193. Editorial Note

On March 8, 1984, President Ronald Reagan met with General Brent Scowcroft; Secretary of State George Shultz; Chief of Staff James Baker; the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Robert McFarlane; Jack Matlock, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European and Soviet Affairs of the NSC Staff; and Ronald Lehman of the Defense Programs and Arms Control Directorate of the NSC Staff, from 1:02 to 1:15 p.m. in the Oval Office. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) Scowcroft was scheduled to travel to Moscow from March 10 to 12 with the Dartmouth Conference for three days of meeting with Soviet officials and scholars on U.S.-Soviet relations, nuclear arms control, and other bilateral issues. The Dartmouth Conference, which started in 1960 aimed to create a sustained, non-governmental dialogue between leading U.S. and Russian citizens. Although Scowcroft served as the Chairman of the President’s Commission on Strategic Forces, his visit to Moscow with the Dartmouth Group was not in an official capacity. As Shultz recalled in his memoir: “We proposed to ask Brent Scowcroft, who was one of a group of private citizens—the ‘Dartmouth Group’—who held periodic meetings with the Soviets, to serve as a private channel of communication during the week of March 8.” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, page 473) During the March 8 meeting in the Oval Office, Scowcroft received talking points on START and INF and a letter from Reagan to Soviet General Secretary Konstantin Chernenko, evidently drafted by Matlock. In the letter, Reagan told Chernenko: “I believe the time has come for us to examine closely how we can make progress in the relationship and particularly in the area of nuclear arms reductions. An informal exchange of views may assist us in this effort.” (Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Head of State File, USSR: General Secretary Chernenko (8490236, 8490283, 8490304))

A few weeks earlier in February, while in Moscow for former Soviet General Secretary Andropov’s funeral, Matlock raised Scowcroft’s upcoming visit during a meeting with Vadim Zagladin, First Deputy Chief of the Central Committee’s International Department (see Document 180). Matlock later recalled of this meeting that after some discussion of “our respective positions on INF and START,” he suggested to Zagladin that “they continue the dialogue with General Brent Scowcroft, who would be coming to Moscow the following month for a meeting of arms control experts. Zagladin agreed that this would be a good idea and assured me that he would receive Scowcroft and, if possible, arrange for him to call on Chernenko.” Matlock continued: “When I returned to Washington and reported that Scowcroft would be received in the Central Committee to discuss START and INF, we [Page 693] considered this a signal breakthrough in establishing direct communication with the Soviet leaders. Scowcroft was briefed on the administration’s positions and agreed to conduct exploratory talks, particularly regarding the sort of trade-offs Reagan had in mind in his March letter to Chernenko [see Document 190]. However, Secretary Shultz insisted that we ask Gromyko to arrange for Scowcroft to meet Chernenko, ostensibly to deliver a letter from the president. I was not in the meeting when it was decided to handle the visit this way, but when I was asked to draft the letter to Chernenko, I told McFarlane I doubted it would work. In the first place, it was aiming too high. Of course, we hoped that Scowcroft would be able to see Chernenko, but the real communication had to be with members of his staff. And asking Gromyko to arrange the meeting immediately put it in an official context that Gromyko wished to avoid. McFarlane conceded that this might be right, but it was too late to change our approach. Scowcroft was leaving within hours, and he needed a letter from the president.” (Matlock, Reagan and Gorbachev, pages 94–95)

In a memorandum to Shultz on March 12, John Kelly, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs, reported: “We learned by secure phone this morning from Art Hartman that Gromyko told him yesterday Chernenko would not be able to see Scowcroft. He commented that this was ‘no way to do business.’ Gromyko offered instead Deputy Foreign Minister Komplektov. Art did not respond but he and Brent believe that Brent should not agree to see Komplektov. They view this as an insult calculated to emphasize that there is no way around Gromyko on foreign policy issues.” Kelly continued: “Brent also had asked to see Zagladin in the Central Committee. He bumped into Zagladin at a reception for the Dartmouth Group and told him about his mission. So it is likely that Chernenko will learn from another source than Gromyko that Brent is carrying a message and is ready to talk, but very unlikely that a meeting with Chernenko will occur.” (Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S, Sensitive and Super Sensitive Documents, Lot 92D52, March 1984 Super Sensitive Documents) Two days later, the Embassy delivered a similar verdict: “The head of the US delegation described the three-day meeting of the Dartmouth Conference Arms Control Group in Moscow as the worst in 25 years of personal participation in US-Soviet consultations. In spite of the high level of the US group, the Soviets stuck to an uncompromising, polemical line and showed little interest in exploring compromise solutions to arms control problems, even on the fringes of the formal sessions.” (Telegram 3043 from Moscow, March 14; Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D840168–0365)

As Matlock later wrote in his book: “The result was what I had feared: Gromyko flatly refused to arrange the appointment, but offered [Page 694] a meeting with his deputy, Georgy Korniyenko, which Scowcroft rejected.” (From the telegram noted above, it seems Matlock meant Viktor Komplektov instead of Korniyenko.) Matlock continued: “Then, to make matters worse, the whole incident became public knowledge after Scowcroft returned to the United States. Whoever leaked the story was, in effect, cooperating with counterparts in the Soviet Union who wished to block further negotiation on arms reduction and continue the arms race.” (Matlock, Reagan and Gorbachev, page 95)