Written Responses to Questions Submitted by Maclean's Magazine of Canada
Q. Canadians long have suffered from a national inferiority complex in regard to our great neighbor to the south. How do you think of Canada, and what do you see as Canada's importance to the United States?
The President. No other country in the world is more important to the United States than Canada, and we are blessed to have such a nation on our northern border. Canada is a friend, a neighbor, and a trusted ally. We may have a larger population and a larger GNP, but we're also dependent on you. Canada consumes a fifth of our exports, and that's more than any other nation. You use more of our capital than other nations, and, of course, our mutual security interests are closely intertwined. It's up to both of us to make this partnership continue to work in both our interests.
Canada's Role in International Affairs
Q. How do you see Canada's role—as a smaller power—in international affairs? For instance, External Affairs Minister Joe Clark will be in Moscow next month as arms control negotiations resume in Geneva. Is there a part we can play in conjunction with that or with the Contadora process in Central America?
The President. Canada has played a significant role in international affairs ever since World War II, a role which has reflected the talents of Canadian statesmen and the democratic values of its peoples. It has been an activist in the United Nations—indeed, Canadians were amongst the founders in San Francisco 40 years ago—and has shown time and time again that it is prepared to back up its convictions on peaceful settlement of disputes with courageous participation in peacekeeping operations in such hotspots as Cyprus and the Middle East. But I also note that your Prime Minister recently quoted Dante to the effect that the "hottest place in hell is reserved for those who in times of moral crisis strive to maintain their neutrality." Canadians are not neutral—they believe in democracy and work hard to protect it.
To get down to specifics, I am convinced that the unity and solid support of Western leaders on arms control were the principal factors that brought the Soviets back to the negotiating table. Prime Minister Mulroney has been very helpful, and we feel certain that Mr. Clark will convey to the Soviet leaders our continuing resolve to achieve significant, verifiable, and equitable arms reductions. With regard to the Contadora process, we value Canadian assistance, and I would note that Canadian suggestions on the verification process have been most helpful.
Canada's Defense Policy
Q. What do you see as Canada's role in defense? How did you feel when the new government had to cut $154 million from military spending, for example, contrary to what they had promised during the election campaign? Is Canada doing its fair share in NATO, and will you be pressuring us to do more?
The President. When Prime Minister Mulroney was here last September, he expressed his personal commitment to enhancing Canada's role in the Atlantic alliance and to carry its full share of the allied defense burden. But he and I recognized then and now that domestic political pressures affect outcomes. I believe Brian Mulroney shares my conviction that there is no reasonable alternative but to work to protect freedom and democracy.
I understand Canada is now conducting a major review of its defense policy, and I believe that the review will conclude that the only meaningful defense question facing both our nations is how to meet the challenge now before us. And that challenge has nothing to do with pressure from Canada's allies, but rather, how best to defend freedom and democracy.
Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Q. In recent weeks, there has been an uproar over the news that contingency plans exist to deploy nuclear weapons—specifically B-57 nuclear depth charges—in Canada in case of an emergency. In your view, is Canada bound to accept these weapons, especially when the government never was notified of such plans? And what sort of emergency would prompt such a deployment?
The President. I know that stories have recently appeared concerning wartime contingency plans. There have also been allegations that America is pressuring its allies to accept nuclear weapons. I have two comments to make on these reports. First, over the years NATO has worked out various defense plans designed to strengthen deterrence, but under these plans any deployments would be carried out only, let me repeat only, with the prior agreement of the states involved.
Second, it is contrary to the interest of the alliance and to the individual member states to talk publicly about confidential contingency planning. Such discussion would not serve our shared security interests.
Allied Defense Cooperation
Q. If Canada suddenly balked at going along with such contingency plans—or refused to allow the further testing of cruise missiles or barred an American battleship from our ports as New Zealand recently did—would the United States respond in the same way that it did to New Zealand, that is, threatening a broad range of countermeasures, including economic sanctions?
The President. Let me start by stressing that United States defense cooperation with our allies begins with a common understanding of our shared security interests and a determination to protect those interests against any threat. Each of us entered into our alliances—whether ANZUS or NATO or NORAD—as fully sovereign nations, not because we were pressured to do so.
Let me point out that we are not taking economic sanctions against New Zealand. Rather, we are reviewing our cooperation in security matters in light of New Zealand's decision to reduce cooperation with us in the ANZUS alliance.
Our longstanding and excellent defense cooperation with Canada is grounded in our partnership in NORAD and our joint membership in NATO. Clearly, we share common objectives. For example, Canada's cooperation in the testing of cruise missiles, which we greatly value and appreciate, was, I am sure, a recognition by the Canadian Government that this missile plays an important role in NATO's deterrent posture and is directly related to Canada's own security.
Strategic Defense Initiative
Q. The Canadian Government has said it supports the Strategic Defense Initiative, but there has been an uproar each time it has been suggested that defense cooperation could lead to our actual involvement in the program. In your view, should Canada have a role in SDI research, and why?
The President. We have absolutely no intention of pressing any of our allies to participate in this program. It will be entirely up to Canada to decide the extent to which, if at all, it wishes to share in the research efforts. Should Canada decide such participation is in its interests, we would be delighted to work with you in this important undertaking.
But let's get this straight about the Strategic Defense Initiative: For more than a generation, we have believed that no war will begin as long as each side knows the other can retaliate with devastating results. Well, I believe there could be a better way to keep the peace. The Strategic Defense Initiative is a research effort aimed at finding a nonnuclear defense against ballistic missiles. It is the most hopeful possibility of the nuclear age. Nuclear weapons threaten entire populations; the SDI seeks to end that possibility forever. I was extremely heartened by the understanding and support for this research effort by Prime Minister Mulroney and External Affairs Minister Clark. It may take a long time, but now we have started.
Q. The Federal and Provincial governments have just taken substantial measures to control the contributions to acid rain on our side of the border. What is the United States prepared to do for its part?
The President. The United States is a world leader for a cleaner environment. We take pride that our Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and our other comprehensive environmental legislation have helped to set international standards. We have invested $150 billion—yes, that's billions—under our Clean Air Act, and as a result the air today is cleaner than in many years. Emissions of sulphur dioxide, a major concern, are down nearly 30 percent in the last decade. This trend is continuing: down 10 percent since I became President, including 2 1/2 percent in 1983. We strictly control nitrogen oxides, which come mainly from auto emissions, and their level has also been dropping in recent years. For the future, I believe it is a question of doing what is reasonable and responsible after getting all the facts.
U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement
Q. What do you think the prospects are for negotiating a free trade agreement with Canada during your second term? Will the obstacles come from Congress or from Canadian nationalists?
The President. As I understand it, the Canadian Government is reviewing its trade policy right now and hasn't yet decided whether to propose any negotiations. In our Congress, I believe there is a deep-seated appreciation that trade between the United States and Canada—the largest trade volume between any two countries on Earth—is beneficial to both countries and should be fostered. Of course, there are sensitive trade areas, and the Congress would want to be sure that any new bilateral understanding is in the interest of the United States—so would I, and I'm sure Canada would do the same.
What is important is that we continue to work together to reduce trade barriers. Perhaps we can set an example for others to follow. We are not interested in building a North American island; rather, we would like to establish a trend toward trade liberalization that others can emulate.
Q. Much has been made of the warmer relations that now exist between Canada and the United States. What particularly irked you about the previous government's actions? Now, having made concessions to Canada to signal the warmer relationship, what do you expect of Canada in return? And what would you tell Canadian nationalists who fear that a warmer relationship means that we sell out our independence?
The President. You're right to suggest that relations between our two countries are in good shape. But rather than talk about concessions, I believe that what has happened is that we've come to recognize that warm close relations serve both our interests. As a result, we both have become a lot more attentive to each other's concerns; we talk with each other more often. And I don't believe that means either nation becomes less independent.
Q. How important is a warm personal relationship among leaders? And what aspects of Mr. Mulroney's personality contribute to the chemistry reported between the two of you?
The President. People respond more warmly to some than to others. We're all human. And I confess that I like Brian Mulroney a lot. He is a true Canadian patriot. He is honest, hardworking, intelligent, and articulate—in two languages at that! So, let's just say that the chemistry is good.
Note: The questions and answers were released by the Office of the Press Secretary on March 11.
Ronald Reagan, Written Responses to Questions Submitted by Maclean's Magazine of Canada Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/260107