4. Statement by Ronald Reagan 1
RONALD REAGAN’S STATEMENT ON THE STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS
Having reviewed Mr. Carter’s State of the Union address last evening,2 I must today speak out strongly on the crises in Iran and Afghanistan.3 Mr. Carter terms the Afghan crises as “the most serious threat to world peace since the Second World War”, yet he is willing to accept the Soviet presence in Afghanistan with a vague threat that if further aggression transpires in the Persian Gulf he may do something. I wonder how the Pakistanis feel about American resolve when they have, in effect, been excluded from the protection of even this vague threat of American action. And how seriously will the Soviet Union treat Mr. Carter’s threat to take action in the Persian Gulf when it is accompanied by his voluntary pledge to unilaterally observe the terms of SALT I and SALT II treaties.4 We are in a power poker game with the Soviet [Page 13] Union. Grain embargoes and threats to refuse to attend the Olympics are not responsive to the Soviet call of our hand.5
In Iran, 50 innocent Americans are still being held hostage as a result of an act of war on our embassy.6 I cannot doubt that our failure to act decisively at the time that this happened provided the Russians with the final encouragement to invade Afghanistan. All Mr. Carter’s attempts at negotiation have failed and now he seems to think that the Iranians may soon desire American protection against the Russians and that some hope can be found in this. Mr. Carter is either deceitful or a fool if this is what he believes. How on earth could this Iranian government look for help from a country that doesn’t even possess the will to act decisively when its embassy is seized and its diplomats held hostage? How in the world can Mr. Carter offer protection to Iran when Iran more than any other country knows how weak we are?
The Iranians bet that Mr. Carter would be weak in responding to an act of war. They were right. The Soviet Union has bet that Mr. Carter is too weak to respond to its invasion of Afghanistan. And they were right. Mr. Carter is encouraging the belief that this nation will not risk war no matter what the provocation. In doing so he is increasing the chances of a nuclear confrontation. It is time for him to make our resolve clear to the American people in terms that are specific.
- Source: Reagan Library, White House Office of Speechwriting, Research Office, 1980 Campaign File, Campaign Reference File 1964–1980, Defense/Peace Strategy. No classification marking. The statement is printed on “Reagan for President NEWS” letterhead, prepared by the Reagan for President Campaign. For additional information about Reagan’s remarks, see Bernard Weinraub, “Reagan Blames Carter ‘Failure’ For Soviet Move: Joins in G.O.P Criticism of the President’s Speech,” New York Times, January 25, 1980, p. A12.↩
- The evening of January 23, Carter delivered his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. For the text of the address, see Public Papers: Carter, 1980–81, Book I, pp. 194–200. It is also printed in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. I, Foundations of Foreign Policy, Document 138.↩
- References are to the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and taking of American hostages on November 4, 1979, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on December 25–27, 1979.↩
- In his State of the Union address (see footnote 2, above), Carter asserted: “Especially now, in a time of great tension, observing the mutual constraints imposed by the terms of these treaties [SALT I and SALT II] will be in the best interest of both countries and will help to preserve world peace.” ( Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. I, Foundations of Foreign Policy, Document 138) On January 25, at a news conference at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Reagan again referenced Carter’s statement, saying: “Today I call upon Mr. Carter to tell the Soviet Union that we will no longer observe the provisions of the SALT II treaty and that we shall no longer give unilateral support to the expired SALT I Agreement unless or until Soviet troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan.” (News release, January 25; Reagan Library, White House Office of Speechwriting, Research Office, 1980 Campaign File, Campaign Reference File 1964–1968, Defense/Peace Strategy) For additional information concerning Reagan’s remarks, see Robert Lindsey, “Reagan Urges Bar on Arms Pact Unless Soviet Withdraw Troops,” New York Times, p. 10, and “GOP Chairman Says It’s Time For Debate on U.S. Hostages,” Washington Post, p. A3; both January 26, 1980.↩
- In a January 4 televised address to the nation regarding the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan Carter announced a grain embargo of the Soviet Union. For the text of the address, see Public Papers: Carter, 1980–81, Book I, pp. 21–24. It is also printed in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. I, Foundations of Foreign Policy, Document 136. Carter indicated in the State of the Union address (see footnote 2, above) that he had notified the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) that, as a result of the invasion of Afghanistan, he did not support sending the U.S. Olympic team to Moscow to compete in the Summer Olympic games.↩
- The Iranians released several of the hostages in mid-November. See Michael Getler, “Freed Trio Arrives at U.S. Hospital in Germany,” and “10 Freed Hostages Join Colleagues in Wiesbaden,” both Washington Post, November 20, 1979, p. A11, and November 21, 1979, p. A15, respectively.↩