236. Memorandum From Secretary of State Shultz to President Reagan1


  • Breakfast Meeting with Ambassador Dobrynin

Following a relaxed breakfast, I gave Dobrynin your letter,2 and elaborated on its contents by running through the agreed talking points (attached). Dobrynin read your letter carefully and promised to deliver it to Chairman Chernenko tomorrow.

Dobrynin professed not to grasp how we intended to proceed with the September meetings in practical terms. The Soviets, he said, had raised one issue (the demilitarization of space), and we had raised another (resuming negotiations on offensive nuclear systems) which they regarded as unacceptable. Did we, he asked, plan to simply register our views on such matters as START and INF, and then proceed to address arms control in outer space? Or did we intend to continue to refer back to the issues on our agenda? In his quest for clarification, he claimed the negotiators needed a precise understanding of the agenda; that the delegations could not be left simply to talk about “the cosmos;” and that without clarity regarding the scope of the talks further misunderstandings could burden our relationship.

In response I emphasized that we were prepared to meet in September without preconditions. I said that we are ready to discuss the issues the Soviets have raised, but that we have issues of our own to discuss as well. I noted that they say they wish to talk about “the demilitarization of space.” We have our own definition of what that means, and intend to relate our presentation to that definition. They did not have to agree to discuss the issues we were raising in order for us to show up.

I noted that, in every negotiation there is a preliminary sorting out of issues. As the conference proceeds, and as a variety of subjects are discussed, some ideas may appear susceptible to negotiations. Others will not be. On the subject of verification, for example, we have doubts that some arms control proposals in outer space are verifiable. The Soviets may have a different view. We are ready to listen and perhaps [Page 855] we can learn something. We have an open mind. We think there are some possibilities for negotiating approaches to ASAT limitations. Perhaps others can be identified.

While Dobrynin did not indicate acceptance of this concept, I believe he understands our intentions more clearly. Obviously the Soviets would prefer to restrict the talks to their agenda, but he could not deny the logic of our position that since weapons in space affect nuclear deterrence, limitations of arms in outer space and limits on offensive and defensive nuclear systems are conceptually connected.

I urged Dobrynin to push the discussion of this subject back into diplomatic channels. I noted that the USSR had made a proposal and publicized it. We consequently publicized our response after notifying the Embassy. Now, I said, you are writing confidentially to Chernenko to confirm that we accept the Soviet proposal without preconditions. But we want them to know that there are some additional things which we expect to discuss. This is not in the nature of a precondition, but rather a statement of our intent.

I emphasized that since our systems are different, and that won’t change, we think it is important to take steps to stabilize our relationship. We consequently have laid out a broad agenda of “smaller” and large issues,—arms control proposals, regional issues, bilateral matters, concerns about human rights. Now, I said, the Soviet government has made a proposal. We believe we need to look at that proposal in a broader context to get something moving. We are prepared to discuss that either in September or following our elections, if the Soviets prefer. The timing is a matter of indifference to us, since we surely need no help from them in the elections. I underscored the fact that our purpose was merely to push our relationship in a constructive direction.

Dobrynin asked whether we conceived of the September conference as directed toward merely sorting out issues or conducting negotiations. I said we could envisage a variety of possibilities. When our delegations showed up in Vienna in September, led by broad gauged negotiators, they could take one of several approaches. They would, I presumed, examine the broad subjects that each government had raised with an eye to identifying those subjects susceptible to early negotiation. As subjects were identified, they could either negotiate them seriatim, divert those issues to special negotiators while continuing themselves to address the broad issues at the main table, or confine themselves to the task of isolating negotiable issues, while leaving actual negotiations until later. I told Dobrynin that we envisaged further private discussions—at the Assistant Secretary level—to work out the modalities for the September conference.

Dobrynin was noncommittal, but he indicated that we could expect an official response from the Soviet government. He indicated that at [Page 856] this stage he could not say that the Soviets accept our acceptance, reiterated some distaste for a loose agenda, and implied that further clarification will be sought.

While Dobrynin did not tip his hand, I feel we have framed a response that his government will find difficult to handle. Eventually I suspect they may be forced to take yes for an answer.


Talking Points for Secretary of State Shultz3

—I think that you gathered last night a first-hand sense of the President’s seriousness about getting substantive arms control talks moving forward.4

—He carefully studied Mr. Chernenko’s last letter and has prepared this letter today in reply. It does not try to address all of the issues between us, but concentrates on a problem Mr. Chernenko focused on—what he called the “militarization of outer space.”

—The President confirms what we indicated to your Embassy last Friday night. We accept your proposal of earlier that day to meet September 18 in Vienna.

—As we have indicated in our statement on Friday, the militarization of space began when the first ballistic missiles were tested and when such missiles and other weapons systems using outer space began to be deployed.

—We have noted what you wish to discuss in Vienna. We will be prepared to address those issues. We have identified issues we plan to raise as well.

—As the President notes in his letter, we anticipate that we will come to Vienna with constructive suggestions both on the question of resuming negotiations on offensive nuclear systems and on negotiating approaches to ASAT limitations.

—I wish to make one point very clear: contrary to initial press commentary, we have set no preconditions for these talks in September.

—The U.S. and the Soviet Union need not agree to any common agenda on those talks. The U.S. is prepared to meet at the time and [Page 857] place the Soviet Union has proposed, and to address all the issues the Soviet Union has raised, in addition to which, the U.S. side will raise other issues.

—The U.S. believes that it is important to consult privately on more detailed preparations and groundwork for this meeting in order to ensure that it is fruitful.

—As the President has indicated, we see this meeting as a valuable opportunity for businesslike and constructive exchanges through which we might work out mutually acceptable approaches to arms control negotiations. We are serious about taking advantage of this opportunity to make progress.

—Thus, we are prepared to refrain from any further public comment on these discussions if you will do the same. Our preference is to pursue this question quietly through private diplomatic channels.

—I would further note that on several recent occasions, the Soviet government has stated that the upcoming U.S. Presidential election has no bearing on its policies in this regard. I can confirm to you the same holds true for us. As the President’s letter indicates, if the Soviet side wishes to hold these talks after the election in late November or December as opposed to September, that is acceptable to us as well.

—I hope that in your consultations in Moscow, you will personally underscore the seriousness and positive manner in which we are seeking to handle your proposal.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Country File, Europe and Soviet Union, USSR (06/19/84–06/27/84); NLR–748–25A–5–3–1. Secret; Sensitive. Reagan initialed the memorandum on July 4, indicating he saw it. A copy of this memorandum was sent to Hartman in Moscow in telegram 196102, July 3. (Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, Box 21, 1984 July–December, Mtgs. w/A. Dobrynin)
  2. See Document 234.
  3. No classification marking. See footnote 1, Document 234.
  4. Presumably a reference to the discussion at the July 1 BBQ. See footnote 3, Document 233.