222. Note Prepared in the White House Situation Room1

Soviets Desire Increased Tension with U.S.

[1½ lines not declassified] the President and his advisors have skillfully avoided a confrontation with the Soviet Union, be it verbal or otherwise. This has increasingly angered the Soviet Union, since Moscow wants to dramatize the international situation by provoking the U.S. into bellicosity which could then be portrayed to the world, and especially Western Europe, as proof that Washington is to blame for the present confrontational atmosphere.

• Moscow’s goal is to create a climate of fear which would prompt at least one NATO country to call for a withdrawal of the Pershing and cruise missiles, and stir public opinion against the U.S.

[less than 1 line not declassified] the U.S. had avoided Soviet efforts and defused opportunities for heightening international tension in what he characterized as a skillful manner. As two recent examples, [less than 1 line not declassified] cited the “clever” way in which the White House responded to Ustinov’s recent announcement that Soviet missile submarines had moved closer to the U.S. in response to the [Page 807] deployment of the INF,2 and the way the U.S. has handled the Sakharov affair so far.3 However, Moscow may deliberately aggravate the Sakharov affair in a continued effort to provoke the U.S.

• [1 paragraph (4 lines) not declassified]

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Country File, Europe and Soviet Union, USSR (05/18/84–05/21/84). Secret. There is no drafting information on the note. The note is based on Intelligence Information Cable TDFIRDB–31512905–84. Reagan initialed in the upper right-hand corner of this note, indicating he saw it.
  2. The New York Times reported that on May 20 Soviet Defense Minister Ustinov said in an interview: “the Soviet Union had increased the number of missile-carrying submarines off United States coasts and that the missiles were within 10 minutes of American targets. Marshal Ustinov also said the number of SS–20 medium-range missiles in the European part of the Soviet Union would be increased ‘accordingly’ in the event that the United States proceeds with its plan to deploy additional Pershing 2 and cruise missiles in Western Europe.” (John F. Burns, “Soviet Said to Add New Subs Off U.S.: Missiles are Within Ten Minutes, New York Times, May 21, 1984, p. A1) For the full text of Ustinov’s interview, see the Current Digest of the Soviet Press, vol. XXXVI, no. 20 (June 13, 1984), pp. 8–9. An excerpt of the interview is printed in Documents on Disarmament, 1984, pp. 417–419. The White House responded on May 21: “the Soviet Union’s buildup of missile-carrying submarines off American coasts did not alter the balance of power. ‘There has been no essential change in the strategic situation,’ Larry Speakes, White House spokesman, said. ‘The numbers don’t change much.’ He added that Soviet submarines had been operating in coastal waters for years, although he declined to estimate how many might be present. Mr. Speakes said the purported increase was part of a ‘familiar litany’ by which the Russians have been ‘playing the arms control game.’ (Wayne Biddle, “White House Plays Down Soviet Sub Threat,” New York Times, May 22, 1984, p. A13)
  3. See Document 220.