G7 Summit -- Williamsburg, VA., May 28-30,
1983


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[Summit Contents]

INTERVIEW WITH PRESIDENT REAGAN

May 31, 1983

Q: You had said before this Summit that you wanted it structured in this way because you'd have a frank discussion with other leaders. Did you learn anything from that? Did your views change in any way because of what was said to you here in that format?

A: Actually, not in any major way because you would be amazed at how much our thinking was alike on so many of the things discussed.

But in connection with the question also on structure, the difference was that the summits that I've been to before, each head of state would make a statement and that would be it then. Whether they agreed, disagreed, or not, they had made their statement.

The difference was here, you'd open up a subject let us say that the subject had to do with trade we'd open up the subject and everyone could express their views and so forth and then we kept going and discussing to see that we could all agree on a consensus of what we would do with this in the area of this subject that would further benefit, not only us, but the world.

Q: Do you feel that you persuaded anybody to some view that they didn't have before they came here?

A: Not really. The whole idea of convergence the answer is that you can't have one nation recover without the others, that this is a world recession, what we do affects each other, and that, therefore, we must have more surveillance, more constant communication, particularly at our ministerial level, on the progress that we're all making. And this included the developing countries also, that they cannot be out there on the other side of a door that their good economic situation, their prosperity is as vital to us as ours is to them. And, as I say, there was great agreement on this.

But what then did happen was you had the thoughts of others that contributed to come into a consensus as to how we were going to go about this, what we were going to do. And remember that the idea of the subjects wasn't just chaos of anyone coming with what they thought. A lot of this was based on the fact that at the ministerial level, OECD, the NATO summit, in the discussions on international monetary funds and all, we were well prepared in advance of knowing what was on the minds of each other.

Q: If I may, this was a Summit designed so that those of you who met privately could, on several occasions, have a frank exchange, candid exchange of views candid, personal. And yet you're saying that there were diverse views in here. And yet you're saying in spite of all of that, nobody's views changed very much

A: As I interpreted the question there, was there any sudden situation where you had just diametrically opposed ideas, say, a way to bring about prosperity. No, everyone recognized that for example, in our own problems of deficits and interest rates and the bad effect that they have had on the economy. There was general agreement on all of these things. And then the thing was how, for example it's in the statement that came out, differing from some conferences where the statement was written in advance and before you'd had the discussions. That statement was the result of the discussions.

Q: Let me give you a for instance. You said in your personal addendum to the statement that the world now recognizes there should be no quick fixes which as you mentioned in the United States [sic]. But I know you were told by some of the leaders in there that despite the best expected performance of the economy, unemployment is going to remain high for some time to come, recession may even deepen in some countries, and there are people who are concerned about the political and social upheaval that this can cause and, therefore, might favor some kind of quick fix, at least to avert the kind of crisis the United States faces. Did that discussion not temper your views about at least some quick fixes some way?

A: No, as a matter of fact, one of the participants referred to quick fixes as "quack medicine" and that we've proven by experience they don't work. They only worsen the situation. There is great willingness on the part of all of them, that they realized that they had to face up to some social changes in order to get control of excessive spending. And, as I say, the document attests that the statement to the outcome. We didn't leave any subject up in the air and say, "Well, you know, we're differing on this. Let's move on to something else." No. We stayed until we'd worked out what we all felt was a way to go on the particular subject. And there was no vote taken. There were no winners or losers. There wasn't any case in which five said, "Well, to two, you're outvoted and this is what we're going to say." No, before we settled it, all seven were in agreement.

Q: It's well known that your Administration wasn't enthusiastic about an international monetary conference. Did you modify your views during the Summit?

A: The funny thing was in the conversations, it isn't so much a modifying of views as it is a learning of what the views really were. For example, the principal proponent of such a conference opened by making it plain that he had not meant in any way that we go back 40 years and follow a pattern of something that was adopted 40 years ago the world has changed but that it was something to be looked at. We ourselves had come with the idea that just as out of the Versailles Summit and while many people have been quick to say that nothing good came out of that, a lot did. We have had since the Versailles Summit a relationship at the ministerial level on several subjects that has been ongoing and that has made great progress with regard to trade, the EastWest situation, all of these things.

And so the idea that these same ministers will now, as they go forward in this surveillance mutual surveillance to make sure that we're not getting off the track in some country or other that might set back for all of us the recovery, that this they will look at very closely and see if such a conference would be a help in what we're trying to do. It's going to depend on what they all decide and what they recommend.

Q: The dollar is reaching record highs against other currencies. Do you think that is a positive development for the world economy and for the American recovery?

A: There's no question about the value of the dollar, that it results from our success with reducing inflation. And, of course, we want to go on reducing inflation.

But we also want to see as the others progress that this levels off, because, remember, the high dollar is not an unmitigated blessing for us. We will have a trade deficit this year of probably $60 billion simply because the high value of the dollar has priced us out of many foreign markets.

We'd like to see a better balance. But we believe the better balance will come through convergence. And so, here again, out of this has come the decision that we're going to monitor each other closely on how we're progressing on this.

Q: You indicated in an interview last week that the Soviets were stepping up their aid to Nicaragua. I wondered whether you see the possibility of a superpower confrontation developing in Central America, and whether increased Soviet aid requires an increased response from the United States.

A: It is a little off the Summit. I did, in one session, simply explain as well as I could the entire situation in Central America. And many of them admitted that they had not been clear on some of what was going on. There has been a stepup in Soviet activity as to bringing in supplies. But we still believe that our plan of economic aid and such military assistance as we think is needed there in the line of supplies training, mainly should go forward.

But again, call attention to the fact that our economic aid is three to one in value over the military aid. We want, indeed, a political settlement if it can be reached.

Q: Did you ask your allies for help on that question I mean, did you ask them to

A: No. On this one, this was just one where I gave them a report and

Q: From a very general point of view, now that you have heard the opinion of all the other leaders at the same time, what is your feeling on the future of relations with Russia? Is it going to be an everincreasing tension and hostility, or will there be a point where there will be a thaw? I'm not asking about your hopes, but about your gut feeling of what actually is going to happen.

A: If there is an increase of tension, it will be the Soviet Union that causes it. Let me just quickly because I know time is important point something out. Sitting at that table in this Summit were the representatives the heads of state of nations that not too many years ago were deeply engaged in a hatredfilled war with each other. And here we were, sitting as closely as we're sitting with a really warm, personal friendship that had developed among us, but more than that, with a friendship between our peoples. And, what is the cause of disarray in the world if we had been able to do this with our erstwhile enemies, doesn't it sort of follow that we are the ones who want a peaceful world? I don't mean when I say "we" the United States, I mean all of us the people who were around that table that we are the ones who are striving for peace and have been successful in healing those terrible, deep wounds. But that one country that was an ally in that great war is the cause of tension in the world and that the things that we had to think about with regard to our national security, all dealt with our national security vis-à-vis that particular country.

Over and over again in talking trade we stressed that we don't want a trade war with the Soviet Union. We've been forced into having to view our relationship with our own security in mind. But, I couldn't help but think several times, why in the world isn't that other socalled superpower why didn't they have someone sitting at that table able to get along with the rest of us?

Q: But do you see better or worse relations? If you were to predict today, is it better or worse relations with the Soviet Union?

A: I see better, because I think all of us together have a more realistic view of them. This may not be visible in the rhetoric in the immediate future, because there's an awful lot of rhetoric that is delivered for home consumption.

Q: They've accused you of wrecking détente with the INF statement.

A: Détente, as it existed, was only a cover under which the Soviet Union built up the greatest military power in the world. I don't think we need that kind of a détente. But, all of us, we're ready at any time if they want to make it plain by deed, not word, that they want to join in the same things that are of concern to all of us the betterment of life for our peoples.

Q: You spent some time in the last couple of evenings talking about the Middle East as well, I understand, with your partners. And, most recently, there has been an increasing tension between both Syrian and Israeli forces in Lebanon right now. You have an agreement between Lebanon and Israel for a troop withdrawal, but the Syrians are not cooperating. Really, without their cooperation, you have very little. What is the next step? And, can you tell me, with the increased tensions, have you been in contact with the Soviet Union to get the Syrians to cool it?

A: This is hardly a Summit meeting thing, but let me say we're continuing what we've been doing all the time and that is trying to persuade the Syrians who had made a statement in the very beginning of all these talks that they would withdraw when the others did. And we're talking to their Arab friends and allies about this, I think making some progress. So this does not require any new course.

And as to whether there were several meetings, there was just one meeting in which I summed up and gave my well, no, I didn't. I'm sorry, I was thinking there I was talking about something else. No, on the Middle East, we did have one session and a dinner session and, actually, there was no quarrel with what we're doing. It was total support; but there was more a report on some of those who had been closer to the situation back over the years, our European neighbors, giving their views on some of the things that were at issue there and some of the problems.

Q: Just in light of the INF declaration, can you envision an outcome an interim solution in Geneva which would delay the stationing of the missiles in Europe?

A: I don't think you can predict on anything there without getting into the dangerous field of discussing strategy.

Frankly, my own opinion is that the negotiations won't really get down to brass tacks until they see that we are going forward with the scheduled deployment.

Q: Does that mean that the negotiations won't go forward until after you deploy?

A: Oh, no. We're going to try. The meetings are on now. We're going to try to negotiate. I am just anticipating from the Soviet side; they have based their entire propaganda campaign, everything they've been doing, on seeking to prevent the beginning deployment. And we have a schedule of deployment, the request of our NATO allies, and we're going to follow that.

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Source: U.S., Department of State, Bulletin, No. 2076 (July 1983): 20-22.


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