Public Papers

New Year's Message to the People of the Soviet Union


On behalf of the American people; my wife, Barbara; and my family, I bring you our warmest greetings.

A new year is dawning around the world, the first year of the last decade of the 20th century. And as the world looks back to nine decades of war, of strife, of suspicion, let us also look forward to a new century and a new millennium of peace, freedom, and prosperity.

Of course, there are no maps to lead us where we are going, to this new world of our own making. We can find our way only through cooperation beginning with a candid dialog. It is in pursuit of such a dialog that I met your President, Mikhail Gorbachev, near the island nation of Malta. Let me share with you some of the matters we discussed.

First, we agreed to redouble our efforts to diminish the horrible threat from weapons of mass destruction and to pursue with other nations an agreement to reduce conventional forces in Europe.

Second, we talked about ways we can end regional conflicts and alleviate the terrible toll in human suffering they bring.

Third, I want to assure you, as I did your President, that the West seeks no advantage from the extraordinary changes underway in the East. We talked about the magnificent efforts of the people of Eastern Europe to find a free and democratic future. And I told your President that I support the dynamic process of reform in the Soviet Union. We will work together to reduce barriers to trade, investment, and the free movement of goods and ideas.

In these ways, and as your economic reforms take place, the entry of the Soviet Union into the global market can be advanced -- an historic goal that, once achieved, can improve the life of every Soviet citizen. But it is our belief that lasting peace and prosperity comes from a respect for human rights and the sharing of democratic values that are deeply rooted in the human spirit. Your own Leo Tolstoy said that if our hearts are empty, no law or political reform can fill them. The real law lives within our hearts. These values are not exclusively American or Western. They are not the possession of any people or any domain. They belong to all men and women, through all time, and in all places. They are the inalienable rights of man.

Of course, much remains to be done, but the progress of the past year gives me confidence that we are heading in the right direction. In this, President Gorbachev has been a good partner in peace. Given the war-torn history of this century, we should redouble our efforts to forge a new century of peace and freedom. Our nations have produced Abraham Lincoln, Leo Tolstoy, Martin Luther King, and Andrei Sakharov. We have persevered as allies in a terrible war. The challenges we face today are no less daunting, but with good will and determination on both sides, I am confident our two peoples will be equal to the task.

Thank you, God bless you, and have a happy New Year!

Note: The message was recorded on December 19, 1989, in the Map Room at the White House. It was televised in the Soviet Union on January 1.