322. Memorandum of Conversation1


After meeting with Shultz on the afternoon of November 29, Nitze placed a call to McFarlane to debrief on that meeting. McFarlane returned the call at Nitze’s residence in the evening, but the latter was out. The telephone conversation was finally completed on the morning of November 30. The main points are as follows:

Nitze said he had been asked by Shultz to help prepare him for his meeting with Gromyko. Shultz also asked Nitze to accompany him to Geneva for the January 7–8 meeting. Nitze said he would be prepared to help the Secretary in any way he could prior to the Geneva meeting as well as aid Shultz during the meetings with Gromyko.2

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McFarlane said he was happy Nitze had agreed to undertake the job; McFarlane was confident the President would also be pleased.3

McFarlane outlined his thinking on scheduling in Presidential preparation for the Geneva meeting: today was to be a discussion on Soviet long-term objectives; perhaps Wednesday (December 5) there could be discussion on Soviet immediate objectives at Geneva. (Nitze suggested there should also be discussion of US objectives for Geneva in the context of possible Soviet proposals, e.g., what do we want?—McFarlane agreed). Without tying specific agenda to specific meeting dates, McFarlane suggested December 10 and 17 for discussion of “format” or “process” as well as substance. There would have to be subsequent meetings where McFarlane hoped to get Presidential decisions on substance as to INF, START and space.4 McFarlane opined that most of the work in this regard had been completed; there remained, however, decision as to how to handle the offense defense relationship.5

McFarlane thought the best approach for offense/defense relationship would be to impress on Gromyko the usefulness of strategic defense vis-a-vis strategic offensive weapons; this would keep SDI alive and provide US leverage in continuing negotiations. McFarlane was having a paper prepared in this regard.6

Nitze questioned that approach. He referred McFarlane to his memo critiquing the “gang of four” article on SDI: McFarlane said he had seen Nitze’s memo and approved of it.7 Nitze then went on to say that one of the foundations of the ABM Treaty was to prohibit a nationwide defense and to guard against “breakout” to provide such defense. One of the ways to hedge against this breakout was to place severe restrictions on long-lead-time items—namely large-phased array radars, which take five to ten years to build, and to prohibit mobile ABM interceptors and engagement radars. Moreover, the ABM Treaty was to be accompanied by a parallel treaty of indefinite duration.

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—Now, Nitze said, these foundations of the ABM Treaty have become of uncertain validity; the Krasnoyarsk radar certainly appears to be usable as part of a base for nationwide ABM defense (if not explicitly so), the Soviets have built ABM interceptors which, if not wholly mobile, are then readily transportable, and no treaty of indefinite duration on offensive systems has been negotiated.

Nitze said our approach should be to challenge the Soviets on this offense/defense relationship. If they want to join us in “fixing” this problem and revalidating the foundations of the ABM Treaty, we should do so even if it means forgoing some aspects of SDI.

McFarlane said he did not disagree with Nitze’s approach. Nitze replied that McFarlane’s original approach had not seemed consistent with his; who was preparing McFarlane’s offense/defense paper? McFarlane replied Nitze should talk to Ron Lehman; Nitze said he would do so.

McFarlane would give Lehman a “heads up.”

  1. Source: Department of State, Paul Nitze Files, 1953, 1972–1989, Lot 90D397, 1984. Secret; Sensitive. There is no drafting information on the memorandum of conversation. “Only copy” is typed and underlined in the upper right-hand corner of the first page.
  2. In a memorandum of conversation of the meeting on November 29, Nitze wrote that Shultz wanted “someone with background and expertise” in arms control and “in whom he had confidence to help him in preparing for his meetings with Gromyko in January as well as to be with him during those meetings. Shultz believed Nitze to be that person and asked Nitze to join him. Nitze said he would be glad to help in preparing for the Geneva meetings and be present during the meetings to aid the Secretary in any way.” (Ibid.)
  3. See footnotes 5 and 6, Document 308.
  4. In the November 29 memorandum of conversation with Shultz, Nitze wrote: “Shultz implied he was getting a little nervous over Geneva and how preparations would come out. He implied the interagency community may come up with a game plan, but he was not sure it would be consistent with the objective the President had articulated—to get meaningful arms control agreements.” See footnote 2, above.
  5. In the November 29 memorandum of conversation with Shultz, Nitze wrote: “Shultz then enumerated several questions which needed to be addressed in preparation. How to space out the two days; arms control/bilateral issues; the talks, social occasions, communique. Soviet view—what is Gromyko likely to come with? Questions and proposals to determine whether the US is prepared to come to a conclusion on space.” See footnote 2, above.
  6. Not found.
  7. See attachment to Document 343 and footnote 2 thereto.