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represents a major concession by the Soviets, since they have abandoned their earlier pre-condition that the US INF be withdrawn from Europe before negotiations could begin.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.

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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.


Letter From Soviet General Secretary Chernenko to President Reagan3

Dear Mr. President,

In my oral message to you on November 8,4 I already briefly expressed our view in what way it is possible and necessary to reverse the current unfavorable trends in Soviet-American relations and in the international situation as a whole.

I believe, Mr. President, there is no need to go back to the question what caused the present state of Soviet-American relations and the general aggravation of tensions in the world. We set forth our assessments in this regard on more than one occasion.

The main thing now, in our view, is to join our efforts in stopping the world from edging towards a dangerous line. For this, resolute and immediate practical measures are required.

In this letter I would like to express the thinking of the Soviet side as to what exactly the USSR and the USA could do in a practical way in order to alleviate and, in the long run, to remove althogether the danger of a catastrophe.

Specifically, we propose that the Soviet Union and the United States of America enter into new negotiations with the objective of reaching mutually acceptable agreements on the whole range of questions concerning nuclear and space weapons.

For objective reasons, the resolution of the issue of space weapons in this regard is of key importance, since, should the space arms race start, it would not only preclude any serious talk about the limitation and reduction of strategic arms, but would inevitably become a catalyst [Page 1118] for the arms race in other directions as well. To put it briefly, a productive discussion of nuclear arms limitation issues, and above all strategic arms, is impossible without the two sides deciding what measures they intend to take to prevent the spread of the arms race into outer space.

There is an organic, and I would say, objective relationship between these issues and it is precisely in this way that they should be treated at the negotiations we are proposing.

In other words, such negotiations must encompass both the issue of non-militarization of space and the questions of strategic nuclear arms and medium-range nuclear systems. In all these directions we are prepared to seek most radical solutions which would allow movement toward a complete ban and, eventually liquidation of nuclear arms.

Considering the significance and the nature of the issues to be discussed, it is especially important for the sides to go to the negotiating table with a clear mutually arrived at understanding as to the subject and the objectives of such negotiations.

In order to settle these matters we propose that A.A. Gromyko and George Shultz meet, let’s say in the first half of January, 1985. We would be prepared for this purpose to receive the Secretary of State in Moscow, or such a meeting could be arranged in a third country as may be agreed by the sides.

In our opinion, achieving agreement on the beginning of new Soviet-American negotiations on space and nuclear weapons, and a clearly expressed intention of the sides to solve these issues would have a positive impact on the situation in the world and could provide an impetus for the straightening out of the relations between our countries.

We await, Mr. President, a constructive reply from you.


K. Chernenko
  1. 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).
  2. See Document 309.
  3. Secret; Sensitive. The text of the letter, translated from Russian, was provided by the Soviet Embassy.
  4. See attachment to Document 304.