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Remarks by President Gorbachev and President Bush at the Signing Ceremony for the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks Treaty in Moscow

July 31, 1991

President Gorbachev. Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, comrades. In a few moments the President of the United States and I will put our signatures under the treaty on the reduction of strategic offensive arms. This completes many years of efforts that required hard work and patience on the part of government leaders, diplomats, and military officials. They required will, courage, and the rejection of outdated perceptions of each other. They required trust.

This is also a beginning -- the beginning of voluntary reduction of the nuclear arsenals of the U.S.S.R. and the United States, a process with unprecedented scope and objectives. It is an event of global significance, for we are imparting to the dismantling of the infrastructure of fear that has ruled the world, a momentum which is so powerful that it will be hard to stop.

In both countries we face the complex process of the ratification of the new treaty. There will be critics. Here in Moscow some will point to our unilateral concessions, while in Washington there will be talk about concessions made to the Soviet Union. Some will say the new treaty does not really fulfill the promise of a peace dividend since considerable resources will be required to destroy the missiles. And if the missiles are not destroyed, critics will say they're obsolete and must be replaced with new ones, and that will be even more expensive.

Sharp criticism is to be expected also from those who want to see faster and more ambitious steps toward abolishing nuclear weapons. In other words, the treaty will have to be defended. I'm sure we have achieved the best that is now possible and that is required to continue progress.

Tremendous work has been done and unique experience has been gained of cooperating in this enormously complex area. It is important that there is a growing realization of the absurdity of overarmament now that the world has started to move toward an era of economic interdependence, and that the information revolution is making the indivisibility of the world ever more evident.

But the policymakers have to bear in mind that as we move toward that era we will have to make new, immense efforts to remove the dangers inherited from the past and newly emerging dangers, to overcome various physical, intellectual, and psychological obstacles. Normal human thinking will have to replace the kind of militarized political thinking that has taken root in the minds of men. That will take time. A new conceptual foundation of security will be a great help. Doctrines of war fighting must be abandoned in favor of concepts of preventing war. Plans calling for a crushing defeat of the perceived enemy must be replaced with joint projects of mutual stability and defense sufficiency.

The document before us marks a moral achievement major breakthrough in our country's thinking and behavior. Our next goal is to make full use of this breakthrough to make disarmament an irreversible process. So, as we give credit to what has been achieved, let us express our appreciation to those who have contributed to this treaty -- their talent and their intellectual and numerous resources -- and let us get down to work again for the sake of our own and global security.

Mr. President, we can congratulate each other. We can congratulate the Soviet and American people and the world community on the conclusion of this agreement.

Thank you.

President Bush. Thank you, Mr. President. To President Gorbachev and members of the Soviet Government, and all the honored guests here: May I salute you.

The treaty that we sign today is a most complicated one -- the most complicated of contracts governing the most serious of concerns. Its 700 pages stand as a monument to several generations of U.S. and Soviet negotiators, to their tireless efforts to carve out common ground from a thicket of contentious issues -- and it represents a major step forward for our mutual security and the cause of world peace.

And may I, too, thank everybody who worked on this treaty -- the military, State Department arms control negotiators -- really on both sides. And I would like to say that many are here today; some, like my predecessor, President Reagan, is not here. But I think all of us recognize that there are many who are not in this room that deserve an awful lot of credit on both the Soviet side and the United States side.

The START treaty vindicates an approach to arms control that guided us for almost a decade: the belief that we could do more than merely halt the growth of our nuclear arsenals. We could seek more than limits on the number of arms. In our talks we sought stabilizing reductions in our strategic arsenals.

START makes that a reality. In a historic first for arms control, we will actually reduce U.S. and Soviet strategic nuclear arsenals. But reductions alone are not enough. So, START requires even deeper cuts of the most dangerous and destabilizing weapons.

The agreement itself is exceedingly complex, but the central idea at the heart of this treaty can be put simply: Stabilizing reductions in our strategic nuclear forces reduce the risk of war.

But these promises to reduce arms levels cannot automatically guarantee success. Just as important are the treaty's monitoring mechanisms so we know that the commitments made are being translated into real security. In this area, START builds on the experience of earlier agreements -- but goes far beyond them in provisions to ensure that we can verify this treaty effectively.

Mr. President, in the warming relations between our nations, this treaty stands as both cause and consequence. Many times during the START talks, reaching agreement seemed all but impossible. In the end, the progress that we made in the past year's time -- progress in easing tensions and ending the cold war -- changed the atmosphere at the negotiating table, and paved the way for START's success.

Neither side won unilateral advantage over the other. Both sides committed themselves instead to achieving a strong, effective treaty -- and securing the mutual stability that a good agreement would provide.

Mr. President, by reducing arms, we reverse a half-century of steadily growing strategic arsenals. But more than that, we take a significant step forward in dispelling a half-century of mistrust. By building trust, we pave a path to peace.

We sign the START treaty as testament to the new relationship emerging between our two countries -- in the promise of further progress toward lasting peace.

Thank you very much.

Note: The remarks began at 3:42 p.m. in St. Vladimir's Hall in the Kremlin. President Gorbachev spoke in Russian, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

George Bush, Remarks by President Gorbachev and President Bush at the Signing Ceremony for the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks Treaty in Moscow Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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