258. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Vienna Negotiations


  • Oleg Sokolov, Charge, Soviet Embassy
  • Kenneth W. Dam, Acting Secretary
  • Mark Palmer, EUR
  • James P. Timbie, D

Sokolov said he was authorized to present a letter from Chernenko to President Reagan, and handed over the text.2 He also handed over the text of an oral statement,3 which he said was analogous to the oral statement presented by the U.S. on Saturday.4 After reading the text, Mr. Dam said we would, of course, study this communication, but on first reading two questions came to mind.

Mr. Dam noted it is not entirely clear what is meant by the phrase “prevention of the militarization of outer space.” The Soviet Union already has military systems in space. Sokolov replied that they had used this term from the very beginning. They were prepared to foresake anti-satellite systems altogether. In the Russian language and in Soviet eyes “militarization” without the word “prevention” implies something different than what the Soviets had in mind for these talks. Sokolov claimed it changes the entire emphasis.

Mr. Dam said his second question concerned the proposed moratorium. How does this fit into the process, the proposals the Soviets might make and the proposals the U.S. might make at the actual negotiations? He noted there was a problem with the formality of exchanges of letters like this. It is difficult to understand exactly what meaning is intended without some discussion. Sokolov replied that they would [Page 901] like to strictly abide by the terms of their proposals. In the past, the U.S. and the Soviet Union were able to come to agreement not just on words but even their meaning. This letter speaks for itself in response to the President’s last letter. Mr. Dam said the moratorium sounded like a precondition to him. Sokolov replied the Soviet side included it from the beginning. If the two sides enter negotiations with one side being able to do all it wants during the course of the negotiations, then what is the purpose of the negotiations? Mr. Dam responded that it is to discuss what can be accomplished that would be in our mutual interest. Sokolov said we shouldn’t waste time. We should do it right away. Mr. Dam said there should not be preconditions on negotiations.

At this point, Sokolov said he did not have any instructions to interpret the letter. Mr. Dam replied that he was pointing out two difficulties in trying to understand the Soviet position so that we could decide how to react. Sokolov pointed out that the key words are even underlined in the text. Mr. Dam told Sokolov we would study carefully what he had given us.

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S–I Records, Deputy Secretary Dam’s Official Files: Lot 85D308, Memoranda of Conversation 1984. Secret. Drafted on August 1. There is no other drafting information on the memorandum of conversation. The meeting took place in Dam’s office. Dam’s handwritten initials are to the right of the list of participants, indicating he saw it. McKinley’s handwritten initials are in the upper right-hand corner, indicating he saw it on August 1,
  2. See Document 257.
  3. The statement reads: “The version of the joint statement proposed by the American side is completely unacceptable for the reasons outlined in the letter of K.U. Chernenko to President R. Reagan.” (Reagan Library, Jack Matlock Files, US-USSR Summits, E.3, President/Chernenko Correspondence (1/2))
  4. July 28. See Document 256.