276. Memorandum From William Stearman of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (McFarlane)1


  • Possible Gromyko Arms Control Proposal

Gromyko could, during his U.S. visit, put us on the spot by proposing a resumption of INF and START negotiations, if we agree to begin space talks with a concurrent moratorium on ASAT testing and deployment. Chernenko’s September 2 Pravda remarks strongly hint at this.2

Chernenko was quoted by Pravda as stating that an agreement to negotiate on the “arms race” in space with a simultaneous reciprocal moratorium on the testing and deployment of “strike space systems,” including ASATs, “would facilitate the solution of questions of limiting and reducing other strategic armaments.” He then added: “I would especially like to stress this.” This is clearly a significant emphasis. (See Tab A for text.) About a week later Gorbachev in Sofia generally seconded Chernenko’s remarks. (See tab B.)3

As you know, both Chernenko and Gorbachev omitted the standard Soviet precondition for resuming START and INF talks: withdrawal of all U.S. INF systems from Europe. In fact, Chernenko blamed breaking off the Geneva talks not on the INF deployments, as had always [Page 977] previously been asserted, but on the U.S. rejection of the principle that both sides’ “equality and identical security are strictly observed.” This is clearly a significant shift in position.

The Kremlin probably now despairs of ever reversing the INF deployments and, at the same time, has become gravely concerned about current and future U.S. military space programs. The Soviets are now giving top priority to thwarting current U.S. ASAT programs and the future deployment of our SDI and of nearer-term possible BMD capabilities.

I have no doubt that Moscow sees the pre-election period as the ideal time for pressuring us into making arms control concessions. Recent Soviet public statements clearly reflect the belief that the President is under considerable pre-election pressure to “appear” to be more accommodating in respect to U.S.-Soviet relations in general and specifically to arms control negotiations. It would be remarkable if Gromyko and the rest of the Politburo did not believe this. They also no doubt believe that Mondale would be more forthcoming on arms control issues. His position on a “freeze,” for example, would validate this belief. This may well be the reason why Gromyko wants to see Mondale before he sees the President. Despite any protestations to the contrary, it might be difficult for Mondale to oppose the kind of Soviet proposal described at the beginning of this memorandum.

One cannot really know what Gromyko will do here, but I am sure you will agree that it is always prudent to be prepared for all contingencies, and this seems to be a likely one.4

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Country File, Europe and Soviet Union, USSR (09/22/84); NLR–748–25A–26–4–7. Secret. Sent for information. McFarlane wrote in the margin: “Many thanks. M.”
  2. See footnote 2, Document 273.
  3. Tabs A and B were not attached.
  4. At the bottom of the page, Lehman wrote: “Bud, These scenarios are among a number of difficult challenges Gromyko may place before us. Even as we look at what we want to say, we must also prepare carefully for what Gromyko may do. Ron Lehman.” Next to Lehman’s note, Matlock wrote: “Bud—Certainly we should think about all contingencies, and if Gromyko should propose something like this, the President should agree to consider it most carefully. It would, however, surprise me greatly if Gromyko made this specific proposal. Jack Matlock.”