Jimmy Carter photo

The President's Trip to Vienna, Austria Remarks on Departure From the White House.

June 14, 1979

Mr. Vice President and citizens of our great country:

Thirty-five years ago during another summit meeting in Potsdam, a brief message was brought to President Truman. Just before dawn on the desert of Alamogordo the first atomic bomb had been exploded-man had unleased the power of matter itself, and world events have never been the same.

Since then, the unchanging duty of of every American President has been to avoid nuclear war while maintaining and even enhancing the security of the United States of America. That is exactly the purpose of my mission to Vienna. We know that progress in this search is most often measured in inches and not in miles. And we know that the only way to have peace in the end is to wage peace constantly from a position of constant and sustained national strength.

The summit in Vienna will be the 10th such summit between American Presidents and the leaders of the Soviet Union since World War II. We do have significant differences between the Soviet Union. They are important, and they require the most careful discussion.

We will make clear to the Soviet Union our views and our purposes throughout the world, so that no misunderstanding on their part might provide a dangerous prospect for the people of our two nations and the rest of the world.

We will try to broaden our communications with the Soviets and to create new channels of understanding between our two countries for these purposes.

We will seek new areas where more cooperation might be forthcoming and also less competition. The arms limitation treaty which President Brezhnev and I will sign next Monday embodies that spirit, and it gives us enhanced national security and an increased hope for a peaceful future.

And with SALT II, we continue the 30-year search for ways to avoid nuclear war. That was the goal of the Limited Test Ban Treaty; that was the goal of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; that was the goal of SALT I. It has been the goal with SALT II of three Presidents negotiating over the last 7 years on behalf of the American people to make this agreement which we will sign next week fair, equitable, a stabilizing force, and verifiable. That will be our goal as we begin to discuss further limitations on SALT III.

No one treaty can take us back to the time that we enjoyed before nuclear weapons became a potential destructive force, just as no one summit conference can end the sharp competition between ourselves and the Soviet Union. But we and the Soviet Union can agree that the security of both nations and the stability of the world depends upon the avoiding of a nuclear conflict which some few may survive, but which certainly no one could win.

I approach this summit in Vienna with hope, but without any false expectations. The goals which lie at the heart of my mission today—improving our own Nation's security and enhancing the prospects for world peace and the avoidance of nuclear war—transcend all other issues that I will ever face in my own life in public service.

I'm grateful for the guidance of members of my Cabinet, my administration, the Congress, and the American people, and for the good wishes of our Nation as I go on this mission.

I go to Vienna with a confidence which can only come from representing the greatest, the most powerful, and the most free society on Earth.

Thank you all very much. I'll certainly do the best I can.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 8 a.m. on the South Lawn of the White House.

Jimmy Carter, The President's Trip to Vienna, Austria Remarks on Departure From the White House. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/250154

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