Soviets Not the Evil Empire Anymore, Reagan Declares : Euphoric President Hails Pact
A euphoric post-summit President Reagan today backed away from his earlier description of the Soviet Union as an “evil empire,” saying, “I meant it when I said it (but) there seems to be an entirely different relationship now.”
Reagan reported on his talks with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev at a White House meeting with Democratic and Republican leaders of Congress, and at a subsequent interview with out-of-town reporters.
The President got bipartisan applause and congratulations from the lawmakers at what Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) called “a love feast” celebrating the outcome of the three-day summit that ended Thursday.
‘A Certain Chemistry’
In discussing Gorbachev, Reagan told the journalists “there was a certain chemistry between us.” He said he found him “a hard bargainer” but that he had “a very different relationship” with him than with any of the Soviet leader’s three predecessors who served since the President took office in 1981.
Reagan did not meet any of the other three as President.
Reagan, who often tells audiences that he collects jokes that Soviet citizens tell each other about their system, said he had tried a couple of them out on Gorbachev and “so far, I’ve gotten a belly laugh from both of them that I told him.”
Enjoyed Soviet Jokes
He also said the Soviet Union has dropped its demand for curbs on his “Star Wars” anti-missile program and removed it as an “impediment” to negotiating deep reductions in long-range nuclear weapons.
“I don’t think there’s any impediment there at all,” Reagan said. He said the summit did not sidestep the U.S. and Soviet dispute over Star Wars but “it resolves it.”
Asked if the Soviets no longer demanded restrictions on the U.S. program to build a space-based missile defense system, the President replied: “That was eliminated.”
‘The People Won’
Reagan and Gorbachev are looking toward a fourth summit in Moscow next year to pursue a strategic nuclear weapons agreement going far beyond the treaty they signed Tuesday that bans medium-range missiles within three years.
“I think the people of both countries won,” Reagan told the reporters.
Discussing a major sticking point between the two countries, Reagan said Gorbachev “made it plain he really does want to withdraw (from Afghanistan) and he would do that within a 12-month period at the most.”
But Reagan said Gorbachev “has some concerns about our support” for the anti-Communist Afghan rebels.
Continuing on Star Wars
On Star Wars, formally known as the Strategic Defense Initiative, Reagan said the two sides “agreed that we are going forward with whatever is necessary in the research and development without any regard to an interpretation of ABM"--the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
Reagan told reporters he telephoned the leaders of West Germany and Japan to brief them on the outcome of the summit, and planned to call British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and others later today.
The President told congressional leaders about the talks at a meeting that began with a round of applause.
House Speaker Jim Wright of Texas, who is frequently at odds with Reagan, left the White House wreathed in smiles. “I just want to congratulate President Reagan. I don’t criticize him at all today. I think he’s done a fine job.”
‘Still Have Problems’
Dole, a Republican presidential contender, cautioned that “Gorbachev fever will pass.” He said “we still have problems” and added that he still doesn’t trust Gorbachev.