310. Memorandum From Secretary of State Shultz to President Reagan1
- Soviets Agree to Negotiations on the Basis of Your Proposal
In a major move in our relations with the Soviet Union, Chairman Chernenko has sent you the attached letter which accepts your approach of negotiations on both space weapons and offensive weapons, including both strategic weapons and what they call medium-range weapons or in other words INF. But he says “productive” talks on nuclear arms control cannot take place “without the two sides deciding what measures they intend to take to prevent the spread of the arms race into outer space.” The implication is that agreement on space arms restrictions must precede conclusion of an agreement on nuclear arms, though not necessarily negotiations themselves. Chernenko’s letter in fact specifically acknowledges “an organic” and “objective relationship” between space weapons and offensive systems.
Chernenko’s new position represents a major concession by the Soviets, since they have abandoned their earlier pre-condition that the US INF be withdrawn from Europe before negotiations could begin. The meaning of all this is quite clear. When Viktor Isakov, the Minister-Counselor at the Soviet Embassy in Washington, delivered the letter to Rick Burt this afternoon he explicitly noted how pleased he was to be delivering this message since “for the first time in four years we can say we may be in business.”2
Chernenko also says that it is “especially important” for the sides to go to the negotiating table “with a clear and mutually arrived at understanding as to the subject and objectives of such negotiations.” (You’ll recall that last summer one of the Soviet demands for the Vienna talks was that the U.S. agree in advance to “objectives” which predetermined the negotiating outcome.) To “settle these matters” Chernenko has suggested that I meet in early January with Gromyko. Chernenko indicates that the Soviets are prepared to host the meeting in Moscow but they would also be willing to meet in a mutually agreed third country.[Page 1117]
We need to develop our public position on this major development. It will be necessary to do this in a coordinated and disciplined manner in order to preserve confidentiality as we enter a new era of arms control negotiations. In the first instance we may want to consider a joint public statement with the Soviets to announce agreement on the resumption of negotiations and pre-empt leaks.
- Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Country File, Europe and Soviet Union, USSR (11/16/84–11/25/84); NLR–748–25A–41–3–1. Secret; Sensitive. Shultz gave McFarlane this memorandum on November 17 to give to the President in California (see footnote 2, Document 309).↩
- See Document 309.↩
- Secret; Sensitive. The text of the letter, translated from Russian, was provided by the Soviet Embassy.↩
- See attachment to Document 304.↩