Presidential Radio Address - 17 October 1987
My fellow Americans:
As I speak to you, Secretary of State George Shultz is on a diplomatic mission that reflects the breadth, the intensity, and the importance of our country's foreign policy efforts. Today he's in the Middle East. He'll meet with the leaders of Israel, Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
In the past we've proven ourselves a nation of good will and a reliable ally to these friends and to others. Today our Navy plies the waters of the Persian Gulf helping to keep the shipping lanes open. Freedom of navigation in international waters is a cardinal principle of our policy and, especially in that region of the world, a vital interest. We've had a naval presence in the Gulf since 1949. Any risk to that naval presence or to U.S.-flagged commercial ships operating peacefully in the waters of the Gulf will be dealt with appropriately.
Our wider role in the Middle East-perhaps more than in any other region-is that of peacemaker. We are doing our best to help narrow the differences between Israel and her Arab neighbors so that real negotiations for peace can get started. The desire for peace and the will to make peace are growing in the region. Our job is to help. In the Persian Gulf we play a similar role. Along with the initiative in the United Nations Security Council, we are seeking a peaceful resolution of the Iran-Iraq war-one of the great tragedies of our time. A vigorous diplomatic effort is essential, and that is what Secretary Shultz' mission is all about.
After conferring with key leaders of the Middle East, he heads to Moscow. In his talks there, he will bring up the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Gulf war, as well as other conflicts like Afghanistan, Central America, Angola, and Cambodia. We've made it clear that if our two countries are to have better relations we must see a change in Soviet actions in these regional conflicts. We are concerned with human rights in the Soviet Union itself. This has always been at the top of my agenda. It's impossible to have a constructive relationship with a government that tramples upon the rights of its people. There are also, as one would expect, bilateral issues between our two countries concerning trade, travel, and other items that will be on the agenda in Moscow.
I've always felt that, even between systems as different as ours, if we remain true to our principles and firm in the advocacy of our own interests, some common ground can be found. This has been the basis of the arms reduction proposals we've made to the Soviet Union. As a result, we're moving toward an agreement that would eliminate an entire class of U.S. and Soviet intermediate-range missiles, known as INF-the first real reductions in nuclear arsenals in history. A number of essential details need to be worked out, however, like effective verification. And our proposals call for the most stringent verification regime in the history of arms control. We can settle for nothing less. We are hopeful, but we're in no rush. There is no politically imposed deadline. It must be done right or not at all.
Some have worried that an INF agreement would leave the NATO alliance exposed. Well, I share their concern for European security, but concern over this agreement is misplaced. The kind of INF agreement we're working toward is a tribute to the firmness and solidarity of the alliance. That firmness and solidarity must continue. A sound nuclear arms reduction agreement need not undermine our unity or weaken our nuclear and conventional deterrent which have kept the peace these last four decades. And we will indeed maintain effective deterrent forces. Secretary Shultz will also press hard for an agreement reducing strategic arms. Progress there is possible, but the Soviet Union will have to show far more flexibility than it has up to now.
Finally, as Secretary Shultz continues his mission, we would do well to remember Secretary Shultz is not just my representative-he is our representative. Certain proposals in Congress, especially those that would tie our hands or even enact Soviet negotiating positions into American law, don't help us at the bargaining table. And they undermine chances of achieving mutual arms reduction. I can assure you, I will veto any bill with provisions that hurt our national security.
I am hoping that we can stand together as America continues to further the twin causes of peace and freedom. I know we all wish our top diplomat Godspeed and a safe return.
Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.