Well, thank you very, very much. What a surprise and wonderful welcome back; I am delighted and overwhelmed. Thank you so very much.
In the last week, Barbara and I have been to Rome and the Vatican, Brussels, Bonn, and London; and working with our allies in Europe, we set a course for the future. And we must move to fulfill that promise, moving beyond containment, moving beyond the era of conflict and cold war that the world has known for more than 40 years, because keeping the peace in Europe means keeping the peace for America.
Our alliance seeks a less militarized Europe, a safer world for all of us. And I'm now returning from Europe with a message for the American people, a message of hope. We have a great and historic opportunity to shape the changes that are transforming Europe. This chance has been delivered not just because of our strength and resolve but also because of our power of ideas, especially one idea which is sweeping the Communist world: democracy.
For the last 6 weeks, I've presented, in a series of speeches, ways to deal with these changes to make the most of this opportunity. And let me summarize: In Michigan, I stressed that the United States will actively encourage peaceful reform led by the forces of freedom in Eastern Europe. The Texas speech explains America's commitment to a balanced approach in our relationship with the Soviet Union: that we must remain strong and realistic -- judge their performance, not their rhetoric -- all the while seeking a friendship with the Soviets that knows no season of suspicion. And at Boston University the focus was our partnership with a more united Western Europe, of how a strong Europe means a strong America. And then at the Coast Guard Academy, I said that America is ready to seize every -- and I do mean every -- opportunity to bring the Soviet Union into the community of nations.
And then, with my colleagues in Brussels, on the 40th anniversary of the founding of the North Atlantic alliance, we celebrated NATO's 40 years of success in preserving the peace in Europe, the longest period without war in all the recorded history of that continent. And we were reminded that once again the future of so many nations depends on NATO's unity and resolve. We were reminded that NATO must remain strong and together, and we were challenged to seize this new opportunity for progress while staying true to the principles that got us here.
Well, we met that challenge. We agreed to strive, to hope for a Europe that is whole and free. At the Rheingoldhalle in Mainz, in the heart of Germany, I said that the Cold War began with the division of Europe and it must end with a reconciliation based on shared values, where East joins West in a commonwealth of free nations.
And that is my vision for the future, and here is how we get there. The Warsaw Pact has a lot more planes, a lot more arms, a lot more troops in Europe than the NATO alliance; and we challenge the Soviets, if they are serious, to reduce to equal numbers. Our proposal is bold but fundamentally fair, and every single one of our allies agreed with our proposal. We proposed a new initiative for more comprehensive and faster negotiated cuts in conventional arms to lift the West at last from the shadow cast over Europe since 1945 by massive Soviet ground and air forces, and our allies agreed. And we proposed that Berlin, East and West, become a center of cooperation, not confrontation; and our allies agreed. And we proposed that we strengthen the Helsinki process to support free elections in Eastern Europe, and our allies agreed.
Because the threat of environmental destruction knows no borders, we proposed that the West enlist the countries of Eastern Europe in one of the great causes of our time: the common struggle to save our natural heritage.
And with our agreement in NATO on our short-range nuclear forces in Europe, we demonstrated as an alliance that we can manage change while remaining true to the strategy of deterrence which has kept the peace.
In short, this week's NATO summit in Brussels showed that we are ready to help shape a new world. In this period of historic change, the NATO alliance has never been more united, never been stronger; and we issued a summit declaration detailing our vision for the future and plan of action. And ours is not an arrogant challenge to Mr. Gorbachev, it's an appeal in good faith. The summit was a triumph for the alliance, a triumph of ideas, and most of all it was a triumph of hope.
And let me say it is truly gratifying that all of this was understood so well at home and abroad. While keeping our defenses up and our eyes wide open, we must go forward. We must stay on the offensive. We must get to work now to end the Cold War. The world has waited long enough. And if we succeed, the world your children will know, the world of the 21st century, will be all the better.
We are delighted to be here. I salute the men and women of Pease Air Force Base, who help keep the peace. I thank my friends and neighbors from New Hampshire, and I even spot a few from Kennebunkport, Maine, here. I thank the two Governors and the Members of the United States Congress that came out to greet us. And I particularly thank a former Governor of the State of New Hampshire standing over here, my able Chief of Staff, John Sununu; our Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney; our Secretary of State, Jim Baker; and my very able friend and adviser, the head of the National Security Council, General Brent Scowcroft.
Listen, Barbara and I are overwhelmed by this welcome home. Thank you all. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 12:15 p.m. at Pease Air Force Base.