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Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for President Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union

May 31, 1990

President Bush. Friends and distinguished guests, welcome to all of you, especially our guests from the Soviet Union. It is my great honor to welcome to the White House the President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev.

Mr. President, just over a year ago I said that the United States wanted to move beyond containment in its relations with the Soviet Union toward a new era, an era of enduring cooperation. When we last met in Malta, we agreed to accelerate our efforts on a full range of issues. Today differences remain, of course, but in the short 6 months since the Malta summit, we've made encouraging progress. I want this summit to take us farther still, and I know that that is your view as well, Mr. President.

We've seen a world of change this past year. Now, on the horizon, we see what, just 1 short year ago, seemed a distant dream: a continent cruelly divided, East from West, has begun to heal with the dawn of self-determination and democracy. In Germany, where the Wall once stood, a nation moves toward unity, in peace and freedom. And in the other nations of the most heavily militarized continent on Earth, at last we see the long era of confrontation giving way to the prospect of enduring cooperation in a Europe whole and free. Mr. President, you deserve great credit for your part in these transforming events. I salute you, as well, for the process of change you've brought to your own country.

As we begin this summit, let me stress that I believe we can work together at this historic moment to further the process of building a new Europe, one in which every nation's security is strengthened and no nation is threatened. Around the world, we need to strengthen our cooperation in solving regional conflicts and building peace and stability. In Nicaragua, for example, we've shown that we can work together to promote peaceful change. In Angola, our support for an early resolution of that country's tragic conflict -- is a resolution acceptable to the Angolan people -- is now paying off. So, let us expand this new spirit of cooperation not merely to resolve disputes between us but to build a solid foundation for peace, prosperity, and stability around the world.

In that same spirit, Mr. President, let me quote the words of one of your nation's great minds, one of the world's great men in this or any age, Andrei Sakharov. Fourteen years ago, he wrote: "I am convinced that guaranteed political and civil rights for people the world over are also guarantees of international security, economic and social progress." Sakharov knew that lasting peace and progress are inseparable from freedom, that nations will only be fully safe when all people are fully free.

We in the U.S. applaud the new course the Soviet Union has chosen. We see the spirited debate in the Congress of People's Deputies, in the Soviet press, among the Soviet people. We know about the difficult economic reforms that are necessary to breathe new vigor into the Soviet economy. And as I've said many times before, we want to see perestroika succeed. Mr. President, I firmly believe, as you have said, that there is no turning back from the path you have chosen.

Since our meeting in Malta, we've reached agreements in important areas, each one proof that when mutual respect prevails progress is possible. But the agreements we've reached cannot cause us to lose sight of some of the differences that remain. Lithuania is one such issue. We believe that good faith dialog between the Soviet leaders and representatives of the Baltic peoples is the proper approach, and we hope to see that process go forward.

Over the next 4 days, we're not going to solve all of the world's problems. We won't resolve all of the outstanding issues that divide us. But we can and will take significant steps toward a new relationship.

This summit will be a working summit in the strictest sense of the term, one where we mark the real progress we've made by signing new agreements and where we address the differences that divide us in a spirit of candor, in an open and honest search for common ground. In a larger sense, though, that the success of this summit depends not on the agreements we will sign but on our efforts to lay the groundwork for overcoming decades of division and discord, to build a world of peace in freedom.

Mr. President, together, your great country and ours bear an enormous and unique responsibility for world peace and regional stability. We must work together to reduce tensions, to make the world a little better for our children and grandchildren. And to this end, I pledge you my all-out effort.

Mr. President, you've brought us a beautiful day, and you've brought back Mrs. Gorbachev -- that brings joy to all of our hearts. A hearty welcome to her as well. So, it is my privilege to welcome you to the White House. And may God bless our peoples in their efforts for a better world. Welcome, sir.

President Gorbachev. Mr. President, Mrs. Bush, ladies and gentlemen, comrades, thank you for this welcome. May I also greet all Americans on behalf of the peoples of the Soviet Union.

My present visit to the United States is a confirmation that Soviet-U.S. relations are acquiring greater stability, clarity, and predictability. I am convinced that both the Soviet people and the Americans approve such changes. I think that they are also properly appreciated throughout the world. Therefore, it is the great responsibility of the President and myself to make sure that the capital of trust and cooperation accumulated in recent years is protected and constantly increased.

I remember well my first visit to the United States, and not only because I saw America for the first time then. During those days in December 1987, President Reagan and I signed the treaty on the elimination of INF [intermediate-range nuclear force] missiles. That was truly a watershed not only in our relations but in the history of modern times. It was the first step taken together by two powerful countries on the road leading to a safe and sensible world.

Since then, our two great nations have traveled a long way toward each other. Thousands of American and Soviet citizens; dozens of agencies, private companies, and public organizations are involved in political and business contacts, humanitarian exchanges, scientific and technological cooperation.

In the same years, the world around us has also changed beyond recognition. Mr. President, this generation of people on Earth may witness the advent of an irreversible period of peace in the history of civilization. The walls which for years separated the peoples are collapsing. The trenches of the cold war are disappearing. The fog of prejudice, mistrust, and animosity is vanishing.

I have come to the United States with the impressions still fresh in my mind of how our people celebrated the 45th anniversary of the victory over nazism and of my meetings with war veterans. I recently had many meetings with my countrymen. They all understand the importance of Soviet-U.S. relations. They look upon their improvement with the hope that the tragedies of the 20th century -- those horrible wars -- will forever remain a thing of the past. I think that this is what the Americans want, too.

Mr. President, living up to these hopes of our two nations is your mission and mine. This meeting is part of it. My colleagues and I have come to do serious work in order to make a decisive step toward an agreement reducing the most dangerous arms, which are increasingly losing their political significance, and to provide further impetus to interaction between our two countries -- interaction and, of course, cooperation in solving international problems in trade, scientific, technological, and humanitarian fields; in cultural exchanges; in expanding information about each other; and in people-to-people contacts.

We want progress in relations between the Soviet Union and the United States of America. I am looking forward to meetings with the Americans and, to the extent possible, getting to know better your unique and great country.

On behalf of Mrs. Gorbachev and myself and of all those who have come with me to your Nation's Capital, I thank once again President George Bush and Mrs. Bush and all those present here for this warm welcome.

Note: President Bush spoke at 10:14 a.m. on the South Lawn of the White House, where President Gorbachev was accorded a formal welcome with full military honors. President Gorbachev spoke in Russian, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

George Bush, Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for President Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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