A partial transcript of President Reagan's interview with four Soviet journalists last Thursday:
The President: May I welcome you all -- it's a pleasure here. And I appreciate very much the opportunity to be able to speak, in a sense, to the people of your country. I've always believed that a lot of the ills of the world would disappear if people talked more to each other instead of about each other. So I look forward to this meeting and welcome your questions . . . .
Q: According to a survey taken by The Washington Post and ABC on last Tuesday, it was found that 74 percent of the American people as compared to 20 percent said that they would like the U.S. and the Soviet Union to reduce their nuclear arsenals and not to have the U.S. develop space weapons. This seems to be the choice which the American people have made.
It seems clear that without stopping the development of weapons in space there can be no reduction of nuclear weapons. This is the position of the Soviet side. So how then will you react, Mr. President, to this opinion expressed by the American public?
A: For one thing, it is based on a misconception. The use of the term "Star Wars" came about when one political figure in America used that to describe what it is we are researching and studying, and then our press picked it up and it has been worldwide.
We're not talking about Star Wars at all. We are talking about seeing if there isn't a defensive weapon that does not kill people, but that simply makes it impossible for nuclear missiles, once fired out of their silos, to reach their objective -- to intercept those weapons . . . .
We are for, and have for several years now, been advocating a reduction in the number of nuclear weapons. It is uncivilized on the part of all of us to be sitting here with the only deterrent to war -- offensive nuclear weapons that in such numbers that both of us could threaten the other with the death and the annihilation of millions and millions of each other's people.
And so that is the deterrent that is supposed to keep us from firing these missiles at each other. Wouldn't it make a lot more sense if we could find -- that as there has been in history for every weapon a defensive weapon. Weapon isn't the term to use for what we are researching.
We are researching for something that could make it, as I say, virtually impossible for these missiles to reach their targets. And if we find such a thing, my proposal is that we make it available to all the world. We don't just keep it for our own advantage.
Q: . . . It's apparent that the American people have indicated their choice, that if it comes down to a choice between the creation of such a space system and the decrease in nuclear arms, they prefer a decrease in nuclear arms. So, it seems to be a realistic evaluation on the part of the American people. And I would like to ask how the American government would react to the feelings of the American people in this regard.
A: In the first place, yes, if someone was developing such a defensive system and going to couple it with their own nuclear weapons -- yes, that could put them in a position where they might be more likely to dare a first strike. But your country, your government has been working on this same kind of a plan beginning years before we ever started working on it, which, I think, would indicate that maybe we should be a little suspicious that they want it for themselves.
But I have said, and am prepared to say at the summit, that if such a weapon is possible, and our research reveals that, then our move would be to say to all the world, "Here, it is available." We won't put this weapon -- or this system in place, this defensive system, until we do away with our nuclear missiles, our offensive missiles. But we will make it available to other countries, including the Soviet Union, to do the same thing.
Now, just what -- whichever one of us comes up first with that defensive system, the Soviet Union or us or anyone else -- what a picture if we say no one will claim a monopoly on it. And we make that offer now. It will be available for the Soviet Union, as well as ourselves.
And if the Soviet Union and the United States both say we will eliminate our offensive weapons, we will put in this defensive thing in case some place in the world a madman some day tries to create these weapons again -- nuclear weapons -- because, remember, we all know how to make them now. So, you can't do away with that information. But we would all be safe knowing that if such a madman project is ever attempted, there isn't any of us that couldn't defend ourselves against it.
So, I can assure you now we are not going to try and monopolize this, if such a weapon is developed, for a first-strike capability . . . .
Q: With relation to the ABM Treaty, which was signed in 1972, Article V of that treaty indicates, and I quote, "that each side will not develop a test or deploy anti-ballistic missile components or systems which are sea-based, air-based, space-based or mobile land-based."
Now, some administration representatives say that the treaty is such that it permits all of these things -- the development, the testing and deployment of ABM systems. Such an interpretation of that treaty certainly cannot help achieve agreement.
What is the true position of the American administration with regard to the interpretation of this treaty . . . ?
A: There are two varying interpretations of the treaty. There is an additional clause in the treaty that would seem to be more liberal than that paragraph 5 -- or clause 5. The other hand, we have made it plain that we are going to stay within a strict definition of the treaty. And what we are doing with regard to research -- and that would include testing -- is within the treaty.
Now, with regard to deployment, as I said earlier, no, we are doing what is within the treaty and which the Soviet Union has already been doing for quite some time, same kind of research and development. But, when it comes to deployment, I don't know what the Soviet Union was going to do when and if their research developed such a weapon, or still if it does.
But I do know what we're going to do and I have stated it already. We would not deploy -- my -- it is not my purpose for deployment -- until we sit down with the other nations of the world, and those that have nuclear arsenals, and see if we cannot come to an agreement on which there will be deployment only if there is elimination of the nuclear weapons.
Now, you might say if we're going to eliminate the nuclear weapons, then why do we need the defense? Well, I repeat what I said earlier. We all know how to make them -- the weapons, so it is possible that some day a madman could arise in the world -- we were both allies in a war that came about because of such a madman -- and therefore, it would be like, in Geneva after World War I when the nations all got together and said no more poison gas, but we all kept our gas masks.
Well, this weapon, if such can be developed, would be today's gas mask. But we would want it for everyone and the terms for getting it and the terms for our own deployment would be the elimination of the offensive weapons -- a switch to maintain trust and peace between us of having defense systems that gave us security, not the threat of annihilation -- that one or the other of us would annihilate the other with nuclear weapons . . . .