191. Information Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs (Burt) to Secretary of State Shultz1


  • Chernenko’s Agenda

We have reviewed Chernenko’s most significant statements since he was elected General Secretary February 14—his remarks to the Vice President that day, his letter to the President February 23, and his “election” speech March 2—to identify the issues in U.S.-Soviet relations he is presently concentrating on.2 His letter to the President adopted the agenda set forth by Andropov in his January 28 letter by stating this was the Soviet position and calling for U.S. responses.3 A review of the results is attached.

Briefly, the “Chernenko agenda” is as follows: START/INF, a non-use-of-force treaty, U.S. matching the Soviet pledge not to use nuclear weapons first, a CTB, U.S. ratification of the TTBT, an ASAT ban, Western response to Eastern moves in MBFR, and “resolving regional conflicts.” In his March 2 speech, i.e. the “public” version, Chernenko laid special stress on:

—Ratification of TTBT/PNET and resumption of CTB talks.

—Adoption of nuclear no-first-use, nuclear free zones, etc.

—No militarization of outer space.

Chernenko did not specifically cite ASAT, nor did he raise the non-use of force treaty or MBFR. He dusted off the old Soviet nuclear freeze proposal which had not been given much stress earlier.

The only really new twists were on START/INF and CW:

—In describing US INF deployments, Chernenko said that the US had “created obstacles” to negotiations, and that “it is the removal of these obstacles (which would also remove the need for our countermeasures) that offers the way to working out a mutually acceptable accord.” It is not clear from the context whether Chernenko is implying any new flexibility on resuming negotiations. Like the earlier “display a [Page 684] readiness” formula, there is sufficient ambiguity regarding the precise conditions under which the Soviets might agree to return to Geneva.

Chernenko was upbeat on CW. He said that the prerequisites “are beginning to ripen” for a resolution of the question of a complete CW ban, and alluded to the new Soviet proposal for continuous inspection of stockpile destruction.


Paper Prepared in the Department of State4


In his February 23 letter to the President, Chernenko emphasized the continuity of Soviet policy toward the United States, stating that the positions set forth in Andropov’s letter of January 28 remain in force. Below we set out the Soviet agenda for relations with us as given in the two letters and in Chernenko’s remarks to the Vice President. Included are areas in which we might be responsive and which we cannot, with problems and timing for our position:

START/INF: Chernenko listed arms limitation and reduction first as one of the “most important and pressing problems” in the meeting with the Vice President. The Andropov letter characterized U.S. efforts to upset “the regional and global balance” through P–II/GLCM deployments as “disrupting dialogue on the most important questions.” It stated the U.S. needed to take “practical, positive steps” to return to the fundamentals of equality and equal security in nuclear arms negotiations, but carefully refrained from offering any specifics in this regard.

—Soviets are indicating the priority they attach to START and INF but argue the U.S. is not serious about exploring mutually acceptable solutions. East Europeans say Soviets will return to talks if they believe we are interested in substantive discussions. Presentation of our START Framework could be the crucial element to move back to START negotiations into which the Soviets will probably want to merge INF.

Non-Use-of-Force Treaty: In Andropov’s final Pravda interview,5 Chernenko’s exchanges with the Vice President and other Western [Page 685] leaders,6 and Gromyko’s eulogy at Red Square,7 special priority and emphasis has been given to the Soviet offer of a non-use-of-force agreement of the sort the Eastern bloc is pushing at the CDE in Stockholm. U.S. acceptance would, the Soviets assert, be a major positive gesture.

—We have traditionally resisted political declaratory measures of this sort because they do not make a real contribution to increased confidence and security. In addition, the Soviets have yet to show any seriousness in considering our own more concrete CBMs at Stockholm. However, it might be possible to work out a bilateral framework for onward multilateral negotiation at Stockholm in which we agree to some form of new non-use-of-force statement (essentially keyed to language already in the UN Charter and Helsinki Final Act) in exchange for explicit Soviet acceptance of the sort of notification/observance CBMs we are seeking. There could be some objections to this in the bureaucracy if it appeared we were not getting enough in return. I will have a separate memorandum for you on this possibility.

No First Use of Nuclear Weapons: Chernenko told the Vice President the Soviets see no reason the U.S. cannot follow their example and undertake not to be the first to use nuclear weapons.

—The U.S. position of not giving up the option to use nuclear weapons to counter a massive Soviet conventional attack has been a consistent part of NATO strategy for decades. There is no possibility for a change in our position on this issue.

Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban (CTB): As part of his case that U.S. is not serious in curbing the arms race, Andropov in his January 25 [28] letter cited U.S. reluctance to seek a CTB agreement.

—We cannot be responsive on this one. There is USG agreement that it is not in our interests to enter a CTB regime at this time because of verification uncertainties and testing requirements to maintain our deterrent forces.

Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT): Andropov stated Moscow could not see “any convincing reason” for continued U.S. failure to ratify the TTBT/PNET.

—Considerably more chance for movement than on CTB. EUR is looking at a new option that would move the treaties toward ratification conditional on Soviet agreement to on-site measurement of the calibration shots already called for in the TTBT. Unlike our current position (which the Soviets have rejected several times), this would not require reopening the treaty for negotiations, but would give us some improvement in verification of Soviet nuclear testing. There will be some resist[Page 686]ance in the Executive Branch and in the Senate to such a move in light of past compliance ambiguities.

Anti-Satellite Weapons (ASAT) Ban: Andropov urged a favorable U.S. response to the Soviet call for an ASAT moratorium and ban.

—The Soviets will make this a major propaganda theme and are likely to find considerable resonance among the Allies and on the Hill. There are major verification problems involved and strong institutional resistance within the USG to any ASAT-related moves. An interagency group is currently studying outer space CBMs (of much less interest to Moscow). To avoid leaving the field entirely to the Soviets, we will need to push the bureaucracy hard to come up with some concrete proposals—whether forms of ASAT limitations, confidence-building measures or both—that may be put forward to the Soviets for new negotiations in this area.

MBFR: Andropov prodded for a positive U.S. response to the Eastern proposals tabled in Vienna last summer.

—We hope to indicate to the Soviets during the upcoming MBFR session our readiness to exchange data if Eastern figures fall within an acceptable range. We have yet, however, to bring the allies completely onboard this position or to flesh out within the USG the precise parameters of the Soviet data we are prepared to accept. It is too early to predict if the Soviets will consider this position, when tabled, sufficiently flexible to move the process forward.

Regional Issues: Chernenko listed “resolving regional conflicts” as one of the most important problems for us to discuss. Andropov called for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from the territory and waters of Lebanon.

—Regional issues are a prime agenda item of ours and will be discussed regularly in high-level meetings between us. Chernenko’s inclusion of this point is actually a nod to our standard agenda. The MNF withdrawal satisfies part of Andropov’s Lebanon demand, although the Soviets will continue their pressure against the presence and activities of Sixth Fleet units in the area.8 While we need to ensure through more periodic exchanges that the Soviets do not misperceive our intentions, the opportunity and desirability of more constructive engagement with the Soviets on the Mideast remains extremely limited.

U.S.-Soviet Atmospherics: Andropov made a point—explicitly reaffirmed by Chernenko—of the need to avoid the “unhelpful inciting of animosities.”

—The President’s January 16 speech demonstrated our own interest in toning down the rhetoric on both sides.9 We need to continue to [Page 687] display special sensitivity on this point. While some of Gromyko and Ustinov’s recent comments have carried some familiar tough talk, Chernenko’s own statements to us have been markedly free of the sharp tone so characteristic of Andropov.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, Executive Secretariat Sensitive Chronology (03/07/1984); NLR–775–11–27–2–8. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Tefft; cleared by Simons. Hill’s handwritten initials appear on the memorandum, indicating he saw it on March 7.
  2. See Documents 176178, 183, and 187.
  3. See Document 164.
  4. Secret; Sensitive.
  5. See footnote 7, Document 169.
  6. See Documents 177 and 178.
  7. See footnote 5, Document 179.
  8. See footnote 7, Document 152.
  9. See Document 158.