Responses to Questions Submitted by Bunte Magazine
Q. In October it will be exactly 300 years that the first Germans immigrated to America. Do you believe that there is a specific German element in the tradition of American history? What famous German—past or present—in the arts, sports, or military, do you admire most?
The President. More than 60 million Americans are of German ancestry, and that heritage is a great influence on our national character. The strong hands and good hearts of their industrious German forefathers helped build a strong and good America. Germany gave us heroes for our Revolutionary War such as Johann de Kalb and Baron von Steuben; political leaders, scientists, and engineers—including Einstein and Roebling, whose Brooklyn Bridge celebrates its 100th birthday this year; artists, composers, theologians, business entrepreneurs, and as you suggest, sports figures like Babe Ruth. It's almost impossible to choose one whom I admire most. German names fill our history books, dot our maps, and line the flyleaves of our family Bibles.
The Tricentennial of German immigration to the United States is being celebrated across the United States—in St. Louis, Milwaukee, New York, and Philadelphia to name just a few places. I'm looking forward to welcoming President Carstens of the Federal Republic of Germany for a state visit this October, when we'll celebrate the Tricentennial together.
Q. With substantial financial and political assistance from the Federal Republic the West European allies are going ahead with the construction of the gas pipeline, which will supply them with energy from Siberia in a few years. Has the European leadership been successful in convincing Washington that the pipeline will not be used as a Soviet instrument of blackmail, or does this continue to be a point of discussion between Bonn and Washington? Can the U.S. offer the Europeans an alternative energy supply system?
The President. It is important that Western nations not become overly dependent on any single supplier, particularly the Soviet Union, for such critical resources. Our view is that it would be prudent for West European countries to emphasize development of their own natural gas reserves and evaluate any new supply arrangements in view of the alternatives and security implications. The issue of energy dependence has been under careful review by the International Energy Administration, which will be reporting this month. It has conducted a very constructive study on which we all have cooperated closely. In addition to indigenous resources, I might also note that we are taking steps domestically to improve our competitiveness in coal exports to Europe.
U.S. Troops in Germany
Q. Under what extreme circumstances would you consider withdrawing U.S. troops from German soil?
The President. The cooperative security arrangements of the NATO alliance have maintained the peace for almost 40 years. As President of the United States, my most important task is to continue to preserve our peace and freedom. As long as we face a determined adversary in Europe, the presence of U.S. forces in the Federal Republic and in Berlin will be essential. I would like to emphasize the cooperative nature of our arrangements. Unlike the Warsaw Pact, NATO security relations are based on common agreement. U.S. forces will remain in the Federal Republic as long as they are needed and welcomed by the Federal Republic.
Q. The only country from which the Soviets withdrew their forces after World War II was Austria. They did this for the price of Austrian neutrality. Germany's first Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, had decided to enter into an alliance with the United States. In hindsight, do you think it would have been better for Germany if Adenauer would have done what Austria did?
The President. There are essential differences between Austria and the Federal Republic in size, strength, and geographic location. Both countries must meet their respective needs. Their respective national security policies were and are supported by the vast majority of their peoples. We shouldn't overlook the fact that the strong Western security alliance, which includes West Germany, helps to preserve the security and well-being of the European neutrals.
U.S. Role in World Affairs
Q. The West Germany newspaper publisher Axel Springer has repeatedly stressed that the role the U.S. plays in world politics is that of a peacekeeper. It would be tragic, Mr. Springer warned, to forget about the people who are forced to live under a Soviet dictatorship, or who have been imprisoned for their political beliefs, in Bautzen, in a psychiatric ward, or somewhere in the Gulag. How can the United States help bring about an end to this injustice?
The President. I completely agree that the United States most important role in the world is based on our commitment to peace and individual freedom. We firmly believe that world peace and stability can be achieved only when governments are responsive to the aspirations of their peoples, including recognition of their human rights as outlined, for example, in the Charter of the United Nations and in the Helsinki Final Act. The United States, as well as other Western countries, must continually keep world public attention focused on Soviet human rights policies. That is why we and our allies continue to insist on a strong human rights provision in the final document at the Madrid CSCE conference. In addition, our governments can and do work quietly on individual cases, securing better treatment for certain citizens from the Soviet and other governments.
Goals for Peace
Q. In an interview with Moscow's Literaturnja Gazeta Mr. Egon Bahr, the national security adviser to Jochen Vogel, claimed that "Leonid Brezhnev had been filled with a burning desire to secure world peace." Do you share this assessment of the former Soviet leader's quest for peace?
The President. With all the terrible dangers which threaten today's world, it is hard to imagine how any national leader would not be committed to the search for peace. We hear much talk about such a commitment, but we need deeds, not words. Sad experience shows that Soviet leaders too seldom translate their words into actions. A true Soviet agenda for peace would include withdrawal of their invading troops and KGB forces from Afghanistan, easing of pressure on Poland and its citizens, a halt of aid to international terrorists, and ending the use and supply of their nightmarish chemical and biological weapons. Actions of this type would find a ready response from my administration and would begin a new and better era of East-West relationships.
But while we are on the subject of commitment to peace, I would like to review quickly the peace initiatives of my government around the world, in addition to our efforts for significant arms reductions. In the Middle East, we were instrumental in ending the fighting in Lebanon and evacuating the PLO forces. We are working now to achieve the withdrawal of all foreign forces from that embattled country. In Africa, we have achieved, in consultation and cooperation with our allies, major progress towards an agreement to bring freedom to the people of Namibia, and long-term security, freedom, and development to southern Africa. In Latin America, we are working with the democracies to lift their burden of poverty and encourage the social development so necessary for progress and stability. And also, in the area of nuclear nonproliferation, we are working to halt the spread of equipment and technology which could be used to manufacture weapons, while still responding as a reliable supplier to those countries with legitimate energy needs.
All of these approaches and policies reflect my overriding goal as President—to do everything I can to help advance the cause of peace. We will be second to none in that quest—and we welcome others in that noblest of goals.
Q. Do you believe that Western Europe-with the exception of Great Britain—could soon be of minor importance to the United States? By the end of this century Western Europe would become as dependent on the Soviet Union as Finland is today. This would come about as a result of sweeping socialist policies, too much economic and financial aid for Eastern European countries, and not enough willingness to defend their own. What are your views on that thesis?
The President. In my meetings with European leaders over the past 2 years, I have been struck by the dramatic contrast between such a thesis and reality. I have found deep common dedication to NATO and the unanimous acceptance of our shared responsibility for a strong defense in the interest of a stable and secure peace.
The Atlantic relationship is strong because the fundamental principles which unite us endure. Our democracies are linked in history, culture, values, and interests. The original reason for NATO—the Soviet threat to Western European political and security independence—persists and will continue to be the central foreign policy challenge facing us. We continue to believe that Western European and American security are indivisible and that NATO remains the safest, most effective, and least costly way to meet the Soviet threat.
There will, of course, continue to be differences in approach among us in reaching our shared goals. Our nations cannot be insulated from the heat and light generated by the democratic process. It is precisely our democratic values and purposes which give our alliance relevance and enduring strength. Our differences concern how best to shape our relationship, not whether it should exist.
I can assure you that the Atlantic relationship remains central to American foreign policy. I underscored the constancy of this commitment at the Bonn summit last June when I stated: "... there is an inseparable link between the security of all and the security of each .... I want to reaffirm in unmistakable terms adherence to this principle . . . that a healthy, vigorous, and effective alliance remains the foundation of American foreign policy ...."
Arms Control and Reduction
Q. What is the basic philosophy of your disarmament policy?
The President. We believe that arms must not only be controlled, they must be significantly reduced if we are to secure life and liberty. Since the concept of deterrence has kept the peace longer than any other, we believe there must be a stable balance, both conventional and nuclear, so that aggressors will never be tempted and war will never Occur.
In November 1981, I outlined America's goals for arms control and listed the principles behind all our arms control negotiations.
The first principle is that reductions should be substantial and militarily significant. We must make a break with the approach in past negotiations, which did nothing but ratify ever higher levels of arms on both sides. At the strategic nuclear level we have made a proposal to cut ballistic missiles by about half from current U.S. levels, and warheads by roughly a third. At the intermediate-range nuclear level, our goal is the complete elimination of the most destabilizing systems of land-based, longer range missiles. What a contribution to world security that would be: to banish an entire class of threatening nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth! For conventional forces in Europe, we along with our allies are offering to make reductions to 700,000 ground forces and 900,000 ground and air forces combined.
The second principle is equal ceilings for similar types of forces. We believe that stability can best be assured by this even balance. We do not believe that the Soviet Union is entitled to have an arsenal as large as the total of the rest of the world.
The third principle is effective verification. In view of Soviet violations of existing treaties, including those banning chemical and biological weapons, we must have confidence that an agreement we sign to limit weapons will be observed by both sides.
Central to my arms reduction philosophy has been close consultation with our allies. Through NATO organizations such as the Special Consultative Group, through multilateral and bilateral meetings, we have discussed fully our approaches to the major negotiations with the Soviet Union, and the U.S. positions in INF and START negotiations have the full support of the alliance. I doubt if there've ever been closer consultations in the alliance than those we've had on the INF talks.
The arms reduction program which we've initiated contains the most comprehensive set of proposals put forward by any American Government. We are committed to successful negotiations, and we believe there is a basis for agreement if the Soviets show equal seriousness.
Q. In addition to the zero-option, as an interim solution you recently suggested, under pressure from the European allies, to break the impasse at the Geneva Conference. How many SS-20 missiles would the Soviets now have to withdraw in order for the U.S. not to station the Pershing II?
The President. No pressure from the allies was involved on the development of our most recent proposal in Geneva. Rather, it resulted from our intensive and ongoing consultative process. In my speech of March 13, I proposed an interim solution on INF to the Soviet Union which calls for the reduction of planned U.S. deployments of Pershing II and cruise missiles and actual Soviet SS-20 deployments to equal levels of warheads on a global basis. We did not propose a specific figure, because we are maintaining maximum flexibility in reaching an agreement at equitable and verifiable levels. The ball is now in the Soviet court. We still believe the elimination of the entire class of longer range and land-based INF missiles to be the best solution, and it is a goal toward which we hope to negotiate an accord following agreement on an interim solution.
Q. You recently talked about your ideas to secure world peace through unconventional weapons. Could you be more specific? Critics fear that you would move the battlefield from Earth into space.
The President. When I discussed a strategic defense initiative in my speech of March 23, I noted that for the last several decades, U.S. nuclear deterrence policy has relied heavily, almost exclusively, upon the deterrent provided by our offensive nuclear forces. This concept of deterrence is based on the premise that neither side would initiate an attack because of the catastrophic consequences; the costs of such an attack would far outweigh any possible gains. This concept has led to the development of offensive ballistic missile forces by both the U.S. and the Soviet Union. I envision a day when we decrease our reliance on offense and recognize the potential contribution of an effective defense. Strategic missiles are the most destabilizing form of nuclear weaponry. Measures to protect ourselves, our families, and our countries from their devastation should add incentives for arms control and provide great relief from fear.
Certainly there are drawbacks and potential obstacles to this new concept. But the specter of nuclear holocaust and both of us pointing a cocked gun at the other is unacceptable. Research into defensive systems could free our populations from serving as hostages underwriting the peace. So, I decided to direct a major review of technologies and other areas related to defensive systems in order to assess how our security and that of our allies can rely on this approach.
We are not proposing a specific weapon system, but have begun basic research that could lead to development by the turn of the century. It is too early now to identify specific systems. We will abide by all existing treaties as we do this research and will consult closely in the alliance. Once developed, we hope that defense against ballistic missiles would be fully integrated into the arms control process.
And, no, we are not taking the arms race into space. The Soviets have the only operating antisatellite weapon. They rejected our proposals in 1979 to abolish all such weapons, and they are continuing a massive research program for space-based weapons. Sadly, again, their words—recently reiterated-about peaceful uses of space are belied by their deeds.
Q. Do you think a nuclear war limited to Europe is a possibility?
The President. Let me, first of all, emphasize that our policy is aimed at preventing conflict and settling differences peacefully. We and our allies will not use any of our weapons, except in response to aggression.
I don't believe a limited nuclear war is possible. Throughout the postwar years, the U.S. has made clear that U.S. strategic forces are coupled to the defense of Western Europe. In 1979 NATO reinforced that link with its dual-track decision to deploy longer range INF missiles in five basing countries in NATO Europe unless an arms agreement with the Soviet Union made deployment unnecessary. The deployment of Pershing II and ground-launched cruise missiles will provide an unbroken spectrum of deterrence of potential Soviet aggression-from conventional forces to strategic nuclear systems in the United States. Striking confirmation of how U.S. forces are coupled to the defense of Western Europe was provided by none other than Soviet Defense Minister Dimitriy Ustinov on April 6 in East Germany: "If Washington is calculating that we will retaliate to the use of Pershings and cruise missiles only against targets in West Europe, it is profoundly deluded. Retribution will inevitably follow against the United States itself, too."
Like all of NATO's weapons, the ground-launched cruise missiles and Pershing II's were developed not to be fired, but to deter war. If we maintain a balance of force, there will be no aggression, and NATO will successfully keep the peace for another four decades.
Future of World Economy
Q. Your economic policies have come under attack from Europe's social democratic governments. Recovery is now underway in the United States and West Germany. Is the worst of the slump over, or is there still a danger that mounting national debts by Latin American and Eastern European countries will throw us into a world economic crisis?
The President. The positive figures for U.S. GNP growth in the first quarter and a plateful of other bright economic signals indicate that the worst of the slump is behind us. Inflation is still under control and interest rates continue to fall.
The recovery now underway in several major countries is the key to easing the financial pressure on many developing countries in Latin America and elsewhere. If we keep our markets open and resume a high level of international trade, then international debts can be serviced. We are strengthening the resources of key international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund. So, while we are still not out of the woods, I am increasingly optimistic about the future of the world economy.
In a few weeks Chancellor Kohl and I will join our counterparts from other industrialized countries at the Williamsburg Economic Summit and compare notes on the brightening of the world economic picture since our last summit in Versailles—and consider how we can work more closely together to sustain the recovery.
Q. With the invention of the steam engine, many people feared for their jobs. Today the electronic revolution has already replaced jobs once performed by people. What needs to be done to turn this trend into a positive development?
The President. Unfortunately some of the unemployment which is due to structural changes within our economies will not be eliminated with the economic recovery which has begun in both Germany and the United States. Some people who lost their jobs will never regain the positions they lost because of technological change; the jobs of the future will increasingly lie in high-technology and service industries and training for those types of positions is essential.
We industrial nations must never turn our back on our basic industries—we will always need them. But neither must we attempt to prop up industries employing outmoded means of production. We must encourage our firms to retool and our workers to retrain. And we should allow market incentives to encourage the flow of resources—labor and capital—into modern methods of production and new industries. Here in the United States, the tax laws of 1981 and 1982 contain important provisions which encourage investment in new machinery and equipment.
Clearly, if our workers are to find jobs in this new age of technology, they must begin now to learn the skills that will be needed. We have recently begun a publicly funded job training program here, but the bulk of the retraining must be done by the private sector. After all, the individual firms in the private economy know far better than do we in government exactly which skills they will need in the future. By matching the skills of our people to the demands of the labor we will turn the electronic revolution to our advantage. Our people will then enjoy the increase in real quality of the life that will be possible through modern, efficient technology on our farms, in our factories, and in our offices.
Q. One more question, Mr. President: Do you have any 'special message for the German people?
The President. The peoples of the United States and the Federal Republic are bound together through their shared values, beliefs, and interests. Together we will face many challenges in the coming years. I am confident that we will meet those challenges successfully because of our deep commitment to Western values, our belief in democracy, and our faith in God. We are dedicated to the peaceful competition of ideas and individual and national freedom. The Federal Republic and the United States are firmly devoted to the cause of peace, and we will maintain the defensive forces necessary to ensure our security. At the same time, we will be untiring in our efforts to reduce the threat of war through negotiations in Geneva, in Vienna, in Madrid, and wherever the possibility of progress toward a more secure future exists. The United States has made proposals, endorsed by our allies and supported by the peoples of the Western democracies, to drastically reduce the warheads on strategic ballistic missiles, to eliminate an entire category of nuclear weapons, to ban chemical weapons, reduce to equal levels of military personnel for the Warsaw Pact and NATO in Central Europe, and halt the destabilizing spread of nuclear weapons to new countries and volatile regions of the world. I hope the Soviet Union will join with the German and American people in our mutual efforts to build a cathedral of peace as the people of Cologne built theirs—with the deepest commitment and dedication. As I said to your Bundestag last June, "if we construct the peace properly, it will endure as long as the spires of Cologne".
Views on the Presidency
Q. They say the burden of his office makes the President the loneliest man in the world. Do you feel lonely?
The President. How could I feel lonely with so many people giving me advice? But I know what you're asking and the question is yes and no. Yes, to the extent that I know the responsibility for so many critical things is based on my decisions. It is sometimes staggering for a President to think that his decisions will affect 230 million people in the United States and billions around the world. But, at the same time, I'll give you a no answer for several reasons. First, a faith which gives me a sense of strength and also a sense of continuity with others who have held this office through even more critical times, President Lincoln for example. Second, Nancy shares with me my life; she is my partner in this life, and she is always there. And third, well, I wish you could read the letters I get from people sending me their prayers. They pray for my well-being, and I can't tell you what a warm feeling that is.
Q. What has been your biggest disappointment during your Presidency? And what was your happiest experience?
The President. Most disappointing, well, let me tell you my saddest experience, because it is so fresh in my mind. Nancy and I went out last week to Andrews Air Force Base to meet the bodies of those Americans who were killed in the blast in Beirut. There was a ceremony in a hangar with the flag draped coffins. I gave some remarks which were very difficult to get through, because they told exactly what these people meant to the country. And sitting in front of me were the families, and it was obvious what these dead Americans meant to them. Nancy and I walked up and down several rows of family members expressing our sorrow as best we could and trying to be of some comfort in letting them know the Nation appreciated their loved ones sacrifice. But there was such an overwhelming sense of loss that tears were the only release.
Now, as for the happiest experience, that's tough, because we have been very happy here. Right at the beginning of the administration it was a very happy time welcoming home the hostages from Iran. Of course, there were some of our economic victories on Capitol Hill and the fact that the economy is finally starting to move. Those were exhilarating days when the space shuttles made their beautiful landings out in the desert. My visit to your country last year was a most satisfying experience. I suppose I could go on and on with happy memories, and you wouldn't have any room to put my answers to the other questions.
Q. What is your personal secret for keeping so youthful, dynamic, and full of energy?
The President. I'm often accused of being an optimist, but I think that really helps. It helps you over a lot of things. I don't believe it's a secret that having the warmth of a loving woman like Nancy also makes life worthwhile and enjoyable. As for full of energy, I have a gym right here in the White House for working out. I've added an inch and a half to my chest in the process. So, being active is very important. And, I've said this before, but there's nothing better for the insides of a man than the outsides of a horse. Here in Washington and at Camp David I ride as often as I can a handsome Hanoverian. I just think the positives of life add up if you let them.
Q. In November of last year Austria gave you a "live" present: a Lippizaner horse. Considering your busy schedule and many obligations, have you ever been able at all to enjoy Amadeus?
The President. The copy of your magazine which you shared with me brought back memories of that marvelous presentation of the Lippizaners on the South Lawn last fall. So far, the laws requiring Amadeus to be quarantined haven't allowed me the opportunity to ride that magnificent horse, but I hope to do so soon.
Note: As printed above, this item follows the text of the White House press release, which was issued on May 10.
Ronald Reagan, Responses to Questions Submitted by Bunte Magazine Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/263121