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Toasts at the State Dinner for President Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union

May 31, 1990

President Bush. Friends and distinguished guests, and especially President and Mrs. Gorbachev, Barbara and I are delighted to welcome you to the White House to share bread and salt with us on this special evening.

We're now nearing the end of a momentous day, the first of 4 in this Washington summit. And tomorrow, Mr. President, comes the moment that so many have been waiting for, a day when expectations will be at a fever pitch. That's right, tomorrow Barbara and Raisa go to Wellesley College. [Laughter]

And back here at the White House, sir, we will meet again, this time to sign our names to a series of agreements that signify the progress that our two nations have made in forging a new relationship, agreements on everything from nuclear testing and chemical weapons to expanded contacts between the people of America and the people of the Soviet Union. These agreements are a continuation of all that began in Malta just 6 months ago, a foundation we can build on, proof that differences can be resolved even while others remain. And let me assure President Gorbachev: Whatever deep differences divided us in the past, the United States and the American people approach every issue with a sincere belief that our two nations can find common ground. Indeed, because of our unique positions in the world, we must find common ground.

We meet at a time of great and historic change in the Soviet Union, in Europe, and around the world. Such profound change is unsettling, but also exhilarating. And we don't shrink from the challenges before us, but we welcome them, determined to build the foundations of enduring peace and security.

Mr. President, you deserve great credit for the course that you have chosen, for the political and economic reforms that you have introduced, and for creating within the Soviet Union this commitment to change. As I said this morning when I welcomed you to the White House, we want to see perestroika succeed. We want to see this transition now underway in the Soviet Union maintain its momentum.

Mr. President, it's said that your country is the land of possibilities. You have demonstrated the truth of that statement. And we've seen this past year that ours is a world of possibilities, that our time is a time of historic change, a time when men and nations can transform history, can turn possibility into progress, into peace. So, let us raise our glasses to our guests, President and Mrs. Gorbachev, to the growing friendship between American and Soviet people and to the possibilities now open to us, to the prospect of progress and lasting peace.

President Gorbachev. Mr. President, Mrs. Bush, ladies and gentlemen, allow me on behalf of Mrs. Gorbachev and myself and all the members of our delegation to thank you for your warmth and for the kind words of President Bush.

We share the assessment of President Bush that we have done fruitful work today, and I'm sure that as a result of this meeting our countries will go to a new level of cooperation. Even now our relations, to which history assigned such an important role in the events and lessons of the 20th century, differ dramatically from what they were before the 1985 Geneva summit. To achieve this, we have worked together.

The enemy image is becoming a thing of the past. Ideological stereotypes are fading away. We have begun to understand each other's motives. As we are changing and becoming closer to each other, we have not ceased to be different. But it turns out that that is not so bad. Quite the opposite: it is useful, for diversity is a vital force of development.

The world, too, has changed beyond recognition. It has made significant progress toward a new period of genuine peace in its long history. I think we can say with confidence that the most important and decisive step in this direction was made by our countries. Our two countries had the will, common sense, and understanding of the situation and of the imperatives of the future to embark on a long and difficult road which led from Geneva via Reykjavik, Washington, Moscow, and New York to Malta, and now once again to Washington.

Today I would like to repeat here what I said to the President 6 months ago at Malta. The Soviet Union does not regard the United States as its enemy. We have firmly adopted the policy of moving from mutual understanding through cooperation to joint action. Today, when I was meeting some American intellectuals at the Soviet Embassy, I said to them this: "Yes, indeed, we used to be enemies, or almost enemies. Now we are, maybe, rivals, at least to some extent. And we want to become partners. We want to go all the way to become friends."

Improved Soviet-American relations have reduced the threat of war. This is the main achievement of these years. We have concluded close to 20 bilateral agreements in various fields. There has been an unprecedented expansion of exchanges among our people -- and that is especially valuable -- from schoolchildren to prominent personalities in the fields of science and the economy. I think that the work we have been doing together with President Bush during these days can be considered as another step toward a more humane and just world.

I cannot say yet how we are going to conclude this meeting, what the results would be. That would be premature. But I think that my talk today with the President and also the meeting of the delegations makes it possible to expect major results from this meeting, and maybe even major results, the biggest results, compared to all the other meetings in previous Soviet-American summits. Maybe I'm too optimistic, but let's wait and see. We have 2 days. I believe that maybe we will have those major results.

I feel that we're now witnessing the emergence of a general idea which is conquering people's minds on the eve of the 21st century: it is the idea of unity. To make this idea a reality is a truly monumental challenge. The world's diversity and its complex problems are such that we can only do it by synthesizing, or at least interlinking, the aspirations, values, achievements, and hopes of different nations.

In the world confronted with the nuclear, environmental, and other threats, global unity means a chance for the survival of our civilization. But mankind cannot be merely a community of survival. It should be a community of progress, progress for all, the East, the West, the North, the South, the highly developed, and the less fortunate. But today we have to rethink the whole idea of progress. Mankind's ascent toward the realization of the idea of its history should not result in irreparable damage to the environment, in the exploitation of man or entire nations, or in irreversible moral and ethical losses.

It is a difficult and novel task to build a new civilization. Coming from a country in which more than 100 nationalities live together, we know that, perhaps better than anyone else, our own house is in need of an overhaul and a fundamental restructuring along the lines of reason and justice. We are aware of the magnitude of this undertaking, unprecedented in the history of mankind.

Judging by the response of the rest of the world to our perestroika, we can conclude that it is a necessary and desirable element of mankind's political and philosophical potential. That is why, while rethinking that potential and restructuring ourselves, we believe that we are making a contribution to the cause of universal development and universal unity.

We have not yet completed the task of creating a durable democratic system in our country, but I am convinced that the reserves of our society's energy already committed to this great undertaking are enough to bring it to its completion. I can say this firmly: We shall act on the basis of our values; we shall move resolutely but prudently.

The goal of our policy is to bring our society to a qualitatively new level. This will enable us to be predictable participants in the international process, partners to all who want a secure, just, and free world. In building this world, we count on long-term cooperation of the United States of America.

The most important developments in relations between our two countries and in world politics are probably yet to come. It is important not to lose sight of our goal, to resist the temptation of trying to secure unilateral advantages. Let us move ahead while overcoming both current and future problems and roadblocks. Let us cooperate and work together.

To the health of Mrs. Barbara Bush and to your health, Mr. President, to the success and well-being of all those present here, to a life worthy of today, and to our common and better future. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 8:20 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. President Gorbachev spoke in Russian, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

George Bush, Toasts at the State Dinner for President Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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