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Statement on United States Defense Policy

March 09, 1983

Our defense policy is based on a very simple premise: The United States will not start fights. We will not be the first to use aggression. We will not seek to occupy other lands or control other peoples. Our strategy is defensive; our aim is to protect the peace by ensuring that no adversaries ever conclude they could best us in a war of their own choosing.

What this means is that we design our defense program not to further ambitions, but to counter threats. Today, and for the foreseeable future, the greatest of these threats comes from the Soviet Union, the only nation with the military power to inflict mortal damage directly on the United States.

This also means that if the American people are asked to support our defense program, they must get the straight facts about this threat. The Defense Department's first edition of "Soviet Military Power" gave them those facts; this revised edition will keep them up to date and will give them a new opportunity to compare Soviet forces with our own.

The facts in this book are straightforward. The Soviets have not slowed the pace of their enormous military buildup. In little over a year, they have begun testing new models in almost every class of nuclear weapons. They are dramatically expanding their navy and air force, are training and equipping their ground forces for preemptive attack, and are using their military power to extend their influence and enforce their will in every corner of the globe.

We must continue to demonstrate our resolve not to allow the military balance to tip against the United States. By demonstrating that resolve, we will not only deter aggression but we will also offer the Soviets a real incentive to accept genuine, mutual arms reduction.

Let me quote a statement Winston Churchill made to the House of Commons in late 1934, as he urged the British to stop dismantling their defenses:

"To urge the preparation of defense is not to assert the imminence of war. I do not believe that war is imminent or that war is inevitable, but . . . that if we do not begin forthwith to put ourselves in a position of security, it will soon be beyond our power to do so."

A strong, credible American defense is indispensable to protecting the peace and preserving the free way of life our people cherish.

Ronald Reagan, Statement on United States Defense Policy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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