189. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (McFarlane) to President Reagan1


  • Your Reply to Chernenko and Next Steps in U.S.-Soviet Relations


How you should respond to Chernenko’s letter of February 23, 1984,2 and what steps we should take now to put substance in the dialogue.


You instructed us, at the meeting March 2,3 to prepare a forthcoming response to Chernenko’s letter, for delivery by George Shultz to Dobrynin March 7.4 Secretary Shultz also requested authority to inform Dobrynin that we are prepared to resume negotiations on opening consulates in Kiev and New York and on a cultural exchanges agreement, and to urge Soviet cooperation in arranging for improved navigation aids on the North Pacific airline route and Soviet movement on the maritime boundary issue. There was also discussion of the desirability of conveying to the Soviets privately and informally examples of possible START trade-offs and an indication that, if INF negotiations were resumed, we would carefully consider a modified “Walk-in-the-Woods” formula as an ultimate outcome.


A letter, drafted in conformity with your instructions, is attached at TAB A.5 It has George Shultz’s approval.

On the bilateral issues mentioned, I believe it is in the U.S. interest to move ahead in these areas, and therefore recommend that George be authorized to proceed as he suggests.

So far as START and INF are concerned, we have kept the language in your letter general, with a stress on our flexibility, because we consider it undesirable to go on record with new proposals. Neverthe[Page 678]less, I believe that we should do what we can to give the Soviets incentives to keep these two negotiations separate and to get back to the table as soon as possible. Engaging the Soviets in a more substantial dialogue on these issues would also provide incentive for a meeting, one objective of which could be to agree upon a framework for future negotiations in both.

Therefore, it seems desirable to have Brent Scowcroft, when he is in Moscow next week, convey privately and unofficially our thoughts on what sort of trade-offs might be acceptable to us in START, and an indication of our objectives in INF.6 This would give the Soviets time to chew on the ideas and give us an unofficial reaction before they are dealt with in a more formal manner.


1. That you sign the letter to Chernenko at Tab A.

2. That you authorize George Shultz to tell Dobrynin that we are prepared to reopen negotiations on the exchange of consulates in Kiev and New York and on a cultural exchanges agreement, and to urge Soviet cooperation in establishing better air navigation aids in the North Pacific and in settling the maritime boundary issue in the Bering Sea.

3. That you authorize me to develop some examples of the kinds of trade-offs which would meet our common concerns in START and to brief Brent Scowcroft. He would then convey them privately to his Soviet interlocutors and also indicate our willingness to consider a modified “Walk-in-the-Woods” outcome to INF, if negotiations are resumed.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Head of State File, USSR: General Secretary Chernenko (8490236, 8490586). Top Secret; Sensitive. Sent for action. Prepared by Matlock. A copy was sent to the Vice President.
  2. See Document 183.
  3. See Document 188.
  4. See Document 192.
  5. Tab A is printed as Document 190.
  6. Scowcroft and the Dartmouth Group visited Moscow in mid-March. See Document 193.
  7. Reagan checked and initialed the “OK” option beneath all three recommendations.