Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at the Opening Ceremony of the Soviet-United States Summit Meeting in Moscow

May 29, 1988

The General Secretary. Esteemed Mr. Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America; esteemed Mrs. Nancy Reagan: On behalf of the people and Government of the Soviet Union, I extend to you my sincere greetings on the occasion of your visit. Welcome!

It is now almost 6 months since our meeting in Washington, which went down in history as a major milestone in Soviet-American and in international relations. Now, on this return trip, you, Mr. President, have traversed the great distance that lies between our two capitals to continue our political dialog. This is a fact we duly appreciate. As this is our fourth meeting, we can already make some meaningful assessments. As we see it, long-held dislikes have been weakened; habitual stereotypes stemming from enemy images have been shaken loose. The human features of the other nation are now more clearly visible. This in itself is important, for at the turn of the two millenniums, history has objectively bound our two countries by a common responsibility for the destinies of mankind. The peoples of the world and, in the first place, the Soviet and the American people welcome the emerging positive changes in our relationship and hope that your visit and talks here will be productive, providing a fresh impetus in all areas of dialog and interaction between our two great nations.

You and I are conscious of our two peoples' longing for mutual understanding, cooperation, and a safe and stable world. This makes it incumbent upon us to discuss constructively the main aspects of disarmament: the set of issues related to 50-percent cuts in strategic offensive arms, while preserving the 1972 ABM treaty; problems of eliminating chemical weapons; reductions in armed forces and conventional armaments in Europe; cessation of nuclear testing. The world is also looking to us, Mr. President, for responsible judgments on other complex issues of today, such as the settlement of regional conflicts; improving international economic relations; promoting development; overcoming backwardness, poverty, and mass diseases; and humanitarian problems.

And of course, we shall discuss bilateral relations. Our previous meetings have shown that constructive Soviet-U.S. relations are possible. The treaty on intermediate and shorter range missiles is the most impressive symbol of that. But even more complex and important tasks lie ahead. And so, Mr. President, you and I still have a lot of work to do. And it is good when there is a lot of work to be done and people need that work. We are ready to do our utmost in these coming days in Moscow.

Mr. President, you and Mrs. Reagan are here on your first visit to the Soviet Union, a country which you have so often mentioned in your public statements. Aware of your interest in Russian proverbs, let me add another one to your collection: "It is better to see once than to hear a hundred times." Let me assure you that you can look forward to hospitality, warmth, and good will. You will have many meetings with Soviet people. They have a centuries-old history behind them. They love their land and take pride in their accomplishments. They resent things that are presently standing in their way, and they are heatedly discussing how their country can best progress. They are full of plans for the future.

Being ardent patriots, Soviet people are open to friendship and cooperation with all nations. They harbor sincere respect for the American people and want good relations with your country. Here, within the walls of the ancient Kremlin, where one feels the touch of history, people are moved to reflect over the diversity and greatness of human civilization. So, may this give greater historical depth to the Soviet-American talks to be held here, infusing them with a sense of mankind's shared destinies. Once again, I bid you welcome.

The President. Mr. General Secretary, Mrs. Gorbachev: Mr. General Secretary, thank you for those kind words of welcome. We've traveled a long road together to reach this moment—from our first meeting in Geneva in November, 1985, when I invited you to visit me in Washington and you invited me to Moscow. It was cold that day in Geneva, and even colder in Reykjavik when we met the following year to work on the preparations for our exchange of visits. We've faced great obstacles; but by the time of your visit to Washington last December, although we still had to grapple with difficult issues, we had achieved impressive progress in all the areas of our common agenda—human rights, regional issues, arms reduction, and our bilateral relations.

We signed a treaty that will reduce the level of nuclear arms for the first time in history by eliminating an entire class of U.S. and Soviet independent [intermediate-] range missiles. We agreed on the main points of a treaty that will cut in half our arsenals of strategic offensive nuclear arms. We agreed to conduct a joint experiment that would allow us to develop effective ways to verify limits on nuclear testing. We held full and frank discussions that planted the seeds for future progress.

It is almost summer; and some of those seeds are beginning to bear fruit, thanks to the hard work we have both done since our last meeting, including monthly meetings by our Foreign Ministers and the first meeting of our Defense Ministers. We have signed the Geneva accords, providing for the withdrawal of all Soviet troops from Afghanistan, and the first withdrawals have begun. We and our allies have completed technical arrangements necessary to begin implementing the INF treaty as soon as it enters into force. For the next major step in arms control, reductions in U.S. and Soviet strategic offensive arsenals, our negotiators in Geneva have produced hundreds of pages of joint, draft treaty text recording our areas of agreement, as well as those issues yet to be resolved. Our new nuclear risk reduction centers have begun their transmissions of routine notifications to reduce the risk of conflict. Our scientists are installing the equipment for our joint experiment to verify limits on nuclear testing. Our experts have held broad-ranging discussions on human rights, and important steps have been taken in that area. We have greatly expanded our bilateral exchanges since we signed our agreement in 1985. I hope you'll agree with me that more of our young people need to participate in these exchanges, which can do so much to lay the basis for greater mutual understanding in the next generation.

I could go on; the list of accomplishments goes far beyond what many anticipated. But I think the message is clear: Despite clear and fundamental differences, and despite the inevitable frustrations that we have encountered, our work has begun to produce results. In the past, Mr. General Secretary, you've taken note of my liking for Russian proverbs. And in order not to disappoint anyone on this visit, I thought I would mention a literary saying from your past, another example of your people's succinct wisdom: Rodilsiya ne toropilsiya—It was born, it wasn't rushed.

Mr. General Secretary, we did not rush. We have taken our work step by step. And I have come here to continue that work. We both know it will not be easy. We both know that there are tremendous hurdles yet to be overcome. But we also know that it can be done because we share a common goal: strengthening the framework we have already begun to build for a relationship that we can sustain over the long term, a relationship that will bring genuine benefits to our own peoples and to the world.

Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The General Secretary spoke at 2:55 p.m. in St. George's Hall at the Grand Kremlin Palace. The President spoke in English, and the General Secretary spoke in Russian. Their remarks were translated by interpreters.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at the Opening Ceremony of the Soviet-United States Summit Meeting in Moscow Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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