235. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (Iklé) to Secretary of Defense Weinberger1


  • Arms Control Diplomacy

Monday we had two White House meetings (chaired by Poindexter) on what to say to Moscow about the September arms control meeting.2 George Shultz joined us during the first meeting. He explained the President sought to engage the Soviets by having Dobrynin take a letter back to Chernenko.3 According to Shultz, we would say to the Soviets:

(1) We are prepared to meet in Vienna, 18 September (the Soviets proposed date).

(2) We are prepared to discuss any aspect of limitations on space systems (including those that start from a land-base and land on a land-target, i.e. ICBMs).

(3) We expect them to put issues on the table and we will do likewise.

(4) We can start with negotiations on ASAT, particularly low altitude.

Shultz continued, we could discuss arrangements for negotiations, and stressed the importance of discussing ideas from both sides. We might possibly develop a new venue in Vienna, a general setting for guiding arms control talks that would make efforts to find areas that can be spun off for specific negotiations. ASAT might be the first area to be spun off, also confidence building measures in space. This would be a bit like the General Motors-United Auto Workers negotiations, with specific issues being dealt with at side tables. (FYI: I found it noteworthy that this “analogy” was being proposed.)

I pointed out (1) that we should not have ASAT negotiations move ahead of ICBM/INF, and (2) that we were still working (deadline of August 1) on the whether and how of a verifiable and acceptable ASAT limitation.

FYI: State tends to take position that it was decided in Oval Office meeting you attended that we could and would agree to negotiate some [Page 853] ASAT limits.4 However, the more I am looking into the questions of (1) verifiability, and (2) ASAT-SDI entanglement, the less likely it seems to me that there is such an option that meets our US interests. Almost any ASAT limitation would be pounded by Soviet and Congressional pressures, into an ever more comprehensive inhibition on our SDI (though not equally effective in limiting Soviet missile defenses).5 The Soviet negotiating strategy is a replay of what they did in 1969–1972, when they pressed for an ABM Treaty first, only begrudgingly and belatedly acceding to a very lopsided and incomplete limitation on offensive missiles.

Our SACPG Group then drafted talking points for today’s Shultz-Dobrynin meeting and the attached letter from the President to Chernenko.6 Shultz’s talking points track with the letter, adding the points that (1) ballistic missiles were the first weapons using space, (2) the US was agreeable to have the arms control/space meeting take place in September or, if the Soviets preferred, after our elections.

In our meetings yesterday, there was reference to a President-Chernenko letter being in draft stage as a reply to a recent letter from Chernenko. I assume you are being shown these letters; I have not seen them (but Rick Burt and his deputy are fully involved).

I am afraid, we in OSD, and you personally, will have to weigh in frequently and heavily to slow down the train that’s speeding up toward extensive SDI limitations, largely unverifiable and hence unilateral, with but token limits/reductions on offensive arms. The question who will be the negotiator is also an important one. Rumor has it Brent Scowcroft or Walt Stoessel are possibilities.

Fred C. Ikle7
  1. Source: Reagan Library, Fred Ikle Files, 1984—Arms Control. Secret; Eyes Only. A copy was sent to the Deputy Secretary of Defense.
  2. Monday, July 2.
  3. See Document 234.
  4. Iklé was likely referring to a June 26 meeting. In his diary for June 26, Reagan wrote: “Then an N.S.C. meeting on how to respond to the Soviet challenge to negotiate on limiting militarizing Space. The problem is they are ahead of us in that dept. and want to freeze us into inferiority. I think we’ve worked out a plan that will ‘head them off at Eagle gap.’” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, vol. I, January 1981–October 1985, p. 362) Weinberger’s handwritten notes of the June 26 meeting are in the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Weinberger Papers, Part I: Top Secret Sensitive Compartmented Information, Department of Defense, 1981–1987, Appointment and Diary File, 1980–1987, White House, cabinet, and other important meeting notes, Box I: TS SCI 9, Set B, 1984, 2, #23–49.
  5. Weinberger expressed similar concern in a letter to McFarlane on June 28. See Document 232.
  6. An unknown hand inserted “(copy attached)” after “meeting.” See Documents 234 and 236 for the letter and the meeting with Dobrynin.
  7. Iklé signed “Fred” above his typed signature.