Past Speakers of the: LANDON LECTURES

Landon Lecture by Vice President George H.W. Bush,

U.S. Vice President
Sept. 9, 1985

by Vice President George H.W. Bush

It really is a pleasure to be here this morning, to participate in what is now clearly America's most distinguished lecture series and to come to the home of the "Purple Power."

I've been looking forward to this day for some time not just because I wanted to participate in this series although it is important. But, no, right after I leave here today, I'm going over to the home of, the home on the range, you might say, of one of America's great elder statesmen, Alf Landon ... 98 years old today. And I'm going to say for all of us "Happy birthday, to Nancy's dad."

You know at a time when political fashions went in another direction, the mood going in another direction actually, back in '36, Alf Landon took stands that are prophetic today. He stood for lower taxes and a balanced budget and he understood, perhaps better than most at that time, the importance of a robust private sector.

You know the Kansas state motto, translated in English, is: "To the stars through difficulties." Well, that could be Governor Landon's motto, too.

And, he tells the story about how he felt after the votes were counted in 1936. He says it was like the farmer and his wife who had taken shelter from a tornado. When they climbed out of their basement they found their home in splinters, their car in a tree, and their crops ruined. And the farmer looked the scene over and started to smile. His wife asked why. He just said, "Oh, the completeness of it all."

Well, that's what I admire about him. He accepted defeat with grace and wisdom, but he didn't give up and he has continued to give this whole country that same kind of grace and wisdom for almost 50 years since. He has achieved a special and honored place in American life and no one can quite match it. He really has reached "the stars through difficulties."

My topic this morning is the coming meeting between the president of the United States and the general secretary, General Secretary Gorbachev, of the Soviet Union. I'll discuss with you the factors I see coming to play in this meeting.

And, with Kansas and Alf Landon in mind, my theme in this discussion will be "to the stars through difficulties." The stars in this case are the hopes, the prayers of men and women, men and women everywhere really, for a world of peace, a world in which all can build futures of opportunity for themselves and their families. I believe that if we're to reach those stars we must, as Alf Landon has, meet our difficulties squarely and honestly.

And let me be very specific here about what I mean:

Whatever our differences, the United States of America and the Soviet Union do share a common overriding interest in survival and that means and I believe the Soviets understand this as well as we do that we have a common interest in doing whatever we can to reduce tensions and to improve relations. The president and I and everyone in the administration really do want the meeting with Mr. Gorbachev to be a success. We want this meeting to reflect as much substantive achievement as possible, but more importantly, to produce an agenda and work program that should reduce tensions between our countries.

The Soviets know this. When he met last year with Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko meetings that I attended the president spoke clearly and emphatically about our interest in building a better relationship. In his meeting with Mr. Gromyko in Geneva earlier this year, our secretary of state, George Shultz, repeated what the president had said. As recently as last month, our national security advisor, Bud McFarlane, addressed this theme thoroughly in a well-publicized speech. Secretary Shultz is again going to emphasize this theme in his upcoming meeting with the new Soviet foreign minister, Mr. Shevardnadze.

And again and again, over the last several years we've not just stated, but demonstrated through substantive proposals our desire to move towards truly more stable and constructive relations. We have been extremely forthcoming in the pursuit of this goal. Look at what we've done, for example, in one of the principal arenas of East-West contact, the arms control talks in Geneva.

We have proposed deep, significant reductions in the number of strategic nuclear weapons.

We've proposed to eliminate all intermediate range nuclear weapons. When the Soviets turned down this proposal, that I would say is a high moral ground proposal, we proposed that they pick a number, anywhere between 572 and zero and the closer to zero the better. Each side having the same amount of intermediate nuclear force weapons. Let's both reduce to the same level, we said.

A year and a half ago, I flew to Geneva to propose a draft treaty to ban all chemical weapons from the face of the earth.

A little more than two months ago, I was in Geneva again to tell the Soviet negotiators, led by Mr. Korpov, that we are serious, deadly serious, about getting an arms control agreement. I told them as many others have told them that the president wants real, verifiable reductions in the number of nuclear weapons in the world.

But proposals in negotiations aren't the only way we've gone the extra mile in our relations with the Soviet Union.

We have invited the Soviets to visit a U.S. nuclear test site, to bring their own equipment, to measure one of our tests. We've put no conditions on this invitation. We haven't asked for anything in return. We just believe that that would help both sides improve the way they verify nuclear test limitations.

We have also proposed and agreed on more improvements in the hotline and ways of improving communications in a crisis.

The hotline is important. The fact that we have reached agreement with the Soviet Union is little known to the American people, but I believe that is important.

And in June, the president ordered the dismantling of another Poseidon submarine. This action keeps the United States in compliance with agreements that frankly the Soviets are currently violating. We will study the Soviet response to all of this all through the fall. Then we have to make a tough decision, what will we do next? We hope the Soviets begin to respect the letter of these agreements.

And so in regular meetings, in special meetings (such as on my last trip to Geneva), through our actions, through our words, we have said over and over again to the Soviets that we do want better relations.

We have also made clear what we mean by better relations and what we don't mean. By "better relations" we do not mean entering into agreements that undermine the security of the United States and its allies.

By "better relations" we do not mean ignoring real fundamental differences that we have with Soviet adherence to international agreements or other aspects of Soviet behavior on the international scene.

Let's be clear about this one. Better relations are not achieved by ignoring differences, or agreement for agreement's sake, or by accepting one sided agreements. They are not achieved by entering into agreements for the sake of agreements it will never do. The way to achieve better relations is to acknowledge differences, to face them, as I said, squarely and honestly, and to deal with them through agreements and through behavior that both sides can live with.

There is one word, really, for that kind of better relationship between nations and that word is "respect".

It means you respect the sovereignty and abilities of the other side, even if you disapprove of its system, as we certainly do of the Soviet system.

To treat with another nation so both sides have their self respect intact. You deal with its representatives openly, directly, squarely, honestly. You don't pretend that the differences aren't there. You acknowledge them and then you address them.

And it's in that spirit of open and direct acknowledgement of differences that I wish to discuss now the atmospherics that appear to be building up now around the Reagan-Gorbachev meeting. These atmospherics highlight a basic difference between the way the Soviets appear to be approaching this meeting and the way we are.

A good place to start this discussion is with Jean-Francois Revel, a distinguished French commentator on East-West relations. Not long ago, Revel published in this country, to considerable acclaim, his most recent book, Why Democracies Perish. In it, he argues that totalitarian regimes have an advantage in protracted struggles, such as the struggle between the Soviet Union and the West.

"Totalitarianism," he writes, "liquidates its internal enemies or smashes opposition as soon as it arises; it uses methods that are simple and infallible because they are undemocratic." In contrast, he notes, democracies have open public debate, in which even their enemies can participate. And those enemies can use debate to confuse, divide, and paralyze the people and through them the democratic government itself.

I cite Revel not because I agree with him, because, in fact, I do not. I do not share what appear to be his fundamental reservations about open debate. I cite him, rather, because he seems to me to have described a central element of Soviet negotiating strategy. That element is the Soviet practice of attempting to manipulate Western public opinion and, through public opinion, influence the negotiating process.

Sometimes the Soviets use harsh denunciations and provocative charges, particularly against the United States.

We've seen a great deal of this in the past year.

For example, as recently as April 1985, Mr. Gorbachev said that we in the U.S., and here is the quote, "promise the world stability but in reality strive to wreck the military balance."

In early May, marking the end of Soviet fighting in World War II, he added: "American imperialism is the cutting edge of the war menace to mankind."

In June another Soviet voice, that of Radio Moscow, in the middle of the TWA hostage crisi, charged, "The U.S. shelters air pirates.

I think these kinds of statements must be what they call in Moscow a "peace offensive." Of course when we note honest differences that we have with the Soviets it's called "inflammatory rhetoric."

In recent weeks we have seen the Soviets pursue a softer version of this strategy, and pursue it with a particular vigor. I'm thinking of a series of events Time magazine has chosen to call a "war of words" between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Now there's a story of a Russian and an American arguing over whose country is most free. The American says, "Freedom? No question who's most free. I can stand outside any day of the week in front of the White House and yell 'Down with Reagan'." The Russian says, "So what? I can stand outside in front of the Kremlin and I can shout 'Down with Reagan'."

The "war of words" has been a little like that a parade of Soviet officials marching to the Kremlin wall and criticizing American foreign policy.

Last week alone, for example, Mr. Gorbachev granted an extensive interview to Time magazine and had his very well publicized meeting with the delegation of United States senators. And Georgi Arbatov, a man I have known for many many years since 1971 or 72, sometimes highly visible as some of your Soviet experts on this wonderful campus know and sometimes not, a member of the Communist Party Central Committee, stepping it up, appeared on "Meet the Press" and the "Today" program.

And in each case the message has been the same. They charge that the United States is hostile to the Soviet Union. The United States is doing and saying things that will undermine the Reagan-Gorbachev meeting and, more broadly, the whole U.S.-Soviet relationship.

There could be large reductions in the number of nuclear weapons, they say, and a more stable peace in a twinkling, they say ... if only the United States were to give up the Strategic Defense Initiative ... if only, the United States were to abandon anti-satellite weapons testing, if only the United States were to accept proposals that would guarantee, lock in Soviet superiority in numbers of weapons ... if only that is, although they never really put it this way, we in the United States were to accept Soviet strengths and really in essence give up our own. Oh, the completeness of it all!

This playing by the Soviets to the press galleries and to the cameras has a special freshness right now, not because it is fresh and new, but because the Soviets have a new and what's new for them articulate and energetic spokesman in Mr. Gorbachev.

Along with Secretary Schultz, I was the first American to talk with him after he came to power there in the Kremlin, in Moscow, and I met with him for over an hour when I visited Moscow for his predecessor's funeral. I can tell you from first hand experience that he is more vibrant, much more so. He is an able speaker, much more able than the other leaders the Soviets have had in recent years. Margaret Thatcher said it, our senators have seen it, everybody who has met with him confirms that point.

But playing to the public in the West isn't new for the Soviets. In 1959, some of you in the Midwest may remember this, Khruschev toured the United States. His propagandzing became so outrageous that President Eisenhower dispatched U.N. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge to respond to him a kind of one man truth squad.

Or remember another bit of history, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty debate. ABM, because you are hearing about that today the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty debate. While Congress was considering funding, having a debate as whether to fund our own ABM system in the late '60s, the Soviets loudly insisted that passage of an ABM funding bill would fuel the arms race. If only the United States would abandon anti-ballistic missiles they said, there could be true progress on arms negotiations. If not, there could be none.

Well, by one vote, Congress decided to build the system, and soon the Soviets were back at the bargaining table eager to talk about an ABM treaty. Eventually a treaty was signed. We then abandoned our idea of deployment, we were permitted to deploy under the treaty, while the Soviets deployed a major ABM system around Moscow.

And remember the Intermediate Nuclear Force issue. The Soviets walked out of the Geneva arms talks the day that NATO began deployment of our Intermediate Nuclear Force weapons, the Pershings, and, if you will forgive the letters, BLICKMS. If only NATO would abandon INF, there could be talks. In the meantime, of course, they deployed on an average one additional SS-20 each week throughout the negotiations.

They stuck to their position all the way through the German, British, the Canadian, and United States elections. It became an issue in our campaign. Would our, what was conceived to be a rigid position, mean that there would never be talks with the Soviets on this? In each election, relations with the Soviet Union became a major issue. In each election, the side that insisted on greater firmness, and I would add reality, won the election, free and open elections in those four countries by a large majority.

First, however, Europe's governments, in particular, had to stand up to and weather massive, well orchestrated anti-INF demonstrations. Some of them were violent. Barbara and I saw this for ourselves in Krefeld, Germany, when the car she and I were riding in with Chancellor Kohl of the Federal Republic of Germany, and you have never seen more anger and more hostility and if you will excuse the expression more thugs out there with leather jackets wrapped with stones ramming them, and bricks thrown through the buses traveling with us from the first place we were to the hotel we were going to lunch. It brought home to me very clearly the anger and the outrage, you might say, of this most radical, radical left.

But, right after final election and after those demonstrations the Soviets were back at the bargaining table ready to discuss, among other things, as the senator knows, INF Intermediate Nuclear Forces.

The emphasis on dividing Western opinion makes the Soviets extremely tough bargainers. They prefer to see how public opinion plays out before moving seriously in negotiations. And, as we've seen in recent weeks, they do know how to reach the West through its own media and they know how to tailor their message, to have a very broad appeal.

But it's important to keep in mind that though difficult, they are not impossible in negotiations. As I said at the outset, they share with us and they do recognize they share a basic common interest. . . and that is survival. Whenever the Soviets have been convinced that Western opinion is united, they have set aside their public relations game, at least for awhile, and accepted more conventional diplomatic rules, rules which dictate that both sides, through careful give and take, work towards agreements that both can live with.

Let me give you an idea of what that means to us in the United States.

We want arms negotiations that lead to real reductions in existing nuclear arsenals and reductions that preserve and enhance the security of both sides. We look at meetings between heads of state, particularly the upcoming one as opportunities, not for propaganda, but for setting an agenda that can lead to greater stability, lead to harmony in relations. And that means we believe that the upcoming meeting must address the real and persistent issues that have irritated relations in recent years.

The meetings must, for example, address why it is the Soviets have so often in recent years resumed or initiated arms competition in areas where there had not been any at all.

For example, chemical weaponry was a field largely devoid of competition among nations until the Soviet move to create a significant, modern chemical capability which forced the United States to reevaluate our own capability just a couple of years ago.

As I said before, we are committed to that high moral ground the elimination of chemical weapons. I feel strongly that we ought to be able to get together with the Soviet Union on this noble, moral purpose.

The same is true of intermediate nuclear force missiles in Europe, which our side, the West eliminated totally in 1960. We had no interest in deploying intermediate missiles until the Soviet deployment of those SS-20s within range of Europe in the mid- to late '70s forced NATO to take another look at the problem.

And today we see continued massive Soviet research on strategic defense and on anti-satellite weapons. The Soviets, in fact, have been conducting this research for years. I was director of the CIA, head of the intelligence community ten years ago, and I learned way back then that the Soviets then, ten years ago or nine to be exact, way back then were engaged in extensive research and they had already successfully tested an anti-satellite weapon.

They launched a satellite and then they effectively intercepted the satellite in orbit. Now they have the only tested and deployed system, and yet they object to our doing any testing at all.

These aren't the only problem areas between us. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Soviet support including providing missiles and submarines to Colonel Qadhafi of Lybia, Soviet use of Cuban surrogates in wars on two continents: these all have to be, you see, to get them on the table subjects of discussion. If they want to raise subjects with us, so be it, we'll be ready. And, of course, there's another subject. In signing the Helsinki Final Act the Soviets agreed to standards, objective standards of human rights. This includes the rights of Soviet Jews.

Now, we realize that now the Soviets are not pleased with the Helsinki agreement. Nevertheless, they did enter into it. They have since largely ignored it. And they have persecuted Soviet citizens who have reminded them of it.

We have raised with them cases that we believe come under the Helsinki Final Act. We believe, for example, that, in accordance with the Helsinki provisions, families should be permitted to be rejoined, a fundamental concept in human rights, and that minorities should be respected. The Soviet reply has always been the same: Stay out of our internal affairs.

Well, state persecution in violation of an international agreement is an international matter. It is not simply an internal affair.

This is an important impediment to relations.

If we are to reach the star of stable and peaceful Soviet-American relations we must simply face these difficulties squarely, honestly. Acknowledging differences is not a way of inflaming Soviet-American relations. It is a necessary step toward improving them.

We must also face squarely and honestly what we can realistically hope for the Reagan-Gorbachev meeting to produce. Here I want to look for just a minute at aspects of Soviet government affairs that we would all concede to be, in fact, internal. I am not interested in these affairs in and of themselves. What the Soviets do in such matters is their own business. I am interested only in the implications for Soviet foreign policy.

This is the final year of the current Soviet five year plan. This, then, is a period of extensive re-evaluation inside the Soviet Union.

Re-evaluation is going to be particularly extensive this year, because many of the international assumptions on which the plan was based have proven false.

The Soviets assumed that the U.S. economy would continue the decline of the late 70s. It hasn't.

They assumed that our military posture would continue to erode and it hasn't.

They assumed the Atlantic Alliance would continue to deteriorate and it hasn't.

The U.S. economy, U.S. military strength and as a result of the resolve shown by the allies in carrying out the INF decision the Atlantic Alliance itself are all far stronger now than they were five years ago.

So, as I said, with the plan period nearing its end the Soviets face a major re-evaluation and it's going to take months.

Mr. Gorbachev's first priorities in those months must be, of course, to finish consolidation of his power and then he must put his own stamp on the new five-year plan.

We hope that part of putting his stamp on the next five years will be concrete displays of good will in foreign policy.

Such displays might include taking troops out of Afghanistan, abiding by both the spirit and the letter of the Helsinki Final Act, allowing more Jewish emigration, and indeed more emigration in general.

More immediately, we would be pleased if there were some progress in some of the areas of U.S. Soviet dialogue before Mr. Gorbachev meets with the president.

In the coming meeting with the president, Mr. Gorbachev can, as well, be prepared to agree on an agenda for the future development of U.S. Soviet relations. He can agree on what issues to address and on when to address them.

We can, I believe, realistically hope that this meeting will produce such an agenda.

U.S. Soviet relations have had their ups and downs since the end of World War II. Even the good times have been marked by tension. If we are to change that, we must look at our relations with an unsentimental realism. We must face our differences squarely and honestly. We must face the obstacles to agreement squarely and honestly. We must face our needs and what we ourselves stand for squarely and honestly. We must face the intention of our adversaries squarely and honestly. We must remember the lesson that Alf Landon has taught America and through us perhaps will teach the world . . . that you can get to the stars if with wisdom and perseverance you meet your difficulties squarely and honestly.

In World War II, the Soviet Union lost 20 million lives. No family in that country was left untouched by this massive loss of human life. In the epic battle of Stalingrad the Soviets paid for their victory against the Nazis with more men than the United States lost in combat in all theaters of the entire war. We understand, we must understand, what this terrible loss means to the Soviet people and how it has affected their nation and their thinking.

Our message to them and to their leaders is simple: Such devastation must never occur again. America and the Soviet Union must work together to preserve the peace.

For too long the American pendulum has swung between extremes of euphoria at the false notion that the Soviet system has changed and a despairing attitude of confrontation. Neither is sensible, neither is realistic. What we need is to adopt a steady willingness to engage in peaceful competition, trying always to solve problems along the way. Let's get on with it. I know how deeply President Reagan wants to strengthen the fabric of world peace. I have discussed this matter with him, just the two of us, over and over again. And, as I said earlier, I know he talked about this with Mr. Gromyko just last year.

I also know how hard the president is working to ensure that the meeting with Mr. Gorbachev produces real, tangible progress toward peace. All Americans can help him by keeping in mind what is possible in this meeting and what is not and by remembering that in building peace, just as in building a home, it is best to start with a strong foundation and to build good and build strong and build to last.

Thank you all very much.

The transcription of this Landon Lecture was accomplished through the cooperation of the Kansas State University Libraries and the Office of Mediated Education.

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