311. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (McFarlane) to President Reagan1


  • Renewed Talks With the Soviet Union

Yesterday, George Shultz advised you of Soviet willingness to renew talks on strategic and intermediate range nuclear weapons as well as space systems. The text of the Chernenko letter is at Tab A.2 At Tab B is a memo from George providing his views.3 This morning before leaving Washington, I met with George, Cap and Bill Casey. While all recommend that you accept the Chernenko proposal Cap was chary about getting into a “negotiation” of space systems for reasons he has explained to you.4 With respect to strategic and intermediate range nuclear systems, all agree that we can easily be ready to pick up where we left off in Geneva, especially given the additional flexibility we have developed through interdepartmental analytical work in the intervening months.

The first step is to get Soviet agreement on an announcement. All of us agree that we ought to try to avoid a long drawn out argument over the text of the announcement (as occured during the abortive “Vienna” discourse last summer). Within our own government the only snag I expect will be on the above point as to whether or not we characterize this session in January as negotiations (on space systems as well as the nuclear issues—Cap will have a problem with this). In the view that we ought, in any event, to move quickly I will ask John Poindexter to convene a hand-picked group of four or five from State, Defense, the JCS and CIA to meet on this tomorrow morning so as to have a draft proposed announcement to you by early morning California time. George’s proposed announcement is at Tab C.5

After the announcement is made we will need to turn our attention right away to finalizing our position in each area—strategic, intermediate range and outer space systems. As I have mentioned the first two [Page 1120] are essentially on the shelf—we finished this work in May.6 The work is also near-finished on outer space but the results do not contain much to negotiate about. In order to accelerate this work I believe it would be useful for me to return to Washington as soon as we have an agreed announcement put together for your approval. This would probably be on Tuesday.7 We could then have a finished paper for you to consider upon your return to Washington.

As a separate but related matter, I believe we gained Cap and Bill’s approval for Paul Nitze to accompany George to the January sessions so as to be able to handle the technical issues and stay in place should George and Gromyko have to turn to other duties. In essence, the Soviets seem headed toward acceptance of what amounts to your umbrella talks proposal. This is an enormous achievement Mr. President. There will be hitches but we are on our way. Finally your Ambassador in Moscow, Art Hartman, will deliver tomorrow the long letter to Chernenko you approved last week (the Soviets could not receive him until now).8 As you recall, it goes well beyond arms control and both George and I believe it is still very relevant. I will keep you informed and will pay close attention to assuring that Cap and Bill, as well as the JCS, are on board.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Country File, Europe and Soviet Union, USSR (11/16/84–11/25/84); NLR–748–25A–41–1–3. Secret; Sensitive. Poindexter wrote in upper right-hand corner of the memorandum: “President has seen. JP.” McFarlane was in California with Reagan from November 17 to 25.
  2. The letter is not attached, but is attached to Document 310.
  3. The tab is not attached, but is printed as Document 310.
  4. Not further identified; however, see Document 282.
  5. Tab C is not attached.
  6. In a December 6 memorandum, Chain forwarded three papers in preparation for a SACG meeting on the Geneva negotiations: “The May 1984 Review of START Concepts;” “The May 1984 Review of INF Concepts;” and “The March 1984 ASAT Report to Congress, Interagency ASAT Studies and Preparations for Vienna.” (Reagan Library, Ronald Lehman Files, Chronological File, Chron File 12/15/1984 (1))
  7. November 20.
  8. See Document 308.