn to one of the great unfinished tasks of our generation--and that unfinished task is making Europe whole again.

Our purpose is not to overturn other governments, but to help the people of Europe to achieve together:

--a continent in which the peoples of Eastern and Western Europe work shoulder to shoulder together for the common good;

--a continent in which alliances do not confront each other in bitter hostility, but instead provide a framework in which West and East can act together in order to assure the security of all.

In a restored Europe, Germany can and will be united.

This remains a vital purpose of American policy. And we reiterated it and reaffirmed it to Chancellor Erhard just a few days ago. It can only be accomplished through a growing reconciliation, because there is no shortcut.

We must move ahead on three fronts:

--First, to modernize NATO and strengthen other Atlantic alliances.

--Second, to further the integration of the Western European community.

--Third, to quicken progress in East-West relations. Now may I speak to each of these in turn.

I.

Our first concern is to keep NATO strong, and to keep it modern and to keep it abreast of the times in which we live.

The Atlantic Alliance has already proved its vitality. Together, we have faced the threats of peace which have confronted us-and we shall meet those which may confront us in the future.

Let no one doubt ever for a moment the American commitment. We shall not ever unlearn the lesson of the thirties, when isolation and withdrawal were our share in the common disaster.

We are committed, and we are committed to remain firm.

But the Atlantic Alliance is a living organism. It must adapt itself to the changing conditions.

Much is already being done to modernize its structures:

--we are streamlining NATO command arrangements;

--we are moving to establish a permanent nuclear planning committee;

--we are increasing the speed and certainty of supply across the Atlantic.

However, there is much more that we can do.

There is much more that we must do. The Alliance must become a forum, a forum for increasingly close consultations. These should cover the full range of joint concerns--from East-West relations to crisis management.

The Atlantic Alliance is the central instrument of the entire Atlantic community. But it is not the only one. Through other institutions, the nations of the Atlantic are now hard at work on constructive enterprise.

In the Kennedy Round we are negotiating with the other free world nations to reduce tariffs everywhere. Our goal is to free the trade of the world, to free it from arbitrary and artificial restraints.

We are engaged on the problem of international monetary reform.

We are exploring how best to develop science and technology as a common resource. Recently the Italian Government has suggested an approach to narrowing the gap in technology between the United States and Western Europe. That proposal, we think, deserves very careful study and consideration. The United States stands ready to cooperate with all of the European nations on all aspects of this problem.

Last--and perhaps really most important-we are working together to accelerate the growth of the developing nations. It is our common business to help the millions in these developing nations improve their standards of life, to increase their life expectancy, to increase their per capita income, to improve their health, their minds, their bodies, to, in turn, help them really fight and ultimately conquer the ancient enemies of mankind: hunger, illiteracy, ignorance, and disease. The rich nations can never live as an island of plenty in a sea of poverty.

Thus, while the institutions of the Atlantic community are growing, so are the tasks that confront us multiplying.

II.

Second among our tasks is the vigorous pursuit of further unity in the West.

To pursue that unity is neither to postpone nor to neglect for a moment our continuous search for peace in the world. There are good reasons for this.

--A united Western Europe can be our equal partner in helping to build a peaceful and just world order;

--a united Western Europe can move more confidently in peaceful initiatives toward the East;

--unity can provide a framework within which a unified Germany can be a full partner without arousing fears.

We look forward to the expansion and to the further strengthening of the European community. Of course, we realize that the obstacles are great. But perseverance has already reaped larger rewards than many of us dared hope for only a few years ago.

The outlines of the new Europe are clearly discernible. It is a stronger, it is an increasingly united but open Europe--with Great Britain a part of it--and with close ties to America.

III.

Finally, thirdly, one great goal of a united West is to heal the wound in Europe which now cuts East from West and brother from brother.

That division must be healed peacefully. It must be healed with the consent of Eastern European countries and consent of the Soviet Union. This will happen only as East and West succeed--succeed in building a surer foundation of mutual trust.

Nothing is more important than peace. We must improve the East-West environment in order to achieve the unification of Germany in the context of a larger, peaceful, and prosperous Europe.

Our task is to achieve a reconciliation with the East--a shift from the narrow concept of coexistence to the broader vision of peaceful engagement.

And I pledge to you today that Americans now stand ready to do their part.

Under the last four Presidents, our policy toward the Soviet Union has been the same. Where necessary, we shall defend freedom; where possible, we shall work with the East to build a lasting peace.

We do not intend to let our differences on Vietnam or elsewhere ever prevent us from exploring all opportunities. We want the Soviet Union and the nations of Eastern Europe to know that we and our allies shall go step by step with them just as far as they are willing to advance.

So let us--both Americans and Europeans-intensify, accelerate, strengthen our determined efforts.

We seek healthy economic and cultural relations with the Communist states.

--I am asking for early congressional action on the United States-Soviet Consular Agreement.

--We have just signed a new United States-Soviet Cultural Agreement.

--We intend to press for legislative authority to negotiate trade agreements which could extend most-favored-nation tariff treatment to European Communist states.

--We have just concluded an air agreement with the Soviet Union.

Today I am announcing the following new steps:

--We will reduce export controls on East-West trade with respect to hundreds of nonstrategic items;

--I have just today signed a determination that will allow the Export-Import Bank to guarantee commercial credits to four additional Eastern European countries-Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia. This is good business. And it will help us--it will help us to build the bridges to Eastern Europe that I spoke of in my address at VMI only a few months ago.

--The Secretary of State is now reviewing the possibility of easing the burden of Polish debts to the United States through expenditures of our Polish currency holdings which would be, we think, mutually beneficial to both countries.

--The Export-Import Bank is prepared to finance American exports for the Soviet-Italian Fiat auto plant.

--We are negotiating a civil air agreement with the Soviet Union, which I referred to. This will, we think, greatly facilitate tourism in both directions.

--This summer the American Government took additional steps to liberalize travel to Communist countries in Europe and in Asia. We intend to liberalize these rules still further in an attempt to promote better understanding and increased exchanges.

--In these past weeks, the Soviet Union and the United States have begun to exchange cloud photographs that are taken from the weather satellites.

You can see in these and many other ways the ties with the East will be strengthened-by the United States and by other Atlantic nations.

Agreement on a broad policy to this end, therefore, should be sought in existing Atlantic organs.

The principles which should govern East-West relations are now being discussed in the North Atlantic Council.

The OECD can also play an important part in trade and in contacts with the East. The Western nations can there explore the ways of inviting the Soviet Union and the Eastern European countries to cooperate in tasks of common interest and common benefit.

Hand-in-hand with these steps to increase East-West ties must go measures to remove territorial and border disputes as a source of friction in Europe. The Atlantic nations oppose the use of force to change existing frontiers. That is a bedrock, too, of our American foreign policy. We respect the integrity of a nation's boundary lines.

The maintenance of old enmities is not really in anyone's interest. Our aim is a true European reconciliation. We so much want to make this clear to the East.

Further, it is our policy to avoid the spread of national nuclear programs--in Europe and elsewhere in the world.

That is why we shall persevere in efforts to try to reach an agreement banning the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

We seek a stable military situation in Europe--one in which we hope that tensions can be lowered.

To this end, the United States will continue to play its part in effective Western deterrence. To weaken that deterrence might now create temptations and could endanger peace.

The Atlantic allies will, of course, continue together to study what strength NATO needs, in light of the changing technology and the current threat.

Reduction of Soviet forces in central Europe would, of course, affect the extent of that threat.

If changing circumstances should lead to a gradual and balanced revision in force levels on both sides, the revision could--together with the other steps that I have mentioned-help gradually to shape an entire new political environment.

The building of true peace and reconciliation in Europe, of course, will be a very long process.

The bonds between the United States and its Atlantic partners provide the strength, though, on which the entire security of this world depends. Our interdependence, therefore, is complete.

Our goal, in Europe and elsewhere, is, first of all--always--a just and a secure peace. It can most surely be achieved by common action. To this end, I pledge my country's best efforts:

--best efforts to achieve new thrust for the Alliance;

--to support movement toward Western European unity;

--to bring about a far-reaching improvement in relations between the East and the West.

Our object is to end the bitter legacy of World War II. Let all of those who wish us well, and all others also, know that our guard will be up but our hand will always be out.

The American people love peace and they hate war. We do not believe that might makes right. So in pursuit of peace, history is aware of our commitments--the Marshall plan, the Truman doctrine, and to NATO and to SEATO. We have been tested in Berlin and in Korea, and in the Dominican Republic, and our brave men are being tested at this hour in Vietnam.

In every instance, our purpose has been peace, never war. Self-determination instead of selfish aggression. We believe that moral agreements are much to be preferred to military means. The conference table instead of the battlefield. But Americans will never close their eyes to reality. We back our word with dedication, and we also back it with the united resolve of a patient, of a determined, of a freedom-loving and a peaceful people. Together we shall never fail.

Note: The President spoke at 1:34 p.m. at the Carnegie Endowment Building in New York City. In his opening words he referred to James A. Clendinen, President of the National Conference of Editorial Writers, Dean Rusk, Secretary of State, and Arthur J. Goldberg, U.S. Representative to the United Nations. Later he referred to Ludwig Erhard, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks in New York City Before the National Conference of Editorial Writers. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/238334

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