30. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

3657. Geneva for USINF, USSTART. Subject: Andropov on President’s Defense Speech.

1. (U) Andropov’s Pravda March 27 interview,2 on TASS March 26 (presumably available in Washington) disputed the President’s March 23 description of the U.S.-Soviet military equation.3 Andropov claimed the President told a “deliberate untruth” in saying the USSR had not observed its unilateral moratorium on deployment of medium-range missiles. He charged that the U.S. intention to acquire ballistic missile defense (BMD) reflects U.S. desire to gain a first strike capability against Soviet strategic forces, which would be deprived of the capability of executing a second strike. Andropov asserted when the USSR and the U.S. negotiated the ABM Treaty, they established an inseparable link between strategic offensive and defensive arms. Along standard lines Andropov warned that the USSR will not allow the U.S. to gain military superiority, and that the U.S. is threatening the whole world.

2. (C) Comment: The tone of Andropov’s remarks was the sharpest we have seen from the top Soviet leader for some time. It probably [Page 105] reflects continuing Soviet irritation with the Orlando speech,4 as well as concern about the challenges inherent in the President’s defense policy speech. The tone, and specifically the statement that the President lied, also may reflect growing Soviet defensiveness about Western charges that SS–20 deployments in the European USSR have continued since Brezhnev announced the moratorium a year ago March.5 Andropov did not attempt to claim that the President’s proposed BMD program would violate the ABM treaty, as TASS had charged in the initial Soviet reaction to the President’s speech.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D830170–1044. Confidential; Immediate. Sent for information to the Consulate in Leningrad, USUN, USNATO, London, Paris, Bonn, the Mission in Geneva, Secretary of Defense, USNMR SHAPE Belgium, USCINCEUR Germany, US Delegation MBFR Vienna, and Mission in Geneva for the INF and START delegations.
  2. For the full text of Andropov’s interview, see Current Digest of the Soviet Press, vol. XXXV, No. 13 (April 27, 1983), pp. 4–5.
  3. See Document 23.
  4. See Document 15.
  5. In a speech on March 16, 1982, Brezhnev proposed a moratorium on deployment of intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe. For an extract of his speech, see Documents on Disarmament, 1982, pp. 118–121.