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Public Papers - 1989

Statement on the Resumption of the Soviet-United States Nuclear and Space Arms Negotiations


Today marks the opening of round XI of the nuclear and space talks in Geneva. Ambassador Richard Burt, the chief negotiator to the strategic arms reduction talks, heads the U.S. delegation. Ambassador Henry Cooper is our chief negotiator to the defense and space talks. My objective for these negotiations is to achieve verifiable agreements that improve our security while enhancing stability and reducing the risk of war. In the strategic arms reduction talks, our emphasis will be on creating a more stable nuclear balance and strengthening deterrence by reducing and constraining those strategic nuclear forces which pose the greatest threat to security and stability. We will pursue complementary goals in the defense and space talks, seeking an agreement on a cooperative transition to a more stable nuclear balance that relies increasingly on defenses.

After extensive deliberations with my advisers, I have approved instructions for the U.S. START delegation. These instructions reaffirm much of the treaty text negotiated with the Soviets by the previous administration. Modifications will be proposed in some cases. The United States will be prepared to address all the issues on which the two sides have not reached agreement, as the negotiations proceed. In addition, I have reserved the right to introduce new initiatives aimed at further enhancing security and strategic stability.

Of all the outstanding START issues, verification may be the most complex. It will be especially critical in determining whether START enhances U.S. security and strategic stability. As part of our overall negotiating effort, as the talks resume in Geneva, the United States will also propose that the two sides make a special effort to agree on, and to begin implementing as soon as possible, certain verification and stability measures drawn from proposals that both sides have already advanced in START or other contexts. These measures will enhance verification of a START treaty and contribute to strategic stability. Early agreement and implementation of them will speed resolution of outstanding issues and give added momentum to the efforts of our two countries to conclude expeditiously a START agreement.

Our approach to these arms negotiations and to our force modernization programs are complementary and mutually reinforcing. Maintaining credible and effective nuclear deterrent forces is essential both to our security and to our ability to negotiate sound and stabilizing agreements. A successful START treaty will reduce the risk of war, but will not diminish our need to rely on modernized, effective strategic forces for continued deterrence. Indeed, our security would be reduced rather than enhanced if we do not modernize our forces while the Soviets continue to modernize theirs. We must continue to pursue both our force modernization and arms control and not make the mistake of treating one as a substitute for the other.

Our negotiators return to the bargaining table with my firm pledge that we will work vigorously to achieve fair and far-reaching agreements that strengthen peace. Nothing has higher priority. I am heartened by the growing evidence that the Soviet Union is prepared to negotiate seriously about agreements that promise to reduce the risk of war. Much has already been accomplished in the negotiations; much remains to be done. Our commitment is unwavering. We must build on our achievements thus far to reach agreements that fulfill our objectives of reducing the risk of war and enhancing security and stability.

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