254. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Policy Planning Council (Rodman) to Secretary of State Shultz1

Here is a redraft of the “Dealing With the Soviets” memorandum that we discussed with you yesterday afternoon.2 Since Rick had to be out of the building for most of the day he has not seen it, but Mark Palmer has and his suggestions have been fully incorporated.


Memorandum Prepared in the Policy Planning Council3


I. Where We Stand

—In the past four years, we have managed to halt what had become a worrisome pro-Soviet shift in the global “correlation of forces.” On our watch, “containment” has become an operational reality instead of a pious slogan.

—Likewise, the strictly damage-limiting objective of detente—to “manage” the emergence of the Soviet Union as a global superpower—has been supplemented by a new determination to resist Moscow’s demands for unilateral advantage.

[Page 891]

—These changes have been accompanied by what our critics call a “deterioration” in U.S.-Soviet relations. In fact, our ability to meet the Soviet challenge is greater than at any time in recent memory. There is clear evidence that Moscow knows this and has become more sensitive to the costs and risks of continuing a cutthroat competition.

—More concretely, we can—and should—take credit for the following successes:

• We have made real (though still insufficient) headway in redressing the military balance, restoring our economic vigor and our national self-confidence.

• We have demonstrated a renewed willingness to use [less than 1 line not declassified] force in the “grey area” competition (Grenada, Lebanon, Central America, Afghanistan, etc.).

• We have reconfirmed the cohesion of the anti-Soviet coalition of the democratic nations and China.

• We have stimulated and been able to capitalize on rising doubts about Moscow’s reliability as a friend and ally (Grenada, Iraq, Angola, Mozambique).

• We have put and kept Moscow on the diplomatic defensive (INF, START, CW, Vienna).

• We have cast doubt on Moscow’s claim that “there is no international question that can be settled without Soviet participation” (Southern Africa).

• We have reinforced Moscow’s “isolation” within the Communist world (improving U.S. relations with China, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Romania, etc.).

II. Opportunities

—Our primary objective in a second term will be to consolidate and build on these achievements, thereby further narrowing Moscow’s opportunities for self-aggrandizement.

—At the same time, we will want to be alert and to probe for signs that Moscow is willing to deescalate the competition and take meaningful steps to stabilize East-West relations.

—Contrary to conventional wisdom, the continuing leadership transition in the Kremlin may be conducive to a modification of established Soviet policies and priorities and create further incentives for international self-restraint:

• This is what happened in the post-Stalin succession struggle, and it could happen again.

• While there is no way we can determine (or even accurately monitor) the jockeyings for power within the Kremlin, we can help to ensure that would-be militants face an uphill struggle and more moderate elements can make a plausible case.

—What is required, above all, is continued firmness and resolve. It is illusory to think that the Soviets will moderate their behavior in [Page 892] the absence of countervailing power. We must further increase our military capabilities and convince Moscow that it will lose a continuing arms race.

—Our demonstrations of military prowess must be coupled with political overtures and negotiating initiatives that convey a sincere willingness to take account of legitimate Soviet security concerns and to reach equitable agreements. Otherwise, the competition will escalate to increasingly dangerous and, for us, unsustainable levels.

III. Negotiations

—One of the strengths of Soviet foreign policy has always been its steady, patient determination. The Soviets have a long-term strategy. We must have as well.

—Moscow’s outrageous behavior makes it tempting to treat the Soviet Union as an international pariah and limit diplomatic contacts and communications to an irreducible minimum. This is the more tempting because more intensive dialogue can create dangerous illusions among susceptible Western publics. Nonetheless, this is a temptation we must resist. Negotiations—and negotiating flexibility—are crucial ingredients of our overall strategy:

• Some agreements with the Soviet Union would be in our interest. (Similarly, with other adversaries Vietnam on MIA, Cuba on Marielitos, Nicaraguans on ways of halting subversion, etc.)

• In such cases, we must put forward negotiable proposals and be prepared to make reasonable compromises and trade-offs.

• Serious diplomatic exchanges and credible offers to negotiate are essential for putting relations with Moscow on a more stable basis and reducing the risk of unnecessary confrontation.

• They are also essential in order to retain domestic and allied support for our overall strategy. Over the long run, Western publics will not tolerate the absence of good-faith efforts to reach agreements.

—Even in the near term, standing pat helps the Soviets put us on the defensive:

• Pressures build up and force us to move. The move we make loses some of its political impact because people believe we were forced into it.

• To some extent we lose control of the process and leave the initiative in the hands of our opponents.

—The need for negotiating flexibility is particularly acute in a period which could see some erosion of Congressional support for the defense programs, security and economic assistance [less than 1 line not declassified] efforts required to counter the Soviets and give them real incentives to moderate their behavior.

—Accordingly, we must continue to use negotiation as a weapon of political strategy. We have done this:

[Page 893]

• Putting forward a positive arms control program was good strategy.

• In Central America, our positive political program (support for Duarte, Contadora, Marielito talks) is keeping our opponents off balance and our public support more solid. Similarly in Southern Africa.

IV. Problems and Pitfalls

To sustain our strategy we must anticipate and overcome a variety of difficulties:

—We must clearly identify our negotiating goals and priorities and ensure their effective and timely implementation. Decisive presidential leadership is needed to overcome bureaucratic infighting and obstructionism here in Washington. Otherwise, as experience clearly indicates, the interagency process will lock us into a position of sterile immobilism.

—We must not oversell the agreements we reach or exaggerate the prospects of a fundamental and enduring change in U.S.-Soviet relations. The Soviets will not change their spots and we must protect our strategy against the public’s tendency to fluctuate between outrage and euphoria.

—We must be prepared to respond to recurrent incidents of outrageous Soviet behavior without allowing them to deflect us from our strategic course. Your decision to couple strong condemnation of KAL with new arms-control initiatives provides a model for the future. We start with no illusions about the Soviet Union and we are thus in a position to maintain a steady course (unlike Carter, who was shocked by Afghanistan).

—We must not permit the prospect of reaching agreement in some areas (if it in fact materializes) to inhibit our reaction to Soviet encroachments on our interests in other areas. We must compete while negotiating and be ready to confront not only periodic episodes of Soviet misconduct but an uninterrupted Soviet effort to prevail in a long-term global contest.

  1. Source: Department of State, S/P, Memoranda/Correspondence from the Director of the Policy Planning Staff, Lot 89D149, S/P Chrons PW 7/16–31/84. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. In a July 24 memorandum to Burt with a draft of the memorandum attached, Rodman wrote: “This is what the Secretary referred to this morning. He asked me Friday to do some talking points for his use with the President articulating the approach to US-Soviet relations that we have been pursuing. The purpose was (a) to stress the value of a consistent, steady course that is more immune to shocks, and (b) to help us fight off the constant attempts (at home) to derail our negotiating efforts. This is what Jeremy [Azrael] and I came up with. The Secretary is impatient to see it, so Charlie [Hill] suggested I send this to you simultaneously with sending it forward.” (Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S, Sensitive and Super Sensitive Documents, Lot 92D52, July–December, 1984 Super Sensitive Documents)

    In a July 24 memorandum to Hill, Rodman wrote: “Here is a first cut at talking points on US-Soviet relations. As you suggested, I have sent a copy also to Rick Burt.” Hill then wrote in the margin: “for the Secretary’s use with the President.” (Ibid.)

  3. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Azrael; cleared by Palmer in draft.