This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. One draft of the speech exists in the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers here at the John F. Kennedy Library. Page images of the reading copy and the Congressional Record containing the speech are available.
May 17, 1960, marked the end of an era - an era of illusion - the illusion that platitudes and slogans are a substitute for strength and planning - the illusion that personal goodwill is a substitute for hard, carefully prepared bargaining on concrete issues - the illusion that good intentions and pious principles are a substitute for strong, creative leadership.
For on May 17, 1960, the long-awaited, highly publicized Summit Conference collapsed. That collapse was the direct result of Soviet determination to destroy the talks. The insults and distortions of Mr. Khrushchev - the violence of his attacks - shocked all Americans and united the country in admiration for the dignity and self-control of President Eisenhower. Regardless of party, all of us deeply resented Russian abuse of this nation and its President - and all of us shared a common disappointment at the failure of the conference. But it is imperative, nevertheless, that we as a nation rise above our resentment and frustration to a critical re-examination of the events at Paris and their meaning for America.
I do not now intend to rehash the sorry story of the U-2 incident, and the image of confusion and indecision which our government presented to the American people and the world. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has raised, in a constructive manner, the questions which must be raised, if we are to profit from the unfortunate experience. Nor do I wish to exaggerate the long-range importance of the U-2 incident or the Khrushchev attacks in Paris.
For the harsh facts of the matter are that the effort to eliminate world tensions and end the cold war through a summit meeting - necessary as such an effort was to demonstrate America's willingness to seek peaceful solutions - was doomed to failure long before the U-2 ever fell on Soviet soil. This effort was doomed to failure because we have failed for the past eight years to build the positions of long-term strength essential to successful negotiation. It was doomed because we were unprepared with new policies or new programs for the settlement of outstanding substantive issues. It was doomed because the Soviet Union knew it had more to gain from the increasing deterioration of America's world position than from any concessions that might be made in Paris. Only Mr. Khrushchev's intransigence and violent temper saved the United States from an embarrassing exposure of our inability to make the Summit meaningful.
Trunk-loads of papers, I am told, were sent to Paris - but no new plans or positions were included. Our unwillingness to go to the Summit had changed - but the steady decrease in our relative strength had not changed. Our allies and our own people had been mislead into believing that there was some point to holding a Summit Conference - that we were prepared to say more than what changes in the status quo we would not accept - that by a miracle of personal charm and public relations the Russians could be cajoled into yielding some of their hard-won positions of strength - that we had some conception of alternative settlements that were both acceptable to us and possibly acceptable to the Soviets.
But the truth of the matter is that we were not prepared for any such negotiations - that there was no real success which the Summit could have achieved. For words and discussion are not a substitute for strength - they are an instrument for the translation of strength into survival and peace.
We are, in short, fortunate that the violent manner in which the Soviets carried out their determination to wreck the Summit made it clear to the world that the blame for the collapse of the Conference rests on Mr. Khrushchev. And we will also be fortunate if the violence of the Paris encounters shocks American leaders and the American people into a renewed awareness of the perils we face, the sacrifices we must make, and the urgency of our need for leadership.
This is the real issue of American foreign policy today - not the ill-considered timing of the U-2, or the inconsistent statements of our government. The real issue - and the real lesson of Paris - is the lack of long-range preparation, the lack of policy-planning, the lack of a coherent and purposeful national strategy backed by strength.
This is an issue worthy of a great debate - a debate by the American people through the media of their political parties - and that debate must not be stifled or degraded by empty appeals to national unity, false cries of appeasement, or deceptive slogans about "standing up to Khrushchev." For the issue is not who can best "stand up to Khrushchev" - who can best swap threats and insults - the real issue is who can stand up and summon America's vast resources to the defense of freedom against the most dangerous threat it has ever faced.
For if the 1960 campaign should degenerate into a contest of who can talk toughest to Khrushchev - or which party is the "party of war" or the "party of appeasement" - or which candidate can tell the American voters what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear - or who is "soft on communism", or who can be hardest on foreign aid - then, in my opinion, it makes very little difference who the winners are in July and in November - the American people and the whole free world will be the losers.
For the next President of the United States - whoever he may be - will find he has considerably more to do than "stand up" to Khrushchev, balance the budget, and mouth popular slogans, if he is to restore our nation's relative strength and leadership.
For he will find himself with far-flung commitments without the strength to back them up. He will inherit policies formed largely as reactions to Soviet action - their limits set by budgeteers without regard to world conditions or America's needs - their effectiveness often undercut by overlapping or competing agencies. He will inherit membership in alliances of uncertain stability and in international organizations of obsolete structure. He will inherit programs which have been administered by shortsighted, unsympathetic men, opposed to the very programs they are administering, awaiting their own return to private industry, and so lacking in compassion for our domestic needs as to be incapable of compassion for the desperate needs of the world's peoples. He will face a world of revolution and turmoil armed with policies which only seek to freeze the status quo and turn back the inevitable tides of change.
To be sure, we have, in 1960, most of the formal tools of foreign policy: We have a defense establishment, a foreign aid program, a Western alliance, a disarmament committee, an information service, an intelligence operation and a National Security Council. But (except for the brilliant legislative inquiry being conducted by the Subcommittee of the Senator from Washington, Mr. Jackson) we have failed to appraise and re-evaluate these tools in the light of our changing world position. We have failed to adapt these tools to the formulation of a long-range, coordinated strategy to meet the determined Soviet program for world domination - a program which skillfully blends the weapons of military might, political subversion, economic penetration and ideological conquest. We are forced to rely upon piecemeal programs, obsolete policies and meaningless slogans. We have no fresh ideas to break the stalemate in Germany, the stalemate over arms control, the stalemate in Berlin and all the rest - we have as our grand strategy only the arms race and the cold war.
Our conferees have consistently gone to the international bargaining table ill-staffed, ill-prepared and ill-advised. Coordinated efforts - with all agencies and all allies - have faltered without strong direction from the top; and strong direction from the top has often faltered because the President was not kept fully informed. The fact of the matter is that long-range problems in foreign affairs cannot be faced effectively by a party which is unwilling to face long-range problems at home. The destinies of a fast-changing world cannot be shaped effectively by a party traditionally opposed to change and progress. Coherent direction and purpose for the Free World cannot be provided effectively by a party which does not provide them for our own people.
As a substitute for policy, Mr. Eisenhower has tried smiling at the Russians; our State Department has tried frowning at them; and Mr. Nixon has tried both. None have succeeded. For we cannot conceal or overcome our lack of purpose and our failure of planning by "talking tough"; nor can we compensate for our weaknesses by "talking nice," by assuming that the righteousness of our principles will ensure their victory. For just as we know that "might" never makes "right", we must also remember that "right," unfortunately, never makes "might."
Thus neither our smiles nor our frowns have ever altered Mr. Khrushchev's course, however he may alter his expression. His real goals have remained unmoved, his interests unchanged, his determination unending. And as long as Mr. Khrushchev is convinced that the balance of world power is shifting his way, no amount of either smiles or toughness, neither Camp David talks nor kitchen debates, can compel him to enter fruitful negotiations.
So let us abandon the useless discussion of who can best "stand up to Khrushchev", or whether a "hard" or "soft" line is preferable. Our task is to rebuild our strength, and the strength of the free world - to prove to the Soviets that time and the course of history are not on their side, that the balance of world power is not shifting their way - and that therefore peaceful settlement is essential to mutual survival. Our task is to devise a national strategy - based not on the 11th hour responses to Soviet created crises, but a comprehensive set of carefully prepared, long-term policies designed to increase the strength of the non-communist world. Until this task is accomplished, there is no point in returning to the Summit - for no President of the United States must ever again be put in the position of traveling across the seas, armed only with vague, speculative hopes, in order to provide an occasion for public humiliation. And unless this task is accomplished - as we move into the most critical period in our nation's history since that bleak winter at Valley Forge - our national security, our survival itself, will be in peril.
The hour is late - but the agenda is long.
First - We must make invulnerable a nuclear retaliatory power second to none - by making possible now a stop-gap air alert and base dispersal program - and by stepping up our development and production of the ultimate missiles that can close the gap and will not be wiped out in a surprise attack - Polaris, Minuteman, and long-range air-to-ground missiles - meanwhile increasing our production of Atlas missiles, hardening our bases and improving our continental defense and warning systems. As a power which will never strike first, we require a retaliatory capacity based on hidden, moving or invulnerable weapons in such force as to deter any aggressor from threatening an attack he knows could not destroy enough of our force to prevent his own destruction. And we must also critically re-examine the far-flung overseas base structure on which much of our present retaliatory strength is based. We must contribute to the political and economic stability of the nations in which our vital bases are located - and develop alternative plans for positions which may become untenable.
Secondly - We must regain the ability to intervene effectively and swiftly in any limited war anywhere in the world - augmenting, modernizing and providing increased mobility and versatility for the conventional forces and weapons of the Army and Marine Corps. As long as those forces lack the necessary airlift and sealift capacity and versatility of firepower, we cannot protect our commitments around the globe - resist non-nuclear aggressions - or be certain of having enough time to decide on the use of our nuclear power.
Third - We must rebuild NATO into a viable and consolidated military force, capable of deterring any kind of attack, unified in weaponry and responsibility. Aiming beyond a narrow military alliance united only by mutual fears, a return to mutual consultation and respect - and a determined American effort to create a free world economy - can help overcome schismatic economic rivalries between the Continent and Britain, and the Common Market and the "Outer Seven," as well as other Western differences in military and political policy. We need a common effort to protect vital international reserves, to adopt more consistent tariff policies on both sides of the Atlantic and to merge Western contributions to the underdeveloped areas.
Fourth - We must, in collaboration with Western Europe and Japan, greatly increase the flow of capital to the underdeveloped areas of Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America - frustrating the communist hopes for chaos in those nations - enabling emerging nations to achieve economic as well as political independence - and closing the dangerous gap that is now widening between our living standards and theirs. Above all, it is vital that we aid India to make a success of her new five-year program - a success that will enable her to compete with Red China for economic leadership of all Asia. And we must undertake this effort in a spirit of generosity, motivated by a desire to help our fellow citizens of the world - not as narrow bankers or self-seeking politicians. Our present foreign aid programs have neglected the great, visionary, partnership principles of the Marshall Plan and Point Four - they have been subordinated to narrow, expedient ends - money has been poured into military assistance programs at the expense of vitally necessary economic development. The next President will have to devise an entirely revamped foreign aid program - a program which will make the long-term commitments essential to successful planning - a program whose administration will not be hampered by waste and mismanagement, or by unsympathetic and unqualified administrators. And part of this program must be a new and expanded effort to use our food surpluses to feed the world's hungry - storing them in "food banks" abroad.
Fifth - We must reconstruct our relations with the Latin American democracies - bringing them into full Western partnership - working through a strengthened Organization of American States - increasing the flow of technical assistance, development capital, private investment, exchange students and agricultural surpluses, perhaps through the large-scale "Operation Pan-America" which has been proposed by the President of Brazil - and pursuing practical agreements for stabilizing commodity prices, trade routes and currency convertability. A return to the "Good Neighbor Policy" is not enough - dollar diplomacy is not enough - a patronizing attitude taking for granted their dedication to an anti-communist crusade is not enough. We will need a whole new set of attitudes and emphases to make the nations of Latin America full partners in the rapid development of the Western Hemisphere.
Sixth - We must formulate, with both imagination and restraint, a new approach to the Middle East - not pressing our case so hard that the Arabs feel their neutrality and nationalism are threatened, but accepting those forces and seeking to help channel them along constructive lines, while at the same time trying to hasten the inevitable Arab acceptance of the permanence of Israel. We must give our support to programs to help people instead of regimes - to work in terms of their problems, not ours - and seek a permanent settlement among Arabs and Israelis based not on an armed truce but on mutual self-interest. Guns and anti-communist pacts and propaganda and the traditional piecemeal approach are not enough - refugee resettlement and a regional resources development fund in full partnership with the Middle Eastern nations, are all parts of a long-range strategy which is both practical and in the best interests of all concerned.
Seventh - We must greatly increase our efforts to encourage the newly emerging nations of the vast continent of Africa - to persuade them that they do not have to turn to Moscow for the guidance and friendship they so desperately need - to help them achieve the economic progress on which the welfare of their people and their ability to resist communist subversion depends. We can no longer afford policies which refuse to accept the inevitable triumph of nationalism in Africa - the inevitable end of colonialism - or the unyielding determination of the new African states to lift their people from their age-old poverty and hunger and ignorance. We must answer the critical African need for educated men to build the factories, run the schools and staff the governments by sending a growing stream of technical experts and educators to Africa - and by bringing far greater numbers of African students - future African leaders - to our own universities for training. Agricultural experts must be sent into areas where the land is unproductive and where modern methods of agriculture are unknown in order to raise subsistence levels of farming and ensure adequate supplies of food - and while this is being done we must use our own food surpluses to prevent hunger. We must establish a multi-nation economic development loan fund - a full working partnership between the nations of the West and the nations of Africa - to provide the capital necessary to start African economic growth on its way. And finally, if our policies toward Africa are to be effective, we must extend this aid in terms of America's desire to bring freedom and prosperity to Africa - not in terms of a narrow self-interest which seeks only to use African nations as pawns in the cold war.
Eighth - We must plan a long-range solution to the problems of Berlin. We must show no uncertainty over our determination to defend Berlin - but we must realize that a solution to the problems of that beleaguered city is only possible in the context of a solution of the problems of Germany and, indeed, the problems of all Europe. We must look forward to a free Berlin, in a United Germany in a Europe where tensions and armaments have been reduced - where perhaps the suggestions of General DeGaulle and Premier Adenauer requiring Soviet withdrawal behind the Urals can be accepted. Such a solution is far from a reality - but both our good faith and our will to resist are dependent on our willingness to face the total problem of tension and conflict in Europe. We must remain precise in our determination to meet our commitments until a change in Soviet policy permits a constructive solution. In the meantime, we should explore how the moral authority of the UN could be used to strengthen the security presently provided to the people of West Berlin.
Ninth - We must prepare and hold in readiness more flexible and realistic tools for use in Eastern Europe. The policy of "liberation," proudly proclaimed eight years ago, has proved to be a snare and a delusion. The tragic uprisings in East Germany, in Poland and in Hungary demonstrated clearly that we had neither the intention or the capacity to liberate Eastern Europe - and the false hopes raised by our promises were cruelly crushed. We must now begin to work slowly and carefully toward programs designed to wean from their Soviet masters any dependents showing signs of discontent - to nourish the seeds of liberty in any cracks appearing in the iron curtain by reducing economic and ideological dependence on Russia. There are already opportunities in Poland for greater American initiative, aid, trade, tourism, information services, student and teacher exchanges, and the use of our capital and technology to advance the standard of living of the Polish people. Closer relationships can be offered in other so-called captive nations as well - showing a creative interest, not a closed mind, by the nation that represents their one great hope for freedom.
Tenth - We must reassess a China policy which has failed dismally to move toward its principal objective of weakening communist rule in the mainland - a policy which has failed to prevent a steady growth in Communist strength - and a policy which offers no real solution to the problems of a militant China. We need to formulate proposals for a reduction of tension in the Formosa Straits - at the same time making clear our determination to defend that Island. We must act through an Asian regional development organization to stabilize the nations of non-communist Asia both politically and economically, so as to strengthen their resistance to communist pressures. And, although we should not now recognize Red China or agree to its admission to the United Nations without a genuine change in her belligerent attitude toward her Asian neighbors and the world - and regrettably there is evidence that her belligerence is rising rather than receding - we must nevertheless work to improve at least our communications with mainland China. Perhaps a way could be found to bring the Chinese into the nuclear test ban talks at Geneva - so that the Soviets could not continue their atomic tests on the mainland of China without inspection - and also because Chinese possession of atomic weapons could drastically alter the balance of power. If that contact proves fruitful, further cultural and economic contact could be tried. For only in this way can we inform ourselves of communist activities, attempt to restore our historic friendship with the Chinese people, and make sure that we are not plunged into war by a Chinese miscalculation of our determination to defend all of free Asia. Today we have no affirmative policies - only an attitude of negative resistance - with the chance of dangerous action stemming from mutual miscalculation. This cannot last in a world where the Red Chinese are increasingly important, increasingly menacing, and increasingly impossible to omit from effective international agreements on subjects such as arms control.
Eleventh - We must begin to develop new, workable programs for peace and the control of arms. We have been unwilling to plan for disarmament, and unable to offer creative proposals of our own, always leaving the initiative in the hands of the Russians. An Arms Control Research Institute could undertake the technical studies needed before we can detect and monitor the vast and complex weapons systems of modern warfare. The entire world hopes that the collapse at the Summit has not destroyed man's hope for a nuclear test ban. But if such a ban is achieved, it must only be the first step toward halting the spiralling arms race that burdens the entire world with a fantastic financial drain, excessive military establishments, and the chance of an accidental or irrational triggering of a worldwide holocaust. At the same time we must move toward the eventual rule of international law by working to strengthen the United Nations and to increase its role in resolving international conflicts and planning for international scientific and economic development.
Twelfth and finally - We must work to build the stronger America on which our ultimate ability to defend the free world depends. We must increase our own scientific effort - not only by strengthening and revamping existing research programs in all fields, including the exploration of space - but by building an educational system which can produce the talent and skill on which our future strength and progress depends. We must work to create an America with an expanding economy, where growth is not dissipated in inflation, and consumer luxuries are not confused with national strength - an economy capable of supporting our massive needs and our new programs. And we must also work to create an America of equal opportunity and economic justice for all men of all ages, races, and creeds - an America which will be, as the Founding Fathers intended us to be, a living example of freedom to the world.
This is a large agenda - a challenging agenda - and yet I do not pretend that it is, in any sense, complete. For if there is one certain thing in a world of change, it is that the coming years will bring new problems, undreamt of challenges, unanticipated opportunities.
The next President will confront a task of unparalleled dimensions. But this task will not be his alone. For just as he must offer leadership and demand sacrifices - it is the American people who must be willing to respond to these demands.
I realize also that the length of this agenda is in sharp contrast with the rosy reassurances of the Administration "America is today," the Vice President told his National Committee Saturday, summarizing our position in the world, "the strongest country militarily, the strongest country economically, with the best educational system (and) the finest scientists in the world, over all." To feed that kind of diet to the American people during the coming months - to confine our national posture to one of talking louder and louder while carrying a smaller and smaller stick - is to trade the long-range needs of the nation for the short-term appearance of security.
For all America - its President and its people - the coming years will be a time of decision. We must decide whether we have reached our limit - whether our greatness is past - whether we can go no further - or whether, in the words of Thomas Wolfe, "the true discovery of America is before us ... the true fulfillment of our mighty and immortal land is yet to come."