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Toasts of the President and General Secretary Brezhnev of the U.S.S.R.

June 18, 1973

Mr. General Secretary, members of the Soviet delegation, and all of our distinguished guests and friends:

As all of these lights were turned on, the General Secretary, with his delightful sense of humor, said, "At the end of the dinner, Mr. President, you decided to fry our guests."

As all of you came through the receiving line tonight, the General Secretary noted that you came from all parts of the country, from both political parties, from business, from labor, from all segments of our society. And the question that he asked on several occasions was whether the individuals concerned supported the new initiatives with regard to Soviet-American friendship and cooperation which we have undertaken. And I would like to say to our very distinguished guest tonight that, not only in this room but across this country, regardless of political party, regardless of whatever the organization may be, the overwhelming number of Americans support the objective of Soviet-American friendship.

Now, I am told that in the Ukraine, where we were so very well received on our visit to Kiev last year, and where our guest of honor this evening lived as a young man, there is a proverb which says, "Praise the day in the evening."

I take this bit of advice as my text this evening for a few reflections on the first day of the very important week of meetings and also on the first year of a historic new departure in the relations between the United States and the Soviet Union.

The results of our discussions today allow us to praise, indeed, our day today. We have resumed the talks that ended just over a year ago. We have resumed those talks on a new foundation of significant accomplishments in reshaping relations between our two peoples and between our two countries. Our common starting point was the document that you, Mr. Brezhnev, and I signed on May 29, 1972, in which we agreed on basic principles of our relations and the agreements to limit strategic weapons. On this basis, a year ago, we set a course toward a more constructive and mutually beneficial relationship.

We have been able to embark on this course because we have recognized certain fundamental factors. We have recognized that despite the differences in our ideology and our social systems, we can develop normal relations. We have agreed that in the nuclear age, there is no alternative to a policy of peace for any nation. We have recognized that we have special responsibilities to work for the removal of the danger of war, and of nuclear war in particular. We have accepted the great task of limiting strategic arms. We have recognized that our responsibilities include the scrupulous respect for the rights of all countries, large or small.

Today, in the discussions we have had, we have reconfirmed these principles. We have laid the groundwork for a significant improvement in our relations that will result from the discussions and agreements undertaken this week.

We receive you and your colleagues tonight and for this week with the firm intention of building on our past successes. A year ago, when I reported to the Congress upon my return from the Soviet Union, I described the principles we had agreed to as a road map--a map which would be useful only if both our two countries followed it faithfully. Tonight, looking back over the first 12 months of our journey along the route which that map marks out, I believe there is good reason to be encouraged. Now we have another profound opportunity to advance along this course that we set for ourselves in Moscow a year ago.

It is America's hope that the coming days of our meetings will carry forward the promising start that we have made on this first day.

Our two peoples want peace. We have a special responsibility to insure that our relations--relations between the two strongest countries in the world--are directed firmly toward world peace.

Our success will come to be measured not only in years but in decades and in generations and probably centuries.

Mr. General Secretary, many American Presidents and many very distinguished foreign leaders over a period of 180 years have dined together in this room, and they have worked together for peace within these walls. But none of them, I believe, have borne a heavier responsibility or faced a more magnificent opportunity than we do today and this week.

The question is: Shall the world's two strongest nations constantly confront one another in areas which might lead to war, or shall we work together for peace? The world watches and listens this week to see what our answer is to that question. Mr. General Secretary, I know that your answer, based on our acquaintanceship and our discussions today and a year ago, is the same as mine to that question. We shall be worthy of the hopes of people everywhere that the world's two strongest nations will work together for the cause of peace and friendship among all peoples, regardless of differences in political philosophy.

So to all of our distinguished guests, will you join me in a toast to the General Secretary, his colleagues, to the friendship of the Soviet and American peoples, and peace between our countries and among all nations.

Note: The President spoke at 10:30 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. General Secretary Brezhnev responded in Russian, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

An advance text of the exchange of toasts was released on the same day.

The General Secretary's translated remarks follow:

Esteemed Mr. President, esteemed Mrs. Nixon, ladies and gentlemen:

Permit me, first of all, to thank you, Mr. President, for the invitation to visit your country, for the kind words you have just said here, and for the hospitality you are according us on the soil of the United States.

Taking this opportunity, I should like to say that it gives me great satisfaction to be able to continue my talks with you, aimed at the further improvement of Soviet-American relations initiated in Moscow in May of last year.

The time that has elapsed since our Moscow meeting has, I feel, convincingly confirmed the correctness of the jointly taken line of invigorating the relations between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A., and of reshaping them in accordance with the principles of peaceful coexistence which were set out in the document you and I signed a year ago. I trust you will agree, Mr. President, that we are on the right track, as it is one that meets the fundamental interests of the peoples of our countries and of all mankind.

And what has already been done and is being done to give effect to the basic principles of mutual relations between our countries laid down in Moscow is of no small significance. Life is the best counsellor. The results of the past year suggest the direction for further advance. They inspire us to take, in the course of this meeting, new major steps and give Soviet-American relations greater stability and, thereby, increase the contribution of our countries to the cause of peace and international detente.

Of course, the reshaping of Soviet-American relations is not an easy task. And the crux of the matter lies not only in the fact that the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. have different social systems. What is also required is to overcome the inertia of the "cold war" and its aftereffects in international affairs, and in the minds Of men.

However, mankind's development requires positive and constructive ideas. I am convinced, therefore, that the more persistently and speedily we move towards the mutually advantageous development of Soviet-American relations, the more tangible will be the great benefits of this for the peoples of our countries, and the greater will be the number of those in favor of such a development, and they are known to be in the majority even today. That is why we are in favor of building relations between the Soviet Union and the United States on a properly large scale and a long-term basis.

We have come here to Washington with a firm desire to give, together with the leaders of the United States, a new and powerful impetus to the development of Soviet-American relations along precisely those lines, and this fully accords with the Peace Program adopted by the 25th Congress of our Party. In its Resolution, the Congress stressed in the most definite terms the Soviet Union's readiness to develop relations with the United States of America, proceeding from the assumption that this meets both the interests of the Soviet and American peoples and the interests of universal peace.

I would like our American partners and all Americans to be fully aware that this decision by the supreme forum of our Party, the ruling party of the Soviet Union, reflects the fundamental position of principle of the Soviet Government and of our entire people in matters bearing on relations with the United States of America. And that determines the policy we are pursuing.

In today's discussion with the President, I spoke of the favorable feelings of our people in all parts of the country as regards the decisions taken last year during our summit meeting in Moscow, and I spoke of the friendly feelings, the desire of the Soviet people, for friendship with the United States.

Now, Mr. President, the peoples are indeed expecting a great deal from our new meeting. And I believe ]t is our duty to live up to these expectations. The first discussions we have had with you here at the White House do, I feel, confirm that this is the mutual desire of both sides.

And I would venture in this connection to express the hope, and even the confidence, that our present meeting will play an important role in further strengthening mutually advantageous cooperation between our countries and in improving the international climate as a whole.

And let me make one more point. It is well known that the initiated process of bettering Soviet-American relations is evoking a broad response throughout the world. Most comments indicate that the peoples and the governments of other countries are welcoming this improvement. And this is quite natural. They see in it an encouraging factor for the invigoration of the international situation as a whole, and a major contribution by the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. to a stronger universal peace.

It is absolutely clear to anyone who is at least slightly familiar with the real course of events, and with the real nature of the development of Soviet-American relations, that their improvement in no way prejudices the interests of any third country.

Naturally, the development of good relations between the Soviet Union and the United States will have, and already has, no small a bearing on world affairs. But this influence is one that promotes the strengthening of peace, security, and international cooperation. In building through joint effort a new structure of peaceful relations, we have no intention of turning it into a secluded mansion completely fenced off from the outside world. We want to keep this spacious edifice open to all those who cherish the peace and well-being of mankind.

Mr. President, present-day political realities show in practice how arduous and toilful can at times be the tasks involved in carrying out the foreign policy of nations. But when our thoughts and practical deeds are directed towards achieving the noble goals of peace, the burden is not oppressive, but rather gives strength and confidence.

The start of our negotiations---and I have in mind both their content and the atmosphere in which they are proceeding--gives reason to hope that their results will be fruitful and will become a new landmark in Soviet-American relations.

Ladies and gentlemen, permit me to offer a toast to the health of the President of the United States of America and Mrs. Nixon, to the health of all the members of the American Government present here, to all Americans who support the great and noble cause of peace among nations.

Richard Nixon, Toasts of the President and General Secretary Brezhnev of the U.S.S.R. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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