68. Press Conference by President Nixon1

[Omitted here are the President’s introductory remarks and his responses to questions dealing with the Middle East, Vietnam and the Paris peace talks, arms control negotiations, price trends, and school desegregation.]

Q. To pursue the question of our military preparedness a bit further, twice within the past week statements have been made by high ranking naval officers, Admiral Rickover and Admiral U.S. Grant Sharp, to the effect that our military preparedness is suspect. And they went further. Each gentleman said that in his opinion it is doubtful that we could win a war with the Soviet Union. Given the eminence of these gentlemen, as Commander in Chief, how do you regard the validity of those statements?

The President. Well, I would first react by saying that if there is a war between the Soviet Union and the United States, there will be no winners, there will be only losers. The Soviet Union knows this and we know that.

That is the reason why it is vitally important that in areas like the Mideast that we attempt to avoid to the greatest extent possible being dragged into a confrontation by smaller powers, even though our interests in the area are very, very great. That is why it is very much in our interests in the SALT talks to work out an arrangement if we can, one which will provide for the interests of both and yet not be in derogation of the necessity of our having sufficiency and their having sufficiency.

One other point I would make briefly is this: What the Soviet Union needs in terms of military preparedness is different from what we need. They are a land power primarily, with a great potential enemy on the east. We are primarily, of course, a sea power and our needs, therefore, are different. But what is important now is to find a way to stop this escalation of arms on both sides, and that is why we have hopes in the SALT talks which, I emphasize again, do not involve disarmament for the United States or the Soviet Union, but do involve a limitation and then eventually a mutual reduction.

[Omitted here are questions and answers on domestic issues and Vietnam.]

  1. Source: Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, 1970, pp. 626-635. The press conference was held at 8 p.m. in the Century Plaza Hotel and was broadcast on television and radio.