48. Editorial Note

On April 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan held a meeting of the National Security Council in the Cabinet Room of the White House from 11:10 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. In attendance were Vice President George Bush, Secretary of State Alexander Haig, Deputy Secretary of State William Clark, Deputy Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci, Under Secretary of Defense Fred Ikle, Ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick, Director of Central Intelligence William Casey, General Lew Allen and Lt. General John Pustay of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Counselor to the President Edwin Meese, White House Chief of Staff James Baker, the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Richard Allen, the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs James Nance, Janet Colson of the National Security Council Staff, Admiral Daniel Murphy of the Office of the Vice President, as well as Major General Robert Schweitzer and Major Christopher Shoemaker of the National Security Council Staff. (Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC: NSC Meeting File, Records, 1981–88, NSC 0008 30 Apr 31 (2/3))

Allen opened the meeting by summarizing the issues for discussion: “The position the US should take on TNF negotiations with the Soviet Union; a brief word on Libya; U.S.-Japanese relations and the submarine and grain embargo issues; and the East-West trade paper which the Secretary of State will discuss while in Europe.” On the first issue, the Theater Nuclear Forces negotiations, Allen reviewed “the capabilities of the Backfire bomber in its intra-theater role, the SS–20, the SS–4, and the SS–5 missiles. He made the point that the SS–20, the basic Soviet IRBM, has three warheads and will be deployed in warhead numbers over 1,400 by 1985.” He then went over the capabilities of [Page 122] U.S. Pershing-II and ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCM), which, once deployed to North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries, had the potential to strike well within Soviet territory. The question at hand, as Allen put it, was whether to set a date for TNF negotiations with the Soviets.

Following Allen’s remarks, Haig summarized his discussions with NATO Secretary General Lord Carrington, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, after which it “became apparent that European leaders cannot maintain domestic consensus behind TNF modernization without a specific date for the start of TNF negotiations.” There was a sense among Europeans “that our modernization process has not been based upon an honest threat assessment or military requirements study.” The position of the Department of State was to “lay out a timetable to meet with Gromyko by the Fall and to negotiate with the Soviets on TNF by the end of the year.”

Carlucci responded that the Department of Defense “was not opposed in principle to negotiations or discussion of timetables but felt that any negotiations with the Soviet Union must be preceded by a common assessment of the threat and of our requirements.” After some debate over the merits of setting a date to begin negotiations, President Reagan “said that he did not see much difference between State and DOD positions. We will conduct the studies; we will continue to deploy modern systems; we believe the study can be done by the end of the year, and look forward to negotiations in that time frame. We will discuss with Gromyko in the Fall; if the studies are not ready by the end of the year, we will take that into consideration.” Meese summarized the position: “(1) Tell the Allies that we hope to start the talks by the end of the year; (2) We will talk to Gromyko in the Fall; (3) We need to start studies now; (4) These studies will be the basis for our talks; (5) We must proceed with modernization on schedule.” The participants then briefly discussed the process for drafting an East-West trade paper and the situation in Lebanon. The minutes of this conversation are scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, volume V, European Security, 1977–1983.

On May 1, Allen signed a Presidential Directive stating: “1) The U.S. intends to begin negotiations with the Soviet Union on TNF by the end of the year. 2) These negotiations will be based on an up-to-date threat assessment and a requirements study by the Allies. These actions will be undertaken within the framework of the High Level Group and the Special Consultative Group as matters of immediate priority. 3) The negotiations will be conducted within the SALT framework. This should not be understood as being in the previous SALT context. 4) Secretary Haig will discuss the timing and procedure of [Page 123] these negotiations with Gromyko in September at the U.N. 5) The TNF modernization process must continue on schedule.” (Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC: Meeting File, NSC 00022, 13 Oct 81)