Jimmy Carter photo

The President's News Conference

December 30, 1977


THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon. Dzien dobry.

It's a great honor for me to be here in Poland to reaffirm and to strengthen the historic and strong ties of friendship and mutual purpose which exist between our two countries. I have had very fruitful discussions with First Secretary Gierek and the other officials of Poland on bilateral questions, on questions involving NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries, matters relating to SALT, mutual and balanced force reductions, and general commitments to peace in the future.

This morning I had a chance to visit memorials to the brave people of Poland, and particularly of Warsaw. I doubt that there is any nation on Earth which has suffered more from the ravages of war. In the Second World War the Nazis killed 800,000 people in Warsaw alone and 6 million Poles. And I was able to pay homage to their courage and bravery.

I also visited the Ghetto Monument, a memorial to Polish Jews who stood alone to face the Nazis but who will forever live in the conscience of the world.

This afternoon I would like to answer questions from the reporters assembled here. There were a few who wanted to attend who were not permitted to come. Their questions will be answered by me in writing. And now I would be glad to respond to questions, beginning with Mr. Wojna [Riczrd Wojna, Tribuna Ludu].



Q [in Polish]. Mr. President, Poland and the entire world has attached great importance to the relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. Could you answer what is your assessment of the chance for a prompt conclusion on SALT talks and in other discussions on strategic matters, and how in this respect do you assess the latest pronouncement by Leonid Brezhnev in an interview for the Pravda Daily?

THE PRESIDENT. In the last few months, the United States and the Soviet Union have made great progress in dealing with a long list of important issues, the most important of which is to control the deployment of strategic nuclear weapons. We hope to conclude the SALT II talks this year, hopefully in the spring. We have resolved many of the major issues. A few still remain. We have made good progress in recent months.

At the same time, we have made progress for the first time in establishing principles on which there can be a total prohibition against all tests of nuclear explosives in the future. We've made progress on prohibiting additional military buildup in the Indian Ocean, recently commenced talks to reduce the sale of conventional weapons to other nations in the world. And I will pursue this same subject with President Giscard next week.

In addition, the Soviets and we are making progress in how we can prevent the use in the future of chemical and biological warfare, and we hope that we can reinstigate progress in the mutual and balanced force reductions which have been stalemated in Vienna for a number of years. So, I would say that in summary I am very encouraged at the new progress that I have witnessed personally among our negotiators.

When Foreign Minister Gromyko was in Washington recently, in a few hours we resolved many of the difficult issues. Our negotiators are at work on all those subjects at this present time. There has been no cessation of effort. And I believe that 1978 will see a resolution of many of these issues.

Mr. Cormier [Frank Cormier, Associated Press].


Q. Mr. President, are you likely to go to Egypt next Wednesday, and if you do, will it be primarily because President Sadat has urged you to go, or for some other purpose, or why?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have a standing invitation from President Sadat to visit Egypt that he extended to me on his trip to Washington. And he's reemphasized it several times since that date. We have had no discussions with President Sadat on that particular visit to Egypt while I'm on this trip. We will try to keep our schedule flexible. If it's mutually convenient and desirable, we would certainly consider it. But we have no plans at this time to stop in Egypt next Wednesday or any other time on this trip.

I might say that our own relations with the Arab nations, including, certainly, Egypt, are very good and harmonious. There has been no change in our own position relating to the Middle Eastern talks. And we communicate almost daily with the Egyptian and Israeli leaders. And as you know, I will be meeting King Hussein in Tehran on our next stop on this trip.

Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International].

Q. You said you often don't intend and don't desire to dictate the terms of a Middle East settlement.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. This is true.

Q. And yet President Sadat seems to think that you have pulled the rug out from under him and that you are in fact dictating terms when you are backing an Israeli military presence on the West Bank at Gaza after there would be a settlement.

THE PRESIDENT. We don't back any Israeli military settlement in the Gaza Strip or on the West Bank. We favor, as you know, a Palestinian homeland or entity there. Our own preference is that this entity be tied in to Jordan and not be a separate and independent nation. That is merely an expression of preference which we have relayed on numerous occasions to the Arab leaders, including President Sadat when he was with me in Washington. I've expressed the same opinion to the Israelis, to King Hussein, and to President Asad, and also to the Saudi Arabians. We have no intention of attempting to impose a settlement. Any agreement which can be reached between Israel and her Arab neighbors would be acceptable. to us. We are in a posture of expressing opinions, trying to promote intimate and direct negotiations and communications, expediting the process' when it seems to be slow, and adding our good offices whenever requested. But we have no intention or desire to impose a settlement.

Let me go back to the Polish side. Yes, sir.


Q [in Polish]. I will speak Polish. Let me welcome you not only as the President of the United States but as an eminent American Baptist. I am a Baptist myself. I am preoccupied with editing a Baptist magazine in Poland, and I would like to express my gladness that you have been elected to the post of the President of the United States, as a man, as a believer who is not ashamed of it and of his evangelical convictions. This prompts me to wish you and your family the best of the very best in 1978 and also in your activity in strengthening peace the world over.

And now over to our question. We all know that you are a practicing Christian, as every Baptist should be--as every good Baptist should be. And I would like to ask whether your religious convictions help you in executing the job of a President of such a big country. Can you quote an example in how the evangelical principles helped you in solving any complicated problem?

And the second question, we the Polish Baptists live in an extra-Catholic country, and on occasions we are discriminated against. As a believer, as a Baptist, can you influence the change of a situation?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as you know, the United States believes in religious freedom. And I'm very grateful for the degree of religious freedom that also exists in Poland.

Dr. Brzezinski, my national security adviser, and my wife, Rosalynn, had a visit with Cardinal Wyszynski this morning and did this .as an expression of our appreciation for the degree of freedom to worship in this country.

This is a matter of conscience, as a Baptist and as an American leader. We believe in separation of church and state, that there should be no unwarranted influence on the church or religion by the state, and vice versa. My own religious convictions are deep and personal. I seek divine guidance when I make a difficult decision as President and also am supported, of course, by a common purpose which binds Christians together in a belief in the human dignity of mankind and in the search for worldwide peace--recognizing, of course, that those who don't share my faith quite often have the same desires and hopes.

My own constant hope is that all nations would give maximum freedom of religion and freedom of expression to their people, and I will do all I can, within the bounds of propriety, to bring that hope into realization.


Q. Mr. President, during those Presidential debates, in a celebrated exchange, President Ford claimed that Eastern Europe was not under Soviet domination. And you replied, "Tell it to the Poles." Well, now that you're here, is it your view that this domination will continue almost into perpetuity, or do you see a day when Poland may be actually free? And if so, how would that come about?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, this is obviously a decision for the Polish leaders and the Polish people to make. Our nation is committed to the proposition that all countries would be autonomous, they would all be independent, and they would all be free of unwanted interference and entanglements with other nations.

The Polish people have been bound very closely to the Soviet Union since the Second World War, and they belong to a Warsaw Pact military alliance, which is, of course, different from the NATO relationship to which we belong.

My own assessment within the European theater, Eastern European theater, is that here, compared to some other nations, there is a great religious freedom and otherwise, and I think this is a hope that we all share and cherish. I think this has been the or, gin of the Polish nation more than a thousand years ago, and it's a deep commitment of the vast majority of the Polish people, a desire and a commitment not to be dominated.

Q. You don't deny that they are dominated here, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. I think I've commented all I wish on that subject.


Q [in Polish]. Mr. President, what is the potential for realization of the Helsinki Final Act as an integral entity, especially in the view of the Belgrade meeting? And what is your opinion about Chancellor Schmidt's 1 proposal to repeat in one or another form the meeting on the top level?

THE PRESIDENT. I think the Helsinki agreement, which calls for cooperation and security in Europe and which has, as a so-called Third Basket component, an insistence upon maximum enhancement and preservation of human rights, is an agreement that is important to the Poles and also to our country and other signatories of that treaty.

1 Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of the Federal Republic of Germany.

We believe that the Belgrade conference has been productive. This is a question that must be approached on a multinational 'basis. The treaty terms provide for open and frank criticism of other signatories when standards are not met. There has been a free exchange of opinion between ourselves and the Soviet Union and indeed all the nations involved.

We hope that this session will come to a rapid and successful conclusion and that there will be repeated scheduled meetings based upon the Belgrade conference that would be held in the future so that all nations who participated in the Helsinki agreement and all those who didn't become signatories would have a constant reminder before them of the importance of cooperation, mutual security, the sharing of information, the recombination of families, free emigration, and the preservation of basic human rights.

So, I hope that this will be a continuing process scheduled repeatedly and that this issue of human rights will never be forgotten.

Yes, Judy [Judy Woodruff, NBC News].


Q. Mr. President, then how satisfied are you that your concept of the preservation of human rights is currently being honored here in Poland?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that our concept of human rights is preserved in Poland, as I've said, much better than (some) 2 other European nations with which I'm familiar. There is a substantial degree of freedom of the press exhibited by this conference this afternoon; a substantial degree of freedom of religion, demonstrated by the fact that approximately 90 percent of the Polish people profess faith in Christ; and an open relationship between Poland and our country and Poland and Western European countries in trade, technology, cultural exchange, student exchange, tourism.

2 Printed in the White House Press Office transcript.

So, I don't think there's any doubt that the will of the Polish people for complete preservation and enhancement of human rights is the same as our own.

Q. What steps, then, do you believe should be taken here in Poland to come closer to reaching your concept?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think Poland shares with us a commitment, which is sometimes embarrassing for us and them, to have our own faults publicized evocatively at conferences like the one in Belgrade, where there's a free and open discussion and criticism and a singular pointing out of violations of high standards of human rights preservation. We have been criticized at Belgrade, sometimes legitimately; sometimes, I think, mistakenly. The same applies to nations in Eastern Europe and to the Soviet Union.

And I think this is the best thing that we can do at this point, is to continue to insist upon a rigid enforcement and interpretation of the human rights section of the Helsinki agreement.


Q [in Polish]. Mr. President, the Polish Radio.

The United States is facing an energy crisis which is also an international problem. How can you see the possibilities of solving that crisis, like a multilateral conference, a European conference or bilateral agreements, and are you of the opinion that the cooperation between the United States and Poland in this respect is possible?

THE PRESIDENT. One of the worst domestic problems that we have is the overconsumption and waste of energy. I have no doubt that every country I visit on this tour will be pressing us on the question of what will the United States do to save energy and not to import too much of very scarce oil, in particular, which is available on the world markets. We are addressing this as a top priority among domestic issues.

Poland is, as you know, self-sufficient in both hard coal and also brown coal, which is increasing in production in Poland itself. We call it lignite in our own country. One of the things that we can do is on a worldwide basis to try to hold down unnecessary demand for oil and natural gas, therefore providing stable prices.

Another is to consume those energy sources which we have most available in our country and in yours, coal; shift to permanent sources of energy, primarily those derived from solar power; and share research and development information and commitments, a subject which I was discussing early today with First Secretary Gierek.

How to burn lignite coal so that it will have minimum effect on the environment and also have maximum heat derivation is a question of importance to you and to us. We are now shifting to the production and consumption of lignite coal in our own country, for instance, and so are you.

So, I think sharing, on an international basis, of data and technological advantages and progress in the energy field and conservation of scarce energy sources for all nations would be the two basic things which we could do jointly.

Q. Mr. President?


Q [in Polish]. I have got one question.

THE PRESIDENT. Go right ahead.

Q. Can I?


Q. May I?



Q. What is involved in the entity of Polish-American cooperation, so far, and what is your opinion as far as this cooperation, between Poland and the United States is concerned, and how in the light of today's talks can you see the prospects for the development of such cooperation as well as what the United States wants to do to contribute to this development?

THE PRESIDENT. We already have a good relationship with Poland in cultural exchange, in technological and scientific cooperation, and in rapidly growing level of trade.

About 4 years ago we had a total trade with Poland of only about $500 million. In 1978, the level of trade will probably exceed $1 billion.

I have just informed First Secretary Gierek that in addition to the $300 million in commodity credit grain sales that has been authorized by our own country, that we will increase that by $200 million more worth of food and feed grains.

Poland has had a devastating and unprecedented 4 years of crop failure because of adverse weather conditions; 3 years of drought, the last year, of excessive floods. We, on the other hand, have had very good and bountiful harvests. And we want to share our grain with Poland on legal credit terms which have already been established by our government.

I think another thing that Poland can help with is to improve even further the better relationships that we are working out with the Soviet Union. Poland is a nation that has good communications and cooperation with the nations in Western Europe--with Germany, Belgium, Holland, France and others--and also are an integral part of the Warsaw Pact nations. And I think this ease of communication and this natural and historical friendship is a basis on which Poland can provide additional cooperation and communication between ourselves and the Soviet Union.

I don't say this to insinuate that we have a lack of communication now. But Poland's good offices can be of great benefit to us. Yes, sir.

Q. Mr. President, in your discussions earlier today with First Secretary Gierek and other Polish leaders, did they in your mind express any viewpoints on international questions that diverged in tone or substance from the viewpoints generally expressed by the Soviet Union?

THE PRESIDENT. We discussed a wide range of subjects. I didn't detect any significant differences of opinion between ourselves and the Polish leaders, and we did not go into detail on matters that now are not resolved between ourselves and the Soviets.

For instance, the details of the SALT negotiations and the comprehensive test ban were not discussed by me and Mr. Gierek. So, I would say that we found no disharmonies of any significance between ourselves and the Poles, or between the Poles and the Soviet Union.

Mr. Gierek did express a concern that there might be a bilateral agreement between Israel and Egypt in the Middle East, to the exclusion of the other Arab countries. This is an opinion also held by the Soviet Union. It's an opinion also held by us and by Israel and Egypt.

I pointed out to Mr. Gierek that had the Egyptians and Israelis wanted to seek a solution only for the Sinai region and the Egyptian-Israeli relationship, they could probably already have consummated such an agreement. But President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin do not want such an agreement. I pointed out this to Mr. Gierek and he was relieved to hear this.

He also was quite concerned about the lack of progress on the mutual and balanced force reductions, which have been stalemated in Vienna for years. He pointed out that the primary responsibility lay on the shoulders of the United States and the Soviet Union.

This is not exactly the case, because we consult very closely with our NATO allies before any common opinion or proposition is put forward. I hope to relieve this stalemate shortly. And we are consulting closely with the Germans and others in the Western European theater and also with the Soviets on this matter.

He was very pleased that we want to reduce international sales of conventional weapons. This is a subject on which we have just begun to talk with the Soviet Union, and perhaps Poland is ahead of the Soviet Union in this particular subject. But I hope that they will be amenable to that same suggestion.

So, the answer is, I don't know of any disagreements between the Poles and the Soviets that came out this morning, nor do I know any significant disagreements that came out between ourselves .and the Poles.

Yes, sir.


Q [in Polish]. Mr. President, the Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev, has put forward a suggestion recently that the Eastern and Western countries renounce the neutron bomb together. Would you be ready to accept such a proposal?

THE PRESIDENT. One of the disturbing failures up until this point in nuclear weaponry has been a complete absence of discussions concerning tactical or theater nuclear weapons. The only discussions that have ever been held between ourselves and the Soviets related only to strategic weapons, those that can be fired from one continent to another or from the sea into a continent.

I would hope that as a result of the SALT II talks we might agree with the Soviets to start addressing the question of the so-called tactical nuclear weapons, of which the enhanced radiation or neutron bomb would be one.

This weapon is much less destabilizing in its effect, if it should be deployed, than, for instance, some of the advanced new Soviet weapons like the SS-20 missile, which is much more destructive than any weapon held by the NATO allies and has a much greater range.

So, my hope is that in general we can reduce the threat of nuclear destruction in the European area. There are now several thousand tactical nuclear weapons already deployed on both sides in the European theater. And the whole matter must be addressed in its entirety, rather than one weapon at the time.

We would not deploy the neutron bomb or neutron shells unless it was an agreement by our NATO allies. That's where the decision will be made. But there are other new weapons, including the SS-20, much more threatening to the balance that presently exists.

Yes, sir.


Q. Mr. President, you said that you have ,agreed to expand the agricultural credits to Poland.


Q. In talking with us the other day, your advisers have linked that with a human rights concern, namely, that the reunification of families between the Eastern and Western blocs be improved in Poland. Have the Poles agreed to do that? Have they given you any satisfaction that this, too, would be done?

THE PRESIDENT. One of the first subjects which I discussed with First Secretary Gierek in our private talks today was the reunification of families between Poland and the United States. In the last 4 years there have been about 15,000 Poles who have been permitted to emigrate to our country. We still have about 250 families-we call them nuclear families, that is, a father, mother, and children--who desire to be unified, and permission has not yet been obtained.

First Secretary Gierek said that he would give his own personal attention to alleviating this problem. And he directed his Foreign Minister and I directed our Secretary of State to proceed with this discussion during this afternoon. Their assurance was that our concern would be alleviated.

MR. CORMIER. Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much.

Note: President Carter's twenty-second news conference began at 5:30 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom at the Victoria Hotel in Warsaw, Poland. It was broadcast live via satellite on radio and television in the United States and was taped for broadcast later that evening in Poland.

Several of the reporters spoke in Polish, and their questions were translated by an interpreter.

Earlier in the day, the President attended a working luncheon with First Secretary Gierek at the Parliament Building.

Jimmy Carter, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/242809

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