309. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs (Burt) to Secretary of State Shultz1

Mr. Secretary:

We have received very good news from Chernenko. I have attached his letter and a memorandum from you to the President commenting on it.2 In my view our response should be positive.

I briefed Bud on the content and we discussed handling. Bud asked that you call the President tonight. He will be at the ranch after 6:00 p.m. our time. (I’ve attached at Tab 1 some points you might make to the President.)3 Bud is going out to California tomorrow and will take the memorandum from you to the President with the Chernenko letter (Tab 2) once you have approved it. Bud agrees that we need to think [Page 1115] about public handling. It would be unfortunate if it leaked right away. What I think we should consider is a joint announcement by the two sides early next week that we have agreed to begin negotiations on key arms control issues and that the two foreign ministers kick off this process in early January.

Let me just point out a couple of things about the letter itself:

—The Soviets are clearly calling for “negotiations”, not just discussions.

—They are also continuing to use the term “non-militarization of space”.

I don’t consider either of these points to be important problems. But others in the interagency community will. The main point is that the Soviets have accepted the President’s and your position, and have abandoned their preconditions.

This Soviet response, in my view, immeasurably strengthens your position both because it is substantively forthcoming and because they have invited you to Moscow to begin the process. I hope we can take advantage of this to remove the impediments in the interagency process to decision making on arms control.

We have reread the President’s letter to Chernenko which Art is scheduled to deliver to Gromyko Monday morning in Moscow.4 The substance is still on target and it is worth conveying to the Soviets. We would have Art explain that it was drafted prior to receipt of Chernenko’s two letters and that we will be responding to these letters shortly.

It’s quite possible the Soviets purposefully delayed receiving Art so that they could get their letters in first. Nonetheless, it will be clear to everyone that they’re accepting our positions.

In light of the above, I have decided that it would be best for me to cancel my plans to leave for London tomorrow morning, where I was going to meet with the Quad political directors, and to send my deputy, Jim Dobbins, instead. I will therefore be in town all day Sunday and Monday and available if you would like to follow up with me on these matters.

Richard Burt5
  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S, Sensitive and Super Sensitive Documents, Lot 92D52, November 1984 Super Sensitive Documents. Secret; Sensitive. A stamped notation reading “GPS” appears on the memorandum, indicating Shultz saw it.
  2. Attached at Tab 2. See Document 310. A handwritten note on Burt’s memorandum reads: “Original memo (Secpres) given to Mr. McFarlane by the Secretary 17 Nov.”
  3. The talking points are attached but not printed.
  4. See Document 308.
  5. Burt signed “Rick” above his typed signature.