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Reagan's remarks and a rebuttal

November 29, 1982



Here is a question put to President Reagan and what he actually said at his Nov. 12 press conference concerning Soviet influence on the nuclear freeze movement:

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You've said recently that you believe a number of sincere Americans who support a nuclear arms freeze are being manipulated by those who want the weakening of America. Could you elaborate on this for us? Do you have any evidence of foreign involvement in the US peace movement?

Yes, there is plenty of evidence. It's even been published by some of your fraternity. There was no question but that the Soviet Union saw an advantage in a peace movement built around the idea of a nuclear freeze, since they are out ahead. And . . . I want to emphasize again that the overwhelming majority of the people involved in that, I am sure, are sincere and well-intentioned, and as a matter of fact, they're saying the same thing I'm saying. And that is we must have a reduction of those nuclear weapons, and that's what we're trying to negotiate now in Geneva.

But to put the freeze first, and then believe that we have not weakened our case for getting a reduction when the other side is so far ahead, doesn't make sense. But, yes, there has been, in the organization of some of the big demonstrations, the one in New York, and so forth, there is no question about foreign agents that were sent to help instigate and help create and keep such a movement going.

Response from Randall Forsberg, a founder of the nuclear freeze campaign:

The President hasn't actually said that the Soviets have succeeded in infiltrating the freeze campaign, only that they tried. The President's main source seems to be a Reader's Digest article published in October 1982. This article only has three specific allegations against the freeze campaign. The first is that the campaign held its founding meeting one month after (the late Soviet President Leonid) Brezhnev gave a speech in which he referred to a freeze. In fact, the freeze campaign was initiated a year earlier in April of 1980 when the ''Call to Halt the Nuclear Arms Race'' was first published. Planning sessions for the March 1981 conference began in September 1980. Moreover, neither Brezhnev's 1981 speech nor any other official Soviet statement has ever endorsed the type of comprehensive freeze demanded by the US freeze campaign.

Second, the article names two Soviets invited to the March 1981 freeze conference. Rather than being secret agents influencing the conference or the subsequent campaign, these individuals were invited to give a brief public presentation on what the Soviet response to a freeze might be. In fact, they were not enthusiastic and urged instead that the United States ratify Salt II.

Thirdly, the Reader's Digest article mentions that Terry Provance, disarmament director of the American Friends Service Committee and an active freeze promoter, attended the initial meeting of the US Peace Council, a pro-Soviet group. In fact, Provance attended for only two hours to make sure that his organization was not involved.

The Reader's Digest article is full of innuendo and implication of guilt by association in time. No one has shown any evidence that any of the leaders or proponents of the freeze campaign in the United States have any connection with the Soviet Union or have been influenced by pro-Soviet leanings.