136. Memorandum From Secretary of State Shultz to Vice President Bush 1


  • Your Trip to Europe2

I. Setting

You are visiting Europe in the opening months of the most important year for the Alliance of the last decade and perhaps for the decade to come. The public debate over the deployment of U.S. INF missiles has taken on a significance which transcends the already substantial military importance of the 1979 “dual track” decision. It has become more than anything a debate about the nature of Europe’s security arrangements, Europe’s ties with the United States, and its relations with the Soviet Union. The outcome will affect the nature of the Alliance and the position of the United States as the leader of the Western coalition for many years to come.

During my own trip to Europe last month3 I was impressed by the enduring strength of our trans-Atlantic ties and the commitment of the Europeans to our Alliance. Your visit nevertheless takes place when speculation about prospects for U.S.-Soviet relations and arms control negotiations has been stimulated by the passing of Brezhnev, the more dynamic leadership of Andropov, and recent press attention to alleged internal Washington differences over arms control policy. These issues [Page 530] are being examined by the Europeans against a more fundamental set of uncertainties.

  • The Europeans wonder about the durability of the U.S. security commitment and are worried that we may not have the will and capacity to provide for their security over the long haul.
  • On the other hand, Europeans also worry about the steadiness of U.S. policy and fear that overemphasis on the military elements of security may actually increase the risk of war.
  • The Europeans have begun to question whether we have set realistic arms control objectives, and to express doubts about our commitment to achieve meaningful agreements.
  • Finally, they are concerned that we may not consult them fully and take their interests into account as we develop our policies.

None of these fears is new. All of them are to some extent inherent in the trans-Atlantic relationship and Europe’s fundamental security dependence on us. Moreover, they are mirrored in the U.S., by concerns about Europe’s economic ability and political will to meet its defense responsibilities. European fears have been exacerbated in recent years, however, by Western economic difficulties and the feeling of insecurity which these generate, and by growing Soviet military power which the West has failed to match.

Sources of Europeans Anxiety

Over the past decade, the growth of Soviet power—its conventional buildup, the achievement of nuclear parity and of significant advantage in some areas—has led many on both sides of the Atlantic to question the ability of NATO to provide for Europe long-term security. It has led to the questioning as well of U.S. will to engage our strategic forces in the defense of Europe and of the credibility of NATO’s strategy of forward defense and flexible response. These issues are much on the minds of European elites. Congressional opposition to NATO-related defense programs, while not representative of majority opinion in this country, is of great concern to Europeans, and uncertainties about MX and the growth of the nuclear freeze movement in the United States naturally feed these concerns.

Andropov in his few short months in office has succeeded in establishing an image as a reasonable leader with positive ideas for improving East-West relations. Europeans by no means take these at face value, and they recognize Soviet offers are self-serving. But European governments want to appear to be open to improvement in relations with the Soviet Union and their publics very such hope such improvement is possible.

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Anxiety over the course of East-West relations is particularly reflected in concerns over the arms control negotiations. For over a decade Europeans were essentially content to follow our lead in the arms control area. They recognize that the results of these earlier efforts have been disappointing. There is no clear European alternative to our current approach. Yet it has become increasingly difficult to achieve resolute European support for our arms control policies.

Europeans are always concerned that their voice may not be given sufficient weight in Washington and that decisions are being made without full consideration of their interests. This traditional, generalized preoccupation with consultations has been greatly focused and intensified by the other uncertainties which characterize our relationship today, and by the depth of concern about our current agenda of issues, particularly arms control and East-West relations.

Enduring Alliance Strengths

At the same time, we should not allow realistic assessment of the challenge we face this year to lead us to pessimism. During my recent trip to Europe the concerns of the leaders with whom I met were more than offset by the depth of their commitment to the Alliance, the mutual appreciation of the enduring ties that bind us together, and the strong will to cooperate in the pursuit of shared objectives. These basic strengths have seen us through hard times in the past and provide a sound basis for success in this difficult year.

The vitality of the Alliance is demonstrated by the vigor of our internal debate, as well as by three decades of effective effort to provide for our common security.
The habit of cooperation, based on shared history and culture and a common world view, is deeply ingrained and highly valued. This was impressed on me again and again during my December trip, at NATO, with the EC Commission, and in every capital which I visited.
We share a common appreciation of the Soviet threat and dedication to take those steps necessary to respond to it.
There is firm recognition that without Soviet adherence to the basic principles of civilized international conduct we will have no choice but to continue to give attention to our defenses and treat Soviet protestations of good intentions with great caution.

II. Objectives

In your private and public meetings at each stop, I believe you should deal with the specific and topical issues of interest to your hosts while also addressing their more fundamental concerns, thus providing that sense of confidence and reassurance which the Europeans seek. In doing so, you should emphasize our very real assets: the fundamental [Page 532] superiority of our democratic systems; our strong foundation of shared values and interests; the basic vitality and relevance of the Alliance; our reasonable, constructive and forward-looking agenda; and our strength and demonstrated success in working together to achieve shared objectives.

1. U.S. Commitment

You will want to take every occasion to stress that the U.S. commitment to European security is the most fundamental and enduring element of our foreign and defense policy. You should emphasize that it was precisely to strengthen our commitment and link U.S. strategic forces to the security of Europe that we all made the 1979 INF decision and must follow through on it. We are also working hard with Congress to sustain troop levels in Europe. More visible and stronger European efforts are necessary to ensure that we achieve our objectives with Congress.

2. East-West Relations

The continuing Soviet military buildup, and increasing Soviet willingness to use or threaten military force in pursuit of foreign policy objectives threaten international security and stability. As the President has made clear, we can only be successful in responding to this threat through a policy of strength. You should reaffirm the President’s consistently stated desire for more positive relations with the Soviet Union and our commitment to work to that end, recalling your own discussions with Andropov. But you should also note that the better relations we are seeking depend on the maintenance of Western will and strength and on deeds, not just words, on the part of the Soviets.

3. Arms Control

Convincing your hosts that we have set reasonable arms control goals and are working effectively to achieve them will be key to the success of your visit. In making this case you will need especially to stress our basic criteria—particularly equality, verifiability, and genuine reductions—and that they are not “demands” but basic principles which we adhere to and which are vital to effective arms control. We are negotiating in good faith and examining each Soviet proposal carefully. You should note that we will continue to draw out the Soviets, while explaining that our proposals offer the best approach for achieving equitable and substantial reductions that will strengthen peace and stability.

4. Consultations

Your trip itself is a demonstration of our commitment to consultations and should be presented in that light. I suggest that you emphasize that one of your principal objectives is to listen and report back to the President, who is keenly interested in the views of the European [Page 533] leadership. You should also point to the importance of NATO’s Special Consultative Group (SCG) on INF arms control, the most extensive such mechanism in the history of the Alliance.

[Omitted here are sections III, “Issues” and IV, “Individual Stops.”]

  1. Source: Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, Official Memoranda, (01/25/1983); NLR–775–27A–31–6–1. Secret. Drafted by Caldwell on January 21; cleared by Burt, Dobbins, John Hawes (EUR/RPM), Olaf Grobel (PM/TMP), Elaine Morton (S/P), Darryl Johnson (P), and Casse. Printed from an uninitialed copy. Caldwell initialed for all clearing officials. Attached but not printed are an undated paper entitled “Vice President’s European Trip Itinerary,” and a paper entitled “Talking Points on the Vice President’s Trip to Europe,” drafted on January 25.
  2. Bush departed Washington on January 30 for Bonn, January 30–31; Berlin, January 31–February 1; The Hague, February 1–2; Brussels, February 2–4; Geneva, February 4–5; Nuremberg, February 5; Rome and the Vatican, February 5–8; Paris, February 8–9; and London, February 9–10. While in Geneva, Bush also met with the U.S. and Soviet INF and START delegations and attended a Committee on Disarmament meeting. For the text of the Vice President’s remarks, news conferences, and toasts made during the trip, see Department of State Bulletin, March 1983, pp. 1–27. Documentation on the trip is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. VII, Western Europe, 1981–1984.
  3. Shultz traveled to Bonn, December 7–8; Brussels, December 8–11; The Hague, December 11; Rome, December 11–14; Paris, December 14–15; Madrid, December 15–16; and London, December 16–18. For the text of the news conferences, statements, and toasts Shultz made during the trip, in addition to the final communiqué issued at the conclusion of the NAC ministerial meeting in Brussels, see Department of State Bulletin, February 1983, pp. 12–35. Documentation on the trip is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. VII, Western Europe, 1981–1984.