260. National Security Decision Directive 751


U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union will consist of three elements: external resistance to Soviet imperialism; internal pressure on the USSR to weaken the sources of Soviet imperialism; and negotiations to eliminate, on the basis of strict reciprocity, outstanding disagreements. Specifically, U.S. tasks are:

1. To contain and over time reverse Soviet expansionism by competing effectively on a sustained basis with the Soviet Union in all international arenas—particularly in the overall military balance and in geo[Page 862]graphical regions of priority concern to the United States. This will remain the primary focus of U.S. policy toward the USSR.

2. To promote, within the narrow limits available to us, the process of change in the Soviet Union toward a more pluralistic political and economic system in which the power of the privileged ruling elite is gradually reduced. The U.S. recognizes that Soviet aggressiveness has deep roots in the internal system, and that relations with the USSR should therefore take into account whether or not they help to strengthen this system and its capacity to engage in aggression.

3. To engage the Soviet Union in negotiations to attempt to reach agreements which protect and enhance U.S. interests and which are consistent with the principle of strict reciprocity and mutual interest. This is important when the Soviet Union is in the midst of a process of political succession. (S)

In order to implement this threefold strategy, the U.S. must convey clearly to Moscow that unacceptable behavior will incur costs that would outweigh any gains. At the same time, the U.S. must make clear to the Soviets that genuine restraint in their behavior would create the possibility of an East-West relationship that might bring important benefits for the Soviet Union. It is particularly important that this message be conveyed clearly during the succession period, since this may be a particularly opportune time for external forces to affect the policies of Brezhnev’s successors. (S)

Shaping the Soviet Environment: Arenas of Engagement

Implementation of U.S. policy must focus on shaping the environment in which Soviet decisions are made both in a wide variety of functional and geopolitical arenas and in the U.S.-Soviet bilateral relationship. (S)

A. Functional

1. Military Strategy: The U.S. must modernize its military forces—both nuclear and conventional—so that Soviet leaders perceive that the U.S. is determined never to accept a second place or a deteriorating military posture. Soviet calculations of possible war outcomes under any contingency must always result in outcomes so unfavorable to the USSR that there would be no incentive for Soviet leaders to initiate an attack. The future strength of U.S. military capabilities must be assured. U.S. military technology advances must be exploited, while controls over transfer of military related/dual-use technology, products, and services must be tightened. (S)

In Europe, the Soviets must be faced with a reinvigorated NATO. In the Far East we must ensure that the Soviets cannot count on a secure flank in a global war. Worldwide, U.S. general purpose forces [Page 863] must be strong and flexible enough to affect Soviet calculations in a wide variety of contingencies. In the Third World, Moscow must know that areas of interest to the U.S. cannot be attacked or threatened without risk of serious U.S. military countermeasures. (S)

2. Economic Policy: U.S. policy on economic relations with the USSR must serve strategic and foreign policy goals as well as economic interests. In this context, U.S. objectives are:

—Above all, to ensure that East-West economic relations do not facilitate the Soviet military buildup. This requires prevention of the transfer of technology and equipment that would make a substantial contribution directly or indirectly to Soviet military power.

—To avoid subsidizing the Soviet economy or unduly easing the burden of Soviet resource allocation decisions, so as not to dilute pressures for structural change in the Soviet system.

—To seek to minimize the potential for Soviet exercise of reverse leverage on Western countries based on trade, energy supply, and financial relationships.

—To permit mutual beneficial trade—without Western subsidization or the creation of Western dependence—with the USSR in non-strategic areas, such as grains. (S)

The U.S. must exercise strong leadership with its Allies and others to develop a common understanding of the strategic implications of East-West trade, building upon the agreement announced November 13, 1982 (see NSDD 66).2 This approach should involve efforts to reach agreements with the Allies on specific measures, such as: (a) no incremental deliveries of Soviet gas beyond the amounts contracted for from the first strand of the Siberian pipeline; (b) the addition of critical technologies and equipment to the COCOM list, the harmonization of national licensing procedures for COCOM, and the substantial improvement of the coordination and effectiveness of international enforcement efforts; (c) controls on advanced technology and equipment beyond the expanded COCOM list, including equipment in the oil and gas sector; (d) further restraints on officially-backed credits such as higher down payments, shortened maturities and an established framework to monitor this process; and (e) the strengthening of the role of the OECD and NATO in East-West trade analysis and policy. (S)

In the longer term, if Soviet behavior should worsen, e.g., an invasion of Poland, we would need to consider extreme measures. Should Soviet behavior improve, carefully calibrated positive economic signals, including a broadening of government-to-government economic contacts, could be considered as a means of demonstrating to the Soviets [Page 864] the benefits that real restraint in their conduct might bring. Such steps could not, however, alter the basic direction of U.S. policy. (S)

3. Political Action: U.S. policy must have an ideological thrust which clearly affirms the superiority of U.S. and Western values of individual dignity and freedom, a free press, free trade unions, free enterprise, and political democracy over the repressive features of Soviet Communism. We need to review and significantly strengthen U.S. instruments of political action including: (a) The President’s London initiative to support democratic forces;3 (b) USG efforts to highlight Soviet human rights violations; and (c) U.S. radio broadcasting policy. The U.S. should:

—Expose at all available fora the double standards employed by the Soviet Union in dealing with difficulties within its own domain and the outside (“capitalist”) world (e.g., treatment of labor, policies toward ethnic minorities, use of chemical weapons, etc.).

—Prevent the Soviet propaganda machine from seizing the semantic high-ground in the battle of ideas through the appropriation of such terms as “peace.” (S)

B. Geopolitical

1. The Industrial Democracies: An effective response to the Soviet challenge requires close partnership among the industrial democracies, including stronger and more effective collective defense arrangements. The U.S. must provide strong leadership and conduct effective consultations to build consensus and cushion the impact of intra-alliance disagreements. While Allied support of U.S. overall strategy is essential, the U.S. may on occasion be forced to act to protect vital interests without Allied support and even in the face of Allied opposition; even in this event, however, U.S. should consult to the maximum extent possible with its Allies. (S)

2. The Third World: The U.S. must rebuild the credibility of its commitment to resist Soviet encroachment on U.S. interests and those of its Allies and friends, and to support effectively those Third World states that are willing to resist Soviet pressures or oppose Soviet initiatives hostile to the United States, or are special targets of Soviet policy. The U.S. effort in the Third World must involve an important role for security assistance and foreign military sales, as well as readiness to use U.S. military forces where necessary to protect vital interests and support endangered Allies and friends. U.S. policy must also involve diplomatic initiatives to promote resolution of regional crises vulnerable to Soviet exploitation, and an appropriate mixture of economic [Page 865] assistance programs and private sector initiatives for Third World countries. (S)

3. The Soviet Empire: There are a number of important weaknesses and vulnerabilities within the Soviet empire which the U.S. should exploit. U.S. policies should seek wherever possible to encourage Soviet allies to distance themselves from Moscow in foreign policy and to move toward democratization domestically. (S)

(a) Eastern Europe: The primary U.S. objective in Eastern Europe is to loosen Moscow’s hold on the region while promoting the cause of human rights in individual East European countries. The U.S. can advance this objective by carefully discriminating in favor of countries that show relative independence from the USSR in their foreign policy, or show a greater degree of internal liberalization. U.S. policies must also make clear that East European countries which reverse movements of liberalization, or drift away from an independent stance in foreign policy, will incur significant costs in their relations with the U.S. (S)

(b) Afghanistan: The U.S. objective is to keep maximum pressure on Moscow for withdrawal and to ensure that the Soviets’ political, military, and other costs remain high while the occupation continues. (S)

(c) Cuba: The U.S. must take strong countermeasures to affect the political/military impact of Soviet arms deliveries to Cuba. The U.S. must also provide economic and military assistance to states in Central America and the Caribbean Basin threatened by Cuban destabilizing activities. Finally, the U.S. will seek to reduce the Cuban presence and influence in southern Africa by energetic leadership of the diplomatic effort to achieve a Cuban withdrawal from Angola, or failing that, by increasing the costs of Cuba’s role in southern Africa. (S)

(d) Soviet Third World Alliances: U.S. policy will seek to limit the destabilizing activities of Soviet Third World allies and clients. It is a further objective to weaken and, where possible, undermine the existing links between them and the Soviet Union. U.S. policy will include active efforts to encourage democratic movements and forces to bring about political change inside these countries. (S)

4. China: China continues to support U.S. efforts to strengthen the world’s defenses against Soviet expansionism. The U.S. should over time seek to achieve enhanced strategic cooperation and policy coordination with China, and to reduce the possibility of a Sino-Soviet rapprochement. The U.S. will continue to pursue a policy of substantially liberalized technology transfer and sale of military equipment to China on a case-by-case basis within the parameters of the policy approved by the President in 1981, and defined further in 1982. (S)

5. Yugoslavia: It is U.S. policy to support the independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia’s current [Page 866] difficulties in paying its foreign debts have increased its vulnerability to Soviet pressures. The Yugoslav government, well aware of this vulnerability, would like to reduce its trade dependence on the Soviet Union. It is in our interest to prevent any deterioriation in Yugoslavia’s economic situation that might weaken its resolve to withstand Soviet pressure. (S)

C. Bilateral Relationships

1. Arms Control: The U.S. will enter into arms control negotiations when they serve U.S. national security objectives. At the same time, U.S. policy recognizes that arms control agreements are not an end in themselves but are, in combination with U.S. and Allied efforts to maintain the military balance, an important means for enhancing national security and global stability. The U.S. should make clear to the Allies as well as to the USSR that U.S. ability to reach satisfactory results in arms control negotiations will inevitably be influenced by the international situation, the overall state of U.S.-Soviet relations, and the difficulties in defining areas of mutual agreement with an adversary which often seeks unilateral gains. U.S. arms control proposals will be consistent with necessary force modernization plans and will seek to achieve balanced, significant, and verifiable reductions to equal levels of comparable armaments. (S)

2. Official Dialogue: The U.S. should insist that Moscow address the full range of U.S. concerns about Soviet internal behavior and human rights violations, and should continue to resist Soviet efforts to return to a U.S.-Soviet agenda focused primarily on arms control. U.S.-Soviet diplomatic contacts on regional issues can serve U.S. interests if they are used to keep pressure on Moscow for responsible behavior. Such contacts can also be useful in driving home to Moscow that the costs of irresponsibility are high, and that the U.S. is prepared to work for pragmatic solutions of regional problems if Moscow is willing seriously to address U.S. concerns. At the same time, such contacts must be handled with care to avoid offering the Soviet Union a role in regional questions it would not otherwise secure. (S)

A continuing dialogue with the Soviets at Foreign Minister level facilitates necessary diplomatic communication with the Soviet leadership and helps to maintain Allied understanding and support for U.S. approach to East-West relations. A summit between President Reagan and his Soviet counterpart might promise similarly beneficial results. At the same time, unless it were carefully handled a summit could be seen as registering an improvement in U.S.-Soviet relations without the changes in Soviet behavior which we have insisted upon. It could therefore generate unrealizable expectations and further stimulate unilateral Allied initiatives toward Moscow. (S)

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A summit would not necessarily involve signature of major new U.S.-Soviet agreements. Any summit meeting should achieve the maximum possible positive impact with U.S. Allies and the American public, while making clear to both audiences that improvement in Soviet-American relations depends on changes in Soviet conduct. A summit without such changes must not be understood to signal such improvement. (S)

3. U.S.-Soviet Cooperative Exchanges: The role of U.S.-Soviet cultural, educational, scientific and other cooperative exchanges should be seen in light of the U.S. intention to maintain a strong ideological component in relations with Moscow. The U.S. should not further dismantle the framework of exchanges; indeed those exchanges which could advance the U.S. objective of promoting positive evolutionary change within the Soviet system should be expanded. At the same time, the U.S. will insist on full reciprocity and encourage its Allies to do so as well. This recognizes that unless the U.S. has an effective official framework for handling exchanges, the Soviets will make separate arrangements with private U.S. sponsors, while denying reciprocal access to the Soviet Union. U.S. policy on exchanges must also take into account the necessity to prevent transfer of sensitive U.S. technology to the Soviet Union. (S)

Priorities in the U.S. Approach: Maximizing Restraining Leverage over Soviet Behavior

The interrelated tasks of containing and reversing Soviet expansion and promoting evolutionary change within the Soviet Union itself cannot be accomplished quickly. The coming 5–10 years will be a period of considerable uncertainty in which the Soviets may test U.S. resolve by continuing the kind of aggressive international behavior which the U.S. finds unacceptable. (S)

The uncertainties will be exacerbated by the fact that the Soviet Union will be engaged in the unpredictable process of political succession to Brezhnev. The U.S. will not seek to adjust its policies to the Soviet internal conflict, but rather try to create incentives (positive and negative) for the new leadership to adopt policies less detrimental to U.S. interests. The U.S. will remain ready for improved U.S.-Soviet relations if the Soviet Union makes significant changes in policies of concern to it; the burden for any further deterioration in relations must fall squarely on Moscow. The U.S. must not yield to pressures to “take the first step.” (S)

The existing and projected gap between finite U.S. resources and the level of capabilities needed to implement U.S. strategy makes it essential that the U.S.: (1) establish firm priorities for the use of limited U.S. resources where they will have the greatest restraining impact on [Page 868] the Soviet Union; and (2) mobilize the resources of Allies and friends which are willing to join the U.S. in containing the expansion of Soviet power. (S)

Underlying the full range of U.S. and Western policies must be a strong military capable of action across the entire spectrum of potential conflicts and guided by a well conceived political and military strategy. The heart of U.S. military strategy is to deter attack by the USSR and its allies against the U.S., its Allies, or other important countries, and to defeat such an attack should deterrence fail. Although unilateral U.S. efforts must lead the way in rebuilding Western military strength to counter the Soviet threat, the protection of Western interests will require increased U.S. cooperation with Allied and other states and greater utilization of their resources. This military strategy will be combined with a political strategy attaching high priority to the following objectives:

Sustaining steady, long-term growth in U.S. defense spending and capabilities—both nuclear and conventional. This is the most important way of conveying to the Soviets U.S. resolve and political staying-power.

Creating a long-term Western consensus for dealing with the Soviet Union. This will require that the U.S. exercise strong leadership in developing policies to deal with the multifaceted Soviet threat to Western interests. It will require that the U.S. take Allied concerns into account, and also that U.S. Allies take into equal account U.S. concerns. In this connection, and in addition to pushing Allies to spend more on defense, the U.S. must make a serious effort to negotiate arms control agreements consistent with U.S. military strategy and necessary force modernization plans, and should seek to achieve balanced, significant and verifiable reductions to equal levels of comparable armaments. The U.S. must also develop, together with the Allies, a unified Western approach to East-West economic relations, implementing the agreement announced on November 13, 1982.

Maintenance of a strategic relationship with China, and efforts to minimize opportunities for a Sino-Soviet rapprochement.

Building and sustaining a major ideological/political offensive which, together with other efforts, will be designed to bring about evolutionary change of the Soviet system. This must be a long-term and sophisticated program, given the nature of the Soviet system.

Effective opposition to Moscow’s efforts to consolidate its position in Afghanistan. This will require that the U.S. continue efforts to promote Soviet withdrawal in the context of a negotiated settlement of the conflict. At the same time, the U.S. must keep pressure on Moscow for withdrawal and ensure that Soviet costs on the ground are high.

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Blocking the expansion of Soviet influence in the critical Middle East and Southwest Asia regions. This will require both continued efforts to seek a political solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and to bolster U.S. relations with moderate states in the region, and a sustained U.S. defense commitment to deter Soviet military encroachments.

Maintenance of international pressure on Moscow to permit a relaxation of the current repression in Poland and a longer-term increase in diversity and independence throughout Eastern Europe. This will require that the U.S. continue to impose costs on the Soviet Union for its behavior in Poland. It will also require that the U.S. maintain a U.S. policy of differentiation among East European countries.

Neutralization and reduction of the threat to U.S. national security interests posed by the Soviet-Cuban relationship. This will require that the U.S. use a variety of instruments, including diplomatic efforts and U.S. security and economic assistance. The U.S. must also retain the option of using of its military forces to protect vital U.S. security interests against threats which may arise from the Soviet-Cuban connection. (S)

Articulating the U.S. Approach: Sustaining Public and Congressional Support

The policy outlined above is one for the long haul. It is unlikely to yield a rapid breakthrough in bilateral relations with the Soviet Union. In the absence of dramatic near-term victories in the U.S. effort to moderate Soviet behavior, pressure is likely to mount for change in U.S. policy. There will be appeals from important segments of domestic opinion for a more “normal” U.S.-Soviet relationship, particularly in a period of political transition in Moscow. (S)

It is therefore essential that the American people understand and support U.S. policy. This will require that official U.S. statements and actions avoid generating unrealizable expectations for near-term progress in U.S.-Soviet relations. At the same time, the U.S. must demonstrate credibly that its policy is not a blueprint for an open-ended, sterile confrontation with Moscow, but a serious search for a stable and constructive long-term basis for U.S.-Soviet relations. (S)

Ronald Reagan
  1. Source: Reagan Library, Matlock Files, NSDDs [32, 54, 75, 130, 133]. Secret; Sensitive. Clark sent the NSDD to Bush, Shultz, Regan, Weinberger, Block, Baldrige, Stockman, Casey, Kirkpatrick, Vessey, and Wick under cover of a January 17 memorandum stating: “The President has approved National Security Decision Directive on ‛U.S. Relations with the USSR’. A copy is attached for your information. This is a sensitive document; distribution should be made only on a need-to-know basis.” (Ibid.)
  2. See Document 246.
  3. See Document 177.