176. Memorandum From the White House Situation Room to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (McFarlane)1


  • Vice President’s Meeting with Chernenko

An informal summary of the Vice President’s meeting with Chernenko today was dictated to State by the DCM and passed to the Situation Room by phone.2 Jack Matlock asked that it be passed to you immediately.

The meeting lasted ½ hour. The atmosphere was positive and quite upbeat. Chernenko did not depart from standard Soviet positions, but his emphasis was on the positive throughout. His main themes were continuity in the positions of the Soviet leadership—they were in favor of peaceful coexistence but would protect their security interests. They have no desire for military advantage.

On bilateral relations Chernenko said the state of relations was cause for concern. He pledged that the Soviet Union would do all it could in favor of good relations between the two countries. He took note of the President’s expression of interest and cooperation and said it was up to the U.S. to take practical steps toward cooperation, citing in this regard the importance they attach to non-first-use of nuclear weapons. He also said the two countries should not transfer the arms race to other areas that do not now have significant armaments. Both sides need to work to keep regional conflicts from getting out of control. The Soviet Union does not believe confrontation between the two countries is inevitable. This ended Chernenko’s opening statement.

The Vice President then handed over the President’s letter (in longer version) and went through his talking points.3 He mentioned the President’s speech of 16 January and the possibility of a summit if conditions are right.4 He discussed regional issues, emphasizing the [Page 619] Middle East, START and human rights, and naming Shcharanskiy, Orlov and Sakharov in particular. After the meeting, the Vice President told the press that the session was constructive and useful. Our ambassador felt that the Soviet side, especially Chernenko and long time Brezhnev aide Alexandrov were particularly cordial. They thanked the Vice President profusely for coming. Chernenko’s health appeared to the ambassador to be quite frail. He was short of breath and needed some help getting down stairs.

State comment: The Soviets have been making a real effort to downplay rhetoric. The embassy has the same impression. TASS has been restrained.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Country File, Europe and Soviet Union, USSR (02/13/84–02/14/84). Secret. Reagan initialed the memorandum, indicating he saw it, and a stamped notation indicates McFarlane saw it.
  2. The Department of State summary is in the Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, Executive Secretariat Sensitive Chronology, (02/11/1984–02/14/1984). The Vice President and his delegation met with Chernenko in Moscow on February 14, after Andropov’s funeral services.
  3. See Document 175.
  4. See Document 158.