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Vienna Summit Meeting Remarks of President Brezhnev and President Carter on Signing the Treaty on the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms.

June 18, 1979

PRESIDENT BREZHNEV. President Carter and I have just affixed our signatures to the Treaty on the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms and related documents. This has been an event long awaited by the Soviet and American peoples, by the peoples of other countries, by all those who desire a durable peace and realize the danger of a further buildup of nuclear arsenals.

In signing this treaty, we are helping to defend the most sacred right of every individual-the right to live. Many representatives of our two countries have worked long and hard to draft the treaty. I think it will be fair to specially mention the contributions made by Secretary Vance and Minister Gromyko, Secretary Brown and Minister Ustinov. President Carter and I have also had to do a good deal of work.

To act in such a way as to prevent an outbreak of nuclear war is an obligation that the Soviet Union and the United States have jointly assumed. The treaty that has been signed today reaffirms our desire to fulfill that obligation. In terms of both quantitative and qualitative limitations of strategic arms, it goes far beyond the SALT I agreement.

The entry into force of this treaty opens up the possibility to begin elaborating subsequent measures to not only limit but also reduce strategic arms. By concluding the SALT II treaty, we are making a major step forward along the road of an overall improvement of Soviet-American relations and, consequently, of the entire international climate.

For the Soviet Union, this is a logical continuation of the peaceful foreign policy line defined by our Party Congresses, a line that we intend to go on following.

The signing of the treaty has appropriately crowned the Soviet-American summit meeting here in Vienna. On this auspicious occasion, we express our sincere gratitude to the President, the Chancellor and the Government of the Austrian Republic, and to the people of Austria for the warm hospitality and cordiality extended to us.

PRESIDENT CARTER. Mr. President, fellow citizens of the world:

Unfortunately, in the past the most powerful currents of history have often been the ones which swept nations to war. Yet as we look back on the causes of so many wars, we can see times when a more watchful course, even a small careful shift, might have guided nations that much better, that much further in the ways of peace. That is the purpose of what we have done here today in Vienna in signing this treaty.

Today, the threat of nuclear holocaust still hangs over us, as it has for more than 30 years. Our two nations are now armed with thousands of nuclear weapons, each capable of causing devastation beyond measure and beyond imagination. Several other nations now have nuclear arms, and even more have the ability to develop the same destructive weapons. Weapons technology has continued to advance and so have the dangers and the obvious need to control and to regulate this arms competition.

The strategic arms limitation talks, which have gone on for nearly 10 years without interruption, represent the realization that a nuclear arms competition without shared rules and without verifiable limits and without a continuing dialog would be an invitation to disaster. Such an unrestrained competition would tempt fate in the future and would insult our intelligence and threaten the very existence of humanity.

This prospect is a challenge to our courage and to our creativity. If we cannot control the power to destroy, we can neither guide our own fate nor preserve our own future.

Like SALT I, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and the Limited Test Ban before it, this SALT II treaty is based on the real security needs of our two nations. It will not end the continuing need for military strength and for readiness on both sides. But SALT II does place important, new limits on both the number and the quality of nuclear arms. And it has allowed us to continue on course toward a safer world with even more substantial limitations and reductions in SALT III. We cannot interrupt nor endanger this process.

I, as President, am entrusted with the security of the United States of America. I would never take any action that would jeopardize that sacred trust. President Brezhnev, you and I both have children and grandchildren, and we want them to live and to live in peace. We have both worked hard to give our own and our own nations' children that security.

We realize that no one treaty, no one meeting can guarantee the future safety of our nations. In the end, peace can be won only if we have pursued it and struggled tenaciously to keep the peace all along. Yet, this fight for peace has often seemed the most difficult victory to win.

Here today, as we set very careful limits on our power, we draw boundaries around our fears of one another. As we begin to control our fears, we can better ensure our future.

We can now continue to explore the planets. We can discover the essence of matter. We can find the power to preserve ourselves and to preserve our Earth.

Each of us has only one nation. We both share the same world. Not one nation on this Earth, not one people, not one single human being is harmed or threatened or deprived by this victory in the battle for peace. Indeed, a victory is here today for all.

In our lifetime, we have learned to make war by unlocking the atom—the power of creation itself. To make peace, we must limit our use of that power by sharing our courage, our wisdom, and our faith. These fundamental strengths of humankind have brought us to this very table today.

In setting our hands to this treaty, we set our nations on a safer course. We've labored long to make SALT II a safe and useful chart toward the future. Let us pledge now, all together, to use this treaty as we continue our passage to peace.

Note: The exchange began at 1:02 p.m. in the Redoutensale at the Hofburg, the imperial palace. President Brezhnev spoke in Russian, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

Earlier in the day, President Carter and President Brezhnev met privately at the U.S. Embassy. They then went to the Soviet Embassy for a meeting with their delegations.

Following the signing ceremony, President Carter went to the Vienna Airport for departure ceremonies.

Jimmy Carter, Vienna Summit Meeting Remarks of President Brezhnev and President Carter on Signing the Treaty on the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/250273

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