291. Memorandum From Jack Matlock of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (McFarlane)1


  • Suggestion for Presidential Letter to Chernenko

Secretary Shultz has forwarded a memorandum to the President recommending that a short letter be sent to Chernenko reaffirming his basic approach to the relationship and proposing “an interim agreement including provisions that would both place restrictions on anti-satellite weapons and begin the process of reducing offensive nuclear arms.”2

I do not believe that a letter at this time would be particularly useful and also doubt that we should put the proposal mentioned in writing at this time. If the Soviets are interested in such an arrangement, we can be confident that they will respond in some fashion to the hint the President dropped in his presentation to Gromyko.3 But at the moment, I believe they are still digesting the material from Gromyko’s visit, as they grapple with their own leadership situation. Trying to force the pace of their deliberations at this time may do more harm than good.

My recommendation would be to wait until after the election for any further initiatives, and then to attempt to convey any substantive ideas we may have privately and informally in the first instance. If the Soviets are by then moving in the direction of establishing a broad dialogue, this would permit some adjustment of proposals on both sides to make them as palatable as possible to the other.

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State’s proposal seems based on the assumption that the Soviets are looking for something in the ASAT area as an excuse to reopen negotiations on offensive weapons. Conceivably this is the case, but I frankly doubt it. In my judgment, INF is still the key question so far as they are concerned, and though they worry about SDI, they are not particularly nervous about the ASAT program as such. Of course, I may be wrong, but I doubt the wisdom of proceeding down a particular track (especially one which we would not have chosen as optimum from our point of view) unless we are more certain than we can be at the moment of the Soviet reaction.

I have attached a Memorandum to the President pointing out these considerations.4

Ron Lehman concurs.


That you sign the Memorandum to the President at TAB I.5

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Ronald Lehman Files, Subject File, Umbrella Talks 10/05/1984–10/15/1984. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for action.
  2. See Document 290.
  3. See Document 286.
  4. Neither tab is attached; the Shultz memorandum, listed as Tab A, is Document 290.
  5. McFarlane did not check the Approve or Disapprove options, but he wrote on the first page: “Jack/Ron, Pls staff fwd promptly a decision paper on option 1½. Bud.” On October 15, Linhard, Lehman, and Kraemer sent McFarlane a memorandum on “Decision Paper on Option 1½.” On October 26, McFarlane sent Reagan a revised version of the memorandum for decision. See Document 297.