296. Memorandum From Secretary of State Shultz to President Reagan1


  • My Meeting with Dobrynin October 26

My meeting this morning with Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin lasted an hour and a half and confirmed that the Soviets are looking at our relationship in a new light after your discussion with Gromyko.2 Yesterday, his second deputy Isakov told Rick Burt’s deputy Mark Palmer that following his talks with you Gromyko reported to his Moscow colleagues that there is now a bridge to the future and an opening for progress that means that we should move ahead.3 Dobrynin’s approach appeared to confirm this. He said that if some names were changed in my speech at RAND,4 Gromyko could have given it himself, and he meant it as favorable comment.

In his meeting with me, Dobrynin had very little new to offer, but it was clear that he had instructions to probe as deeply as he could for specific ideas from us, especially on arms control and the umbrella concept. I led off by saying that any meeting prior to the election had by definition to be exploratory, but it is important to begin reviewing the issues between us as soon as possible. I told him I had sent instructions to Art Hartman to meet with Gromyko in the next few days and that I hoped to meet with Dobrynin again soon after the election.

To underscore its importance, I moved right to a discussion of the Berlin Air Corridors issue, pointing out that the current situation was unsatisfactory and that our British and French colleagues shared our [Page 1072] concern.5 I emphasized that Berlin was a very sensitive issue that could easily spill over into the rest of our relationship. Dobrynin said he had no new information on this subject but would look into it and get back to me.

I noted that since Gromyko’s visit we had taken some further small steps, including the agreement to meet in November to discuss nuclear non-proliferation and in January to hold talks between experts on naval search and rescue and economic relations. I added that we hoped they would sign the common understanding on concurrent operation of ABM and air defense components at the SCC, as Commissioner Ellis has proposed.6 Turning to the meetings with Gromyko, I said we had come to some agreement, especially on the “question of questions,” the importance of nuclear arms issues and the need eventually to eliminate them. I underlined your firm desire to move toward this goal. We had also agreed to discuss regional issues, I noted, and the discussion on the Middle East, particularly Lebanon and the question of UNIFIL, had also been useful.

Turning to subjects on which we did not agree, I noted human rights and then moved on to the relationship between outer space and offensive nuclear weapons arms control. Overall, I said our assessment of the meetings was that they were positive without any concrete outcome. Dobrynin said their view of the meetings “more or less” coincided with ours. The talks had made each side’s views clearer, but there was nothing concrete on the “question of questions,” beginning with nuclear weapons. I noted that there had also been some factual discrepancies on numbers of nuclear weapons and the purposes of the Strategic Defensive Initiative. I told him you wanted SDI to play a constructive role in strengthening deterrence. I noted that our research program is fully consistent with the ABM treaty to which we remain committed. But while our commitment to the treaty is strong, I said, we are concerned with Soviet violations of arms control agreements, and hope the radar issue will be clarified in the SCC.

Dobrynin then conducted some intensive probing of our ideas for nuclear discussions. He reiterated the Soviet offer of June 29, and said that SDI should be included under their proposal to discuss the “demilitarization of outer space.” I told him we were prepared to [Page 1073] discuss the militarization of space without preconditions, but he insisted that although there were no preconditions in their offer we had to agree on an agenda first. I noted that you had put forward a number of ideas for breaking the deadlock that resulted from their Vienna offer, including a readiness to explore the possibility of an interim agreement that would place limits on anti-satellite weapons and at least begin the process of reducing offensive nuclear arms,7 adding that we were willing to discuss these subjects and others.

Dobrynin also probed on the concept of umbrella negotiations. I told him that our suggestion was that we appoint a small group of people8 to explore the question of arms control at a certain philosophical level which Gromyko and I would monitor. He asked if we were talking only about space. I said that the discussions could explore the relationship between offensive and defensive weapons as well as other issues. It stemmed from our desire to sort out the issues and get moving on arms control talks. Dobrynin, as a “personal view,” said he had “some doubts” about the concept, since it seemed very abstract. He thought there was a danger that the issues could become “mixed up.” When I suggested that it was sometimes useful to rearrange the furniture and try new things, he commented that useful things sometimes got lost that way. He suggested again a preference for traditional negotiations in which differences could then be resolved in discussions between the two of us or with Gromyko.

I also affirmed our interest in cabinet or ministerial-level meetings and joint commission sessions under our cooperation agreements. I did reaffirm our marker that movement in the health area depended on progress on the treatment of the Sakharovs. He responded with the standard disclaimer that they would not accept conditions on Sakharov. I also underlined our interest in regional discussions and on meetings [Page 1074] between defense officials. I emphasized the importance of your proposal for direct measurement of nuclear tests, which could take place independent of the two unratified treaties on testing.9 Dobrynin responded that the concept might be possible after ratification of the treaties. I urged that they move on some other of the smaller issues, noting in particular the exchanges agreement and the opening of consulates. He predictably brought up Aeroflot which I affirmed depended on progress on the Northern Pacific safety proposals and equitable commercial arrangements. I also pressed for positive Soviet actions on the CDE, MBFR, and human rights in general.

All in all, I think it was a useful review of where we stand, and its usefulness includes Dobrynin’s active probing, as a sign of positive Soviet interest. Art Hartman will probably see Gromyko early next week, and I plan to see Dobrynin shortly after the election.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Country File, Europe and Soviet Union, USSR (10/25/84–10/30/84); NLR–748–25A–36–3–7. Secret; Sensitive. An October 26 covering memorandum from Burt to Shultz indicates the memorandum was drafted by Pascoe; cleared by Simons and Palmer. A handwritten note on this covering memorandum reads: “Orig. Sent by Courier 10/26.” Reagan initialed Shultz’s memorandum on October 30, indicating he saw it.
  2. See Document 286 and 287.
  3. See Document 295.
  4. On October 18, Shultz gave an address at the opening of the RAND/UCLA Center for the Study of Soviet International Behavior. In his memoir he wrote: “I used my speech to develop the larger conceptual issues that faced us in managing U.S.-Soviet relations over the long term and to make an important conceptual point: I put aside the Nixon-era concepts of ‘linkage’ and ‘détente,’ and set out a new approach that I hoped would prove more effective and that reflected the reality of what we were in fact doing.” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, pp. 487–488) See also footnote 5, Document 262, and Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. I, Foundations of Foreign Policy, Document 209.
  5. In 1983 and 1984, the Soviet Union unilaterally made changes to U.S., British, and French use of air corridors from West Germany flying into West Berlin. A series of Soviet restrictions on the “length-of-the-corridor” led to several “political-level demarches and discussions, both in Berlin and in the capitals, and intense technical-level talks in the Berlin Air Safety Center.” (Telegram 2674 from the Mission in Berlin, September 5; Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D840564–0523)
  6. Richard Ellis was the U.S. Commissioner on the U.S.-Soviet Standing Consultative Commission, which met in Geneva October 2–December 12.
  7. In an October 22 memorandum to McFarlane and Poindexter, Matlock wrote: “I received informally from EUR the memo sent up to Secretary Shultz regarding a meeting he plans to schedule with Dobrynin Wednesday, October 24 [which occurred on October 26]. Basically, it looks all right to me, except for some items on page 4. The important ones relate to mentioning an ‘interim agreement’ and the wording of the presentation on reciprocal visits to testing sites. I suggested to Mark Palmer that these sections should be cleared by you before their use.” He continued: “I am sending this as a ‘heads up.’ Please protect me as the source, since it was provided informally before Shultz saw it. Jack.” Poindexter wrote in the margin: “Bud, You need to talk to George about this. John.” McFarlane wrote in the margin: “Put in my lunch folder for tomorrow.” (Reagan Library, Jack Matlock Files, Meetings with USSR Officials, President-Gromyko Final Papers (6))
  8. Matlock underlined the phrase “appoint a small group of people” and wrote in a note at the bottom of the page: “This is not our concept. The Soviets will never take seriously a ‘small group of people’. Your concept—which you stated to Gromyko—was to involve high-level, even White House discussions. That was to convey your personal intention to be involved. I’m afraid this has set us back considerably.”
  9. Matlock underlined the phrase “independent of the two unratified treaties,” meaning the TTBT and PNET, and wrote at the bottom of the page: “It is not independent. It is designed to lead to agreement on improved verification which will make possible ratification of the treaties.”