173. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Clark) to President Reagan 1


  • Secretary Haig’s Memo on President Brezhnev’s Komsomol Speech

Attached for your information is a memo from Al Haig summarizing the Department of State’s assessment of President Brezhnev’s START and INF statements (Tab A), in Brezhnev’s May 18 speech to the Komsomol.2

The speech took a predictable posture in its critique of the U.S. position and in advocacy of a freeze. Nevertheless, as Al’s memo points out, it “constitutes a relatively mild and constructive-sounding reply” to your May 9 speech.

[Page 556]

Tab A

Memorandum From Secretary of State Haig to President Reagan 3



Brezhnev’s speech is clearly aimed at public opinion in the United States and especially Western Europe. It emphasizes grand gestures, both in START and INF, but gives little insight into the Soviet negotiating approach. It nevertheless constitutes a relatively mild and constructive-sounding reply to your Eureka speech. Brezhnev’s major points and our comments follow.


Brezhnev proposes a prompt interim quantitative freeze and qualitative restraints on strategic nuclear weapons. Playing to the nuclear freeze movement, this proposal is a logical extension of Soviet proposals for an INF freeze. It does not specify the units which would be frozen or the way in which modernization could be limited. We can expect Brezhnev’s call for a strategic weapons freeze to feature prominently in Soviet propaganda.

Concurring in the need for substantial reductions, he welcomes US willingness to negotiate on strategic arms and says the talks should begin immediately. He gives no signal on a date or venue, but I expect to hear from the Soviet side through diplomatic channels in the near future.

Brezhnev predictably criticizes your START proposals as facilitating a quest for US military superiority and jeopardizing Soviet security. These criticisms fall short of rejecting the US proposals, although the Soviets will clearly seek to broaden the focus of START negotiations well beyond the US proposals when talks begin.

He proposes banning or severely restricting the development of new types of strategic weapons. While this posture has public appeal, it also probably results from the Soviet desire to restrain US technology, particularly development of the D–5.

He proposes three general principles for successful strategic negotiations: the pursuit of actual limits and reductions, not camouflage for a [Page 557] continuing buildup; respect for each other’s legitimate security interests and the principle of equality and equal security; and preservation of “everything positive” which has been achieved earlier. Brezhnev stopped short of mentioning SALT II.


Brezhnev pays more detailed attention to INF than to START and says that “the key task today (in the quest for peace) is to lower the nuclear confrontation in Europe.”

Brezhnev expresses readiness to consider deeper INF reductions than the two-third cuts the Soviet Union had previously proposed. The meaning of this will have to be explored in the INF negotiations.

He reports reduction of a “considerable” number of INF missiles. These are presumably obsolete SS–4s and SS–5s undergoing normal retirement.

He announces that “no medium-range missiles will be additionally deployed in places from which both the FRG and other countries of Western Europe could be within their reach.” We believe that the Soviet moratorium offer of 16 March included SS–20s at some Asian bases within range of Western Europe. If this is true, he is making explicit an aspect of their original offer, but in so doing he admits the validity of our position that limits on missiles “in Europe” alone are inadequate.

He confirms that the Soviet INF freeze “envisages” termination of preparation for missile deployments, including construction of launch sites. This clarification is aimed at hampering our own site preparations, and it responds to US criticism that construction was continuing at some sites even after the moratorium. Very recent intelligence indicates ongoing construction at SS–20 sites, and we will watch closely to see if it stops after the speech.

Calling our desire for a US-Soviet agreement on global INF limitations “absurd,” he announces that the question of missiles in the Eastern part of the USSR could only be addressed in negotiations “with those in whose hands are the nuclear means which are opposed by our missiles.” Without calling for Asian INF negotiations involving China, Brezhnev says that the USSR “does not object” to such negotiations. Soviet INF negotiators will presumably now use this line in rejecting our global approach.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC: Country File: USSR (05/24/1982–05/29/1982). Secret. Sent for information. Copied to Bush, Meese, Baker, and Deaver. Reagan initialed the memorandum next to the date.
  2. See Current Digest of the Soviet Press, Vol. 34, No. 20, June 16, 1982, pp. 1–23.
  3. Secret.