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Toasts of the President and King Baudouin of Belgium at a Luncheon in Brussels

June 26, 1974

Your Majesty, my colleagues from the Atlantic community, and distinguished guests:

Your Majesty, we are all most grateful for your eloquent remarks, and we can think of no more appropriate place or time in which to celebrate what in effect is an anniversary.

As I stand in this place, I think back 5 years when you so graciously hosted a luncheon on my first visit to NATO. I think back over what has happened over those 5 years. It is perhaps safe to say that more profound changes have occurred in the world in those 5 years than have occurred in any peacetime period in this century.

There has been the opening of a dialog between the United States, as well as other nations, but between the United States and the People's Republic of China, where one-fourth of all the world's people live. We have substituted for a period of confrontation with the Soviet Union a period of negotiation. And other nations as well in the European and Atlantic community have done so.

The very long and difficult war in Vietnam has ended, and most recently, developments have occurred in the Mideast which, while only a first step, are nevertheless a most hopeful step toward a goal that every nation around this table represented has an interest in--the goal of a permanent and just peace in that critically important part of the world.

And as we look over those 5 years of developments, we, of course, can see how much the world has changed. We also can see how much the world can change and be changed in the future, provided we continue the strength, the purpose of this great Alliance, without which most of these great initiatives could not have been undertaken and would not have succeeded.

Today in the brief talks I have had with some of my colleagues in the Atlantic community and also in the meeting this morning, the plenary session, I have heard raised, very justifiably, the issues that are on the minds of every leader in the industrial, more advanced nations of the world today--the problem of inflation, the problem of energy, the problem of international monetary matters, balance of payments--economic problems generally.

And of course, all of us are recognizing the fact that in various nations, in addition to economic problems, there are the continuing political problems which will always be present in free societies.

If we look at those problems that we presently confront, by themselves and at the moment, they seem overwhelming. But today, around this table, we can be thankful that the problems we face today, as distinguished from 5 years ago, are primarily the problems of peace rather than the problems of war. And this is progress.

It is progress, although it does not mean that the task we have as leaders is easier, because in fact, it is more difficult, more difficult because peace is not something that is achieved at a certain time and then signed and sealed by a treaty which brings it into being.

Peace is a process in which agreements and treaties and understandings must continually be made and continually be reaffirmed, whereas in the case of war, once it ends then peace in the sense of absence of war begins as the result of the signing of a document or some other kind of agreement.

And so, to those gathered here on this historic occasion, I recognize, as all of you recognize, that the challenges that we confront today in building a structure of peace are as great in their way, and in some ways more great because they are more complex than the challenges of leading nations in war.

This is an anniversary, a 25th anniversary, and usually we think of an anniversary as an end of an era; this, I think, we would all rather think of as the beginning of an era.

This great Alliance, in its first 25 years, came into being and was indispensable for the purpose of saving freedom and preserving the peace in Europe. This Alliance, for the next 25 years, will have a greater goal and a broader one of preserving freedom wherever it exists, but also of building a structure of peace, not only for Europe and the Atlantic community but for all the world. This is a great goal for an alliance and it is a great goal to which all of us as leaders can be proud that we are dedicated to it.

I think, for example, back 15 years when a very young, but very wise king addressed a joint session of the Congress of the United States, when I was then--I thought I was--a young Vice President presiding along with the Speaker over that session. And I remember well what he said. He said that it taken 20 years of peace or more to make a man It takes only 20 seconds of war to destroy him.

And so, when we think of peace, we are thinking not only of ourselves--looking back on the years we have been privileged to serve our nations--but we are thinking of generation upon generation of young people all over this world, young people who have not known a full generation of peace in this century, young people who live in nations who share totally different philosophies from ours, but young people with the idealism, with the hopes, with the drive that is so characteristic of youth wherever they are in whatever nation anyplace in the world.

And we, in this great community of ours, can be proud that for the past 25 years, we have served the cause of preserving peace. For the next 25 years, we can broaden that cause, as I have indicated, to serve the cause of peace not only for Europe and the Atlantic community but for all mankind.

When I spoke at the beginning, of the new relationships that have been developed between the People's Republic of China and, for example, the United States, between the Soviet Union--where I will be tomorrow and the United States, I did not intend to leave with this distinguished company or any others who may listen to these words, any illusions.

We live in a world where there are still deep and basic differences about philosophy. We live in a world, however, where whatever those differences are, statesmen must find ways to solve them without resorting to the use of force that could destroy civilization as we know it.

When we negotiate, for example, with the Soviet leaders, we can and will negotiate on such matters as arms control, on troops, on European security, on trade, on health, on the environment, on energy. But there is one thing that is not negotiable, and that is the great principles that are the foundation of the Atlantic community, principles of freedom, of justice, principles which we have inherited in many instances, and some have acquired, but principles which we deeply believe in, must be defended and, we trust, preserved for generations to come.

That does not mean to suggest that those we negotiate with will not have the same determination to stand by their philosophies and their principles as we will by ours.

What it simply does mean is this: that in the world in which we live with the nuclear power that overhangs it, there is no alternative to peace, there is no alternative to negotiation.

And you can be sure that as far as we are concerned, we not only will consult with our allies in this great Alliance before but also afterwards to make sure that our negotiations serve not only the cause of peace but also the cause of freedom and everything it means to those who are privileged to be members of this great Alliance.

Your Majesty, we are grateful for the hospitality that you have extended to all of us who are members of this community, and consequently, it is for me a very great honor on behalf of all of my colleagues in the Atlantic community to respond to your remarks and to propose a toast. But before doing so, I should like to add one word about the sometimes unsung heroes in this whole area of negotiations, Communiqués, declarations, and the rest.

When history is written many years from now, it may well be said--it probably will be said--that the leaders of nations were the architects of peace. That may be true; it may not be true. But of this I am sure, and every one of my colleagues in a position of head of a government, I am sure, will agree: While the leaders and the beads of government may be the architects of peace, the builders of peace are their ministers, the foreign ministers, and all of the others around this table who devote their lives to the art of diplomacy, to carrying out whatever programs or policies will contribute to a goal of peace for not only our time but for all times to come.

And so then, on behalf not only of my colleagues, the architects, but also on behalf of all those who are here, the builders of this new world which, we trust, will be a world of peace, I ask you to raise your glasses to our host, His Majesty, the King.

To the King.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 2:30 p.m. at the Royal Palace in response to a toast proposed by King Baudouin.

On the same day, the White House released the transcript of a news briefing by Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger on the President's impending trip to the Soviet Union.

King Baudouin began his remarks in French. They were translated by an interpreter as follows:

Mr. President, Your Excellencies the heads of governments, and gentlemen:

It is a great pleasure for me cordially to welcome you to Brussels, the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

You have, this morning, signed the important declaration,1 which the Atlantic Council approved a few days ago at Ottawa and have thus, on the occasion of its 25th anniversary, drawn attention to the youth and vigor and cohesion of the Alliance.

1On June 26, 1974, following a meeting of the North Atlantic Council, the President and leaders of other NATO countries signed the Declaration on Atlantic Relations. The text of the declaration is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 10, p. 729).

On April the 4th, 1949, President Truman declared, when the Washington treaty was signed, that "For us, war is not inevitable. We do not believe that there are blind tides of history which sweep men one way or another Men with courage and vision can still determine their own destiny."

We, today, who no longer feel afraid, can estimate how much the situation has changed. What was happening 25 years ago now appears to be as far behind us as would the events of a period we had not lived through.

The panic in which our defense was hastily set up so that we might survive has given way to a feeling of security which goes so far as to make us skeptical about the existence of any danger.

By their determination and by the choices they made, the men with vision, of whom Mr. Truman spoke, have allowed our younger people to have no experience of war. They have also rejected the old rules of political action under which fixed purpose often took the place of law and power that of ethics.

By entering into a system of collective defense, Belgium has made a fundamental option in order to avoid a recurrence of the wars which, twice within 35 years, had ravaged the country, to participate in the quest for a lasting peace and to foster the construction of a united Europe.

Owing to the safeguard provided by the solidarity and indivisibility of our defense, it is possible to conduct a policy whose primary objective is peace and, more particularly in Europe, the pursuit of understanding and cooperation with all the countries of the Continent.

To be sure, the Alliance is not altogether identical with defense. Since a few years ago, a correlation has been established between the notions of defense and detente. They had, until then, been separate.

Defense for its own sake seemed to exclude detente. The outcome of detente seemed to be to destroy defense. Since then, the delicate threads which bind them together and strengthen the significance of them both have been grasped.

Without defense, there can be no equilibrium of forces, and no coexistence is possible. Without detente, there can be no progress towards peaceful solutions. The Atlantic Treaty, which is an instrument of security, thus appears as a combination of forces tending to peace.

Belgium, moreover, has always hoped that, in the spirit of friendship and solidarity which ought to mark the relations between allies, the progress made as regards the political unification of Europe should favor the establishment of a transatlantic dialog between two equal partners.

[At this point, King Baudouin continued his remarks in English.]

The idea is, in any case, recognized by all, since, in the Ottawa Declaration, we welcomed the beneficial effect that the further stages toward unity, which the member states of the European Community are determined to pass through, will have for the Atlantic Alliance.

From Belgium's point of view, the two choices--European and Atlantic--are complementary. Without the achievement of a genuine European union on the political level, the European states and the European Community will be unable to assume the responsibility imposed on them by their economic Success.

Unless they speak with one voice, how can they play a part in diplomacy, make original contributions to more equitable relations between the industrialized states and those that are trying to develop and, finally, uphold the essential democratic values?

The assertion of that European identity will foster more thorough cooperation and will give the transatlantic dialog the nature of a conversation between equal partners who take care to show respect for each other and are united in a joint venture.

The Alliance is permanently confronted with the internal problems of states, the loosening of bonds, and the weariness of efforts. But due to Western solidarity and to the habit of living together, it may be stated--and seems rather paradoxical--that after adding up the problems before it, the Alliance has always been in better health than might have been feared.

Of course, the Alliance is challenged, and if it were not, anxiety would have to be felt about its vitality. No viable and active institution fails to make headway between the pressures of opposing forces.

Twenty-five years after its establishment, the governments have confirmed the commitments entered into and have placed them in the context of the new requirements. After having justified its existence in the past, the Alliance remains one of the guarantees of our future.

It is with a thought to that future that I request you to join me in raising your glasses to our continued cooperation.

Later the same day, the President held separate meetings with Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of the Federal Republic of Germany, Prime Minister Harold Wilson of Great Britain, and Prime Minister Mariano Rumor of Italy at the residence of the United States Ambassador to Belgium.

That evening, the President hosted a reception at the United States Ambassador's residence for delegates to the NATO meeting, senior NATO staff members, senior Belgian officials, and American officials in Brussels.

Richard Nixon, Toasts of the President and King Baudouin of Belgium at a Luncheon in Brussels Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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