Primary Sources

President Reagan's Radio Address to the Soviet Union Before the Geneva Summit

Description

Ten days before the Geneva summit that marked his first meeting with new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, President Ronald Reagan delivered this radio address to Soviet citizens. The New York Times characterized the speech as a “folksy but firm presentation of his views” and noted a “marked difference in tone” from Reagan’s earlier rhetoric. During his first three years in office, Reagan had adopted a confrontational approach to the Soviet Union, but in 1984, he announced that he was ready to negotiate a new détente from a position of military strength, a shift that eventually led to his decision to meet Gorbachev. In this address, which the Soviets neither broadcast nor jammed, Reagan discussed his controversial Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), also known as “Star Wars,” a program to design and deploy a space-based missile defense system. Soviet leaders opposed SDI, believing that it violated the 1972 ABM Treaty and that it could allow the US to initiate a nuclear strike without fear of retaliation. Reagan and Gorbachev developed a personal rapport during the Geneva summit despite conflicts over SDI and eventually agreed to reduce nuclear armaments.

Source

Ronald Reagan, "Radio Address to the Nation and the World on the Upcoming Soviet-United States Summit Meeting in Geneva," speech, Voice of America Studio, Washington, D.C., November 9, 1985, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Public Papers, Reagan Library (accessed March 25, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

My fellow Americans: We're expanding the format of our radio broadcast today. During the next 10 minutes, I'll be speaking to the citizens of the Soviet Union over the Voice of America about the upcoming Geneva summit....

I grew up in a small town in America's heartland where values of faith in God, freedom, family, friends, and concern for one's neighbors were shared by all—values you also share....

I have not forgotten the values I learned as a boy nor have my fellow Americans. Now, I know that much has been written in your press about America's hostile intentions toward you. Well, I reject these distortions. Americans are a peace-loving people; we do not threaten your nation and never will. The American people are tolerant, slow to anger, but staunch in defense of their liberties and, like you, their country. More than once, our two countries have joined to oppose a common enemy....

Today we must both face the challenge of eliminating nuclear weapons. I have said many times and will say again to you: A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.... Our goal is to make the world safer through development of nonnuclear security shields that would protect people by preventing weapons from reaching their targets and, hopefully, render ballistic missiles obsolete. . . . If and when our research proves that a defensive shield against nuclear missiles is practical, I believe our two nations, and those others that have nuclear weapons, should come together and agree on how, gradually, to eliminate offensive nuclear weapons, as we make our defensive system available to all....

Diversity is one of our great strengths. This is partly why we're confusing to outsiders. Our government is elected by the people; it is not above the people or above the law. We believe the truth is found through debate and discussion.... We believe in freedom of the individual. Freedom of worship, freedom of speech, freedom of the press are, as our Declaration of Independence says, unalienable rights of all men....

I want expanded contacts between our two great societies, wherever there is mutual interest.... If more of your citizens visited us, you would understand that our people want peace as fervently as you do.

How to Cite this Source

President Ronald Reagan, "President Reagan's Radio Address to the Soviet Union Before the Geneva Summit," Making the History of 1989, Item #62, http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/62 (accessed November 28 2014, 10:30 pm).

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