History In Ink® Historical Autographs
“To the Communists & those others who are hostile to our country
Pres. Carter & his supporters in the Congress must seem like Santa Claus. . . .
We continue to work & plan to prevent a war—the Soviets are planning to win one.”
Ronald Wilson Reagan, 1911–2004. 40th President of the United States. Superb Autograph Letter Signed, RR, three pages, 8½” x 11”, on yellow legal pad stationery, no place [California], no date [early- to mid-1979].
This fantastic letter, which has never been offered for sale before, is Reaganʼs handwritten draft to energize conservatives to contribute to Citizens for the Republic, his political action committee, in order to fund opposition to the forthcoming SALT II arms limitation treaty with the Soviet Union. Reagan, already an opponent of arms control, but no doubt also looking ahead to battling President Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election, lambasts Carter for relinquishing control of the Panama Canal, ending American recognition of Taiwan as the legitimate Chinese government, and allowing the Soviet Union to eclipse American military preparedness and strength. He warns that Carter and his supporters were “negotiating a Salt II treaty that could very well make the nat[ion] number 2 behind the Soviet U. in defense and offense capability.”
SALT II, which Carter subsequently concluded with Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev, largely embodied the agreement that President Gerald R. Ford had signed with the Soviets in Vladivostok on November 23, 1974. At Vladivostok, the Soviets had proposed either (a) allowing the United States and the Soviet Union to have the same number of long- and short-range ballistic missiles and heavy bombers or (b) allowing the countries to have “offsetting asymmetries,” which would have given the United States more Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicle (MIRV) missiles, missiles with multiple warheads capable of striking multiple targets, while the Soviet Union had more launch vehicles. Most experts believed that the latter option would have given the United States an advantage because it would have left the Soviets with fewer MIRV launchers, warheads, and payload capacity, known as “throw weight.” Still, Ford opted for the former in order to satisfy hawkish Washington Democratic Senator Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson’s insistence on numerical equality. The Vladivostok agreement allowed each side to have 2,400 long-range delivery systems, including 1,320 MIRVs—although the United States did not have 2,400 delivery vehicles. Ironically, hard-line conservatives in Congress opposed the Vladivostok agreement on the ground that the numerical parity in launch vehicles gave the Soviets an overall advantage. Reagan, who opposed Ford for the 1976 Republican presidential nomination, believed that the Vladivostok agreement gave the Soviet Union a 10-to-1 advantage in throw weight.
After years of intermittent negotiations following the 1972 SALT I treaty, Carter and Brezhnev signed SALT II in Vienna on June 18, 1979. Carter had proposed that both sides drastically reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons, but Brezhnev rejected the proposal, labeling it American propaganda. In its final form, the treaty assumed the reduction of strategic delivery capability to 2,250 on each side and prohibited new strategic missile development but otherwise looked little different from the Vladivostok agreement. Senator Jackson, a neoconservative with a Cold War view of the Soviet Union, led Democratic opposition to SALT II.
Reagan vocally opposed ratification of SALT II. So superior was the Soviet Union’s military strength, he would later say, that the Soviets could just “take us with a phone call,” forcing the United States to obey an ultimatum: “Look at the difference in our relative strengths. Now, here’s what we want. . . . Surrender or die.” In this letter, therefore, he writes, “Under Salt I we have fallen behind the Soviet U. in defense capability. We must be ready to oppose the Salt II treaty if it . . . imposes . . . restraints on our ability to maintain an adequate arms balance with the Russians.”
This letter is vintage Reagan. One can see the wheels turning in his mind as he pens this draft. In several places, he starts to say one thing but strikes out words in order to hone the thought as he writes. He says, in full (with spelling, punctuation, and stricken words as in the original):
As I write this letter I am saddened by the betrayal of our long time friends & allies, the people of the free Republic of China on Taiwan.
To the communists & those others who are hostile to our country Pres. Carter & his supporters in the Congress must seem like Santa Claus. They have given Panama away, abandoned Taiwan to the Red Chinese and they’re negotiating a Salt II treaty that could very well make the nat. number 2 behind the Soviet U. in defense and offense capability.
Those who seem bent on reducing America’s
That’s why I’m writing to you. We who believe in America & in freedom must join together and make our feelings known to those who represent us in Wash. If the polls show anything at all it is that the overwhelming majority of Americans were opposed to the “Canal” giveaway and are opposed to the sell out of our friends on Taiwan. It is up to us as to whether we shall continue to have a govt. “by the people.”
Because I believe that you and I are fighting on the same side in this desperate battle I’ve enclosed a special card for you to carry, showing that you are a supporter of Citizens for the Republic. CFTR is the pol. action committee I organized 2 yrs. ago for just this purpose—to help carry on the battle for freedom & a strong America.
I know the admin. says it will keep America
strong & even increase defense spending by 3%.
The fact is the Soviet U’s. annual defense spending is running as much as 40% higher than ours.
Very shortly, if not by the time you receive
this, the Pres. will present a
There have been
Last year we came within 2 votes of defeating the Panama Canal give away. Defeat of an unbalanced Salt II treaty would be 10 times more important. Meaning we would have to work 10 times as hard to convince the Senate it must not ratify a treaty that would make the U.S. number 2.
CFTR is going to oppose any treaty that does
not guarantee defense parity with Russia or that is not cheat proof.
We continue to work & plan to prevent a war—the Soviets are planning to win one. Their goal was spelled out by Leonid Brezhnev in 1973. He told a meeting of communist leaders that detente is a strategem to allow Russia to build up it’s mil. & ec. power so that by 1985 a decisive shift in the balance of power will enable the Russians to exert their will wherever in the world they wish.
We need your continued help. True we can elect new Senators & a new Pres. in 1980 but in the mean time we want to be able to help with matters like the Salt II treaty. If you could send $25, (we would’nt turn down more) and we’ll gratefully accept less in the enclosed envelope. We want to be ready for whatever it takes, television, mail campaigns, rallies & speeches if this treaty is unacceptable. So please send your check today.
P.S. The CFTR supporter card I’ve enclosed is symbolic of the fact that CFTR is only as effective as the support you give. Our cause & our country are depending on you.
Although SALT II is the main target of Reagan’s letter, Reagan also seeks to ignite his conservative base by criticizing Carter on two other topics:
• First, Reagan complains that Carter and congressional Democrats had “given Panama away,” a reference to the Torrijos-Carter Treaties that Carter concluded with Panamanian General Omar Torrijos Herrera in November 1977. Those treaties abrogated the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty under which the United States acquired the rights to the 10-mile-wide Panama Canal Zone in November 1903. They guaranteed the United States the right to defend the canal from any threat that might interfere with its continued neutral service to ships of all nations but returned full control and primary responsibility for the canal to Panama as of midnight December 31, 1999. Reagan opposed the
• Second, Reagan’s statement that Carter and congressional Democrats had “abandoned Taiwan to the Red Chinese” refers to the termination of official American diplomatic relations with the democratic Republic of China, on Taiwan, and the corresponding establishment of diplomatic relations with the Communist People’s Republic of China, on the mainland, on January 1, 1979. Carter unilaterally abrogated the 1955 Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty, which protected Taiwan from invasion by mainland China after the Communists under Mao Zedong came to power in 1949. Later, on April 10, 1979, Carter signed into law the Taiwan Relations Act, which provided for maintaining unofficial commercial, cultural, and other relations between Americans and the Taiwanese through a nonprofit corporation, the American Institute in Taiwan. Carter described the Act as “consistent with the understandings that we reached in normalizing relations with the Government of the People’s Republic of China. It reflects our recognition of that Government as the sole legal government of China.”
This is an outstanding letter. Reagan has boldly written it in blue ballpoint pen. The top edges of the three sheets reflect removal from the perforated legal pad on which Reagan wrote. There are two horizontal folds, staple holes in the blank margin at the upper left, and a notation, “type pls,” in another hand in the blank upper margin of the first page. Overall the piece is in fine to very fine condition.
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