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Toasts at a State Dinner During the Visit of Chancellor Schmidt of the Federal Republic of Germany

March 05, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. When I tapped on my glass, nobody got quiet, but when- [laughter] —when Chancellor Schmidt tapped on his glass, instantly—absolute silence.

It's a distinct honor and a pleasure for us to have all of you here in the White House and particularly to have our guests from Germany here from the Federal Republic, both Chancellor Schmidt and his wife, his distinguished associates in the (government, and a group of both business and labor leaders from the Federal Republic, who have honored us with their presence.

I think, as all of you know, we in the Western World, perhaps in the entire world, face very difficult challenges—financial, economic, social, military, political challenges. And it's a great assurance, and a feeling of stability and thanksgiving comes over a President when he has a guest and a friend like Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.

This is a time of difficulty for us all. It's a time of potential crisis. It's a time when we need the closest possible allies and friends. It's a time when it's both reassuring and helpful to have someone on whom we can depend who is experienced and enlightened and strong and courageous, and I think this litany of descriptive words accurately fits our guest tonight, Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.

I have not known him except for the last 5 or 6 years. I met him first when I was a Governor, in a brief trade visit to the Federal Republic. He was the Finance Minister of his country at that time. Since then, we've both been promoted to some degree. [Laughter] But I came there at a time when we were searching for additional investments in our own State. It was the time of Watergate. And when I went into Helmut's office, he said, "If you'll spend 30 minutes explaining Watergate to me, I'll spend 30 minutes helping you with your economic mission." [Laughter] So, we became early friends then. He was a very good host for me. And since then, we've learned to respect him and to know him as a great world leader.

In the early seventies or even before, I think Chancellor Schmidt was one of the first men in a position of top leadership to recognize the crucial need for a correlation between economic strength and analysis on the one hand and military strength and commitment on the other, and how those two might be welded for the Atlantic Alliance.

When I first began to meet with him after I became President, we were in London, the first year of my own term in office. And Helmut Schmidt was the one that put forward, in the most clear and concise and understandable terms, the need for all of us leaders of the Western democracies to address the very complicated issue of energy and how the future portended, for us all, a time of challenge and a time of difficulty, but a time when our enlightened communication with one another might help to alleviate the concerns that we all felt so deeply. His economic analysis of it, his knowledge of the background of the energy shortage development, his relationship with the OPEC countries was of great benefit to us then.

Later, of course, I think Helmut was the first one to recognize the growing threat to Western Europe and to the NATO alliance of the unpublicized buildup of Soviet theater nuclear weapons. And he presented the case very clearly to the rest of us, and we began to study this issue more thoroughly. And eventually he exerted again his strong leadership in Western Europe to encourage our allies to work with us in committing ourselves jointly to meet this threat in a carefully planned, moderate, but effective way, not to cause an escalation in tension or an escalation in division among us, but to cause us to address the question in the most effective possible fashion.

We recognize that there are serious threats to stability and that we have come, in this last few years, to value highly the benefits of detente and to recognize clearly that in spite of all of our other possible diversion of issues that are important, the control of weaponry and the control of nuclear weaponry must be at the top of our agenda. These commitments have been shaken, but not changed, by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

We are still committed to detente. We are still committed to avoid a resumption of the cold war. We are still committed to the control of nuclear and conventional weapons: We are still committed to cooperation among nations on Earth. We are still committed to stability and to peace. And we are still committed to making sure that every action we take to alleviate crises is a peaceful action and is a constructive action that will help to achieve our goals without violating these deep commitments and principles on which our Nation's policies have been founded.

I might say that our country has been both deeply concerned and aroused by the capture of the American hostages and the holding of them as prisoners. At this very moment, this gross illegality is being perpetrated against innocent Americans. I never forget them for one instant of my waking moments. And I know American people have appreciated deeply the strong and consistent support and the beneficial influence that has been exerted by the Federal Republic of Germany under the leadership of Helmut Schmidt.

Our alliance is firm, and the solidarity of it is vital. And it's also extremely important to let the public know that there is no division among us, that we do stand together to face challenges, crises, and opportunities for the future.

We had a long discussion this afternoon about these matters and many others. We took a long time to discuss them; we were not in a hurry. Both of us set aside the afternoon for this purpose. And it was extremely helpful to me, as President of our country, to have the advice and the counsel of our visitor, Helmut Schmidt.

We have to recognize that our policy toward those who might threaten peace must be clear, it must be consistent, it must be comprehensible; there must not be any room for miscalculation. And that's the effort that we have mounted. We also recognize that alliances, to be strong, must be voluntary. They cannot be formed through coercion. They must be based on mutual ideals, mutual concepts, and mutual goals. They must be mutually beneficial on a continuing basis. And we also recognize that strong societies have to be dependent upon the freedom of those who comprise them.

This evening I'm very grateful that Helmut Schmidt and I lead two great nations who comprise alliances of many kinds, based on voluntary association, based upon shared ideals, shared concepts, shared goals, and shared commitments. And I would like to ask you to join me in a toast to Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and his lovely wife, to the people whom they represent in the Federal Republic of Germany, bound to us through alliances, through friendship, and through a common dedication to peace and to freedom.

THE CHANCELLOR. Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen:

I would like to, in the first instance, thank you, Mr. President, for your kind and friendly and even flattering words in the beginning. I would also like to thank you, on behalf of my wife and members of my delegation, for having invited us.

I would like to thank you and your Cabinet officers and others whose advice we had, starting yesterday night and all over today, and will have tomorrow on several issues, in several fields—the economy, financial problems, monetary problems, energy problems, foreign policy and international affairs, our common defenses. And, which matters most, I would like to thank you personally for the continuation of the very frank and open way in which we have come to talk and listen to each other over the couple of years you have been mentioning a minute ago.

I'm not so sure how often I have been visiting the United States in the last 30 years, but it might be the 40th or the 45th visit now, which puts the American President at the advantage to ask for me to talk in your own language. But I still have a little difficulty as you've just noticed.

President Jimmy Carter has not said one single word or not said one single sentence to which I could not subscribe a hundred percent. And so, it would be easy for me just to state this truth that I can subscribe, not only as an individual but speaking for my government, speaking for my nation, that I am in a position to subscribe to it a hundred percent and then sit down again. But I guess that some of you would like to hear me express a few of the thoughts which come to my mind in listening to your President. [Applause]

Jimmy, let me say this: I regard this clapping your hands as an unfriendly provocation. [Laughter] I will try to respond to that kind of provocation.

I think the President is right in stating that we are living in an uneasy period of the development of this world. At least we feel it to be the same situation as you expressed it 5 minutes ago. We feel especially irritated, frustrated, we share your bitter feelings as regards the capturing of your hostages in Tehran. And we know very well what you are talking of, what we are talking of, in expressing our solidarity, because we have had some experiences of the same kind, not lasting 120 days, lasting a little shorter in our case, or cases—we had several such cases. But we very well understand, and we are feeling as you do.

And I have told my public and my Parliament: "Imagine," I said to our countrymen, "Imagine what feelings would be our feelings now if these were Germans and not Americans. And try to imagine how impatient we would be in the meantime and how many temptations would have occurred in the meantime for us to act harshly, intervene by means that one could think of." And I always have, after having expressed this many, many times over the last 3 months, since the 4th of November—I always have added my great admiration for the statesmanship, for the prudence, admiration for the patience which you showed in dealing with that situation.

We deeply share your hope that you will be able to liberate these people, uninjured, and give them back to their families, to their wives. But it's not the only danger we are experiencing right now. There are other dangers as well.

The President and I have been talking quite a bit, and also the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense and also the Security Adviser to the President. And we have been talking about the problems of how—we in the West—do we shield ourselves against the dangers which are clear and present in the case of Afghanistan, in the case of theoretically thinkable repetitions of what has happened there, and what are the goals which we have to strive for in such a situation, what are the means that are in our hands, that are at our disposition, what are the ways by which we could effectively apply those means.

To speak frankly, if I read the European press or if I read the American press, one gets the impression of a great amount of irritation between Europe and the United States or between the United States and Europe regarding these subjects of our consultations. But to tell you the truth, ladies and gentlemen, I don't have, as a person, I don't feel these irritations. There are some false stories in the world.

And I take this opportunity to have a chance to talk to American citizens in order to ask a favor of you: namely, to tell your countrymen that not only my nation, the Germans for whom I am legitimated to speak, but also other European nations, other Europeans, know very well where they stand—namely, side to side with the American Nation—know very well that they cannot preserve their peace and their liberty without the Americans, that we are dependent on each other. And to quote a phrase from a very close friend of mine—not a German, but a Frenchman—"When all the chips are down, there's no doubt about our depending on you." And to some degree we feel certain that, also, in such a situation you will need us Europeans.

We have been preparing for helping each other to preserve our freedom, to preserve our peace, for more than a quarter of a century now. And our longstanding alliance so far has been very, very effective, which has been overshadowed from time to time by the stories which are being printed in newspapers or by the stories which are being broadcasted by other media. We've been very, very effective.

There have been two World Wars in this century. Both of them were generated in central Europe, I hate to admit, both of them—the first one to quite a considerable degree, the second one totally generated in Germany. And we feel sure that there must not and that there will not be a third catastrophe in our lifetime, the span of our lifetime.

But having mentioned the two great wars, it comes to my mind that I had the intention, after having talked about the solidarity between us Europeans and you Americans, between us Germans and you Americans—that I had the intention after that to also mention the specific situation in which my nation finds itself.

It's sometimes been overlooked that the Federal Republic of Germany, which is a sovereign state, a state with a solid democracy, a solid economy, a solid political setup, a solid relationship between labor and entrepreneurs, rather agreeable economic performance—it sometimes has been overlooked that this is only a part of a nation and that there are 16 million Germans living outside our borders, living in a Communist state, a puppet state, under the immediate presence of I don't know how many hundreds of thousands of Soviet soldiers, ground forces as well as air force, and that it has taken us an enormous diplomatic, psychological effort to establish at least some ways and means and channels of communication with our countrymen, with our 16 million countrymen in the Communist orbit.

And they are the ones who would suffer in the first instance if we get back to the cold war. As the President said, this must be avoided. I fully share his view. These Germans would be the first ones, and the Berliners may be the second ones. And the Germans who still live in the Soviet Union proper would suffer as much as the Jews who are living in the Soviet Union and want to get permission to leave the Soviet Union—to get to Israel, for instance. They will be the ones who will suffer in a case of a cold war type confrontation.

Now, it is not only our choice to avoid that. The West is not the only partner in the global game. You have the Russians; you have a superpower there which is behaving in a way that implies threats to all our liberties, to all our freedom. We have to respond to that. Now we have the will to respond to it.

I would underline anything the President has said about our will to avoid falling back into a cold war, about our will to control armaments in a war, to hold them under control, to limit it mutually. And I would like to add, just as a footnote, one could also transcribe our joint will as a will to maintain an equilibrium of power vis-a-vis the Soviet Union. And we will not—neither will you nor will we nor will your other European allies-allow a situation in which, in the end, the Soviet Union could overwhelm their European neighbors or other nations in the world.

I would, just as a footnote, stress this necessity of a balance of military power in Europe and in the world as a prerequisite for detente. I am fully aware that the President and I share this view, but sometimes I have the impression that some American people, some writers or speakers in this country, seem to believe that we are only pursuing detente without seeing to the maintenance of the balance of power. This would be a false interpretation.

We are contributing quite a bit—we Germans are contributing quite a bit to this balance of military power in Europe. I'm rather proud of our contribution. And you can rest assured that we are going not only to maintain that but to modernize it and to add to it if necessary, as equilibrium or balance of power is nothing which you can create on Monday and rest assured for the rest of the week; you have to evaluate the situation again on Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday, Friday and Saturday and even on Sunday and have to reanalyze it next week and the week after next. And sometimes you will see that you have to mend your fences here or there. And all the time, you have to try to bring about equilibrium by mutual limitation of military force, mutual limitation on the control of the arms race, applied to the East as well as to the West.

I beg your pardon for having been a little bit too long in dwelling on this point. I have also another point in mind which I would like to present to you or share my thoughts with you. That is, after having talked about the basic attitude in which my people look upon their great ally and friend, the American Nation, I would like you to know that this has had already, so far, much greater an impact on our society, on the spirit in our society, even on our constitution than quite a few Americans understand and than quite a few Germans do understand.

For instance, we take pride in the fact that the Federal Republic of Germany, by any historic yardstick, now is the most stable democracy Germany ever has produced. They haven't produced so many democracies so far—only two of them. The first one failed after 12 or 13 years. And there were quite a few people in the world, including quite a few Germans, that did not believe that our people would be able, after the devastation of the Second World War—not only devastation in the physical sense of the word but even more so in the moral sense of the word—that we should have been able to bring about such political stability. But we did so with the help of our friends abroad, with the help of the French, the British, especially with the help of the Americans.

I would like to bring to your awareness, for instance, the constitution which we adopted 31 years ago. To a considerable part, especially as regards that part which is totally new to the history of constitutions in my country, namely, the basic rights for the individual, this stems—if you tried to trace the historical origins, this goes back to the American Revolution, it goes back to Philadelphia, it goes back to the spiritual development in this country more than 200 years ago. And it has produced a basic change of thinking about the role of the state versus the individual in my nation—a very sound and healthy change of thinking about the role of state or society, about the role of the individual.

I guess that historians, sometime to come in the future, will explore this or might detect for the first time what I'm trying to explain to you. There is a much greater heritage in Germany—we inherited much more from the United States, from the American people, than we are aware of and possibly than you are aware of. I'm not talking, which I also could, about all the amount of help we have been given by your Nation in the last 35 years.

Let me talk a little bit about the future, in making a third point in a little predinner speech. I think, by the way, it's a good habit to have the speeches before the dinner, because those who have to speak always sit here, eat their meat, in anxiety about the fact that they have to pay for it afterwards. Now you make us pay before the dinner, and that's a better method. But you still have to listen to a third point which I would like to make, a point about the future.

Please be assured that I cannot foresee, that my people, my nation cannot foresee a future for the democratic liberal type of society which you represent, which we represent, which others in Europe represent, which others in North America and other parts of the world do represent—I cannot foresee a future for that if not in a rather great amount of cooperation between those liberal democracies which we do represent. There ought to be a great amount of cooperation.

On the other hand, I do foresee a peaceful and successful future for the democracies in the world, because I'm quite sure that we'll be able to cooperate, that we don't only have the will but we do also have the capacity to cooperate. In so doing, we'll not always be in the position to do the same thing at the same time and to use the same language at the same time. You will use English, for instance; I will use German. And already this makes a difference, I can tell you, if I ask the people who had to write down the press release today, after noon. Some words sound different in English than they do sound in German, for instance.

We will not only use different languages, we will have, also, to fulfill different roles from time to time. That's even true of today. We fulfill some roles which are difficult for you, for instance. We did so over the last couple of years as regards aid and military aid included for Turkey. There are other examples in which you have to fulfill roles which we cannot dream of fulfilling by ourselves. It's natural that there is a certain amount of division of labor between people who cooperate. The same is true in a firm. The same is true in a lawyers firm. The same is true on the board of directors of an automobile firm. The same is true in the firm of the North Atlantic Alliance and in its cooperative group of Western nations.

The division of labor is not an invention of our day. If my memory is correct, it was at least invented earlier on by Adam Smith and David Ricardo, and they had their theories on it. And these theories do not only apply to economics, they also apply to politics. One must not misinterpret a division of labor as being a division of mind or a division of purpose. Several people working on the board of directors of one firm have a division of labor, but they have a common sense of purpose.

I am deeply convinced that we'll be successful, that the Western liberal democracies will be successful, because they do have a common sense of purpose, and they will always be able to, in common, define their goals for the foreseeable future.

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, that you have listened so long. I would like to propose a toast to the President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, to his charming wife. I would also like to propose a toast to the wellbeing of the American nation. Especially I would like to include the 50 hostages in Tehran. I would also like to drink to the lasting cooperation and friendship between our two nations.

Note: The President spoke at 8:15 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.

Jimmy Carter, Toasts at a State Dinner During the Visit of Chancellor Schmidt of the Federal Republic of Germany Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/249895

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