Written Responses to Questions Submitted by La Vanguardia of Spain
Strategic Defense Initiative
Q. What do you answer to those critics who say that the SDI, Strategic Defense Initiative, is dangerous and violates the spirit of the ARM treaty? What is the logic behind SDI?
The President. SDI is a research program. Its purpose is to investigate technologies that might lead to a more stable and reliable strategic balance.
What we are talking about is simply a research program to determine the feasibility of effective defenses against ballistic missiles. The object of the program is to provide a technical basis for a decision, sometime in the next decade, on whether to develop mainly nonnuclear systems to defend the United States and our allies against ballistic missile attack. We believe a deterrent balance incorporating greater reliance on defense would provide a sounder basis for a stable strategic relationship.
SDI has been structured so as to remain fully in compliance with all U.S. treaty commitments, including the ABM treaty. There is no question that the ARM treaty permits such research. Indeed, the Soviets are energetically pursuing a program of research into many of the same technologies being investigated in SDI.
As the communique of NATO's Nuclear Planning Group meeting in March shows, our allies support the SDI research program. The communique reflects our common belief that it is in our mutual interest as an alliance to examine technologies which have the potential to enhance deterrence and stability. The allies are well aware that the Soviets have for several years been pursuing a large-scale program of research into advanced defensive systems. It would be folly to allow Moscow to hold a monopoly on these technologies.
The security of the U.S. is inextricably linked to that of our allies. The SDI program is examining technologies with potential against not only ballistic missiles of intercontinental range but also those of shorter range. Because SDI seeks to strengthen allied security as well as our own, it is entirely appropriate that allied nations should be able to participate in SDI research. We welcome such participation.
Nuclear and Space Arms Negotiations
Q. What are your expectations for the Geneva talks? If the Russians have violated other agreements, what will prevent that from happening again? Are there any guarantees of verification?
The President. To take the last part of your question first: Effective verifiability is one of the most important factors by which we will judge any arms control agreement.
In Geneva we will work for a verifiable agreement on deep reductions in nuclear arms, both strategic and intermediate range, with the objective of strengthening strategic stability. We also seek to reverse the erosion of the ARM treaty, which has occurred as a result of Soviet activities inconsistent with its letter and spirit. Finally, we hope to engage the Soviets in a constructive dialog about the possibilities for a mutual transition to a world in which defensive systems, complemented by further reductions in offensive nuclear weapons, might lay the foundation for a safer and more stable deterrent balance.
Our negotiators have great flexibility in pursuing these goals, but we have no illusions; the talks may be long and complex. They will demand great patience and fortitude from us. However, we are well prepared, and I am optimistic that we are in a good position to negotiate an equitable agreement.
Q. What can be done, in your judgment, to combat international terrorism? Do you see a possibility of more coordination between NATO governments in this area?
The President. The upsurge in terrorist attacks has heightened awareness of the threat in Europe and elsewhere. The new phenomenon we have seen of the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy demands new approaches from us. It must be halted. The resources being given to terrorist groups and movements by certain nations is a serious threat to democracy.
NATO Foreign Ministers, in their December communique, expressed determination to prevent and suppress terrorism. Bilateral, technical cooperation among a number of NATO members has been intensified, such as that recently announced by France and the Federal Republic of Germany, and European governments have announced other initiatives in the European Community framework. The economic summit partners have also focused attention on the need to combat terrorism.
The U.S. is committed to consult and work closely with its European partners to combat terrorism on a bilateral or multilateral basis. In short, we are united in our commitment that international terrorism must be stopped.
Spanish Membership in NATO
Q. Would NATO be stronger if Spain becomes a full member of the alliance?
The President. Spain is a valued member of NATO, a fact which already strengthens the alliance and thus enhances the prospects of preserving the peace. The principal issue at the moment—and it is for Spain itself to decide—is whether it wishes to remain in the alliance.
We of course support continued Spanish membership, as do the other allies. NATO is a free alliance of free peoples; that is the real source of its strength. The choice is up to the people of Spain. We respect that.
Q. Do you see any possibility of U.S. intervention in Central America to protect Western interests?
The President. Well, if you mean military intervention, certainly not. But we will do all we can to support democracy in the region. For the United States, genuine democracy is the best defense the Western Hemisphere can have against the threat of Communist expansion, and we are committed to support our democratic friends. The establishment of a dictatorial pro-Soviet regime in Central America would constitute a serious threat to the freedom of the people of Central America and to the security of the United States.
The United States is pursuing a policy in Central America based on assisting the Central Americans in several areas. We will help the development of democratic societies and the consolidation of democratic institutions, the promotion of economic growth, and the pursuit of diplomatic discussions aimed at resolving differences among the countries of the region, particularly the Contadora process.
In addition, we will help our friends defend themselves against armed attack and subversion. Just as democracy cannot flourish in an atmosphere of chronic underdevelopment, neither can democratization, development, and diplomatic dialog be pursued in an atmosphere of military intimidation. And for these same reasons, I have supported the offer of the democratic resistance in Nicaragua for a cease-fire and for negotiations with the Sandinistas there. We want to see the original promises of that country's revolution against the Somoza dictatorship kept—promises of democracy, freedom for the church, a free press, and free elections. These are our goals everywhere in Central America.
Q. Do you perceive any possibility of success in the Contadora process?
The President. Most definitely. The Contadora countries—Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, and Panama—have narrowed the differences of the Central American countries considerably. For a long time the Government of Nicaragua did not deal seriously in Contadora, insisting that the problems of the region should be settled on a bilateral basis. The other countries persisted, however, and some progress has been made. The problems that exist in Central America have been a long time in the making, and they will not be resolved overnight. The Contadora process has been functioning for a little more than 2 years, which is not a long time for a complex international discussion. We should take heart in the progress that has been made and support the Contadora countries in their efforts to reach a comprehensive and fully verifiable agreement.
All nine Contadora participants have formally agreed that reconciliation within the countries experiencing internal conflict and the establishment of democratic governments are indispensable for any regional agreement. El Salvador under President Duarte is pursuing a policy of internal reconciliation which includes reforms, a general opening of the political system, and dialog with its armed opposition. The Sandinista regime in Nicaragua should follow his example and move to reconcile its differences with the armed and unarmed democratic opposition. This would be an extraordinarily positive development as far as the Contadora process is concerned.
Note: The questions and answers were released by the Office of the Press Secretary on April 27.
Ronald Reagan, Written Responses to Questions Submitted by La Vanguardia of Spain Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/260359