Reagan Warns of ‘the Soviet Drive for Domination’ : Cites Differences With Kremlin, Tells Hope for a More Stable Relationship

Times Washington Bureau Chief

In a State of the Union address that emphasized the stick more than the carrot in laying out U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union, President Reagan on Tuesday night warned against what he called “the Soviet drive for domination” and declared that “arms control is no substitute for peace.”

While expressing hope that his continuing summit dialogue with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev “can lead to a more stable relationship” between the world’s two superpowers, Reagan said: “We cannot stroll into the future with childlike faith. Our differences with a system that openly proclaims, and practices, an alleged right to command people’s lives and to export its ideology by force are deep and abiding.”

The President renewed his commitment to arms control, saying: “If the Soviet government wants an agreement that truly reduces nuclear arms, there will be an agreement.” But he said Moscow must abide by the letter and spirit of existing accords. And he reemphasized his commitment to the “Star Wars” space defense program that Moscow has portrayed as a major obstacle to arms control.


Can ‘Free Mankind’

“A security shield can one day render nuclear weapons obsolete and free mankind from the prison of nuclear terror,” the President said.

Similarly, though he pledged to hold “real growth in Pentagon spending to the bare minimum,” Reagan called for continuation of his Administration’s massive defense buildup. “The threat from Soviet forces, conventional and strategic, from the Soviet drive for domination, from the increase in espionage and state terror, remains great. This is reality. Closing our eyes will not make reality disappear,” he said.

“The Soviets must know that if America reduces her defenses, it will be because of a reduced threat, not a reduced resolve.”

Seeks Popular Support

In delivering his fifth State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, the President dealt fleetingly with the details of his policy agenda for 1986 and concentrated instead on striking chords designed to muster popular support for positions he will take in the months ahead.

“What we accomplish this year, in each challenge we face, will set our course for the balance of the decade--indeed, for the remainder of the century,” Reagan declared. “After all we’ve done so far, let no one say this nation cannot reach the destiny of our dreams. America believes, America is ready, America can win the race to the future--and we shall.”

Yet Reagan made it abundantly clear that in the coming struggle with Congress over the specifics of budget, spending and defense policy, he will fight it out on lines drawn long ago in the political dust:


--He challenged Congress to accept his approach to shrinking the federal deficit, an approach that shuns higher taxes and instead concentrates on slashing almost all federal spending programs except defense, Social Security and help for the “truly less fortunate.”

--He called for acceptance of his version of tax reform, particularly his proposals for cutting back the maximum personal rate to 35% and raising the personal exemption to $2,000, ideas already modified in the Democratic House and viewed skeptically in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Plumps for Balanced Budget

--He plumped once more for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, which he said would “prevent spending measures from sneaking through that could not pass on their own merit.”

--He revived his plea for Congress “to give me what 43 governors already have--give me a line-item veto this year. Give me the authority to veto waste and I’ll take the responsibility, I’ll make the cuts, I’ll take the heat.”

--He reiterated his support for tuition aid to private schools, school prayer and his opposition to abortion. He said he supports educational “vouchers that give parents freedom of choice” and added: “We must give back to our children their lost right to acknowledge God in their classrooms.”

‘Wound’ in Conscience

On abortion, Reagan declared: “We are a nation of idealists, yet today there is a wound in our national conscience; America will never be whole as long as the right to life granted by our creator is denied to the unborn. For the rest of my time, I shall do what I can to see that this wound is one day healed.”


The budget he submits to Congress today, Reagan said, “will meet the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings target for deficit reductions; meet our commitment to ensure a strong national defense; meet our commitment to protect Social Security and the truly less fortunate, and, yes, meet our commitment not to raise taxes.”

In his sole concession on tax policy, Reagan indicated in a briefing with reporters earlier Tuesday that an import oil tax increase could be acceptable as part of a tax revision bill if the overall bill were “revenue neutral.” There is substantial support for such a tax in Congress and one is being considered by the Senate Finance Committee.

The President offered no major new initiatives for domestic programs in his speech, but he called for studies to determine whether the national welfare system should be overhauled, whether there is a need for insurance to cover catastrophic illnesses and whether an international conference should be called to discuss ways of bringing stability to the worldwide currency system.

Part of the Problem

Dwelling at some length on the problems of welfare and those trapped in a cycle of poverty, Reagan suggested that government aid may be a part of the problem, not the solution, and called for new approaches to break “the spider’s web of dependency.”

“In the welfare culture, the breakdown of the family, the most basic support system, has reached crisis proportions--in female and child poverty, child abandonment, horrible crimes and deteriorating schools,” he said.

Reagan opened his nationally televised speech--delayed a week because of the explosion that destroyed the shuttle Challenger--by saying that the nation had “paused together to mourn and honor our seven Challenger heroes.”


“And I hope,” he said, “we are now ready to do what they would want us to do--go forward America, reach for the stars. We will never forget these brave seven, but go forward we shall.”

Will Discuss Proposal

Discussing arms control in a news briefing before the President’s speech, a senior Administration official acknowledged that the United States has not yet responded to Gorbachev’s latest proposal that all nuclear weapons be eliminated by the year 2000. The official said that teams of experts are being dispatched today to Europe and Asia to discuss the proposal with allies.

In his speech, however, Reagan placed the burden of sustaining progress on arms control squarely on Moscow. “If the Soviet government wants an agreement that truly reduces nuclear arms, there will be an agreement,” he said. But he added that “arms control is no substitute for peace.”

Said the President: “We know peace follows freedom’s path and conflicts erupt when the will of the people is denied. So we must prepare for peace not only by reducing weapons but by bolstering prosperity, liberty and democracy however and wherever we can.”

Another Challenge

Then, in another challenge to the Kremlin, Reagan pledged U.S. help for those resisting Soviet aggression and Soviet-backed Marxist regimes alike:

“You are not alone, freedom fighters. America will support with moral and material assistance your right not just to fight and die for freedom, but to fight and win freedom--in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia and Nicaragua.”


“No issue is more important for peace in this hemisphere, for the security of our frontiers, for protection of our vital interests,” he said, “than to achieve democracy in Nicaragua and to protect Nicaragua’s neighbors.”

In addition to the traditional advance briefing for all White House reporters, Reagan and five senior aides hosted an extraordinary luncheon session with more than a dozen Washington news bureau chiefs in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

Trim and Robust

Reagan, looking trim and robust just two days before his 75th birthday, talked enthusiastically about the study of the welfare system he is ordering.