Secretary of State Vance's Meetings With Soviet Leaders Remarks of the President and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance in a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters.
REPORTER. Do you have any better understanding after this meeting as to why the Russians did what they did, rejecting our proposal?
THE PRESIDENT. I think it would be better to let the Secretary of State respond. I'll just say this: The two proposals that we put forward were, first, to ratify the Vladivostok agreements on items where there was no disagreement; and the second one was a very drastic overall reduction in nuclear weaponry for both sides.
And apparently, the Soviets were not ready to address the second proposal because it is so substantive and such a radical change from the past when strict limits were never proposed.
But I'd like for the Secretary of State to describe the general attitude of the Soviets, their personal reactions to the proposals, and their attitude toward the upcoming discussions in May. I think that's the most significant aspect of the thing.
SECRETARY VANCE. Yes. I think the President has described very well their attitude with respect to the comprehensive test ban. I hope that when they have a chance to reflect more on the details of that plan, that they will come up and raise any questions which they may have as to various aspects of it, which we of course are prepared to discuss with them.
They indicated very strongly that they wish to keep the talks going, and we accordingly set a date in mid-May for resumption of the discussions.
The attitude throughout all of the talks was both business-like and frank. I found the talks very useful, and I think you probably will also note that the Foreign Minister, Mr. Gromyko, said that he found the talks both useful and necessary. As I said before, arms control is a business which is not accomplished overnight. I think that we have cleared away some of the ground and that we will pick up and continue on from here.
Q. Mr. Secretary, can Mr. Brezhnev back away from the very strong, critical statements he has made about the American proposal now unless there is a major change in what you've put on the table?
SECRETARY VANCE, His statement with respect to the comprehensive proposal which we made was that he believed it to be one-sided and unfair. I would hope that after they have reflected on it further, they will see that it is not. We believe it's a very fair proposal and that it takes into interest not only the concerns and problems on both sides, but that it really provides a stability in the strategic arms area which has never been possible before with the proposals which have been placed on the table. All they have done before is to put ceilings. Now we're talking about real arms control, where we're trying to get at the heart of the problem and really reduce the number of weapons.
Q. Mr. Secretary, do you feel the United States made any miscalculations at all in preparing for these talks?
SECRETARY VANCE. No one can say that one never makes any miscalculations. I think that we proceeded in a fair and appropriate way. And I hope that in the long run, people will see that that's a fact.
Q. Was the openness with which the administration approached these talks problematic? Had you been less open about it, would it have not put the Soviets in this difficult a position?
THE PRESIDENT. I think the general outlining of our proposal to the public was good. Also, Mr. Dobrynin, the Soviet Ambassador here, was fairly well conversant with the principles of both proposals-the ratification of the agreements at Vladivostok and the drastic reduction in weaponry on both sides. Both those items it was understood by Mr. Dobrynin before he went back to the Soviet Union before the talks began. So our proposals were not a shock to the Soviet leaders, but they obviously require a great deal of careful and long-term negotiations.
There is another significant point that has not been adequately emphasized, and that is, that in spite of an absence of an agreement on the drastic reductions-which we are going to pursue without cessation and with a great deal of determination and, I believe, ultimate success after long negotiations--there was an agreement that we set up--8 or 9 or 10 study groups that will begin work without delay on items that are equally important, or almost as important, not equally--a comprehensive test ban, Indian Ocean, prior notification of test firings, the problems of verification, the problems that relate to excessive expenditures on civil defense. These matters are of crucial importance. And the fact that the Soviets have agreed to continue negotiations on them and the comprehensive reduction in atomic weapons I think is very encouraging. We're determined to succeed, if it's humanly possible, to have permanent friendship with the Soviet Union and to have drastic reductions in international dependence on atomic weapons.
I think another point that ought to be made is that on the way home, the Secretary of State had long, detailed discussions with the leaders in Germany, France, and Britain about the negotiations in Moscow and also discussed with them potential solutions to the very important questions in the Cyprus area, the Middle East, Africa, and nonproliferation of atomic weapons, the control of sales of conventional arms to other parts of the world. So, I don't believe that a trip this brief could have accomplished any more. We're very encouraged and very determined.
Q. Mr. President, was there any indication that your statements on human rights played any part in these discussions?
THE PRESIDENT. No.
REPORTER. Thank you, sir.
Note: The question-and-answer session began at 3 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. Secretary Vance met with the President to report on his trip to Moscow prior to the meeting with reporters.
The transcript of the question-and-answer session was made available by the White House Press Office. It was not issued in the form of a White House press release.
Jimmy Carter, Secretary of State Vance's Meetings With Soviet Leaders Remarks of the President and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance in a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243675