141. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs (Burt) to Secretary of State Shultz 1

SUBJECT

  • Revised Presidential Letter to Andropov

Issue for Decision

Whether to forward the attached draft letter to Andropov under cover of a memorandum to the President.

Background

As you will recall, we owe a response to Andropov’s August 27 letter to the President on INF.2 You decided to defer a reply until after the trip to Japan and Korea.3 We have now prepared a revised version, updated to cover more recent developments, in particular the Soviet suspension of the talks (Tab 2).4

Given the current strains and uncertainties surrounding our relationship with Moscow, we believe that a Presidential letter to Andropov at this time could be quite useful. The Soviet interruption of the INF talks in Geneva—coming at a time of sharpened Soviet polemics, political uncertainties within the Kremlin itself, and increased popular concern within the West over U.S.-Soviet tensions—makes it important that the President directly reaffirm his interest in developing a more constructive U.S.-Soviet relationship. The timing is particularly important with the Soviet leadership faced with reacting to a major foreign [Page 491] policy defeat and, perhaps, caught up in a difficult political transition. These considerations, in my view, also argue for a Presidential speech on U.S.-Soviet relations (which is the subject of a separate memo.)5

The draft message to Andropov, and through him to the rest of the senior leadership, reiterates our basic stance, yet makes it clear that we are not seeking to exacerbate existing differences with the Soviet Union. Consistent with our earlier public and private statements, it stresses our readiness to pursue a pragmatic, problem-solving approach to questions now before the two nations, and cites particular areas where progress might be possible. Without minimizing such current problems as the INF impasse, it notes that while we will continue to resist unacceptable Soviet actions, we are nonetheless willing to explore mutually-acceptable solutions to specific issues on a case-by-case basis. To that end, the letter expresses a readiness to pursue a “problem-solving” dialogue through private and candid exchanges with the Soviet leadership.

We have prepared the letter for transmission to the White House on the assumption that Andropov’s health and political situation will be clarified before too long.6 Should events in Moscow warrant otherwise, we can revise the address on the letter as appropriate.

Recommendation

That you sign the attached memorandum to the President (Tab 1)7 transmitting the draft letter to Andropov (Tab 2).8

  1. Source: Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, Box 1D, 1983—Soviet Union—November. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Dunkerley; cleared by Simons and Palmer. Forwarded through Eagleburger. Simons initialed for Palmer. A stamped notation reading “GPS” appears on the memorandum, indicating Shultz saw it. Two handwritten notes in the upper right-hand corner read: “Given direct to McFarlane by GPS 12/3” and “done & given to Bud.” McKinley’s handwritten initials are at the top of the memorandum, indicating he saw it, and Hill’s handwritten initials are in the upper-right corner, indicating he saw it on December 3.
  2. See Document 81.
  3. The President went on State visits to Japan from November 9 to 12 and to South Korea from November 12 to 14.
  4. The draft is attached but not printed. The Soviet delegation walked out of the INF negotiations in Geneva on November 23 after the West German Bundestag voted to approve INF deployment. For Reagan’s statement on the suspension of the talks, see Public Papers: Reagan, 1983, Book II, pp. 1624–1625. For Nitze’s statement, see Documents on Disarmament, 1983, pp. 1000–1001. Andropov issued a statement on November 24 explaining the Soviet decision and cancelling the Soviet moratorium on deployment of medium-range missiles in the European part of the Soviet Union; see ibid., pp. 1005–1009.
  5. See footnote 3, Document 140 and Document 158.
  6. See footnote 2, Document 140.
  7. The memorandum is attached but not printed.
  8. Shultz wrote in the margin: “do not send. Put in as item for the Sat. meeting of the Soviet group.” A note written by an unknown hand in the margin reads: “S/S—Secretary passed original signed Sec/Pres to McFarlane on 12/3 AM.”