149. Information Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Burt) to Secretary of State Shultz1


  • The Political Context of the Williamsburg Summit—And a Look at its Political Agenda

U.S. Objectives at Williamsburg

Our fundamental objective is to have the Williamsburg Summit demonstrate to world public opinion a vigorous American President [Page 585] leading the West on the paths of recovery and unity. Agreement by the leaders to economic goals such as non-inflationary growth and a more open trading system will contribute to our fundamental objective—as well as being intrinsically desirable. So will agreement by the leaders to a common view of such issues as INF deployment and arms control negotiations, and the Middle East peace process.

The Political Context—General

Our Summit partners will go into the Williamsburg meetings with two main preoccupations, economic recovery and East-West relations.

All of the leaders will be deeply concerned about the prospects for their economies and for the impact economic developments will have on their own political futures.

The European Summit participants—along with other political leaders in Western Europe—have a second set of concerns, regarding the linked processes of INF deployment and arms control negotiations. Japan, which traditionally has been aloof from such matters, has paid increasing attention over the last six months, its attentions being aroused by the question of redeploying SS–20s east of the Urals. Japan has for the first time come to see its own security interests enmeshed in the INF process and is particularly anxious to avoid seeing those interests harmed as the price of a European settlement. And while Canada’s direct involvement is less than that of the others, it shares the basic concern.

All the Summit participants have strongly supported our negotiating position in Geneva, including both the ultimate objective of reducing long-range land-based INF missiles to zero and our willingness to seek an interim agreement reducing warheads to equal U.S. and Soviet levels on a global basis. The UK, FRG, and Italy, the three European countries which will be basing U.S. missiles at the end of this year absent Soviet agreement to the zero option, remain firmly committed to deployments.

The INF issue’s effect on the Summit is likely to be indirect, not direct. The hovering presence of the INF issue, with all the political strains it puts on European governments, will create a strong desire to avoid a public failure at the Summit which could damage intra-Alliance relations at a time when solidarity is most needed. While this could limit confrontation, some allies may seek to use our desire to avoid trouble as leverage regarding other issues. Kohl and Genscher provided evidence of this during their recent visit,2 when they used INF as justification for movement in the CSCE and for downplaying East-West economic relations at the Summit.

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The Europeans generally are anxious to improve the atmosphere in East-West political relations. They continue to ask about a Reagan-Andropov summit, in ways that indicate their desire for one. Kohl will be visiting Andropov before the summer break.3 More specifically, the Germans and the French in particular want to move forward in the CSCE. Whether we like it or not, the Germans do relate movement in this area to INF. They tend to think the Neutral and Non-aligned draft is basically satisfactory, though there can be improvements in regard to both human rights and CDE. Our problems with the NNA draft are far more profound: In light of Poland and Soviet internal repression, we need real progress on human rights. We can expect intense debate with the allies on CSCE in coming weeks, but the issue may not be settled between now and the Summit.

We believe European willingness to concentrate their Middle East activities and pronouncements on support of the President’s peace initiative will fade progressively should success continue to elude us—which is what the Europeans foresee. If there is no tangible progress by late May, we must use Williamsburg to give our partners the fullest briefing of the state of play in the Middle East and draw on the sympathies and interests of each to gain their renewed endorsement of the President’s September 1 initiative. Failure to take the initiative at Williamsburg, in the absence of progress either in Lebanon or in the peace process, will increase the likelihood of a Middle East pronouncement at the June 6–7 Stuttgart European Summit, which could openly mark a new division between us and the Europeans. This in turn could lead Japan to open the door wider to the PLO.

East-West economic relations, as you are aware, is a subject the others would prefer not to discuss in any detail at Williamsburg. If we not only insist on discussion, but try to use the Summit as a decision–making occasion, the result could be real trouble—perhaps a reenactment of Versailles. The management of this issue, unlike the Middle East, lies within the control of the U.S. and its Summit partners, and it is important that within the next few weeks we reach an agreement to achieve the necessary East-West economic understandings in the other Ministerial meetings of the spring. Kohl’s agreement to cooperate with us in the efforts underway in NATO, the OECD/IEA and COCOM, on the understanding that we will not push East-West economic issues at the Summit, is a major step in the right direction.

A few weeks ago it appeared that US–EC agricultural disputes might reach a level of contentiousness that would adversely affect [Page 587] the Summit. Both sides have backed off, and while the dispute is not resolved, it seems unlikely to cause trouble at Williamsburg.

And the Particulars

While there is much that unites the other Summit participants, there are also significant differences between them in interests and attitudes. For example, Japan, Germany, and the U.K. all are experiencing at least a modest recovery, accompanied by relatively low inflation, and none of them would accept advice further to stimulate their economies. France, on the other hand, which has been forced to take unpopular deflationary measures, and which has chosen to explain France’s economic plight as the product of outside forces, might well press for worldwide stimulus.

In most cases, the Summiteers will want very much to have a successful Summit—i.e. one that seems to address the issue of economic recovery, and does so in a unified, not contentions, manner. While their specific approaches differ, they add up to this result:

Two leaders—Thatcher and Nakasone—attend the Summit at a critical moment in their own political careers. Mrs. Thatcher may decide for elections either in June or in the Autumn; in either case she would want the Summit to show her off as a statesmanlike figure; and while economic indicators are up in Britain, it would also be useful to her to have some sort of multilateral blessing for her economic programs. Nakasone is also weighing a decision whether to dissolve the Diet and call general elections in June, or to wait until the results of the Tanaka-Lockheed trial are in.4 He is likely to be a more active Summit participant than his predecessors with a view to strengthening his political position by projecting himself as a world statesman.

Canada and Italy have a continuing institutional stake in the Summit. It is the one setting in which they are seen as part of the club of major countries. As a consequence, both are primarily interested in a “successful” Summit which would ensure that the mechanism itself will not be called into question. For Italy, this consideration will override a policy interest in pushing for things we would not want to agree to, like massive currency intervention. Trudeau seems to have learned at last from his long experience in office that Canada’s economic fate is inextricably linked to the U.S., and that there’s little room for him to take independent lines.

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Kohl puts great stock in the German-American relationship, but is at least as concerned about relations with France, as well as about developments within France. The worst sort of Summit for him would be one where he had to choose sides between the U.S. and France. Kohl made this very clear during his recent visit. German efforts to persuade us to downplay East-West economic issues at Williamsburg reflect both this concern and their own doubts regarding our proposals. On the other hand, Kohl’s keen desire for a successful Summit and for avoidance of a U.S.-French clash can be useful: He may be able to play a role as go-between between us and the French.

That leaves France, the only country that might consciously risk jeopardizing the success of the Summit. We have no information that this is the French intention, nor do we think it is. On the other hand, the French Government is in difficult economic straits, and has already reacted by scapegoating other countries, including the U.S. Furthermore, in France, more than any other Summit country, a prickly, egocentric nationalism seems to have political payoff.

The French could act up if they don’t get some sort of trophy to display in terms of economic policy. Mitterrand badly needs some sign either of international endorsement of his policies, or of success in getting others to do things that might help France. The French might also react explosively to an attempt to rope them in on East-West economic policies they don’t want. Aside from the straightforward French commercial interest in doing as much business with the East as possible, there would be two political motivations: 1) the long-standing French refusal to allow policies (except in obvious security matters) to be determined multilaterally; and 2) the probable French desire, having taken a step against the USSR with the expulsion of Soviet spies, not to take any new, significant actions against the USSR and even to balance this action to demonstrate French “independence” vis-a-vis the U.S.

France’s attitude is the key to a successful Summit and we should think of ways to make that attitude as sweet as possible. Two suggestions from a longer list:

We have doubts that more frequent currency intervention by the United States would have any significant impact—either on exchange rates (except on a very short term basis) or on the French economy. On the other hand, some U.S. movement on this issue would appeal greatly to the French—it would be proclaimed as a French victory. Other gestures in the monetary area, such as a franc support loan, might also have a political payoff.
We doubt if there is much give to the French position against taking East-West economic decisions at Williamsburg, but it is possible that we can persuade the French to go along with much of what we [Page 589] want in the OECD, COCOM and NATO if we agree to downplay these issues at Williamsburg. It is essential to try to work out an agreement to that effect with the French; given the German interest in avoiding a U.S.-French dispute, the Germans just possibly can help in this process since Kohl agreed to this trade-off.

Political Agenda

The central political discussion should be on East-West security issues, in particular the interlinked questions of INF deployment and arms control. This should be a good time for such discussion. It should also be a uniquely good group in which to have the discussion since the Japanese will be included.

Thus, there would be considerable value in an exchange of views which produced an endorsement by all the Summit allies of our negotiating efforts, as well as recognition by the Europeans and Japan of their common interests in this area. We should aim at recording such a consensus in the basic or a separate post-summit statement that (1) would express agreement that implementation of the NATO dual-track approach is important to the security of all the Williamsburg participants; (2) endorse the U.S. negotiating effort; and (3) affirm that deployments will go forward as scheduled in the three basing countries represented at the meeting, the UK, FRG, and Italy.

This will also be a very useful time for a discussion of the Soviet Union under Andropov and prospects for East-West relations. The process of reducing the differences between us in our attitudes toward the Soviet Union has to include sharing assessments at this high level. In such a discussion Kohl and others may well press for a Reagan-Andropov summit. As noted, CSCE will also come up, and we should argue vigorously for an approach that demands progress on human rights beyond the Helsinki level.

Some political subjects have substantial downside risks. While a discussion of Central America may be inevitable, if the French are in a mood to pick fights, this is one that could touch them off. We should be prepared to argue our case should the others do so.

Poland also poses risks. Unless we have resolved these issues beforehand, a discussion of Poland could be the occasion for the others to gang up on the United States regarding rescheduling, and possibly other actions aimed at normalizing relations with Poland. We might be able to stall by suggesting that a reassessment of policy should wait until after the Pope’s June 16–22 visit to Poland, but given the buildup of pressures, particularly on rescheduling, this may not work.

Finally, as suggested above, the Middle East is a potentially divisive subject. How the discussion will go depends upon progress on the Middle East peace initiative between now and the Summit. If progress [Page 590] is not made, there may be challenging questions at Williamsburg followed by open dissent at Stuttgart. But this is a subject that cannot be avoided, and indeed it should not be: we should seek to line the others up, once again, behind the President’s September 1 initiative.

My suggestion is to try to ensure that the political discussion dwells as much as possible on the central issues of arms control and relations with the Soviet Union. Subjects like the Middle East and Central America should be carefully handled. Precisely how to calibrate the approach to the political agenda, taking into account the different levels of discussion (heads of government, foreign ministers, political directors), merits further consideration, and I would welcome an opportunity to discuss the subject with you and Larry.

  1. Source: Department of State, E Files, Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs W. Allen Wallis, Chrons; Memo to the Secretary/Staff and Departmental/Other Agencies; Memos to the Files; White House Correspondence, 1981–1987: Lot 89D378, Memoranda to the Secretary from Wallis January–July 1983. Secret. Sent through Wallis and Eagleburger, who did not initial the memorandum. Drafted by Holmes on April 18; cleared by Seligmann, Hawes, and Niles. Holmes initialed for Seligmann and Hawes. A notation in an unknown hand next to Wallis’ name on the “Through” line reads: “See attached memo.” The memorandum is not attached. Also scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. VII, Western Europe, 1981–1984.
  2. April 14–15.
  3. Kohl visited Moscow, July 4–6, and met with Andropov on July 6. (Serge Schmemann, “Kohl’s View of Soviet Talks: Blunt and Useful,” New York Times, July 7, 1983, p. A8)
  4. On July 27, 1976, former Japanese Prime Minister Tanaka was arrested for taking more than $1 million dollars in funds from the Lockheed Corporation. For additional information, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–12, Documents on East and Southeast Asia, 1973–1976, Document 227.