325. Editorial Note

Secretary of State George Shultz appeared on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) News public affairs program This Week With David Brinkley on May 22, 1988. Host David Brinkley, Sam Donaldson, and John McWethy, interviewed Shultz. The reporters devoted their initial questions to U.S.-Soviet relations. They asked Shultz about the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty then pending in the Senate and President Ronald Reagan’s upcoming trip to Moscow to meet with General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev: “Let me ask you about something that obviously will come up. What difference, real difference, does it make if the INF [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces] Treaty is not completely finished by the Senate—assuming it is finished at some point before long—before you and the President go to Moscow? Does it make any real difference?”

Shultz responded: “It helps, certainly, to have completed something and to register that fact. Let me point out also that it has been, I think, since 1972 that we haven’t ratified a treaty with the Soviet Union, and we’ve had several on the table. So it’s good to register the fact that we can do it.”

The reporters then asked: “Do you have any particular words of advice to the leadership? Apparently you’re going to Capitol Hill [Page 1494] tomorrow to try to move the process along. What are you going to be telling them?”

Shultz replied: “Actually, I think the process has gone well, and I have only compliments for the Senate in the way in which they’ve handled this. It’s been a very thorough process. We’ve had over 70 hearings. We’ve answered over 1,300 questions. I’ve appeared three times myself. We have pinned things down that people wanted to pin down, and I think it’s been thorough going. Now the treaty is being debated. I think there’s been a time for hearings and a time for questions and a time for critiques and a time for debate; and there also has to come a time to decide, and I think we’re about there.”

In response to a question as to whether it would not “be embarrassing to you and the President to have conservative Republicans leading the opposition against this treaty in the Senate and trying to delay it, obviously, past the Moscow summit.” Shultz said: “I don’t know. I wouldn’t try to put down any motives. But certainly it’s a good thing to have people who probe and struggle and criticize. It helps to assure people that there’s been no stone left unturned.”

The interviewers asked: “There are a number of indications at this point that the Administration may be changing its position on SDI, the Strategic Defense Initiative. The Defense Science Board has recommended that the Administration take a much lower first step than had been advocated in years past by the Administration. Are you taking something new with you to the Soviet Union next week that will indicate a slightly different approach to SDI?”

Shultz replied: “The President’s position, insofar as negotiations are concerned, has never changed. It is that basically he will not agree to anything that in any way impedes the development of our ability to figure out how to defend ourselves against ballistic missiles, if we can do it. That has always been his position.

“That still leaves room for a lot of things with the Soviet Union, such as a period of nonwithdrawal from the ABM [Antiballistic Missile] Treaty, that provide assurances on both sides of what the general environment is going to be when we have massive cuts in our offensive forces.

“Personally, I think that we, as well as they, are well advised to want to see what that atmosphere is going to be. So those are the things we have negotiated about.

“There are a variety of things on the table that we’re struggling with. We did agree on some language here at the Washington summit, that both sides agreed on. The only difficulty with that language is that we also agree that we don’t agree on what it means, so we still have a lot of work to do.”

[Page 1495]

An interviewer then said: “Gorbachev also said, ‘Who would have thought in the ’80s that Ronald Reagan would have been—would become—the first President to sign a nuclear arms treaty with the Soviet Union.’ He refers, of course, to the days when—”

Shultz interjected: “Nuclear arms reduction.” Stating that the interviewer had said “agreement,” Shultz noted: “There have been agreements, but they’ve been agreements under which nuclear weapons were allowed to increase, and the President has always objected to that. He said what he wants to do is decrease them.”

The interviewer continued, “Anyway, I was referring to his—he was referring to the ’80s when the President was saying ‘the evil empire’ and so on. What’s changed him? You’ve watched him all this time. He’s come quite a long way.”

Shultz replied: “We need to remind ourselves that in 1981 President Reagan proposed the zero option. I presume he would have signed it then if the Soviets would have agreed to it. They wouldn’t agree to it.

“In 1982 he proposed 50% cuts in strategic arms. We have completed an agreement on the zero option, and we have all of the basic structure of a 50% reduction arrangement there, although there are immense amounts of additional difficult understructure to that agreement yet to be done. So these are things that have been consistently pursued objectives on the part of our President.”

The interviewers asked a follow-up question: “So, as you’re seeing it then, who would have believed that Gorbachev would be the first to sign a nuclear reduction treaty with the United States?”

Shultz responded: “Mr. Gorbachev is new in power, in a sense. He’s been there now for about 3 years. I would have to tell you, from the first time I met him, which was assisting Vice President Bush at the Chernenko funeral—we met for about an hour and a half—I went away from that meeting saying this is a different kind of Soviet leader from what we’ve seen in the past. You could see it immediately.” (Department of State Bulletin, July 1988, pages 14–15; all brackets are in the original)