Continuing Arms Reduction after the INF Treaty
In order to reform the Soviet economy, Mikhail Gorbachev believed it was necessary to cut spending on the Soviet military. As part of this process, Gorbachev actively pursued arms reductions in a series of negotiations with the United States. In December 1987, President Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) in Washington, DC. The treaty eliminated both nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic missiles with a range of 300-3,400 miles. By the deadline of June 1, 1991, more than 2,600 missiles were destroyed, though the Soviet Union destroyed more than twice that of the U.S. While the INF Treaty was considered a success in the U.S., Gorbachev believed the U.S. was too hesitant in supporting arms reduction and began a unilateral reduction of its armed forces in the spring of 1988. However, in this speech following the signing of the INF Treaty in Washington, Reagan is very optimistic about the future of U.S.-Soviet cooperation.
Ronald Reagan, "Remarks on the Departure of General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union," The White House, Washington, D.C., December 10, 1987, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Public Papers, Reagan Library (accessed May 15, 2008).
Of course, the greatest accomplishment of these 3 days was the signing of a treaty to eliminate a whole class of U.S. and Soviet nuclear weapons. Another one of my predecessors, a President I have admired since my youth, Calvin Coolidge, once said: "History is made only by action." Well, it took enormous effort and almost superhuman tenacity on the part of negotiators on both sides, but the end product is a treaty that does indeed make history. It is in the interest of both our peoples, yet I cannot help but believe that mankind is the biggest winner. At long last, we have begun the task of actually reducing these deadly weapons rather than simply putting limits on their growth.
The INF treaty, as proud of it as we are, should be viewed as a beginning, not an end. Further arms reduction is now possible. I am pleased some progress has been made toward a strategic arms reduction treaty over the last 3 days. Individual agreements will not, in and of themselves, result in sustained progress. We need a realistic understanding of each other's intentions and objectives, a process for dealing with differences in a practical and straightforward manner; and we need patience, creativity, and persistence in achieving what we set out to do. As a result of this summit, the framework for building such a relationship has been strengthened.
I am determined to use this framework. My goal—which I believe you share, Mr. General Secretary—is a more constructive relationship between our governments, long-lasting rather than transitory improvements. Together, we can bring about a more secure and prosperous future for our peoples and a more peaceful world. Both of us are aware of the difficult challenges and special responsibilities inherent in this task.