Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson of Sweden

September 09, 1987

The President. It is a pleasure to welcome Prime Minister Carlsson and Mrs. Carlsson to the United States. I welcome you, Mr. Prime Minister, with great warmth and respect, as the representative of a country with whom Americans share many fundamental values: We're both deeply committed to the system of democracy; we are both committed to the protection of the fundamental rights of the individual; and we're both committed to pursuing a world that is prosperous and at peace.

Our shared values reflect historical bonds and the fact that Swedes and Americans have mingled for centuries. Next year will mark the 350th anniversary of the founding by your countrymen, Mr. Prime Minister, of a small colony named New Sweden near what is now Wilmington, Delaware. Those brave settlers helped turn a wilderness into a great nation. Even more, they brought with them the hardy virtues and pioneer spirit that became so much a part of our national character.

The Swedish pioneers of Wilmington, Delaware, were followed by over a million Swedes who came here between the 1840's and 1930's. And today some 5 million Americans proudly claim Swedish origins. History suggests our countries have always been close politically and also in spirit. When this was still a very new nation, in 1783, a treaty of commerce and friendship was signed with Sweden. It was among the very first treaties of the United States of America. Over the years since, our governments have always remained on amicable and cooperative terms, and our peoples have developed and maintained commercial and personal relationships that have strengthened both our nations.

All this reflects a commonality of spirit and a shared sense of decency of which we can take great pride. Americans will never forget that, by a special act of Congress, our country has officially adopted a remarkable Swede, a hero of moral and humane people the world over. I refer to Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat, who in the Second World War saved hundreds of thousands from the Nazi terror. That Wallenberg is now a citizen of both our countries is a bond between us and should be an inspiration to our peoples. Let us join in insisting that, if there is a new openness in the Soviet Union, the Soviet leadership give the world an accounting of this moral giant, Raoul Wallenberg.

Today, our friendship with Sweden is especially vigorous. Many thousands of our countrymen visit back and forth each year, conducting business, pursuing the arts, studying—and often competing successfully in sports, as Mr. Borg can testify. The late Secretary of Commerce Malcolm Baldrige visited Sweden in May, where he announced that the United States is eliminating the export license requirements for high-technology goods bound for Sweden. This summer, Swedish Trade Minister Gradin came to Washington for a positive round of discussions on global and military trade issues—or, pardon me—on bilateral trade issues. And in June, my wife Nancy, visited Stockholm, where for 3 days she exchanged views with those who plan and run Sweden's enlightened programs to combat drugs.

Your visit now, Mr. Prime Minister, renews our political, bilateral discussions at the highest level. Dialog between our governments has improved and deepened in recent years, and we're determined to ensure that it continues to improve. I look forward to discussing with you, Mr. Prime Minister, the major issues of the day and examining how, as modern industrialized democracies, we can meet the challenges we will face in the future. Sweden and the United States face similar challenges, though we've chosen different paths to meet them. Yet, as friends, we value each other's views and our talks today will be of great value.

I'm particularly looking forward to our exchange of views on issues concerning world peace and nuclear arms reductions. The people of the United States maintain defense spending at levels necessary to preserve peace and to safeguard freedom in the world. We have, in recent years, taken a decisive lead in seeking balanced and verifiable arms agreements with the Soviet Union, agreements that will reduce both the level of nuclear weapons and the threat of their use. Our strength and our determined search for peace go hand-in-hand. Much progress has been made as of late, and we remain optimistic.

As a neutral nation, Sweden is not an ally of the United States, but it is a partner in our pursuit of a free and peaceful world. We recognize and appreciate that Sweden provides amply for its own strong defense and works vigorously for the cause of peace. We respect that, Mr. Prime Minister, even though on some issues we may differ in views. The great Swedish leader and a renowned international statesman, Dag Hammarskjold once said: "Only he who keeps his eyes fixed on the far horizon will find his right road." Well, today, the people of the United States and Sweden have their eyes fixed on the far horizon. We're on the right path for a better tomorrow.

I look forward to our discussions, Mr. Prime Minister. We appreciate your visit and bid your wife—you and your wife-valkommen [welcome]. Your visit here is most welcome.

Prime Minister Carlsson. Mr. President, Mrs. Reagan, ladies and gentlemen, let me, first of all, express my thanks for the warm and friendly welcome you have given us in your magnificent Capital and here at the White House. I'm convinced that the talks we will have here with you, Mr. President, with members of your Cabinet, with Senators and Congressmen as well as with other of your fellow Americans elsewhere in the country, will strengthen the solid friendship and cooperation already existing between Sweden and the United States. And I'm proud to say, Mr. President, that I come here as a representative of a nation which is one of America's oldest friends.

Sweden was, in 1783, one of the very first countries to enter into a formal relationship with the newly independent United States. And as far back as in the 17th century, the colony of New Sweden was established in what is now the State of Delaware and parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Next year, a celebration of the 350th anniversary of this first Swedish settlement in America will take place throughout the United States.

The Swedes who then settled in the Delaware Valley were the forerunners of more than a million immigrants from Sweden who later came to this country of promise, who helped build the land, and who set out to create a future here for themselves and for their children. But the relationship between our two countries is not only a historical one. It's firmly anchored in the present. We share the same democratic values, believing in a just society with freedom for the individual. Our two nations are among the most privileged with a high standard of living. This is partly because of our level of technological development. It gives us a potential not only to strengthen our own economies but also to contribute to international development and greater economic justice also between nations.

As one should expect in a relationship between friends, it's seldom plagued by political problems. We play, of course, different roles on the international scene. From time to time, as is natural for two democratic governments, we certainly assess international events differently. On other matters, we are in agreement. We both favor free and fair trade between nations. And coming, as I do, from a nation which is more dependent upon exports and imports than most others, I can assure you that we support all efforts to strengthen the open multilateral trading system.

Mr. President, Sweden is not a big country. Our ability to influence world events on our own is limited. What one cannot do alone, one may be able to do in cooperation with others. We believe that we have a right to participate actively in world affairs. The rationale for this is simple: Any international conflict which leads to global war will affect all the people on Earth, no matter how far they are from the conflict. As you have stated yourself, Mr. President, together with Mr. Gorbachev, a nuclear war cannot be won. Such a war has only losers, and we will all be among them. That's why we in a nation not possessing nuclear arms feel that we also have a responsibility to promote peace and avoid a nuclear confrontation.

And let me therefore, Mr. President, bring your special message from the Government and the people of Sweden on the verge of important meetings between representatives of your administration and the Soviet Union. We will support every measure with you, Mr. President, and Secretary General Gorbachev will take in the process of reducing nuclear arms. The agreement on intermediate nuclear weapons now being negotiated has our full backing. Your signatures on such a document would be regarded as an historic achievement all over the world. East and West, North and South, it will be hailed as a first step toward the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

Mr. President, I came here with my wife to this country for the first time in 1960 to study here, like so many other Swedes have done. We have all cherished the warmth, the friendship, and the openness which we have encountered here. These many contacts have indeed strengthened the close ties between our two countries. So I am sure with this week's visit, on behalf of the government and the people of Sweden, I wish to express our best wishes for the happiness and well-being of you, Mr. President, of Mrs. Reagan, and of the American people. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:13 a.m. in the East Room at the White House, where Prime Minister Carlsson was accorded a formal welcome. Following the ceremony, the President and the Prime Minister met in the Oval Office and later in the Cabinet Room for an expanded meeting with Swedish and U.S. officials.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson of Sweden Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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