99. Memorandum From Secretary of State Haig to President Reagan 1


  • Strategy to Preempt Brezhnev

We think the moment is right for you personally to launch a major offensive on the issues of peace, security, and freedom. Building on [Page 345] the recent success at Cancun and with AWACs, your offensive would give a substantial lift to our diplomatic and defense efforts both abroad and at home.

Above all, a Presidential initiative would help derail the Soviet campaign to occupy the high ground on nuclear war and arms control in Europe. The Soviets will be trying to add fuel to the fire which has led to the recent wave of demonstrations. Specifically, during his forthcoming visit to Bonn (Nov. 22–24), Brezhnev may well announce an initiative designed to attract European public support before the TNF negotiations begin November 30. We can and should preempt him.

We have an excellent opportunity to repeat our success in ruining Gromyko’s UNGA speech. Coming just before Gromyko’s speech, the publicity on your last letter to Brezhnev and my address to UNGA left the Soviets in a heavy-handed and confrontational posture. They were simply too rigid to react quickly enough to change their gameplan. I, therefore, recommend that you deliver a televised address just before Brezhnev arrives in Bonn. A forceful but positive Presidential presentation will deflate Brezhnev on the eve of his visit and put the Soviets on the defensive.

It also could help here as it would come on the eve of Congressional votes on funding for the MX and B–1. We need to undermine the growing attacks on our defense program increases by demonstrating that they are essential to our peace program, including the success of arms control.

Your speech would be explicitly addressed to the peoples of the world, and would set forth our overall approach to peace, security and freedom. It would concentrate on the nuclear issues now most at play in Europe. We would seek to reeducate the Europeans about the basic requirements for security and deterrence. We would stress that peace has been preserved for an entire generation for certain basic reasons, above all by preserving deterrence. The U.S. is now strengthening and modernizing its conventional, theater nuclear and strategic nuclear forces to ensure that deterrence remains intact. You would state that our TNF program provides the essential link between the US strategic umbrella and the security of Europe by deterring both Soviet conventional attacks and a limited nuclear war in Europe. Building on the excellent statement you released October 21st, you could stress the necessity for equality and balance.

But you also would stress our desire to achieve these objectives at the lowest possible level of forces. Brezhnev will want to hit hard in Bonn at our alleged unwillingness to negotiate seriously. To preempt him, you would announce that you have communicated to Brezhnev (via a letter Ambassador Hartman could present to Gromyko on the eve of your speech) our comprehensive program to achieve equality at the [Page 346] lowest possible levels of strategic weapons and TNF. You would challenge Brezhnev to agree.

Specifically on SALT, you would stress that we have informed the Soviets that we will be ready to start talks by the spring of 1982, and emphasize that we are using the time remaining to define approaches which would go well beyond past SALT agreements in achieving substantial reductions.

You then would focus heavily on TNF. The difficulties have started because the Soviets have been moving ahead steadily with their deployment of SS–20s, while the United States actually has decreased the number of its nuclear warheads by 1,000 over the past several years. With a graphic chart behind you to make the point visually, you could stress that the number of Soviet LRTNF missile warheads continues to increase while the U.S. at present deploys no LRTNF missiles. We are prepared to limit our deployments to the lowest possible level to which the Soviets are willing to reduce, ideally to zero.

You then could go on to state that deterrence and arms control are not enough, that we not only want to preserve peace in Europe, we want to help bring peace to other areas of the world torn by crises and tension. Here too we have a concrete program for peace and security. You then could briefly review our diplomatic efforts in various regions, and attack Soviet intervention and aggression. And you could underline that we believe genuine peace and security can unleash a new era of economic growth and individual liberty. Here too we have programs and values which give us confidence in the future.

Obviously we will need to fine-tune these ideas working closely with Cap and your staff. But I would like your agreement to move ahead on the draft of such a speech and with arrangements for you to present it on television November 20th. I am convinced you can steal Brezhnev’s thunder and put us on the offensive.


That you agree to give such a speech on November 20th.2

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC: Country File, USSR (11/03/1981–11/05/1981). Secret. The President’s Daily Diary indicates that the National Security Planning Group met on November 5 from 4:08 to 5:45 p.m. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) No minutes were found. Reagan wrote in his diary: “A long afternoon N.S.C. meeting. We plan to talk to the world via T.V. just prior to Brezhnev’s visit to Germany to announce that in the I.N.F. arms limit talks we’ll ask for total elimination of Theatre Nuclear weapons in Europe.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, vol. I, p. 81)
  2. There is no indication of approval or disapproval of the recommendation.