305. Message From the White House to the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Hill)1

WH9034/6970. Please Deliver the Following Message to Charlie Hill in a Sealed Envelope Marked for the Secretary Eyes Only.

FROM: Robert C. McFarlane

TO: Secretary Shultz

November 12, 1984

Mr Secretary,

With apologies for intruding on your extremely busy schedule, there are two or three items which I have wanted to convey concerning pending business here and matters discussed with the President on the way back from California yesterday.2 While some of the more sensitive points can wait until your return, I believe we both want to move the Chernenko letter as soon as possible and your own guidance would be most welcome.

1. Chernenko letter. John and Mike3 have exchanged views on the three basic differences which exist on the current State text (forwarded in Hill-McFarlane memo of November 9).4 The most significant in my judgment concerns the language you propose on the interim agreement. As you know, the President treated this in the Gromyko meeting as follows: “(The President) . . . wondered if we could not consider concluding an interim agreement with restrictions on anti-satellite weap[Page 1101]ons, and also agreement on a process of reducing nuclear arms.”5 There was no reference to a time period e.g., three years, or to a moratorium. First, I don’t know with certainty what motivated the President to raise this. You had discussed it with him but it was not in the material he developed personally. From talks with him I believe he was thinking conceptually of what it would take to demonstrate U.S. flexibility generally rather than to make a specific substantive proposal. For as you know, the President has always refused to depart from our current position before negotiations resume and the content of an interim agreement as you propose it has not been approved. Indeed the President directed me to set as the first priority, conclusion of ongoing preparations for the “Umbrella Talks” before exploring any new proposals such as the moratorium and I put that in writing to the community in late October.6 More to the point, however, it seems to me unwise on the merits to sign up now to a general moratorium on ASAT testing (not even limiting it to interceptors) before you have had a chance to see the pitfalls of that through a brief at the Pentagon. There are truly significant problems in such a course—difficulties in verification and real questions as to how we husband the leverage represented by ASAT and SDI systems (which are largely indistinguishable) in the long-term negotiations we envision will take place. In short to ignore those issues with a unilateral concession at this point—a concession the President did not make explicit in the Gromyko meeting—would be against our interest. Finally it is essential to recognize that neither the Joint Chiefs nor OSD would support such a position.

My own recommendation—and in my honest judgment, the President’s intention during the Gromyko talks—would be to focus on the Umbrella Talks as the way to convene an overall review of the bidding in START, INF, MBFR, CD, CDE and space systems. Our goal would be to spin off renewed talks in either existing form or new ones as conceptual agreement emerges during the Umbrella Talks. I expect that we can conclude the pending umbrella analysis by the end of November so as to be ready for talks to start anytime thereafter. But [Page 1102] there is no need—and indeed it could damage our position in those talks—to make preemptive concessions at this time.

2. The channel for conducting the Umbrella Talks. I am afraid I have been misunderstood as to my motive for leaving the institutional element general. My pledge to you that any senior associate you might choose would work for and through you is firm. That is also clearly the President’s commitment although here again, he views the concept as nothing more than an idea that might appeal to the Soviets, but which if not, can be set aside. Its treatment in general terms in the letter is Soviet-oriented not US-oriented. Specifically, history as well as current Soviet practice suggests that the arms control portfolio in the Kremlin is not dominated by the Foreign Ministry and for us to so suggest is gratuitous. The more general formulation leaves them the latitude to decide how they want to put their team together which may turn out to be to repose control in the Foreign Ministry, but that is not for us to prejudge. I would propose that we focus on the Umbrella Talks as follows “One possible approach would be for special representatives (if you wish: ours under the guidance of the Secretary of State), to sit down and discuss the conceptual issues that need to be addressed, such as the relationship between offensive and defensive forces and the nature of the strategic relationship our arms control efforts should seek to establish. Such talks could help expedite the search for agreement on the objectives and structure for specific negotiations in individual areas.”

[Omitted here is material unrelated to the Soviet Union.]

4. My talk with the President. As we discussed when last we talked, I talked with the President on the plane yesterday about the next four years. I had sent him our joint cover memo with your changes included and he had read it.7 I began with an enthusiastic view of the substantive opportunities before him and expressed your own concurrence on the important ways in which U.S. leadership could be applied to the resolution of tough issues from arms control to the Middle East to Asia, Europe, etc. Then saying that I was speaking only for myself I stated that I perceived significant obstacles to the smooth functioning of the policy machinery for as long as personal and ideological differences persisted as I expected that they would. I touched on how these have impeded progress in the past in three specific areas—Central America, the Middle East and arms control. I went over what I viewed his goals and strategy to be in each area and explained where I believed there were disagreements in each.8 I said that it was possible that a written [Page 1103] statement of goals and policy in the leading areas might overcome some of the disagreements and get those concerned to pull together, that I remained worried about disharmony within the community. The President’s response was to go over how he wished to proceed in each area. He reaffirmed his sense of the need to negotiate seriously for arms reduction. He does not dismiss the failures of the past but simply believes we are better positioned to negotiate and keep our self-interest in the forefront and not be stampeded into a bad agreement. Similarly in Central America, he sees the risks but believes there would have been little chance of getting as far as we have in gaining congressional approval without the approach we have taken to negotiations, but he does feel that we must achieve our four objectives in the process. He didn’t comment on the disagreements. I never made explicit my personal sense of what it will take to solve the problem but it was strongly implicit in my remarks. It seems to me that unless you wish to broach this directly (with my reinforcement if you wish) we can expect Jim Baker’s assessment to you on the phone last Friday to materialize.9 I’ve done a lot of soul-searching on the implications of such a scenario which I can wait to discuss until you return.

Warm regards,


  1. Source: Department of State, A Records, Miscellaneous Papers of Secretary Shultz and Charles Hill, Lot 89D250, Misc File 6/84. Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. This message was sent electronically to Charles Hill in Brasilia, Brazil, for delivery to Shultz, who was in Brasilia from November 10 to 13 for the OAS General Assembly meetings.
  2. The President remained at his ranch in California after the November 6 election, returning to Washington on Sunday, November 11. In his memoir, McFarlane wrote: “With the election behind us, and the President’s mandate revealed to be the most impressive any modern chief executive had ever been granted, I was eager and anxious to get started on all the work there was to do in the second term.” He continued: “The President had been in California for the election, and on the following Sunday we headed back to Washington. On Air Force One, he and I sat down together for a long session, one-on-one. I told him about my planning for the second term, and the detailed issue analyses that were being prepared for his consideration, from which I hoped he would select the two issues on which we would focus for the next four years.” (McFarlane, Special Trust, pp. 285–286)
  3. Reference is to John Poindexter and Michael Armacost.
  4. Not printed. (Reagan Library, Jack Matlock Files, Head of State Correspondence (US-USSR) November 1984 (1/3))
  5. See footnote 4, Document 289.
  6. In NSDD 148 (see Document 298), Reagan tasked McFarlane with completing preparations for the Umbrella Talks. In an October 12 memorandum to the SACPG members, McFarlane provided instructions for near and long-term taskings related to the Umbrella Talks and the production of four working papers for the group’s November meeting. (Reagan Library, Ronald Lehman Files, Subject File, Umbrella Talks 10/24/1984–11/04/1984) Regarding the four papers, see footnote 5, Document 301. Although no late October tasking memorandum from McFarlane was found, the November 3 memorandum from Lehman, Kraemar, and Linhard (see Document 301) responds to the tasking for arms control and the SACPG specifically. The SACPG met on November 19. See Document 314.
  7. Not found.
  8. See Document 306.
  9. No record was found of a phone conversation.