171. Memorandum From Jack Matlock of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (McFarlane)1
- U.S. Representation at Andropov Funeral
Now that the Soviets have announced that the Andropov funeral will be held Tuesday, February 14, it would seem that the U.S. delegation will have to depart on Sunday, February 12 in order to arrive in Moscow on the 13th.
I understand from State that the President expressed reluctance to attend in a conversation with Secretary Shultz, since he did not want to seem to “pay homage” to a man of Andropov’s character.2 The President’s instinct is unquestionably right on the question of seeming to honor Andropov, but there are other factors which he probably should weigh before making a final decision. They are the following:
—Attending for the primary purpose of having a meeting with Chernenko (assuming he gets the nod over the weekend as the new General Secretary) would be consistent with his policy of dialogue;
—It would diminish domestic and Allied criticism that the President has never talked to the Soviet leader and reduce future pressure to go into an unprepared summit—while not pre-empting a real summit if developments should unexpectedly make one desirable;
—It would avoid seeming out of synch with those Western leaders who are going to the funeral (as of now, Kohl and Trudeau for sure, Thatcher probable, and Mitterrand still a question mark).[Page 608]
—It would indicate clearly to the Soviet leadership that we are seriously interested in dealing with them.
It seems to me that these considerations somewhat outweigh the negative aspects, such as the implicit honor to Andropov’s memory, and the risk of charges that he is playing politics. However, I think it would be well for him to wait until tomorrow morning, when more of the relevant facts will be clear, before making a final decision.
That, unless Secretary Shultz is strongly opposed, you discuss the question with the President and suggest that he think over and sleep on the question, with an eye to making a final decision tomorrow morning.3
- Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Country File, Europe and Soviet Union, USSR (02/4/84–02/11/84). Secret. Sent for action.↩
- The President, who was on a short vacation at his ranch in California from February 8 to 12, received a call from Shultz on February 10 at 9:01 a.m. to discuss Andropov’s funeral. In his memoir, Shultz wrote: “Should President Reagan attend the funeral and thereby find occasion for his first meeting while in office with the top man in the Soviet Union? There was a brief flurry of debate over the question. It was an election year. The politicians were in favor of the president’s leading our delegation. I was opposed. We should not be running after the Soviets, I argued.” Shultz went on to note that King Hussein of Jordan and President Mubarak of Egypt had scheduled official visits in Washington, which would have to be cancelled if Reagan left for Moscow to attend the funeral. He argued that these visits were a crucial “part of our continuing efforts to bring sense and stability to the Middle East.” And perhaps most importantly, “in a typically Reaganesque way,” the President believed “that to go to the funeral of a man he didn’t know and who had been an implacable adversary would be insincere and inappropriate.” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, p. 472)↩
- McFarlane approved the recommendation and wrote beneath it: “He jumped the gun,” meaning the decision had already been made.↩