Public Papers of Jimmy Carter, 1978

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Author: Jimmy Carter  | Date: January 6, 1978

Brussels, Belgium
Text of Remarks at a Meeting of the North Atlantic Council.
January 6, 1978

Mr. Secretary General, General Haig, and members of the Council:

I am happy to meet again with the North Atlantic Council, after our successful discussions in London last May.

I come to see you at the end of a journey which has taken me to seven nations and which, from beginning to end, has reminded me of the causes for which our alliance was formed.

At every point on this journey, in East and West, in nations trying to cope with their poverty and those adjusting to the consequences of material wealth, I have emphasized the vitality of democratic rule, individual freedoms, human rights.

We in this hall understand those values well. Without them, the West stands for nothing at all. And we also know, too often from personal experience, the cost the defense of these liberties can demand.

Yesterday, I walked with President Giscard d’Estaing along the beaches of Normandy—as I might also have walked in Anzio, in Verdun, or here in Belgium in Flanders Field. If those names fill us simultaneously with mourning and with pride, it is because they remind us of the price that has been paid for our freedom before, the price we hope never to have to pay again.

No one who recalls those sacrifices can wish them ever to be repeated. The ancient soil of Europe bears constant, visible evidence of the carnage that war inevitably brings. In Warsaw, I saw brave people who have rebuilt much of the graceful city that war took from them; but what is new only emphasizes how much of the old was lost. Here in Belgium, too often the battlefield of Europe, every family knows of friends, homes, dreams that have been crushed by war.

That is the challenge for our alliance: to defend our values fearlessly, while tirelessly working to prevent war.

We know that the path to lasting peace depends on human understandings, negotiated agreements, acts of good will; the brave initiatives in the Middle East shine a ray of hope onto all international efforts. But we are united in believing that our defense must always be strong enough to deter any thoughts of aggression—that we must be prepared for combat we always hope to avoid.

When I met with the leaders of the alliance in London this past May, I was impressed with the allies’ seriousness of purpose and by our common determination to prepare NATO for the challenges of the next decade.

At that meeting, we agreed to embark on four major efforts:

—short-term measures to meet immediate military problems;
—a long-term defense program, surveying NATO’s requirements in 10 specific areas;
—an East-West study to gain better understanding of trends in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, an overall assessment of Warsaw Pact power, and the implications for the NATO alliance; and
—intensified effort to improve cooperation in defense procurement.

We have already taken major steps in all four areas. I was pleased by reports of the recent ministerial meeting of the Defense Planning Committee and the North Atlantic Council, and I look forward to the transatlantic dialog on defense trade that the Independent European Program Group has proposed.

Together, we are setting the NATO alliance on a course that will reaffirm our shared commitment to peace, to a strong and vital alliance, and to meeting any challenge to our strength and cohesion in the years ahead.

The leaders of the alliance will have the opportunity to review the results of our efforts in a summit-level NATO conference this spring. I am happy to renew my invitation to the alliance to hold that meeting in Washington on May 30 and 31.

The defense budget that I will be submitting to the Congress later this month will provide for real increases in United States defense spending, more than compensating for the effects of inflation. Even more important, a major part of this effort will respond directly to our objectives in the long-term defense program, and will improve the United States military commitment to the alliance.

The number of United States soldiers in Europe will increase by more than 8,000 in the next year and a half, and we will substantially improve our reinforcement capability.

We have made these efforts in the name of the alliance. We hope that with a far-reaching, realistic, long-term defense program, the alliance as a whole will match or exceed the improvements which we ourselves are now undertaking.

The United States will continue to maintain—undiminished—its firm commitment to NATO and will continue to provide the forces needed to back up that commitment.

We will continue to subscribe to the doctrine, strategy, and policies of the alliance, including forward defense and flexible response.

We will work with you to maintain deterrence across the entire spectrum of strategic, theater nuclear, and conventional forces, so that the Warsaw Pact states will know that all of us are united in commitment to defense of all the territories of NATO members.

There will be no flagging of American will or ability to meet all of our NATO commitments, which have the firm support of the American people.

There are other responsibilities facing the alliance.

We have set an excellent record of consulting with one another on a wide range of issues. That can and should continue, and the United States will increasingly draw the NATO allies into its counsels.

As SALT II proceeds towards an agreement, which we hope will come soon, we will intensify our consultations with all of you, recognizing that the Council is the focus of our deliberations. As we move beyond SALT II, we will undertake broad discussions here on all allied security issues.

We must approach these issues together, as an alliance, and judge eachquestion in the context of our overall security requirements for the next decade.

We must assure that our force planning and arms control strategies serve the same purpose. In seeking to reduce tensions and to build a more stable peace, the alliance should continue to give high priority to the mutual and balanced force reduction talks in Vienna.

We believe our negotiating proposals would lead to a more stable military situation in Central Europe, with lower force levels on both sides.

We in the alliance are prepared to be flexible in seeking progress toward a balanced outcome that protects our interests. But serious interest in moving the talks forward cannot be one sided. We look for an equal commitment and contribution toward progress in the talks from the Warsaw Pact states.

Lastly, as allies, we must continue to promote our strength in other areas—economic, political, social, moral. It is precisely when the challenge to democracy is greatest that our leaders must most firmly resist nondemocratic solutions.

I have every confidence that the nations of the alliance, and NATO itself, will be more than equal to these tasks.

I return to the United States confident of the prospects for a peaceful world which respects human rights; I know that the security of our alliance is the rock on which that hope is built.

NOTE: The meeting began at approximately 4:35 p.m. in the Conference Room at NATO Headquarters.

During his visit to the Headquarters, the President met with Joseph M. A. H. Luns, Secretary General of NATO, and Gen. Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Supreme Allied Commander of Europe.

The text of the remarks was released at Brussels, Belgium.

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Chicago: Jimmy Carter, "Brussels, Belgium Text of Remarks at a Meeting of the North Atlantic Council.," Public Papers of Jimmy Carter, 1978 in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Jimmy Carter, 1978 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), P.2303 38. Original Sources, accessed August 17, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3WL67GPG8R4STDK.

MLA: Carter, Jimmy. "Brussels, Belgium Text of Remarks at a Meeting of the North Atlantic Council." Public Papers of Jimmy Carter, 1978, in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Jimmy Carter, 1978 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), P.2303, page 38. Original Sources. 17 Aug. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3WL67GPG8R4STDK.

Harvard: Carter, J, 'Brussels, Belgium Text of Remarks at a Meeting of the North Atlantic Council.' in Public Papers of Jimmy Carter, 1978. cited in , Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Jimmy Carter, 1978 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), P.2303, pp.38. Original Sources, retrieved 17 August 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3WL67GPG8R4STDK.