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


  • Secretary Weinberger’s Views on an ASAT Initiative

Following your meeting last week with Secretary Shultz in which he proposed that he be authorized to agree to the Soviet proposal to open “discussions” which would lead to “negotiations” on limiting weapons in space, George and I met with Cap on Friday to discuss how to proceed.2 It became clear that Secretary Weinberger was worried that such discussions could be unwise not only in light of severe verification problems but as well because we might want to pursue certain highly sensitive programs which would give us the ability to neutralize certain Soviet satellites in time of crisis. Cap will discuss these with you this afternoon.3

I am aware of these programs and they do offer promise. But we must keep one fundamental truth in mind. You are under tremendous pressure from the allies and the Congress to open some kind of talks on ASAT. In addition to the French initiative in Geneva opposing your strategic defense initiative, every other leading ally (UK, Germany, Italy, the Dutch, Belgians and Danes) have lined up against us. Many of our warmest supporters on the Hill are also calling for talks and even a complete ban. Thus, we are simply faced with a legislated diktat if we don’t regain the initiative.

In my view, having looked at the possibilities for negotiation (which protect our interest and are verifiable), we can discuss certain restrictions (particularly on high altitude systems) and should do so. The key is to shape the agenda (in the Shultz-Dobrynin channel) so as to limit the scope of the talks to things which are truly in our interest. Cap and the JCS ought to be heard on this issue.4 At today’s meeting, I recommend that you: 1) Hear Cap out; 2) Note the mounting pressure [Page 824] which will lead to our being told to do things much worse than those we might choose on our own; and 3) Suggest that we agree to open discussions to shape an agenda in preparation for which he and the Chiefs would be given a full opportunity to limit the scope of any negotiations.

Such a plan would lead to:

—A joint announcement by us and the Russians this week that we have agreed to open discussions in August for the purpose of defining the scope, timing and venue of negotiations on limiting weapons in space.

—The interdepartmental studies would then be completed by August 1st so that you could take decisions on our position in the negotiations.

—In August, the “discussions” would begin probably leading to the actual “negotiations” opening after the elections, perhaps even next year.

Such a scenario would have the great advantage of preempting pending legislation which will be acted upon this week and next.

(Note: Please return this memo to me personally).

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Robert McFarlane Files, Subject File, Soviet Union—Sensitive File—1984 (03/09/1984–06/20/1984); NLR–362–3–20–3–1. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Reagan initialed this memorandum, indicating he saw it.
  2. Friday, June 15. No record of this meeting was found.
  3. Reagan and Weinberger met on June 18 from 3:02 to 3:30 pm. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) In his diary entry for June 18, Reagan wrote: “Cap Weinberger came by—he’s concerned it would not be to our advantage to discuss an antiweapon in space treaty with the Soviets. We are making progress on a defense against nuclear missiles.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, vol. I, January 1981–October 1985, p. 359)
  4. See Document 232.