324. Memorandum From Secretary of State Shultz to President Reagan 1


  • The Moscow Summit


Your visit to Moscow is the first by an American President in 14 years.2 It takes place against a background of solid, balanced progress across our broad agenda. We’ll have even more to show for our efforts this summit than we did last December in Washington.

There has been progress in the Nuclear and Space Talks, although not as much as we hoped, and in other arms control subjects. [Page 1490] By working hard on START and by underscoring your determination not to let political calendars drive substance, we have kept the absence of a START Treaty from being a political liability.
The Soviets may be close to significant new human rights moves as we near the end-game of the Vienna CSCE Follow-Up Meeting. While they still have far to go, progress in areas we have traditionally emphasized has been sustained.
The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan now underway represents the achievement of your top objective in our regional dialogue.
The half-dozen bilateral agreements to be signed at the summit testify to the vigor of revived direct contacts between our two countries.

A Working Summit

The temptation in Moscow may be to look backward at all that has been achieved. The challenge will be to use the meeting to prepare the ground for further progress. We want the Moscow summit to be remembered as the place where our dialogue caught its second wind, not as its high water mark.

The Soviets appear to see things the same way. Despite some turbulence in the Soviet internal political situation, Gorbachev appears to retain the initiative at home and full authority on foreign policy. A successful summit would be an asset—although probably not a critical one—as his party conference approaches in mid-June. He has thus put great emphasis on packing as much substance as possible into your visit. We may not see dramatic moves as at Reykjavik, but I expect Gorbachev to be in a mood to do business.

We will be ready. This may well be our best chance to advance on issues which have resisted solution in lower-level discussions. There are opportunities across the board.

Human Rights

I recommend you raise human rights early on, perhaps in your initial one-on-one. Tone will be important, given the sensitivity Gorbachev has shown to any hint that we are playing “prosecutor” to his “accused.” I told Shevardnadze that you are particularly interested in religion, and he said Gorbachev would be ready to discuss it.

If we are in fact in a Vienna CSCE end-game, you can focus on things the Soviets could do quickly to meet our need for a balanced outcome—release of political prisoners, liberalized treatment of religious believers, elimination of artificial barriers to emigration. You’ll also want to press for action on the cases you have raised since the [Page 1491] Washington summit3 with Shevardnadze (thus far one of the 17 has been resolved, and we have been informally told two more may be soon). Gorbachev will take you to task as usual for “inadequacies” in the way we care for our citizens, and you will have to make clear the distinction, which you pointed out in your Chicago speech,4 between socio-economic issues and the political rights Moscow has undertaken to respect under international agreements.

Arms Control

If we can crack certain problems in Moscow, we will be in a good position for a steady push on START in the months ahead. We want also to clarify the Washington Summit Statement’s ambiguities on Defense & Space. Much of the work will be highly technical, with the focus necessarily in working groups. But you and Gorbachev will have to drive the process and make necessary in-course corrections. Our goals are to:

Close on a formula for counting ALCMs on heavy bombers which takes into account the differences between cruise missiles and ballistic missiles, and work out procedures for converting heavy bombers to conventional aircraft;
Agree on verification provisions for mobile ICBM’s so that we can take up the question of a mobile warhead ceiling;
Get Soviet acknowledgement of the right of a side to take steps if its supreme interests are jeopardized by unforeseen events.
Obtain Gorbachev’s confirmation that, at the end of the period during which both sides will be committed not to withdraw from the ABM Treaty, each side may deploy strategic defenses if it chooses;

Gorbachev and his team will have their own agenda. They will push on SLCMs and likely will resist our attempts to pin them down on Defense & Space issues. Our best tactic is to go to Moscow with good positions that demonstrate our readiness to move forward during and after the summit in both START and Defense and Space.

We are in good shape on other arms control matters. We have already nailed down good language on next steps on chemical weapons and nuclear testing for inclusion in a final joint statement. We may be able to sign a new verification protocol to the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty5 and an agreement on the joint verification experiment to be conducted over the summer at each other’s nuclear test [Page 1492] sites. The outcome on conventional arms talks will depend on progress in Vienna over the next two weeks.

Regional Issues

Since the conclusion of the Afghanistan accords, Gorbachev has spoken of U.S.-Soviet cooperation on resolving regional issues in terms similar to those of your October, 1985 UNGA initiative. His representatives have raised the possibility of elaborating principles which could serve as a basis for joint action in specific cases. We have resisted, since such formulas mean different things to the Soviets and ourselves, insisting instead that we focus on practical steps. That should be our approach in Moscow as well.

My recent talks with Shevardnadze suggest that we cannot expect major shifts on regional issues, but we should continue pressing for constructive steps which could, in fact, serve as a basis for joint or parallel action.6

You should plan to talk with Gorbachev about southern Africa. Moscow recently has quietly supported our efforts with the parties, and Soviet endorsement will be critical to a package settlement. Our senior experts on Africa will meet on May 18 to prepare for the summit discussion.

The discussion of Afghanistan will probably focus on a review of our understanding of the concept of symmetry on arms supplies. We are ready to show restraint if we see that Moscow has, in fact, cut off assistance to Kabul.

On a range of issues we are simply at loggerheads, and will need patiently to reiterate the need for a more realistic Soviet approach: in the Middle East, on the role of an international conference and Palestinian participation; in Central America, on arms to Managua; in the Gulf on a second UNSC resolution; in Cambodia, on a Vietnamese withdrawal.

I can deal with Shevardnadze on certain issues—e.g., the Korean peninsula, Japan’s Northern Territories—which our Friends want us to raise. The Soviets have similar issues, e.g., Cyprus, which can also be dealt with at my level.

Bilateral Affairs

The work on bilateral agreements will largely be done by the time you arrive in Moscow. You and Gorbachev could nonetheless explore [Page 1493] means of expanding further people-to-people contacts over the long term. Gorbachev may also press on our plans for our new Chancery building in Moscow, which was seriously compromised during its construction. We will have made no final decision by the time of the summit.

We are still working with the Soviets on the modalities of signing the various bilateral agreements. Their substance (e.g., transportation, basic scientific research, fisheries) does not justify signing by you and Gorbachev. We will have worked out by the time you arrive in Moscow whether you and the General Secretary should witness the signing of these agreements, and when such a ceremony should take place.


Both sides agree that summit documentation should not only record the progress we have made but also reaffirm both sides commitment to move forward along the same productive track.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, Memoranda for the President (04/29/1988–06/04/1988); NLR–775–22–11–5–0. Secret; Sensitive. No drafting information appears on the memorandum. Also printed in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. VI, Soviet Union, October 1986–January 1989, Document 153.
  2. Nixon traveled to the Soviet Union and met with Brezhnev, Podgorny, and Kosygin, June 27–July 3, 1974. For documentation on the visit, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XV, Soviet Union, June 1972–August 1974.
  3. See Documents 313 and 314
  4. See Document 323.
  5. See footnote 11, Document 289.
  6. Presumable reference to Shultz’s meetings with Shevarnadze in Geneva, May 11–12. For the record of these discussions, see Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. VI, Soviet Union, October 1986–January 1989, Documents 149152.