28. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State-Designate for European Affairs (Eagleburger) and the Director of the Bureau of Political and Military Affairs (Burt) to Secretary of State Haig 1


  • US-Soviet Relations Over the Near-Term

We need a game plan to manage our relations with the Soviets over the next six months. It will take that much time before we have Administration positions on such core issues as US strategic nuclear [Page 66] programs and SALT. Even our comprehensive review of East-West relations will take several months to complete.2

In the meantime, we can’t be simply reacting to Soviet initiatives, or acting without a clear perception of where we want to be with the Soviets, our Allies, and others by the end of this year and beyond.

In sum, we need:

1. A political program to guide our specific actions, and to rival the Soviet peace offensive; and

2. A concrete work program geared to key events and benchmarks over the next six-nine months to turn that program into reality.3

This memorandum provides an approach to both.

The Problem

Our basic goals are clear. We must correct the growing imbalance in US-Soviet military power, and restrain increasingly aggressive Soviet behavior, particularly in regions of vital interest to the United States. We want to establish a relationship based on much greater Soviet acceptance of reciprocity and restraint.

But we face this dilemma:

—Building such a relationship will take time and persistent pressure. We need the kind of major, long-term expenditure of resources for defense which cannot be sustained if we return to a climate of business-as-usual in the near to mid-term. We must maintain pressure on the Soviets for an extended period to convince them of the need to change their behavior.

—But we cannot get the Allies on board this long-term effort if they believe we are embarked on a path of unending, unnecessary, and dangerous confrontation. The Soviets already are having a certain success in Europe with their peace offensive.

To the extent the Soviets can separate us from the Allies, major elements of our plans for redressing the military imbalance and constraining Soviet international behavior will be hamstrung. Thus, preserving Alliance solidarity is of equal importance—and in a real sense is a precondition—to the attainment of our security objectives.

Facing this dilemma, we must fight against the temptation to force decisions on others, or to try to do everything ourselves. Unilateralism simply won’t workwhether passive a la Carter, or aggressive as there are some pressures for now (ERW, SLCMs). We must bring others with us through strong leadership and close cooperation.

[Page 67]

Therefore what we need is a policy of aggressive multilateralism. In order to elicit Allied confidence in and support for our approach to East-West relations, we must work intensively with them and be willing to take into account their sensitivities—while pushing for our basic objectives. To a much greater extent than in the past, we must weigh Allied concerns into our specific decisions vis-a-vis the Soviets and critical problems outside Europe.

At the same time we cannot allow the initiatives we must take in the military sphere and elsewhere to be paralyzed by our concern over European sensitivities. Looking to the longer term, we must start now to shape European attitudes.

General Framework for the Political Program

To convey the right signals to the Soviets and to get the Allies on board, we need to enunciate and pursue a political program which is:

hard-headed about our present situation and the need for fundamental change and

realistic but confident about the future if fundamental change occurs.

Our proclaimed objective would be to bring greater order and civility to international affairs. We would proceed from the fact that the East-West competition will continue and that the West must act to further its own interests. But we also would seek to keep the competition within safe limits and to permit the pursuit of some mutual interests. But we would stress that this requires above all the establishment of a greater degree of Soviet restraint.

We would emphasize that old restraints have weakened: because Soviet power has grown enormously, because new and more lucrative targets of opportunity have emerged (viz. the Persian Gulf), and because Western resolve has been called into question. And we can stress that the Soviet temptation to act aggressively increases as Soviet power increases, and increases further whenever the Soviets project power successfully.

We would stress that actions need to be taken in three areas to build new restraint:

1. Restoring military capabilities which are adequate to protect Western interests.4

2. Promoting stability in key regions through diplomatic and other efforts.5

[Page 68]

3. Designing direct relations with the Soviet Union (trade, arms control) to encourage restraint and penalize aggression.6

We need to make clear the relationship between these three:

—the development of adequate military capabilities is essential to induce greater Soviet restraint in key areas and to provide them incentive for serious, equitable arms control.7

—the active promotion of regional stability is essential to our security and to more constructive East-West8 relations.

—cooperation in arms control, trade and other areas will always be vulnerable unless the Soviets exercise greater restraint in their military programs and international conduct. Therefore linkage is a fact of life and must be an important tool of policy.

Our objective by the end of this year should be first, to get as much Allied consensus as possible on this general approach and; second, to convince the Soviets that it will endure and that they must begin to operate within its constraints. We must firmly establish that this Administration will have this and only this approach, and that the US-Soviet and East-West relationship will be determined by it. We need to make clear that a fundamentally negative course for our relationship will be set for years to come if the Soviets ignore it (i.e., occupy Poland). A more positive direction is possible if they are prepared to begin to act with restraint.

Benchmarks for the Political Program

We need a work program to give each of the three elements of this political program (military restoration, regional stability, contingent cooperation) specific content. But first we must relate it to specific benchmarks over the next six-nine months. The two most important are:

—The NATO Ministerial in May9

—Your meeting with Gromyko in September during the UNGA 10

Our basic aim should be to lay a solid foundation for your first high-level meeting with the Soviets. 11

The May Ministerial will be critical to our success. We need to demonstrate overall Western resolve in the face of Soviet efforts to encourage Allied disunity and to foster reluctance to increase Western defense efforts.12

[Page 69]

Our central objectives for the Ministerial should be to get: 1) a statement of solidarity on East-West13 relations; 2) a commitment to increased defense efforts.14 Realistically we will not get as strong a statement and commitment as we want.15 We should not push so hard that attention focuses more on West-West than East-West problems.16 But we should begin the process leading to greater Allied efforts. (I will be sending you a strategy for the Ministerial shortly.)17

We should not hold a high-level meeting with the Soviets before September because: 1) we won’t have meaningful positions on key issues like SALT,18 and 2) An earlier, specially-called meeting would look like we were responding to Soviet pressure—whereas the UNGA session is a tradition. We have already succeeded in placing the Soviets in a demandeur position on a summit19—a welcome reversal of roles from the previous Administration and one which shows the impact of a hard-nosed approach.20

On the other hand, not to hold the traditional UNGA meeting would raise serious concerns among the Allies and others about the course we were on and be counterproductive. Therefore we recommend planning to hold the September UNGA meeting and beginning now to lay the foundation for it. 21 Of course events in the interim could change these plans, e.g. invasion of Poland. (We do not evisage a US-Soviet Summit during the 6–9 month framework of this paper.)22

In the period before September, we can continue the dialogue through your discussions with Dobrynin, as well as (increasingly) through our Embassy in Moscow23—ensuring that our new policy of reciprocity is being observed.24 This summer we should devote special discussions with the Soviets to preparations designed to make your meeting more substantive and wide-ranging than many past UNGA [Page 70] exchanges. Thorough briefings of the Allies on our preparations and discussions with the Soviets will continue to neutralize Soviet allegations that we have cut off communication, and give the Allies a sense of a process underway leading to high-level meetings.25

Work Program

We will need individual decisions on specific issues. We have or will prepare separate memoranda for you on them. But it is important that we look at the entire political program to ensure that:

bureaucratically, we are moving at the right pace on each of them to be ready for the May and September meetings, and;26

substantively, we are taking steps to provide sufficient content, to begin to build leverage, and to strike the right balance between pressure and promise.

The three elements are:

1. Restoring Adequate Military Forces. The basic requirement for near-term (and long-term) success with the Soviets is to convince them that we are serious about a substantial and sustained increase in our military power. It is equally clear that one of their top foreign policy priorities over the next year will be to forestall, minimize or delay US and Allied defense programs.27

—By the May Ministerial we need a strategy for dealing with NATO defense programs.28 This will be critical to our success in September. We are working on an overall strategy for both the DPC and NAC Ministerials, an important element of which is some new ideas on force planning. We will be back to you after initial interagency discussions.29

—By September, we should make US decisions on strategic programs. We should have no illusions about major early results in SALT, and it will be important to give the Soviets a clear, timely signal that we have decided to strengthen our strategic forces in a comprehensive manner. We already have the substantial FY 81 and FY 82 defense budget supplementals to pass the right signal about our resolve to strengthen U.S. forces overall.30

[Page 71]

2. Soviet Restraint. The essential elements of our strategy for obtaining this objective are clear:

—Improve our capabilities for projecting US and Allied power into regions (particularly the Persian Gulf) where the Soviets threaten our interests;31

—Encourage the Allies and concerned states in key regions to play a more active role in promoting regional stability, and in focussing international attention on unacceptable Soviet behavior.32

—Link functional aspects of the East-West relationship (e.g., trade, arms control) to Soviet international behavior.33

(We will need policies geared to each specific region and the relevant regional and functional bureaus are working on them. Obviously there is much that the U.S. must do on its own and with key regional states. But this paper focuses on the Soviet and Allied dimensions.)

We should use the May NATO Ministerial and other meetings with the Allies in coming months to build support for this approach.

We also should engage the Soviets in a discussion of their international behavior, particularly during your meeting with Gromyko. We have made a start in your discussions with Dobrynin—making clear our view that their behavior over the past decade has been inconsistent with the 1972 Basic Principle Agreement.34 Our purpose is to convince the Soviets that the alternative to their observance of what we view as basic norms of international behavior is a high state of tension and danger in their relations with the US.

We need to convey to the Soviets that we are concerned about their behavior across the board, and that new adventures will create serious responses from the United States. We face three current test cases for Soviet restraint in El Salvador, Afghanistan, and Poland.35 The essence of our approach to each should be as follows:

—Soviet and Cuban restraint on El Salvador should be a necessary, but not sufficient condition for a general improvement in our relations.

—We should continue to hold out for concrete Soviet steps to get out of Afghanistan before lifting the grain embargo, particularly because existing sanctions are so thin.36 But we should have no illusions that [Page 72] withdrawal is imminent, and continued occupation should remain an explicit burden on our relations.

—We should continue to make clear that intervention in Poland would set in concrete a negative East-West relationship for years to come.

Our specific approach to these issues for the May and September meetings will depend on the situation of each as these meetings near. But it will be important that our handling of the situation neither unduly raise Allied concerns nor make Moscow’s job easier.37

—We will want to reassure the Allies that we38 appreciate that military force alone cannot circumscribe Soviet behavior, while trying to convince them to join us in fully utilizing non-military Western assets such as trade, technology and cultural affinity. It is essential that we work with key regional states using a broad set of tools to counter Soviet adventurism.39

—In addition, given Moscow’s penchant for a “spheres of influence approach,” we should take actions which make clear that the Soviets do not have a free hand in Afghanistan and Poland. And in our dialogue with the Soviets we should avoid falling into the trap of discussing spheres of influence.40

Our specific approach to the three current cases should be guided by the following considerations:

A. El Salvador

Our effort to educate the Europeans and others on the realities of the Salvadoran situation has been marginally41 successful. Although they are not convinced we have the answer, the Allies seem willing to watch us proceed without major objection at this stage. Moscow’s continuing low profile in El Salvador, moreover, indicates the Kremlin does not want this to become a major East-West issue at a time when it is courting Europe on other matters. But if our support for the Duarte regime is perceived as part of a broader pattern of expanding US relations with authoritarian regimes in Latin America, it could undermine Allied willingness to work with us there and also in other areas where we need their active support. Obviously, by itself, this does not mean we can not improve relations with such countries as Argentina or Chile, but we must keep the Allied dimension in mind as we determine our specific policies toward them. In addition we will have to [Page 73] take into account Allied and Latin American sensitivities in deciding how much more aggressive we want to be toward Cuba. Whatever we decide to do specifically about El Salvador, we must succeed; be perceived in Moscow and Europe to have succeeded; and do so as quickly as possible.42

B. Afghanistan and Sanctions Policy

As long as Poland is threatened, and Pakistan and other moderate Moslems continue to oppose the Soviet occupation, our Afghanistan policy will not be a major issue between us and the Allies. At this stage there is no foreign policy reason to lift the grain embargo,43 thereby, in effect, eviscerating our sanctions policy and sending wrong signals to Allies as we seek to develop contingency Polish sanctions. Our best course is to leave the package of post-Afghanistan sanctions in place. Any decision to lift the sanctions should remain conditioned on Soviet withdrawal. We should also examine ways to increase pressure on the Soviets in Afghanistan—helping Pakistan, keeping attention in appropriate fora on the Soviet occupation, and reviewing aid to the Afghan nationalists.

C. Poland

As noted above, Poland will be seen as a test case for the viability of our policy of differentiating between the Soviets and the governments of East Europe. While the Allies will expect us to join them in economic and political efforts to stabilize Poland’s economy, the effort could fail and the Soviets intervene—or the Soviets could intervene anyway. It will be difficult to get the Allies to do much more to lay the foundation for a strong, coherent Western response in the present context. But should the Soviets invade we must be prepared to exploit a new climate of opinion in Western Europe to move ahead with the Allies on several fronts, e.g. military and trade. We also should do what we can in the months ahead to help lay the foundations for Poland’s economic and financial recovery as a deterrent to Soviet aggression. We should keep in mind that as long as Polish events continue in a positive direction, so does the potential affect they have on the internal situation in neighboring countries including the Soviet Union.

3. Areas for Contingent and Reciprocal Cooperation.

A. Arms control. We need to strike a careful balance between not going back to business-as-usual, testing the Soviets’ bona fides in arms control and demonstrating to our Allies that we are willing to do so. The specific objective for arms control should be to constrain Soviet military capabilities, but it is unlikely we will have significant success in the near-term and should plan our own forces accordingly.

[Page 74]

Showing Movement. We need to devise a package of limited steps in arms control. We already have moved on CDE, and should hold firmly to our criteria there. By the May Ministerial we will have restarted the TNF process with an SCG meeting. We also plan to hold a SALT SCC meeting this spring. As the Administration’s first SALT-related meeting with the Soviets, it will signal to our Allies our interest in continuing a balanced SALT process. But it is unclear at this stage precisely when and how we want to proceed with the Soviets on TNF and SALT.44 In general we think there will be a need for some sort of meeting with the Soviets on TNF this year. But how closely this would be linked to SALT and whether we want to move to seize the initiative on SALT this year are subjects for further study in the PM-chaired IG.45 But particularly on CDE and TNF where we already have agreed Alliance positions, and on such compliance issues as BW and CW use we should go on the offensive publicly and diplomatically.

Not Moving Across the Board. We should not feel compelled to make other moves before September unless it is clearly in our interest. We have major decisions to make before we enter into even an informal dialogue with the Soviets on SALT. Our policy on nuclear testing and other arms control issues also requires major review.

We also should prepare for and launch two basic dialogues about the role and future course of arms control.

—First, we need a serious dialogue with our Allies. There are major differences about the political purposes and security significance of arms control, with some of our Allies seeing it as an essential part of preserving political detente in Europe regardless of Soviet behavior elsewhere, and as an alternative to increased defense spending. Once our own policies are sufficiently developed, we need to strive for a new consensus with our Allies about what arms control realistically can accomplish.

—Second, beginning with your meeting with Gromyko, we need a US-Soviet dialogue on a more realistic approach to arms control and how it relates to larger objectives (e.g., Soviet behavior in the Third World).

Our stance in the meantime should be that: we already are moving in key areas like CDE and TNF, we are prepared to consider any serious, balanced arms control measures the Soviets want to propose before our first high-level meeting, and we expect them to exercise restraint with their programs in the interim.

[Page 75]

B. East-West Trade. Afghanistan and the prospect of Soviet intervention in Poland have raised Allied consciousness on the issue of unrestricted trade with the USSR, particularly in sensitive areas. But we are a long way from having even a US policy, much less an Allied consensus on such matters as: the use of economic leverage to moderate Soviet foreign policy, the implications of increased European dependence on Soviet energy resources, and restrictions on transfer of sensitive technology. Much more needs to be done and we will need good working relations with the Allies to do it.

The interagency study on East-West economic relations must proceed in a timely fashion. By mid-May, we should be ready for Rashish to discuss the general problems we see in this area with the G–6 on the fringe of the OECD’s Executive Committee in Special Session (XCSS). At the Ottawa Summit in July, we should set out more concrete East-West economic concerns and formally launch our effort to build a new Western consensus. Thus, by your September meeting with Gromyko, we will have begun the process of developing greater Alliance cohesion. Ultimately, it will be important to be able to argue credibly that Western trade will be affected by Soviet behavior—in both a positive and negative direction.

Countering Soviet Pressure

The work program described above will provide adequate substantive content to enable us and the Allies to deal with Moscow’s “peace offensive”, but only if our framework and its individual elements are given sufficient visibility and we communicate a clear sense of direction and a process underway.

In terms of substance, we will be:

—Moving in a prudent and responsible manner ourselves to right the military imbalance, and beginning the effort to build a greater Allied contribution;

—Launching a serious discussion with the Soviets about their international conduct, while acting in El Salvador, Afghanistan, Poland and elsewhere to influence Soviet behavior in concrete ways which are consistent, serve broader Western interests and show prospects of success.

Addressing European concerns on arms control matters through such steps as spring TNF SCG and SALT SCC meetings, while not returning to business-as-usual across the board. At the same time we will be making a start at developing a new consensus on East-West trade.

In terms of process and visibility, we need to communicate to and consult with our Allies about our overall approach and particularly the logic of the steps leading to your meeting in September with Gromyko. It will be important that the Allies believe we see the Gromyko bilateral as a genuine opportunity to move the relationship in a con[Page 76]structive direction, and that there is no need for them to take initiatives in the interim which would be counter-productive, e.g. French proposal for a multilateral summit. We set forth below the specific agenda of consultations with the Allies and Soviets leading to September.

We also need public visibility.

We are working with ICA on a strategy for countering the Brezhnev peace offensive. I will send you a memorandum on this.46

A central ingredient in countering the Soviet public and diplomatic campaign would be a major policy statement setting forth the philosophy and program on East West relations of this memorandum. I have therefore recommended in a separate memorandum that you give such an address on June 15th in London (at a conference sponsored by Chatham House and the Council on Foreign Relations on Challenges to the West in the 1980’s). Having a European audience would be a major asset for a speech on U.S.-Allied cooperation in managing East-West relations.

The groundwork for such a speech, and for your September meeting with Gromyko, would have to be carefully prepared with the Allies and the Soviets. We recommend the following schedule:

—On April 1, a meeting of the Quadripartite Political Directors where we would outline the political framework for our approach and our work program through September;

—In mid-April, a scene-setting address by you on global issues to establish publicly the broad context for our foreign policy approach including to East-West relations;

—At the May NAC Ministerial, an effort to achieve Allied endorsement in the communique of our general approach to Moscow;

—In mid May, on the margins of the OECD’s Executive Committee in Special Session, restricted discussion of East-West economic issues;

—On June 15th, your speech in London devoted just to U.S.-Soviet and East-West relations.

—At the Ottawa Summit in July, launch effort to build a new Western consensus on East-West economic problems; possibly also Summit-level support for our approach to the political/security dimension of East-West relations.

—During June-August, preparatory U.S.-Soviet bilateral exchanges designed to set the stage for a serious, substantive meeting with Gromyko in September. Such exchanges could be handled by our new Ambassador in Moscow as a means of reestablishing him as a primary [Page 77] channel of high-level bilateral communications. Alternatively they could be conducted by you here with Dobrynin, and supplemented by our Embassy in Moscow.


That you approve the game plan set forth above as:

1) A general policy framework for our approach to U.S.-Soviet relations over the next six-nine months, and

2) A work program for preparations for the May Ministerial and September Gromyko meetings, which will include separate memoranda on key issues for your decision.47

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S–I Records: Lawrence Eagleburger Files, Lot 84D204, USSR 1981. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Palmer and Parris on March 12; cleared by Stoessel, Enders, and Jane Coon (NEA). Copied to Barry, Gompert, and Palmer on March 22.
  2. Haig underlined “will take several months to complete.”
  3. Haig placed a checkmark at the end of this sentence.
  4. Haig placed a checkmark at the end of this sentence.
  5. Haig placed a checkmark at the end of this sentence.
  6. Haig placed a checkmark at the end of this sentence.
  7. Haig placed a checkmark at the end of this point.
  8. Haig placed a checkmark at the end of this point.
  9. Haig underlined “The NATO Ministerial in May.”
  10. Haig underlined “You meeting with Gromyko in September during the UNGA.”
  11. Haig placed three checkmarks at the end of this sentence.
  12. Haig placed a checkmark beside this paragraph.
  13. Haig underlined “East-West.”
  14. Haig underlined “increased defense efforts.”
  15. Haig placed a checkmark at the end of this sentence.
  16. Haig underlined “West-West,” “East-West,” and placed a checkmark at the end of this sentence.
  17. Haig underlined this sentence and placed a checkmark beside it.
  18. Haig underlined “SALT.”
  19. Haig underlined “in a demandeur position on a summit.”
  20. Haig underlined “impact of a hard-nosed approach” and placed a checkmark at the end of the sentence.
  21. Haig placed a checkmark at the end of this sentence.
  22. Haig underlined “6–9 month framework of this” and placed three checkmarks at the end of the sentence.
  23. Haig placed a checkmark next to “Moscow.”
  24. Haig underlined “reciprocity is being observed” and placed a checkmark at the end of the sentence.
  25. Haig underlined “cut off communication” and “Allies a sense of a process underway leading to high-level meetings.”
  26. Haig placed a checkmark beside this point.
  27. Haig placed a checkmark at the end of this sentence.
  28. Haig underlined this sentence.
  29. Haig underlined “back to you after initial interagency discussions” and wrote: “EW vs WW! Right on!”
  30. Haig underlined this sentence and the phrase “strengthen our strategic forces in a comprehensive manner” at the end of the previous sentence and wrote: “Must be done 1st!”
  31. Haig placed a checkmark at the end of this point.
  32. Haig placed a checkmark beside this sentence.
  33. Haig placed a checkmark at the end of this sentence.
  34. Haig underlined “1972 Basic Principle Agreement.” See Document 3, footnote 3.
  35. Haig placed checkmarks next to El Salvador, Afghanistan, and Poland, and wrote: “& Lybia [sic] & Africa!”
  36. Haig underlined this sentence.
  37. Haig underlined “concerns nor make Moscow’s job easier.”
  38. Haig underlined “reassure the Allies that we.”
  39. Haig underlined “counter Soviet adventurism.”
  40. Haig underlined “spheres of influence” and wrote at the end of this paragraph: “MONROE Doctrine!!!”
  41. Haig underlined “marginally.”
  42. Haig placed a checkmark at the end of this sentence, drew a line from the end of the penultimate sentence, and wrote “need to handle at N/S summit.”
  43. Haig placed a checkmark after “embargo.”
  44. Haig drew a line from the end of this sentence to the upper right-hand corner and wrote: “Want this addressed ASAPBurt & Wolfowitz w/ACDA & [illegible].”
  45. Haig placed a checkmark at the end of this sentence.
  46. Haig drew two vertical lines in the margin of this paragraph and wrote a large question mark to the right of the lines.
  47. Haig initialed his approval of the recommendation.