Public Papers of Jimmy Carter, 1980-1981

Contents:
Author: Jimmy Carter  | Date: April 10, 1980

American Society of Newspaper Editors
Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at the Society’s Annual Convention.
April 10, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. Bill Hornby, Tom Winship, other editors, ladies and gentlemen:

First of all, I want to express my thanks to you for fitting me into your very busy schedule. I presume the reason you did it was that you have Senator Kennedy talking to you and Dr. Brzezinski speaking to you, Henry Kissinger speaking to you, and you wanted at least one speaker without an accent. [Laughter]

As you may know, for the last 2 days I’ve been meeting with President Sadat of Egypt. I’ve been very eager to get him out of the country before he decides to enter the late Presidential primaries. [Laughter] I think I’d rather run against anyone in this country than he.

Let me say at the beginning that our meetings these last 2 days have been very significant. President Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem initiated the process of peacekeeping which finally culminated in the Camp David accords. And through his efforts and those of Prime Minister Begin, with whom I will meet next week, we have already achieved one resulting miracle—a treaty of peace between Egypt and Israel. Its terms are being honored meticulously by both sides.

Now we are engaged in negotiating to ensure peace and security for Israel and her neighbors, and for full autonomy for the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. We come to these current talks, in which we are already participating, encouraged that the full agreements carried out at Camp David, with a solemn commitment from all three nations, will also be fully honored, as has the treaty between Egypt and Israel.

President Sadat and I talked of many issues. I was not surprised to find him sharing my own thoughts and my own concerns and my own ideas about the course of international events.

I would like to discuss with you today some of the most urgent imperatives of American foreign policy, with special emphasis in one particular area of the world. It’s important that we take a hard, clear look together, not at some simple world, either of universal good will or of universal hostility, but the complex, changing, and sometimes dangerous world that really exists.

It’s not one world, but many. It’s no longer a world that is structured and controlled by competition among colonial powers. It’s a more complicated world, where national, religious, and ethnic assertions are fragmenting old boundaries and old alignments. It’s a world of conflicting ideologies, of unequal wealth, and of uneven resources. It’s a world in which the capacity for destructive violence is at once alarmingly dispersed to every single small terrorist band and awesomely concentrated in the nuclear arsenals of the superpowers. It’s in just such a changing world—uncertain, suspicious, shifting, searching for balance—that we pursue peace and security, not only for ourselves in this great Nation but for every human being on Earth.

We have so much youthful vitality that we sometimes forget that we are a mature nation in the best sense. We’ve been a democratic republic now for two centuries, and we are the strongest nation on Earth. But we live among challenges which are, every day, a test of our maturity and our will and the skill of the American people to deal with rapidly changing and unpredictable times.

In many languages and out of many unfamiliar cultures, other peoples constantly ask America for a response to myriad and often conflicting concerns. Nations ask us for leadership, but at the same time they demand their own independence of action. They ask us for aid, but they reject any interference. They ask for understanding, yet they often decline to understand us in return. Some ask for protection, but are wary of the obligations of alliance. Others ask for firmness and certainty, but at the same time they demand flexibility required by the pace of change and the subtlety of events. The world asks with impatience for all thesethings at once. They ask for them today, not tomorrow.

Nowhere do we face the challenges I’ve just described more directly than we do in Iran. No single situation so aggravates the American people, so tests our maturity, so tries our patience, so challenges our unity, as does the continued captivity of American hostages in the Tehran Embassy. No other single event seems so clearly to mirror the disorder of our times. This disregard for diplomatic propriety and for international law is a special threat to the small nation, the weak nation, the nation without economic or military or political power or influence. And it also comprises a part of the competing pressures on a great and a powerful nation like ours.

This crisis calls on us to act with courage and also with wisdom that will both produce results and preserve life. I’m deeply proud of the steady strength that has been demonstrated in America in dealing with the irresponsible Iranian authorities, who’ve been unwilling to act or unable to carry out their frequent, solemn commitments. The leaders of the Iranian Government lack the cohesion and resolve to bring order to their own chaotic land or to decide on a basis for ending this illegal detention of hostages, which has created international crisis.

For long months, ours has been a restraint of strength, despite outrageous provocation. I do not regret that restraint, which was designed to protect American lives and to explore with Iranian Government officials and with United Nations officials and with mediators working with us a way to resolve this crisis peacefully. But it has become necessary, because Iran would not act in accordance with international law and with their own interests, for us to act again. The steps I’ve taken this week—to end diplomatic relations and to impose sanctions—are firm and substantive, and we hope that they will be persuasive.

America will continue the careful and considered exercise of its power. We will pursue every, and I repeat, every legal use of that power, to bring our people home, free and safe. But the hard, sad reality is that a small number of zealots, engaged in a power struggle within Iran, are using the innocent American hostages for their own advancement, with serious adverse consequences to all Iranian people.

In the interests of the people of Iran and of their possible future as a unified and peaceful nation living in freedom, it is imperative that the Iranian Government resolve this crisis. Every day that the crisis continues, Iran is further isolated from the rest of the world. Every day that the American Embassy remains a prison pushes Iran further into lawlessness, down and down the spiral of disorder. With a return of rationality, international lawlessness need not be Iran’s fate; bankruptcy, political as well as moral, need not be Iran’s future.

If interference from outside is a threat, the threat does not come from the United States. The challenge in that area of the world—as in some others—comes from the intersection of two historic trends. One is the rising demand for development and for self-determination which is felt, and deeply felt, throughout what we call the Third World. The United States responds with sympathy to that demand. The other trend is Soviet expansionism, which we are determined to oppose.

In 1946 the United States stood firm against Soviet occupation of northern Iran, against Soviet-sponsored subversion in Greece, against Soviet demands onTurkey. Historically, American strength has been used to help the countries of the Persian Gulf area to protect their stability and to retain their own sovereignty.

The reality of the world today is that Moscow exploits unrest, not to address the discontent that underlies that unrest, not to overcome the inequalities that give rise to unrest, but to expand its own dominion and to satisfy its imperial objectives.

In Afghanistan, the Soviet Union has revealed for the world the hypocrisy of its courtship of the Third World. It has shown that it will not be deterred by principle or decency or by international law or by world public opinion or by the opposition of freedom-loving and patriotic Afghanis. And it has made this known in a region which is at once politically volatile and economically crucial.

The subjugation of Afghanistan represents the first direct intrusion of Soviet armed forces beyond the borders of the Warsaw Pact nations since the Second World War. The explosiveness of this region, its great natural wealth, and the Soviet willingness to use the armed forces which have been developed during the Kremlin’s enormous military buildup during the last 15 years are what combine to make the invasion of Afghanistan so unsettling to the future of international peace.
In Southwest Asia, unstable and uncontrollable forces are at work. The Soviets have, with their invasion, disturbed these forces of historic, religious, economic, and ethnic conflict that are beyond the control of the Soviets and that could lead to much more serious direct confrontation with other nations who have vital interests in this region.

Nor can the world turn away from the harsh truth that the occupation of Afghanistan is marked by appalling inhumanity. We must not forget and our allies and other nations must not forget that today, at this moment, every day, the Soviet Union is violating human standards of decency and violating human rights in the grossest kind of way. Hundreds of Afghan freedom fighters are dying every week, some in brutal mass executions. Entire villages are being wiped out. More than 800,000 people have fled the country. Terror tactics, including the use of chemical weapons, are the trademark of the ruthless attempt to crush Moslem resistance and to install a Soviet form of peace—a peace of brutal armed suppression.

Earlier this year, 103 other members of the United Nations joined us in condemning the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and demanding the immediate withdrawal of the invading forces. Soviet citizens have never been informed of this United Nations action. This unprecedented condemnation was significant, but because of the principle at stake, because of the nation’s importance to Western security, because of the savagery of the Soviet assault, which continues till now, and because of the Soviet Union’s use of its own troops directly in such a conflict, it’s imperative that we continue to meet the challenge of the invasion with calm and unshakable resolution.

The measures that I’ve Ordered are designed to enhance peace. They include the embargo on further grain sales, tightened controls on high technology trade, limitations of fishing in United States waters, strengthening of our naval presence in the Indian Ocean, intensification of our development of rapid deployment forces and our capacity to deploy them and to use them, and our offer to assist states in the region to maintain their own security. These are necessary steps on a course which we must and we will persist.

We cannot know with certainty the motivations of the Soviet move into Afghanistan, whether Afghanistan is the purpose or the prelude. Regardless of its motives, there can be no doubt that the Soviet invasion poses an increased threat to the independence of nations in the region and to the world’s access to vital resources and to vital sealanes.

But our interest in peace and stability in the region goes far beyond economics. We cannot wish away the fact that conflict and tension in the region could endanger the broader peace. And if the invasion of Afghanistan does indeed foreshadow a pattern of Soviet behavior, then for the Coming years Americans must accept the truth that we are in for challenging and very difficult times. In this ever more interdependent world, to assume that aggression need be met only when it occurs at one’s own doorstep is to tempt new adventures and to risk new and very serious miscalculations. Our course is clear. By responding firmly, we intend to halt aggression where it takes place and to deter it elsewhere.

Let me underline for you this most vital point in our policy. America and Americans are not motivated by relentless hostility, by a desire for indiscriminate confrontation or a return to the cold war. But for America simply to accept Soviet occupation and domination of Afghanistan as an accomplished fact would be a cynical signal to the world that could only encourage further aggression, further tension, and further danger to world peace. It is America’s responsibility to register, and register in concrete terms, our condemnation of the Soviet invasion for as long as that invasion continues.

It is extremely important that we not in any way condone Soviet aggression. We must recall the experience of 1936, the year of the Berlin Olympic games. They were used to inflate the prestige of an ambitious dictator, Adolf Hitler, to show Germany’s totalitarian strength to the world in the sports arena as it was being used to cow the world on the banks of the Rhine.

The parallel with the site and timing of the 1980 Olympics is striking. Let me call your attention to one compelling similarity between the Nazi view of the 1936 Olympics as a propaganda victory and the official Soviet view of the 1980 summer games. I’d like to read to you a passage from this year’s edition of the "Handbook for Party Militants," issued in Moscow for Soviet Party activists, and I quote:

"The ideological struggle between East and West is directly involved in the selection of the cities where the Olympic games take place. The decision to award the honor of holding the Olympic games to the capital of the world’s first socialist state is convincing testimony of the general recognition of the historic importance and correctness of the foreign policy course of our country, and of the enormous service of the Soviet Union in the struggle for peace."
Let me repeat a part of that:

"The decision to award the honor of holding the Olympic games to the capital of the world’s first socialist state is convincing testimony of the general recognition of the historic importance and correctness of the foreign policy course of our country, and of the enormous services of the Soviet Union in the struggle for peace."

A few weeks ago I met with American athletes in the White House. I explained the Soviet stake in the Olympics and the moral and political reasons why the United States will not send a team to the Moscow games. I understand the sacrificethat has been asked from these men and women for the sake of the security of their country and their world; the Soviet leaders certainly understand it. But for our not sending a team to Moscow, this is far more than a symbolic gesture; it’s a direct repudiation—in the phrase of their own propaganda handbook— f the "correctness" of their foreign policy.

Under Olympic principles—and this is very important—athletes represent their nations. Athletes who are not part of a national team cannot compete in the Olympics. The United States does not wish to be represented in a host country that is invading and subjugating another nation in direct violation of human decency and international law. If legal actions are necessary to enforce the decision not to send a team to Moscow, then I will take those legal actions.

All of these decisions do require sacrifice, and I’ve acted to assure that the burdens of those sacrifices are shared as equally as possible among all Americans. The American people have demonstrated that they are willing to bear their share of the burden, but it is also vital that the burden of sacrifice be shared among our allies and among other nations.

Neither we nor our allies want to destroy the framework of East-West relations that has yielded concrete benefits to so many people. But ultimately, if we continue to seek the benefit of detente while ignoring the necessity for deterrence, we would lose the advantages of both.

It is essential that our intentions be absolutely clear. The measures we’ve taken against the Soviet Union since the invasion will remain in effect until there is total withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. Then, and only then, we would be prepared to join with Afghanistan and her neighbors in a guarantee of the true neutrality and noninterference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. We support the restoration of a neutral, nonaligned Afghanistan, with a government that would be responsive to the needs and the wishes of the people of that country.

Although the Soviets have talked about the withdrawal of their troops, they have actually shown no interest in such proposals. There are no signs at this time of a Soviet withdrawal. As a matter of fact, within this last week, we have proof that the Soviets are moving additional troop units across the border into Afghanistan. We must be prepared to hold our course and to impose the costs of aggression for as long as this is necessary. We thus face what could be a protracted time of strain in East-West relations.

To enhance stability as much as possible in this predictable and difficult period, we will continue to maintain a stable military balance, both through our own steady defense modernization and through negotiated arms limits that are equitable and verifiable. This objective-a stable balance—is advanced by the SALT II treaty.

In a period of heightened tensions, it is all the more important that we have reliable constraints on the competition in strategic nuclear weapons. SALT is an integral part of our national security policy. I remain committed to the ratification of this treaty, and the United States intends to abide by its obligations under international law and to take no action inconsistent with its intent or purpose, so long as the Soviets act with similar restraint.

The course we pursue, therefore, in this turbulent world is steady, firm, and fair. It’s the course of a strong, stable nationpracticing mature restraint, but insisting on justice—the policy we pursue in Iran. It’s the course of a resolute nation, hopeful of good relations, but determined to deter aggression—the course we pursue in dealing with the Soviet Union. It’s the course of the peacemaker—the same role to which the United States is committed in the Middle East and indeed throughout the world. It’s the course of an understanding nation, sensitive to the tides of change and to the rights and the needs of all people—America’s rightful approach, proper approach to the revolutionary climate in which a new world is now coming to life.

Our mission is to promote order, not to enforce our will. Our mission is to protect our citizens and our national honor, not to harm nor to dishonor others; to compel restraint, not to provoke confrontation; to support the weak, not to dominate them; to assure that the foundations of our new world are laid upon a stable superpower balance, not built on sand.

This is a worthy mission for a great nation, for a caring people, and for loyal friends. It is the historical mission of the United States of America. And the United States of America will fulfill this mission.
Thank you very much.

QUESTIONS

MODERATOR. While our panel is taking its position, we’d like to acknowledge the presence today of Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs. We’re looking forward to hearing you tonight, Doctor.

Our panel of questioners today will be Mr. Charles Bailey of the Minneapolis Tribune, Michael O’Neill of the New York Daily News, and Robert Healy of the Boston Globe. The first question will come from Mr. Healy.

SITUATION IN IRAN

Q. Mr. President, I have two questions on your speech. You referred to frequent and solemn commitments made by the Iranian Government officials. What were these commitments, and who made them? And on Soviet expansion, is there any connection, or have you found any connection, between the Iranian militants that are holding the hostages and the Soviets, and have you given any diplomatic recognition to this by way of communications with the Soviets?

THE PRESIDENT. The commitments were made directly to us and through intermediaries that several things would happen: first, that frequent and adequate visits could be made to the American hostages to determine their physical and their psychological well-being, to assure that they were getting adequate medical care and were living under conditions that were humane.

We also had firm commitments, including a report to us from the highest Iranian officials in the Government, that through a unanimous vote within the Revolutionary Council, as approved by the students and approved by Khomeini, that the hostages would be transferred from control of the terrorists—students to the Government itself.

These kinds of commitments were made from time to time. And invariably, before the commitments were carried out, they were either aborted, or those responsible for carrying them out, through timidity, failed to keep their commitments.

I cannot say that we have proof that the terrorists who hold the hostages in the compound are controlled by the SovietUnion. The Tudeh party in Iran is relatively small in number. In recent months they have been highly supportive of Khomeini and the mullahs and those that are close to him, possibly as a political ploy to seek some better treatment from the Ayatollah Khomeini.

The Soviets in recent weeks have had a very strong and constant radio propaganda effort going into Iran, expressing their approval of the actions taken by the militants in the compound. We complained to the Soviet Union strongly and repeatedly, and for awhile that propaganda effort was assuaged. In recent days, however, it has built up again.
MODERATOR. Mr. O’Neill.

Q. Mr. President, continuing on the issue of the hostages, you said in your speech just now that you will use every legal power that you have to free the hostages, and the other day in your formal statement, you said that other actions may be necessary if the hostages are not promptly freed. Two questions: What kind of legal power are you thinking about using, and two, what do you mean by "prompt"? What is the timetable, if you will, for the actions that you might take, and particularly in the light of the very violent threats that are now being made by the militants?

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. O’Neill, I think it would ill-advised for me as President, having the ultimate authority and responsibility for the Nation’s actions, to spell out in any sort of detail an exact time schedule or exactly what options are available to us.

Under international law, however, since we are an aggrieved nation, caused by not only the action of terrorists but also having the terrorist actions condoned by and even supported by the Government, the breadth of the rights that we have to take action to redress this grievance is quite extensive.

Q. Well, on the subject of, for instance, allied support, we are getting conflicting reports as to whether or not they are going to support us or not. What kind of specific commitments are you getting from them to either withdraw their envoys or to apply similar sanctions as you have applied?

THE PRESIDENT. Through my own personal messages, either with cables or on the telephone, I have relayed my urging to the allies to give us their full support. The support has been, on occasion, effective. On other occasions, we have been disappointed. Recently, since the effort that has been made to have the hostages transferred or released has been ineffective, we have increased our effort to get the allies to act on their own initiative to seek the release of the hostages.

I talked to some of the European leaders very recently. Yesterday and today, the Foreign Ministers of many nations met in Lisbon. They have decided to go to the Iranian officials to demand that the hostages be released immediately and to insist upon a time schedule for the release of the American hostages.

Options that are available to them if such action is not forthcoming would have to be chosen by those autonomous and independent nations and their leaders. We have suggested such things as the imposition of the sanctions as voted by the U.N. Security Council, blocked legally by the veto of the Soviet Union, and also the withdrawal of their diplomatic personnel from Iran, or possibly the breaking of relations with Iran.

I cannot tell you what those allies and other friends of ours might actually do, but we are putting as much proper effort as possible to induce the allies to act strongly and in a concerted way, hopefullyto break the present deadlock and to resolve the crisis.
MODERATOR. Mr. Bailey.

POSSIBILITY OF TAX CUTS

Q. Mr. President, I’d like to ask a question or two on domestic economic matters. What will you do if the Congress votes this summer or fall to cut taxes, as some are suggesting? Your aides, administration people have said there can’t be a tax cut until there is assurance that the fiscal ’81 budget will be balanced, and yet that kind of assurance can’t be available until toward the end of the budget year. Does that mean no tax cut this year? And if Congress passes one, will you veto it?

THE PRESIDENT. If the Congress should pass tax legislation absent a sure commitment, enough to satisfy me, that the budget for 1981 will be balanced, yes, I would veto such legislation.

FISCAL YEAR 1981 BUDGET

Q. On the budget—you’ve sent up two budgets this year—why didn’t you cut the budget when you originally submitted it instead of doing it a couple of months later? What had changed so much in so short a time? And when you did announce the changes, why weren’t they more specific? Why didn’t you propose some more painful cuts, such as cutting the cost-of-living increases and social security payments?

THE PRESIDENT. When we proposed the budget in January, which was prepared, as you know, in November or early December, there was not nearly so severe a prospect of escalating inflation, and we genuinely thought at that time that the prospect of an immediate recessionary trend was inevitable.
Since January, after we had a couple of months to consider a rapid and unexpected increase in the inflation rate with a commensurate increase in interest rates, and also because we saw that the economy was much stronger than we had anticipated, it became obvious to me that a more stringent anti-inflation emphasis should be placed upon the American economy. I might point out that the 1981 budget as originally proposed was a very stringent budget. The present attempts to cut it further are proof of that.

In 1976, for instance, we had a deficit in the Federal Government budget that was equivalent to more than 4 1/2 percent of our gross national product—4 1/2 percent. The ’81 budget as originally proposed had a deficit equivalent to only sixtenths of 1 percent of the gross national product. So, good progress had been made during that interim in cutting down the size of the deficit.

We also had seen a rapid expansion of credit, particularly consumer revolving credit, that needed to be curtailed. The savings rate for Americans had reached the lowest point in 30 years, and this was another indication of action that needed to be taken.

Another factor that presented itself was an unanticipated increase in imported oil prices, the international oil prices, which went up about 120 percent in a 12-month period. It went up more in 1979 than in all the previous times since oil was discovered. And the impact of this, and the aftermath of it now that’s rolling through our economy, was to some degree higher than anyone could possibly have anticipated.

The last point is that there is a worldwide crisis of high inflation and high interest rates. And we’re trying to induce a concerted effort, not only in our own country, where we’ve had some success incutting down oil consumption and oil imports, but to try to get our allies and other trading partners to take similar action.

So, these are some of the changes that did take place. I think the actions that we took are well advised. Now the House Budget Committee and the Senate Budget Committee have considered how to make possible a balanced budget. My judgment is that the soundest approach to this is the recommendation that we’ve made to the Congress. I hope that the Congress, in it wisdom, will agree with that assessment.
MODERATOR. Mr. Healy.

U.N. RESOLUTION ON ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS AND JERUSALEM

Q. Mr. President, I have a couple of political questions. Why did you let Secretary Vance take the fall for the U.N. resolution vote on the Israeli settlements? Shouldn’t you have fired him or taken responsibility yourself, as Eisenhower did with the U-2 and Kennedy did with the Bay of Pigs?

THE PRESIDENT. Cy and I considered that there was enough blame or culpability to go around, and we both took a maximum amount. [Laughter] Politically speaking—and as I said to news people-personally, I’m responsible for anything that goes on in our Nation.

It would obviously have been better, in retrospect, for me to study very carefully the text of the U.N. resolution for which I approved a positive vote. My understanding was that there were no references in the text at all to Jerusalem and that we would clearly make sure that the world understood that we did not favor demanding publicly the dismantling of the existing settlements. Those two items had been discussed between me and Begin at Camp David, and Sadat understood our position. And I feel now, and felt then, that for us to be clearly on the record as favoring those two parts of the resolution are in contradiction to the further peace prospects that we are now pursuing.

But it was a matter of Cy Vance being responsible for what happened at the State Department. I’m responsible for everything that happens in the Government, including the error that was made.

PRIMARY ELECTIONS

Q. On another point, Mr. President, you’ve been accused of manipulating foreign affairs for political advantage. There was a White House celebration of the Camp David accord 2 days before the New York primary, when in fact the actual anniversary date was the day after the New York primary. There was a 7:18 a.m. press conference to announce the breakthrough on the hostages the day of the Wisconsin primary, and the next day that fell through. Your pollster, Pat Caddell, said that the press conference had a big impact on the Wisconsin primary; your Press Secretary, Jody Powell, said it did not. Which one is right? And what do you say to your critics about this?

THE PRESIDENT. I think Jody is right. [Laughter] And I think the results of the New York primary proved that holding of a reception at the White House on a Sunday afternoon to commemorate the anniversary of the peace treaty did not materially affect the outcome of the voters’ decisions in New York.

Anyone who said that I have contrived recent events in foreign policy to gain reelection obviously don’t understand the political process. If I could contrive international events to help me in the election, I would have made several differences in what has actually occurred.
MODERATOR. Mr. O’Neill.

CRITICISM OF AMERICAN LEADERSHIP

Q. Mr. President, you spoke rather eloquently a minute ago about Soviet expansionism. Governor Reagan suggested earlier this week and others have charged rather forcefully that there would never have been an Iran, never have been an Afghanistan and the kind of Soviet expansionism that we’re talking about currently, if the world leaders had not really lost confidence in American leadership and American resolution during your administration. They cite, for example, inaction in Somalia, Ethiopia, Yemen, and flip-flops on such things as the Soviet troops in Cuba and the U.N. vote on Palestine. What’s your response to this kind of fundamental criticism?

THE PRESIDENT. I think the people in the Kremlin would agree completely with what Mr. Reagan has said—that the invasion of Afghanistan was not the fault of, nor the responsibility of, President Brezhnev and the Politburo, but was the responsibility of the President of the United States. That’s obviously a ridiculous claim that could only damage our own Nation’s prestige, coming from a responsible person, and help the Soviets in their claim that they had adequate provocation from this country to take this unwarranted action.

And I’m sure the same response would come from the terrorists who hold our hostages captive in the American Embassy in Tehran. I think they would agree with candidate Reagan that this was really not their responsibility or their fault, but the United States is somehow culpable for this abhorrent and inhumane action.

So, I do not agree at all with the premise which predicated those statements, but I’m sure that our enemies or our abusers in the Kremlin or in the compound among the terrorists would agree completely.

Q. I’m not exactly sure that their intention was to say that you are in collaboration with the Kremlin here; I think the argument is.—

THE PRESIDENT. I don’t maintain that they claim that I was in collaboration. But what I say is that that line of argument, that an invasion of a sovereign country with 100,000 troops or the taking over of a compound with innocent American hostages is somehow the fault of the United States or its President, is completely fallacious and does not help our country and does not help us resolve those issues that are so important for us to resolve.

Q. No, but the basic line of argument is somewhat different. They’re saying that if we have a long history of inaction, inability to deal effectively with our commitments around the world, that that then leads and misleads other world leaders, particularly in the Soviet Union, to believe that they can take actions with impunity without expecting to get any kind of retaliation from the United States. I think that’s the basic argument. And it traces back to this charge that there is this sense among a lot of world leaders of weak leadership in the White House, in the United States during this particular critical period around the world. Now, that contributes to these miscalculations by other national leaders.

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. O’Neill, your interpretation of what they might have meant when they said this or that is interesting to me, but I find it still lacking in conviction.

The record is that our Nation has always stood firm and resolved against aggression. The Soviets have used their surrogates to go into nations with troops, ostensibly at the invitation of the host government. This occurred in Angola, as you well know, with Cuban troops, I think in 1975—1976. It has occurred before and since then, when the Soviets invadedCzechoslovakia, when they invaded Hungary, when they took over East Germany, took over Poland. I don’t believe that anybody could say that was because the United States was weak or vacillating. We have made steady progress, in my judgment, in expanding the beneficial impact of our Nation throughout the world.

The Communist government philosophy and what occurs within those nations is not attractive enough to gain adherents without the use of violence or force. It’s not an accident that East Germany has a wall built around it. It’s not designed to keep people out of East Germany; it’s designed to keep people in East Germany. And had the Soviets been successful in selling to one of their neighbors, in Afghanistan, the attractiveness of a totalitarian government under Communism, similar to what exists in Moscow, then they would not have had to put 100,000 troops into an innocent country to subjugate those people and to force them to accept a puppet government.

This week we have seen in Cuba a bankrupt nation, kept alive economically, by the skin of their teeth, only with the infusion of 3 or 4 million dollars a day from the Soviet Union. When they temporarily opened the gates in the Embassy in [of] Peru, 10,000 Cubans filled that Embassy to escape political persecution and economic deprivation in Cuba.

So, for anyone to claim that it is actions of the United States or a failure of democracy or the failure of a President that has caused these kinds of forceful actions, in the absence of convincing ideological truths that have changed the shape of the world, that’s a completely fallacious example.

Our resolve is steady. NATO is strong. We’ve got many new friendships. Our country is now building up, for the first time, our military forces after a long, steady decline. We have very good interrelationships with our allies. Our efforts toward peace are very sound and progressive and successful. I have no apology at all to make for our country or for the administration which I head.

MODERATOR. A final question from Mr. Bailey.

RESPONSE TO SOVIET AGGRESSION

Q. Mr. President, somewhat along the same line, you spoke today of how we are responding firmly—by responding firmly we intend to halt aggression where it takes place and to deter it elsewhere. I think one of the things that troubles a lot of people is that—speaking specifically now of our reaction to the Soviet incursion into Afghanistan, aside from our not going to the Olympics, which has a moral force, but which will not stop the games, and aside from our not selling grain to the Soviets, who do seem able to obtain it elsewhere—in dealing with a country which does not appear to be swayed by moral considerations in international affairs, what else can we do to halt aggression? Is there anything else that we can do, beyond the moral force of whatever policies we espouse?

THE PRESIDENT. As President I have available to me the resources of the strongest nation on Earth, economically, politically, and militarily. The judgment that I have to make when we’re faced with a challenge or with a responsibility is to decide which of those powers or forces that exists substantially at my command to be executed.

When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, I decided to exercise the economic and political authority of this country, and notto go to war and to exercise what military resources we have.

Politically, we went to the United Nations, along with other countries, and in an absolutely unprecedented fashion, an overwhelming portion of the nations of the world, including some nations that are subservient to the Soviet Union or dependent upon the Soviet Union, voted to condemn the Soviets and to call for the withdrawal of their troops from Afghanistan. Thirty-four Moslem nations-not all of whom are our friends at all, some very closely aligned with the Soviet Union—voted unanimously to condemn the Soviets and demand that the Soviets withdraw.

I made a speech to the Joint Session of the Congress, State of the Union speech, and spelled out the commitments that we would make to maintain steadily, even if we have to stand alone, the economic constraints, our absence of participation in the Olympics, and so forth. We are inducing—I think we’ll have substantial success—other nations to join us in these restraints.

We go further than other nations, but we are the leader of the world. We’re not as vulnerable as some others are to economic or political pressure put on them by the Soviet Union, because of proximity and because of our innate strength. So, I think it’s necessary for us to go a little further than the other countries.

I don’t believe there’s any doubt in my mind or in most people’s minds that a very clear signal has been sent to the Soviet Union: Your action in Afghanistan is condemned; it will not be accepted; the status quo will not be revived that existed prior to Afghanistan; and further aggression by you will result in the possible exercise of additional authority and power by the United States and other countries above and beyond economic and political actions.
Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 1:31 p.m. in the Center Ballroom at the Washington Hilton Hotel.

In his opening remarks, the President referred to William Hornby, former president, and Thomas Winship, president, American Society of Newspaper Editors.

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