In this spring of 1953 the free world weighs one question above
all others: the chance for a just peace for all peoples.
To weigh this chance is to summon instantly to mind another recent
moment of great decision. It came with that yet more hopeful spring of 1945,
bright with the promise of victory and of freedom. The hope of all just men in
that moment too was a just and lasting peace.
The 8 years that have passed have seen that hope waver, grow dim,
and almost die. And the shadow of fear again has darkly lengthened across the
Today the hope of free men remains stubborn and brave, but it is
sternly disciplined by experience. It shuns not only all crude counsel of
despair but also the self-deceit of easy illusion. It weighs the chance for
peace with sure, clear knowledge of what happened to the vain hope of 1945.
In that spring of victory the soldiers of the Western Allies met the soldiers of Russia in the center of Europe. They were triumphant comrades in arms. Their peoples shared the joyous prospect of building, in honor of their dead, the only fitting monument -- an age of just peace. All these war-weary peoples shared too this concrete, decent purpose: to guard vigilantly against the domination ever again of any part of the world by a single, unbridled aggressive power.
This common purpose lasted an instant and perished. The nations of
the world divided to follow two distinct roads.
The United States and our valued friends, the other free nations,
chose one road.
The leaders of the Soviet Union chose another.
The way chosen by the United States was plainly marked by a few
clear precepts, which govern its conduct in world affairs.
First: No people on earth can be held, as a people, to be enemy,
for all humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and
Second: No nation's security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in
isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow-nations.
Third: Any nation's right to form of government and an economic
system of its own choosing is inalienable.
Fourth: Any nation's attempt to dictate to other nations their
form of government is indefensible.
And fifth: A nation's hope of lasting peace cannot be firmly based
upon any race in armaments but rather upon just relations and honest
understanding with all other nations.
In the light of these principles the citizens of the United States
defined the way they proposed to follow, through the aftermath of war, toward
This way was faithful to the spirit that inspired the United
Nations: to prohibit strife, to relieve tensions, to banish fears. This way was
to control and to reduce armaments. This way was to allow all nations to devote
their energies and resources to the great and good tasks of healing the war's
wounds, of clothing and feeding and housing the needy, of perfecting a just
political life, of enjoying the fruits of their own free toil.
The Soviet government held a vastly different vision of the
In the world of its design, security was to be found, not in
mutual trust and mutual aid but in force: huge armies, subversion, rule of
neighbor nations. The goal was power superiority at all costs. Security was to
be sought by denying it to all others.
The result has been tragic for the world and, for the Soviet
Union, it has also been ironic.
The amassing of the Soviet power alerted free nations to a new
danger of aggression. It compelled them in self-defense to spend unprecedented
money and energy for armaments. It forced them to develop weapons of war now
capable of inflicting instant and terrible punishment upon any aggressor.
It instilled in the free nations -- and let none doubt this -- the unshakable
conviction that, as long as there persists a threat to freedom, they must,
at any cost, remain armed, strong, and ready for the risk of war.
It inspired them -- and let none doubt this -- to attain a unity of purpose and will beyond the power of propaganda or pressure to break, now or ever.
There remained, however, one thing essentially unchanged and
unaffected by Soviet conduct: the readiness of the free nations to welcome
sincerely any genuine evidence of peaceful purpose enabling all peoples again to
resume their common quest of just peace.
The free nations, most solemnly and repeatedly, have assured the
Soviet Union that their firm association has never had any aggressive purpose
whatsoever. Soviet leaders, however, have seemed to persuade themselves, or
tried to persuade their people, otherwise.
And so it has come to pass that the Soviet Union itself has shared
and suffered the very fears it has fostered in the rest of the world.
This has been the way of life forged by 8 years of fear and
What can the world, or any nation in it, hope for if no turning is
found on this dread road?
The worst to be feared and the best to be expected can be simply
The worst is atomic war.
The best would be this: a life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden
of arms draining the wealth and the labor of all peoples; a wasting of
strength that defies the American system or the Soviet system or any system
to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples of this earth.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired
signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed,
those who are cold and are not clothed.
This world in arms is not spending money alone.
It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its
scientists, the hopes of its children.
The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school
in more than 30 cities.
It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000
It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.
It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.
We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of
We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have
housed more than 8,000 people.
This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road
the world has been taking.
This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the
cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
These plain and cruel truths define the peril and point the hope
that come with this spring of 1953.
This is one of those times in the affairs of nations when the
gravest choices must be made, if there is to be a turning toward a just and
It is a moment that calls upon the governments of the world to speak their intentions with simplicity and with honesty.
It calls upon them to answer the questions that stirs the hearts
of all sane men: is there no other way the world may live?
The world knows that an era ended with the death of Joseph Stalin.
The extraordinary 30-year span of his rule saw the Soviet Empire expand to reach
from the Baltic Sea to the Sea of Japan, finally to dominate 800 million
The Soviet system shaped by Stalin and his predecessors was born
of one World War. It survived the stubborn and often amazing courage of second
World War. It has lived to threaten a third.
Now, a new leadership has assumed power in the Soviet Union. Its links
to the past, however strong, cannot bind it completely. Its future is,
in great part, its own to make.
This new leadership confronts a free world aroused, as rarely in
its history, by the will to stay free.
This free world knows, out of bitter wisdom of experience, that
vigilance and sacrifice are the price of liberty.
It knows that the defense of Western Europe imperatively demands
the unity of purpose and action made possible by the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization, embracing a European Defense Community.
It knows that Western Germany deserves to be a free and equal
partner in this community and that this, for Germany, is the only safe way to
full, final unity.
It knows that aggression in Korea and in southeast Asia are
threats to the whole free community to be met by united action.
This is the kind of free world which the new Soviet leadership
confront. It is a world that demands and expects the fullest respect of its
rights and interests. It is a world that will always accord the same respect to
So the new Soviet leadership now has a precious opportunity to
awaken, with the rest of the world, to the point of peril reached and to help
turn the tide of history.
Will it do this?
We do not yet know. Recent statements and gestures of Soviet
leaders give some evidence that they may recognize this critical moment.
We welcome every honest act of peace.
We care nothing for mere rhetoric.
We are only for sincerity of peaceful purpose attested by deeds.
The opportunities for such deeds are many. The performance of a great number of
them waits upon no complex protocol but upon the simple will to do them. Even a
few such clear and specific acts, such as the Soviet Union's signature upon the
Austrian treaty or its release of thousands of prisoners still held from World
War II, would be impressive signs of sincere intent. They would carry a power of
persuasion not to be matched by any amount of oratory.
This we do know: a world that begins to witness the rebirth of
trust among nations can find its way to a peace that is neither partial nor
With all who will work in good faith toward such a peace, we are
ready, with renewed resolve, to strive to redeem the near-lost hopes of our day.
The first great step along this way must be the conclusion of an
honorable armistice in Korea.
This means the immediate cessation of hostilities and the prompt
initiation of political discussions leading to the holding of free elections in
a united Korea.
It should mean, no less importantly, an end to the direct and
indirect attacks upon the security of Indochina and Malaya. For any armistice in
Korea that merely released aggressive armies to attack elsewhere would be
We seek, throughout Asia as throughout the world, a peace that is
true and total.
Out of this can grow a still wider task-the achieving of just political
settlements for the other serious and specific issues between the free
world and the Soviet Union.
None of these issues, great or small, is insoluble -- given only the will
to respect the rights of all nations.
Again we say: the United States is ready to assume its just
We have already done all within our power to speed conclusion of
the treaty with Austria, which will free that country from economic exploitation
and from occupation by foreign troops.
We are ready not only to press forward with the present plans for
closer unity of the nations of Western Europe by also, upon that foundation, to
strive to foster a broader European community, conducive to the free movement of
persons, of trade, and of ideas.
This community would include a free and united Germany, with a
government based upon free and secret elections.
This free community and the full independence of the East European
nations could mean the end of present unnatural division of Europe.
As progress in all these areas strengthens world trust, we could proceed
concurrently with the next great work -- the reduction of the burden of
armaments now weighing upon the world. To this end we would welcome and
enter into the most solemn agreements. These could properly include:
The limitation, by absolute numbers or by an agreed international
ratio, of the sizes of the military and security forces of all nations.
A commitment by all nations to set an agreed limit upon that
proportion of total production of certain strategic materials to be devoted to
International control of atomic energy to promote its use for
peaceful purposes only and to insure the prohibition of atomic weapons.
A limitation or prohibition of other categories of weapons of
The enforcement of all these agreed limitations and prohibitions
by adequate safe-guards, including a practical system of inspection under the
The details of such disarmament programs are manifestly critical and complex.
Neither the United States nor any other nation can properly claim to possess
a perfect, immutable formula. But the formula matters less than the faith
-- the good faith without which no formula can work justly and effectively.
The fruit of success in all these tasks would present the world
with the greatest task, and the greatest opportunity, of all. It is this: the
dedication of the energies, the resources, and the imaginations of all peaceful
nations to a new kind of war. This would be a declared total war, not upon any
human enemy but upon the brute forces of poverty and need.
The peace we seek, founded upon decent trust and cooperative
effort among nations, can be fortified, not by weapons of war but by wheat and
by cotton, by milk and by wool, by meat and by timber and by rice. These are
words that translate into every language on earth. These are needs that
challenge this world in arms.
This idea of a just and peaceful world is not new or strange to
us. It inspired the people of the United States to initiate the European
Recovery Program in 1947. That program was prepared to treat, with like and
equal concern, the needs of Eastern and Western Europe.
We are prepared to reaffirm, with the most concrete evidence, our
readiness to help build a world in which all peoples can be productive and
This Government is ready to ask its people to join with all
nations in devoting a substantial percentage of the savings achieved by
disarmament to a fund for world aid and reconstruction. The purposes of this
great work would be to help other peoples to develop the underdeveloped areas of
the world, to stimulate profitability and fair world trade, to assist all
peoples to know the blessings of productive freedom.
The monuments to this new kind of war would be these: roads and
schools, hospitals and homes, food and health.
We are ready, in short, to dedicate our strength to serving the
needs, rather than the fears, of the world.
We are ready, by these and all such actions, to make of the United
Nations an institution that can effectively guard the peace and security of all
I know of nothing I can add to make plainer the sincere purpose of
the United States.
I know of no course, other than that marked by these and similar
actions, that can be called the highway of peace.
I know of only one question upon which progress waits. It is
What is the Soviet Union ready to do?
Whatever the answer be, let it be plainly spoken.
Again we say: the hunger for peace is too great, the hour in
history too late, for any government to mock men's hopes with mere words and
promises and gestures.
The test of truth is simple. There can be no persuasion but by
Is the new leadership of Soviet Union prepared to use its decisive
influence in the Communist world, including control of the flow of arms, to
bring not merely an expedient truce in Korea but genuine peace in Asia?
Is it prepared to allow other nations, including those of Eastern
Europe, the free choice of their own forms of government?
Is it prepared to act in concert with others upon serious
disarmament proposals to be made firmly effective by stringent U.N. control and
If not, where then is the concrete evidence of the Soviet Union's
concern for peace?
The test is clear.
There is, before all peoples, a precious chance to turn the black
tide of events. If we failed to strive to seize this chance, the judgment of
future ages would be harsh and just.
If we strive but fail and the world remains armed against itself,
it at least need be divided no longer in its clear knowledge of who has
condemned humankind to this fate.
The purpose of the United States, in stating these proposals, is
simple and clear.
These proposals spring, without ulterior purpose or political passion, from our calm conviction that the hunger for peace is in the hearts of all peoples -- those of Russia and of China no less than of our own country.
They conform to our firm faith that God created men to enjoy, not
destroy, the fruits of the earth and of their own toil.
They aspire to this: the lifting, from the backs and from the
hearts of men, of their burden of arms and of fears, so that they may find
before them a golden age of freedom and of peace.