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Written Responses to Questions Submitted by the Swedish Newspaper Tidningarnas Telegrambyra

September 28, 1987

Visit of Swedish Prime Minister Carlsson

Q. Why is it important to the United States to receive the Swedish Prime Minister as a visitor? Will this visit produce any tangible results?

The President. In view of the friendly relations between the United States and Sweden, it is only natural that there should be meetings at the highest level from time to time. The meeting is symbolic of the basic friendship that underlies the relations between our two countries, and it is also of practical value. It is useful to examine our bilateral relationship and to share views on a range of global issues where both the United States and Sweden take an active interest. We need to continue to work even more closely together in a common effort to promote our shared democratic goals and objectives throughout the world.

Swedish Criticism of U.S. Policies

Q. Sweden has criticized the United States sharply over disarmament issues, Vietnam, Central America, and South Africa. Could you explain what effect, if any, this kind of criticism has on American decisions?

The President. No one expects that two independent countries are always going to see eye-to-eye on every issue. Responsible, constructive criticism is accepted as such. The United States has global responsibilities and often sees issues from a different perspective than does a neutral country like Sweden. The point is that we should be able to express our differences clearly but also see if there are ways that we could work together to bring about a solution of the issue. For instance, I understand that Sweden does not agree with American support of the democratic resistance in Nicaragua, but we both share the goal of bringing about a true and full democratic system.

Q. Do you expect Sweden to be less vocal in its criticism of the United States after the visit of the Prime Minister?

The President. No country likes to hear itself criticized, but I cannot think of any country that has not been criticized. Americans do not expect that Sweden will in the future agree with every American policy or action. But I think that when two friendly countries disagree it is only natural that they first discuss their differences privately. They are then, of course, free to express themselves publicly if they choose.

Soviet Military Threat to Sweden

Q. Do you think there is a Soviet military threat against Sweden? If so, what is your opinion of the Swedish countermeasures?

The President. I believe that the Soviet Union has not abandoned its stated objective of promoting its Communist ideology throughout the world. I also think that the Soviets have built up a massive military force that far exceeds their requirements for simple defense. Continuing Soviet aggression in Afghanistan cannot be forgotten. Sweden itself is the best judge of whether or not there is a Soviet military threat towards it. I am aware that Sweden has long had a policy of armed neutrality and that you have built up a strong military force. However, Sweden itself must judge whether its forces are adequate to the task it faces.

Swedish Neutrality

Q. What is your view of Sweden's policy of neutrality? Do you fear a slide toward "Finlandization" in Sweden?

The President. I do not like the term "Finlandization," and I do not think the Finns do either. The United States understands and respects Sweden's policy of armed neutrality. I know that this is a policy that is supported by a very large majority of the Swedish people. But I trust that Swedes are not neutral when it comes to promoting the values they cherish, values such as democracy, individual freedom, and respect for the rule of law. I believe that Sweden can and should do what it can to promote these fundamental beliefs and values. This is an area where the independent policies of the United States and Sweden overlap, and I hope that we can work together wherever possible.

Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev

Q. What is your opinion of Gorbachev, both as a person and as a reformer?

The President. General Secretary Gorbachev is an impressive Soviet leader with whom I have personally always gotten along well. As for the reform policies pursued by him and his government, I can only hope that they succeed in bringing greater openness, respect for human rights, and eventually, genuine democracy to Soviet society. This would benefit not only Soviet citizens but also U.S.-Soviet relations and the cause of peace. I have mentioned in some of my recent speeches steps which the Soviet Government could take to show that the new thinking in the Kremlin is supported by action as well as words. These steps include dismantling the Berlin Wall, renouncing the Brezhnev doctrine, or-most urgently—ordering a prompt and unconditional withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. All of these steps are, unfortunately, long overdue and would be a credit to any Soviet leader who takes them.

U.S. Security Interests

Q. If Gorbachev is successful in his efforts to make the Soviet Union more efficient and if you achieve a disarmament agreement, might this not make the Soviet Union much stronger politically and economically? Is it really in the United States interest to contribute to that?

The President. It is in the United States interest to do whatever it can to deter war and promote a more peaceful and democratic world. Properly negotiated and fully verifiable arms reduction agreements can be an important means of strengthening security, but of course, it is equally important to ensure that our defensive forces remain fully capable of deterring any danger of conflict.

Arms Control

Q. How close are you to a disarmament agreement with the Soviet Union on INF and START? After solving the Pershing lA issue, are there any remaining obstacles?

The President. We have agreed in principle now on concluding a treaty eliminating an entire class of U.S. and Soviet intermediate-range nuclear missiles, and I hope that we will be able to accomplish this soon. Of course, verification remains an essential issue on which important details still have to be worked out. We also agreed to seek progress on a START treaty that would cut in half the number of strategic arms held by the United States and the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, the Soviets have not been willing to permit those negotiations to progress as far as I would like and are continuing to link progress to their efforts to cripple the United States SDI program, even though the Soviets themselves continue to conduct extensive strategic defense programs of their own.

Note: The questions and answers were released by the Office of the Press Secretary on September 29.

Ronald Reagan, Written Responses to Questions Submitted by the Swedish Newspaper Tidningarnas Telegrambyra Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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