26. Editorial Note

Secretary of State George Shultz and President Ronald Reagan met privately at the White House on the afternoon of March 25, 1983, to discuss U.S.-Soviet relations. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) In his diary entry for the day, Reagan wrote: “An hour meeting with Geo. S. just the 2 of us to talk about our quiet diplomacy efforts with Dobrynin. We may get those Pentacostalists out of the embassy in Moscow yet.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, volume I, January 1981–October 1985, page 210)

In his memoir, Shultz explained the origin of this private meeting in relation to the March 10 meeting (see Document 17) and his March 16 memorandum to Reagan (see Document 19). As Shultz recounted: “On Thursday, March 24, Bill Clark called. He told me he had arranged a meeting the next afternoon with the president to discuss relations with the Soviets. It would be a small meeting. ‘You should be there,’ I said. Clark said he would try to arrange to have that sort of meeting a couple of times a week. He told me he had a heart-to-heart talk with the president, urging him to spend more time talking about foreign policy issues. According to Clark, the president had told Deaver to put this on the schedule. He also passed on an invitation to come to the White House in the morning to listen to a report by Dick Wirthlin on opinion poll findings about foreign policy. I was also invited to have lunch with the president, along with Arthur Sulzberger. When I hung up the phone, I laughed—apparently my office was bugged by the NSC.

“In my private meeting with President Reagan on the afternoon of March 25, a Friday, I recalled to him our earlier conversation on the snowy evening in February when we had dinner together in the White House. [See Document 9.] ‘If Andropov is willing to do business, so am I,’ he had told me then. He was ready to work with the Soviets. But one camp of his staff did not want him to try. The president told me he was ‘open to a summit meeting,’ but only if there was some substantive movement. I reminded him of my initial meetings with Dobrynin and the Soviets’ prompt response on the Pentecostals. ‘We [Page 92] have to take that as a direct signal,’ I said. ‘If we are going to pursue this, we have to outline a series of steps that build on each other.’ We needed to ‘create the right background music on human rights and bilateral issues as precursors to the agendas on arms control and regional issues,’ I said.” The discussion moved to the long-term grain agreement, with Shultz suggesting that negotiations begin in April. “On INF and arms control issues,” the Secretary added, “the president told me to make sure Dobrynin realized that we were serious, and he agreed that I should talk to Dobrynin about arms control between the sessions of our negotiations in Geneva.” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, pages 269–270)

Shultz continued to struggle against Clark and other members of the NSC Staff to move forward in negotiations with the Soviets. He wrote: “I had no illusions—Clark was not on board with the president’s and my Soviet agenda—but I seized on this to say to President Reagan that we had to have a fast-track way to get decisions. ‘The Soviets will outmaneuver us at every turn if we have to refight the fundamental direction of policy with each and every action memorandum.’ We also needed, I said, a way to slip the existence of our dialogue with the Soviets into the public domain rather than have it emerge as a sudden and sensational discovery. My testimony on U.S.-Soviet relations before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, then scheduled for mid-April, would be the way. The president said he agreed. ‘Let’s proceed.’” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, page 270)

In a handwritten note to Reagan, dated March 26, Clark wrote: “Mr. President: Following your meeting with George Shultz, he dropped by my office to leave the attached notes used during your meeting. His opening comment to me was ‘I don’t know what kind of game is being played over here in your not attending my meeting with the President.’ Mr. President, if our plans for Soviet (or any other issue in my area of responsibility) are not coordinated with Cap and Bill and Jeane, we will fail. —Bill.” Reagan initialed Shultz’s handwritten notes on the meeting, indicating that he saw them. (Reagan Library, William Clark Files, US-Soviet Relations Papers Working File: Contains Originals (4))