324. Memorandum From Ronald Lehman of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (McFarlane)1


  • Shultz and Geneva

I understand that you have spoken with Secretary Shultz after his Wednesday meeting with the President and I understand there may have been another meeting on Friday.2 I did not know of these meetings and thus the following information may be OBE. This information is not based upon the existence of a single “deep throat” in State, but is based on rather extensive discussions with a number of State officials. I am confident that it is fairly accurate, but I would caution that it represents the understanding of the Department as to what their Secretary believes—not necessarily his exact views.

Secretary Shultz has been concerned about his role in Geneva and his role in the preparations leading to Geneva. He wants strong personal involvement and has said that he will go to the President to get it. His [Page 1159] view is that he should be given a complete substantive package to present to the Soviet Union in Geneva. He does not favor a prior presidential announcement as at Eureka,3 but he does want an approved, formal package. He believes strongly that Geneva is a Foreign Minister’s meeting and that it should not involve any real delegation and is not happy about ideas of a special envoy. Rather he believes that he should be given extensive flexibility to reach agreement on a Vladivostok-type package,4 the outlines of which he would negotiate himself with Gromyko. Agreement on the agenda and objectives, in his view then, is outlining the package and setting up subsequent technical negotiations simply for the completion of the basic package. Indeed, he has spoken of the possibility of keeping all major substantive negotiation within a series of Foreign Ministers meetings until a basic substantive package has been agreed to, thus, possibly delaying the actual beginning of regular negotiations in Geneva.

Shultz’s own view is that our basic proposal should be along the lines of Option 3;5 namely, agreement to a 3 year ASAT moratorium in exchange for an interim agreement placing a cap on ballistic missile RVs and ALCMs and using the Soviet SNDV numbers. He is prepared to pay lip service to protecting SDI, but does not believe in the program. He received what he believed was a very negative briefing on SDI from Jim Thomson at the recent Rand Conference on US-Soviet relations6 and was disappointed in Jim Abrahamson’s recent SDI brief, commenting “Is that all there is?”7 He believes that emphasis on defense by the US will only provoke an offensive response from the Soviet Union and looks at SDI as a source of leverage more in the sense of a “bargaining chip” to be traded away rather than a factor influencing Soviet behavior. He is not that much concerned about the details, but he was very upset that we are not moving quickly to make a decision by December 10th on some detailed package.

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Shultz has never liked the Interagency Process even though State chairs nearly all the groups. He believes that flexibility is reduced and good ideas are sandbagged. He has tolerated the SACPG and SACG because he has believed that they have forced decisions which are stalemated in the Interagency Process. He holds some resentment that junior officials debate some of the great issues in the SACG, but at the same time believes that the SACG is a good handholding exercise so that other Departments and Agencies can know that their views were expressed. He does not believe that the SACG should be the fora for selling his ideas. His own view is that as Secretary of State and spokesman on arms control, he is most effective when he deals with the President directly. Still, he does not believe that he should constantly have to take up these issues with the President. Thus, Jack Chain’s effort to take your instructions on U.S. objectives and turn it into an Option 3 decision paper8 was apparently based on specific instructions from the top of the State Department which in turn is said to be related to the Secretary’s displeasure at the reports he received about Monday’s SACG.9

Shultz was unhappy after receiving his briefing on Monday’s SACG particularly about 3 points. It was reported to him that you had stressed (1) calling the Soviets to task for leaving the talks originally, (2) not getting into substantive negotiations during the Shultz/Gromyko meeting in Geneva, and (3) selling the Soviet Union on the idea that SDI is good for them. My own memory and notes indicate that this is a significant distortion of your focus and tone, but the fact that the distortion has taken place does point to some of the important issues where, in the end, you may decide to differ.

With respect to the first point, because Shultz believes that we need to break the ice with the Soviets in a single bold stroke with major movement toward a new, compromise position, he is not anxious to revisit disruptive issues. He will not likely want to mention old talks [Page 1161] much less even suggest that we “resume” those old talks. Whereas, it might be possible to gain some negotiating flexibility and leverage by raising a number of “compliance” issues such as the Abalakovo Radar during the Geneva Talks, the current State approach dictates minimal discussion of compliance so as not to disrupt the climate necessary for movement on their big package which does not address compliance issues.

On the second point, Shultz does not like the idea of umbrella talks but tolerates the concept because the President is associated with it. State’s view is that such discussions can be done by exchanges of experts, perhaps with panels of Assistant Secretary level people. In any case, Shultz’s view is that umbrella discussions should not really lead to an agreement on the outlines of a package, but rather follow once we have a breakthrough. He has no objection to laying out American thinking to Gromyko, but he doesn’t want such discussions to take too much time away from negotiations on a specific package.

The third point illustrates the real problem. Because Shultz does not believe that there is much to SDI, he doesn’t think we should spend too much time and effort protecting it if we can use it to get an interim agreement on offensive arms. He doubts that the Soviets are interested in what role defenses could play in enhancing stability in the future. He will make the argument, but not devote too much time to it. Shultz recognizes that he is isolated within the Administration on this issue, but he believes that he has the complete support of his own building for his package and truly believes that the President has agreed already to the concept of trading off an ASAT moratorium for an interim agreement on offensive arms. Thus, believing that he has won on the moratorium issue, Shultz views further discussion of that issue as basically handholding on SDI, but he is afraid that in the process of this handholding his desire to get instructions to put down a comprehensive package along the lines of Option 3 might be undercut. There is some evidence that he has become increasingly hostile to SDI as it is viewed as an obstacle to his package approach. His concern about our last SACG has resulted in visible concern about the direction in which you are headed. In each and every effort taken on the new “Objectives” paper, State has fought hard to put in either reference to the revised Option 3 or a placeholder for insertion.

I appreciate your PROFs note on your thoughts on how to proceed. Before Monday’s NSPG,10 I will detail for you some further thoughts in that regard.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Ronald Lehman Files, Subject File, Geneva Talks—Reference 11/29/84–12/2/84–12/2/84. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Sent for information. “No log” is typed at the top of this memorandum, indicating it was not entered into the NSC system. In a covering note to McFarlane, Lehman wrote: “Bud, Attached is an ‘eyes only’ on Shultz’s views of Geneva. Also, we are preparing a package on the Geneva decision-making process. Attached is a first draft of a schedule. While we work the decision-making paper, you may find this useful. It doesn’t deal with the punchline, however,—how we finalize the position & what it is. Ron.”
  2. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Reagan and Shultz met at the White House on Wednesday, November 28 from 1:34 to 2:20 p.m. See footnote 3, Document 319. Although no record of a similar meeting on November 30 has been found, Shultz attended two meetings at the White House that day: the morning national security briefing and an afternoon NSPG meeting on preparations for the Geneva meetings. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) See Document 323.
  3. On May 9, 1982, Reagan gave the commencement address at his alma mater, Eureka College. He used this speech to announce his intention to initiate “formal negotiations on the reduction of strategic nuclear arms, START, at the earliest opportunity.” For the full text, see, Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. I, Foundations of Foreign Policy, Document 99.
  4. See footnote 4, Document 318.
  5. An interagency working paper for the possible Vienna meetings, prepared during the summer, included three options. Shultz and the Department of State supported Option 3. An NSC staff compromise led to a paper on Option 1½. See Document 277 and footnote 5, Document 291.
  6. James Thomson, a nuclear physicist and former member of Carter’s National Security Council Staff, was Vice President of RAND’s research division, Project AIR FORCE. Shultz gave a speech on U.S.-Soviet relations at the opening of the RAND Center at UCLA in October. See footnote 4, Document 296.
  7. Not found. Lieutenant General James A. Abrahamson was Director of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization.
  8. In a November 29 memorandum, Chain distributed a “draft of the strategy for Geneva paper tasked at the November 26 SACG meeting” for use at the December 5 NSPG meeting. (Reagan Library, Ronald Lehman Files, Subject File, Geneva Talks—Reference 11/29/84–12/2/84–12/2/84) In a memorandum to McFarlane on December 1, Kraemer, Lehman, Linhard, and Matlock forwarded the paper and wrote: “a special interagency group working under General Chain has completed the discussion paper at Tab C focused on US and probable Soviet objectives at the January 7/8 Shultz-Gromyko meeting in Geneva. In addition, the paper takes up some of the chief elements of U.S. arms control policy concerning specific arms control areas and contains a brief, and controversial, section on the proposed process in Geneva and beyond. The bulk of the paper (Sections II–V) reflect some 14 hours of interagency meetings featuring intense deliberations and occasional compromises.” (Ibid.) See also Document 325 and footnote 4 thereto.
  9. November 26.
  10. December 10.