253. Minutes of a National Security Council Meeting1


  • U.S. Relations with the USSR


  • The President
  • The Vice President

    • Admiral Daniel Murphy

    • Deputy Secretary Kenneth Dam
    • Mr. Robert Blackwell

    • Secretary Donald T. Regan
    • Mr. Marc Leland
  • OSD

    • Secretary Casper Weinberger
    • Deputy Secretary Frank Carlucci

    • Secretary John Block

    • Secretary Malcolm Baldridge
    • Mr. Lionel Olmer
  • OMB

    • Dr. Alton Keel
  • CIA

    • Mr. William Casey
  • USUN

    • Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick
  • JCS

    • General John Vessey
  • ACDA

    • Mr. Robert Gray
  • USIA

    • Mr. Charles Wick

    • Mr. Edwin Meese III
    • Mr. James Baker III
    • Judge William P. Clark
    • Mr. Richard Darman
    • Rear Admiral John Poindexter
  • NSC

    • Dr. Richard Pipes
    • Colonel Michael O. Wheeler


Judge Clark began the meeting by reviewing the course of the study2 on U.S.-Soviet relations and by noting that no decision was required at this point. He noted that there was disagreement on several issues, which would be discussed during the course of the meeting.

Deputy Secretary Dam was asked to discuss the study in detail. He pointed out that the differences could be viewed as relatively minor, given the scope of the study and the importance of the subject. All agree, he said, that U.S. policy should contribute to containing (and over time reversing) Soviet expansionism, should promote internal [Page 834] change in the Soviet system, and should involve negotiation where U.S. interest would be served by such an approach. He reviewed the major elements of the study, and then described the general areas of difference: (1) whether U.S. policy should have as a goal inducing the Soviets to shift resources from capital investment in heavy industry and related activities toward the consumer sector; (2) whether we should adopt as a goal refraining from assisting the Soviet in developing their natural resources; (3) and whether there should be boycotts on agriculture as part of total trade.

The President commented that he could save some discussion by pointing out that he had crossed out contentious lines on pages two and two/A3 of the draft National Security Decision Document [the President points to the lines]—they are provocative and should not be allowed to leak. The President stated that nothing should be in the paper that we don’t want to tell the Russians; we know what our policy is if the situation calls for its implementation.

Secretary Weinberger agreed that if we are clear about our policy, it does not matter what is in the paper.

The President pointed out that this approach would be what he always has thought of as a part of quiet diplomacy.

Secretary Weinberger cautioned that if something is taken out of the draft, however, some may interpret that to be a shift in policy.

Secretary Baldridge was asked by Judge Clark if he had anything he wished to say. Secretary Baldridge proceeded to point out that he disagreed with Secretary Weinberger on the issue of refraining from assisting the Soviets with development of their natural resources. To do that would be to wage economic warfare. He pointed out that he thought interagency agreement had been reached to take this out of the drafts, and did not understand why it was in the paper.

Judge Clark stated that the general rule is that all significant disagreements should be placed on the table.

[At this point, the President received a note which informed him of the crash of an FBI aircraft in Ohio. He expressed his deep sympathy for the families, since there were four FBI agents involved with eleven children among them.]

[Page 835]

Discussion continued among Dam, Weinberger, and Baldridge on the question of Soviet natural resource development. Judge Clark asked Secretary Regan if he wished to comment.

Secretary Regan shifted the discussion to the question of technology transfer, and pointed out that the paper was ambiguous in terms of not specifying whether high or low technology was intended.

The Vice President agreed that there were ambiguities in that area which could best be dealt with by leaving the section out.

Mr. Casey [inaudible]

Ambassador Kirkpatrick said she too was bothered by the ambiguous way in which technology was discussed in the paper. What, for instance, was meant by “critical” technology? She presumed that the central goal was to avoid helping the Soviets develop their military establishment.

Secretary Regan suggested that perhaps what was intended was “unique” technology, i.e., technology that the U.S. has but not its allies.

Secretary Baldridge interjected that the discussion showed how complicated the subject was, and that it needed clarification at the SIG. We cannot give business such ambiguous guidance.

At Judge Clark’s request, Dr. Pipes pointed out that the word “critical” was not in the draft initially, but was added at State’s insistence.

Secretary Weinberger , citing Ambassador Kirkpatrick’s description of the central goal of controlling the transfer of technology, suggested that we should be examing all technology, and if that means that business goes abroad, so be it.

Deputy Secretary Dam asked Secretary Weinberger what would be accomplished if the Soviets could get the technology elsewhere. This discussion was continued, with Secretaries Weinberger and Baldridge participating, and with comments from Judge Clark and Ambassador Kirkpatrick.4

[Page 836]

The President summarized the discussion by saying that we should not facilitate a Soviet military buildup.

After brief, related comments by Mr. Wick and Secretary Block, Secretary Weinberger turned to the issue of securing allied cohesion. That is an attractive goal, he said, but sometimes we pay an awful price to achieve it, and making it a course of action we are committed to may amount on occasion to preemptive capitulation.

General Vessey pointed out that sensitive technologies have been transfered in the past, and that our goal should be to insure that they are not transfered in the future.

The President summarized the discussion by noting what had been said and repeating that he did not want to compromise our chance of exercising quiet diplomacy.

Judge Clark asked if there were other comments, at which point Secretary Block shifted the discussion to the study document instead of the draft decision document. He began with the phrase “total boycott” on page thirty of the study, and suggested removing the phrase. He also referred to sections of page twenty-one, commenting that if what was being discussed on that page was the grain embargo, he did not think it had been successful.

Secretary Weinberger countered that he thought there had been some effect from the grain embargo, across the board. Secretaries Weinberger and Block discussed this issue briefly, until Deputy Secretary Dam pointed out that the important qualifier “unified” had been in the study.

Ambassador Kirkpatrick turned the discussion to a different point, suggesting that on page four of the study, the phrase “. . . and friends who support us” should be added. She discussed specific examples of some Third World countries that we should give higher priority to helping because of their support for us in Third World forums. Secretary Dam agreed, but Deputy Secretary Carlucci questioned whether this meant if Brazil, for instance, opposes the U.S. position on an issue, that we would not help them in other areas.

Secretary Baldridge turned the discussion to a point of clarification, i.e., what is the policy on development of Soviet resources. Do we trade with them? Do we engage in economic warfare?

Secretary Weinberger said he presumed that decisions would be made on a case-by-case basis. He cited the example of the pipeline, which gets them $10 billion per year in hard currency for practically no cost.

The President inserted that he wished to keep our options open.

Mr. Wick raised the question of what is meant by “strict reciprocity” on page six, giving the example of cultural exchange. Dr. Pipes explained the choices in this area, with Mr. Wick offering additional [Page 837] comments about whether we want to give them access that we are denied.

The President commented that many Soviets stay here when they come on tours.

Secretary Block added that it is to our benefit to have Soviets come to the United States and see the vast contrast in societies between theirs and ours. The discussion continued briefly, with Deputy Secretary Dam stating that the areas of the study dealing with exchanges could be reworked.

Judge Clark pointed out that time was up—that no decisions had been reached, and that more drafting was in order.

The President concluded the meeting by thanking the participants for expressing their points of view, with the final observation that he thought the discussion had cleared the air a little.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC: NSC Meeting File, NSC00070 16 DEC 82 [2/2]. Secret. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room. Prepared by Colonel Michael Wheeler of the National Security Council Staff, based on his handwritten notes. (Ibid.) According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting lasted from 2:05 until 3:05 p.m. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) All brackets are in the original.
  2. See Document 249.
  3. The Departments of State, Treasury, Agriculture, and Commerce had objected and advocated removing the following two sentences from the draft of NSDD 75: “To induce the USSR to shift capital and resources from the defense sector to capital investments and consumer goods,” and “To refrain from assisting the Soviet Union with developing natural resources with which to earn, at minimal cost to itself, hard currency.” (Draft NSDD, Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC: NSC Meeting File, NSC00070 16 DEC 82 [2/2])
  4. In a December 17 personal note reporting on the previous day, Dam dictated: “In the afternoon we had a major NSC meeting having to do with a review of an NSC paper and draft national security decision directive on the Soviet Union. The discussion reopened a lot of the wounds within the Administration having to do with trade with the Soviet Union, particularly trade in low technology goods that can be said to aid Soviet natural resource industries to earn hard currency. At one point I crossed swords with Cap Weinberger. Actually the President was on our side of this debate, but Cap tried to say that although we would delete the offensive provisions (which had been put in by Richard Pipes, a hard-line Harvard professor just completing his service on the NSC staff), we would agree that they actually had been agreed on and that we were only deleting them to avoid leaks. As a result, while losing, Cap tried to win.” (Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S–I Records: Deputy Secretary Dam’s Official Files, Lot 85D308, Personal Notes of Deputy Secretary—Kenneth W. Dam—Oct. 1982–Sept. 1983)