360. Memorandum of Conversation1

Geneva, January 1985


  • U.S.

    • Secretary of State George P. Shultz
    • Robert C. McFarlane, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
    • Ambassador Paul Nitze
    • Ambassador Arthur Hartman
    • Jack F. Matlock, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
    • Dimitri Arensburger, Interpreter
  • USSR

    • Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko
    • Georgy M. Korniyenko, First Deputy Foreign Minister
    • Ambassador Viktor Karpov
    • Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin
    • Alexei Obukhov, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    • Viktor Sukhodrev, Interpreter

Before proceeding with the formal meeting, the Secretary took Minister Gromyko aside and told him about U.S. concerns in the area of human rights. He named several individuals whose fate was of [Page 1325] particular concern and mentioned repression of Hebrew teachers. Gromyko listened, but made no comments.2

Gromyko opened the formal meeting by suggesting that since they had no chairman, the discussions be conducted in a spontaneous manner which he found to be very good.

The Secretary said that the proposal submitted by Gromyko toward the end of the afternoon meeting yesterday was reasonable. In this connection, the first point he wanted to make was that having studied the Soviet proposal he could see that they were suggesting genuinely new negotiations. We accepted that it is new negotiations we are talking about.

Secondly, Gromyko had suggested that we proceed in terms of three different negotiating fora or baskets, or whatever they were to be called. The Secretary accepted that and viewed it as a kind of division of labor on the different subjects.

The Secretary’s third point related to Gromyko’s observation that the subjects to be dealt with in these three bodies were interrelated and that the three fora constituted one complex. He agreed with Gromyko’s statement that the issues are interrelated and, therefore, consideration of these three elements in one complex is acceptable to us. However, Gromyko had made the point that an agreement reached in any one of the three fora would not be consummated until there was final agreement—in effect, until there was agreement in all three. At the same time, Gromyko had provided some exceptions to that rule and the Secretary understood Gromyko’s point; Gromyko had stated his view on the relationship between the different fora. The Secretary pointed out that the U.S. approach is different in that we are seeking agreement in each of the fora, and if an agreement which is considered to be mutually advantageous is reached in a given setting, we will be willing to raise it as something that should be considered for consummation. But, perhaps this falls within the category of the exceptions that Gromyko had identified.

The Secretary then pointed out that we do not feel that we should be bound by a self-denying ordinance and refuse to conclude agreements which are in our mutual interest. He understood the Soviet position, but was explaining ours.

[Page 1326]

Regarding the subjects and objectives of the third forum, the Secretary observed that there is common ground in our approaches. As he had said yesterday, our views differed with regard to the third forum, but perhaps that difference is not so great in terms of what is to be discussed in it.

Gromyko interjected that what the Secretary was calling the third forum was really the first forum, and the Secretary indicated that he considered the number used not important and agreed to call it the first if Gromyko wished.

The Secretary went on to cite the second forum which would take up strategic nuclear offensive arms, and said that the subjects and objectives for that forum appear reasonable to us, and we agree. He noted that in this forum the U.S. is prepared to discuss trade-offs in whatever areas either the U.S. or the USSR has an advantage. This is in recognition of the fact that if we are to reach a reasonable agreement it will be most unlikely for it to be a mere mirror image of the force structures of the two parties. After all, we want to come out with a situation which reflects genuine equality.

Turning to the third forum, the Secretary noted that it concerns intermediate-range, or what the Soviets call medium-range, nuclear forces; either term is acceptable to us. The subject and objectives involved a problem that can be talked about. It seemed to him that in both cases Gromyko was looking to reductions, perhaps radical reductions. We agree with this. He added that Gromyko was familiar with our principles and ideas. We are prepared to discuss different approaches toward working out an agreement within equal global ceilings.

Turning to the first forum, Secretary Shultz said that in some respects this is where the most difficult issues lie. At the same time, it seemed to him, as he had already said, that it might not be all that difficult to determine the subject matter of that forum. He had offered Gromyko an explanation in response to his perceptive question, and he had some further remarks.

Gromyko had suggested, Secretary Shultz continued, that the subject be non-militarization or demilitarization of space. (Gromyko interjected that he had not referred to demilitarization, but rather non-militarization.) The Secretary thought that such statements involved an overly narrow definition. There is no lack of willingness on our part to talk about and negotiate matters regarding space arms. But the Soviet definition is too narrow. What happens in space is a kind of abstraction, the result of something done with respect to offensive or defensive arms. He cited these two categories while recognizing that offensive and defensive arms are interrelated. If Gromyko would look at the subjects listed yesterday by the Secretary, he would recognize [Page 1327] that they are related to this forum. For example, there are categories of anti-satellite systems which, though land-based, operate in space. Thus, to repeat, the Soviet concept is too narrow. Accordingly, we believe that this forum should deal with the full range of defensive systems, regardless of their basing mode. We are also prepared to deal with space arms questions as proposed by the Soviet Union.

The Secretary added that we had taken into account the concerns voiced by Gromyko several times last September concerning nuclear arms and nuclear explosions in space. Thus we believe it would be appropriate if the discussions in this forum were to focus particularly on nuclear defensive systems, including existing systems. While he agreed with Gromyko that the ultimate goal should be the elimination of nuclear arms, he thought that this forum should include all such arms, whether offensive or defensive. We certainly agree that the elimination of the entire category of nuclear arms is desirable.

The Secretary continued by pointing out that the Soviet Union has the world’s only operational ASAT system, and—as he understood it—had conducted some twenty tests of that system. Moreover, while this system is land-based, the original launchers intended for it could launch other systems. Since the ASAT system operates in space, this could be considered to be militarization of space. The U.S., in contrast, has not deployed ASATs and has yet to test the system it has under development against satellites. Thus, we are far behind the Soviet Union in this area. On the Soviet side, in contrast, we see something that exists. Beyond that he could mention a number of systems that are in space and have military uses, such as satellites for verifying compliance with agreements, for communications purposes and various other uses. To a very considerable extent we would not want to dispense with these systems because they are useful. Thus, the Secretary pointed out, “demilitarization” in one final sweep is not practical or verifiable. In looking through the record he had found, back at the ASAT talks in 1978 and 1979, a statement on this point made by the head of the Soviet delegation, Ambassador Khlestov, which ran as follows:

As for the concept of a ‘comprehensive agreement,’ the more we analyze it, the more doubts it causes us . . . From a purely technical point of view, it is practically impossible to single out, with sufficient precision, from the whole complex of systems and services which we call space technology, only those systems which would be designed exclusively for countering satellites . . . we propose that in the future we continue to concentrate our efforts on the tasks which both sides recognize as realistic and feasible.3

[Page 1328]

The Secretary then turned to the matter of a space-based missile defense system, to which the Soviet Union had directed great attention, reviewing some thoughts he had tried to advance yesterday.

—First, U.S. scientists say that these systems are years off. He did not know what Soviet scientists have to say on the basis of their own research. One can never say what a “hot research group” might come up with. The Secretary had personal experience with many such research groups at the University of Chicago, at Stanford and at MIT. And though none of those research groups focussed on the subject under discussion here, he knew that it was impossible to tell in what direction such research efforts might lead. This effort, therefore, is long-term by its very nature.

—Second, deployment of these systems is covered by a number of existing treaties. The Limited Test Ban Treaty prohibits nuclear detonations in space, the Outer Space Treaty bans the deployment of nuclear weapons in space, while the ABM Treaty prohibits systems that are space-based, sea-based, air-based or mobile land-based. Thus, there is a whole body of treaty language that has been agreed upon in this area.

—Third, regarding research as such, the Secretary had two points. One, that an agreement on research, as we see it, is virtually impossible to verify for a variety of reasons. Much relevant research stems from objectives unrelated to the question at hand. As an example he could point to advances in computational ability. We are both engaged in such research and this is impossible to stop. Beyond that—and this was his second point—we think that, in the end, if there is the possibility of defense, it would offer a more comfortable and secure form of strategic stability than the one now existing.

The Secretary recognized that Gromyko disagreed, but expressed the hope that the Soviets would study our thinking. There is much time to talk about this matter and to digest it. It seems to us that if it is possible ultimately to determine a basis where a major element of deterrence would be defensive, in contrast to preponderantly offensive elements of deterrence we have now, this might offer a more comfortable and more secure form of strategic stability. If this can be accomplished it is potentially desirable. Perhaps we will not be able to find a way to do so. Therefore, for both these reasons the U.S. believes that research should continue and in fact will continue. Even if we were to agree on some limitation, it would be impossible to verify it. If it should turn out that a particular technology seems feasible, the U.S. would undertake more direct discussions, as provided by the ABM Treaty. At any rate, this is a matter for the future.

The Secretary said that this brought him back to a point in connection with the first forum. The U.S. is fully prepared to discuss and negotiate matters involving space arms and to take up whatever pro[Page 1329]posals the USSR may make in this area. As he had said yesterday, we are prepared to take up space arms questions in either of the other two fora, if they are related to the context of discussions there. As Gromyko had said yesterday, the world is changing. Perhaps as the negotiations continue, even on familiar subjects, we may want to approach them in different ways. Regarding further details and potential content of discussions in the first forum, the Secretary referred Gromyko to his comments on this subject the day before.

Finally, the Secretary returned to the question of structuring the negotiations. He recalled that Gromyko had said that they would appoint leaders for the three negotiating groups, and that, most likely, one would be named chairman of the overall delegation. Gromyko had also invited us to do as we wished in this regard. The Secretary observed that Gromyko’s suggestion concerning the structure was novel. We had not heard such a suggestion previously and therefore we were still thinking about it. He did not know at this point where we would come out in terms of personnel appointments. To some extent he thought this would be a reflection of who would be “Mr. One,” “Mr. Two” and “Mr. Three.” Thus, this matter remained open so far as the U.S. is concerned.

The Secretary then said that his delegation had prepared a statement describing its proposals regarding the subjects and objectives of the whole complex of negotiations. This text could serve as a basis for discussion. He could give it to Gromyko now, or perhaps Gromyko preferred to make some comments before looking at the U.S. text.

Gromyko responded that indeed he had some comments. He was gratified to hear that certain aspects of the Soviet proposal regarding the structure of possible negotiations are acceptable to the U.S. On some other aspects of the Soviet proposal, the Secretary had voiced some doubts or reservations. He hoped that the Secretary would give added thought to these matters. It is good that the Secretary recognized the interconnection among the questions to be negotiated in the three groups. Nevertheless, there is a difference in the Soviet and American understanding of this interrelationship. The U.S. should be aware of this.

In dealing with this concept, Gromyko observed, the Soviet side proceeds from the premise that the subject (“material”) of the negotiations compels us to consider the subject matter of the three groups as interrelated. That is why he had said yesterday that the problems must be solved in comprehensive fashion. In particular, he had explained why it would be impossible to make progress on some issues without agreement on space, more precisely on the non-militarization of space. He had also referred to a different interrelationship, namely that between strategic arms and medium-range nuclear arms.

[Page 1330]

When the Secretary referred to interrelationship, Gromyko continued, he was talking about a different kind of interrelationship—that of offensive and defensive weapons. The Soviet Union cannot accept this if for no other reason than because the USSR did not recognize the category which the U.S. called defensive systems. He had said clearly that these systems, these concepts and this U.S. program were offensive systems, offensive concepts and an offensive program. They are a component part of a whole. One had to look at things from the standpoint of their ultimate logic. He did not wish to repeat what it would mean if the U.S. proceeded to implement its plan.

The Secretary observed that Gromyko had made himself very clear yesterday.

Gromyko continued that accordingly, we are speaking different languages when we refer to an interrelationship. Nevertheless, the very idea of an interrelationship does exist and that in itself is a positive element. Still, the two sides attached different meanings to it and this must be kept in mind.

The Secretary responded that, in practical terms, the question would present itself in terms of what would happen if, for example, we reached some kind of understanding in forum three or forum two. Would it be converted into a formal agreement or not? Under one interpretation of the interrelationship, the answer would be “no.” Under a different interpretation the answer would be “yes.”

Gromyko replied that this would not necessarily be the case. The point is that there are different interpretations of the concept of interrelationship. When we go beyond concrete specifics and relate these matters to high policy, we have to recognize that the foundations of your plan and our plan are different. Naturally, this is of major importance. Everything said and written in the U.S. attributes defensive aims to your program—as if everything in it is good and nothing bad. Even here in Geneva, though perhaps in a more restrained fashion, this has been the U.S. position. He, however, had told the Secretary that this is not the case, that the objective of the U.S. program is just the opposite. He had said this yesterday.

Gromyko then turned to the question of what agreements could be concluded in the absence of an overall agreement. As he had explained the day before, there are two groups of questions on which agreement is possible in the absence of an overall agreement. He did not preclude the possibility that it might be possible to reach agreement on individual questions in one of these groups which did not bear critically on the interrelationship. The number of such questions would be small. In this instance, there would be no need to await resolution of the other questions with which the groups would be dealing. The other category involved those questions which could be resolved and [Page 1331] agreed upon entirely independent of progress on any other issue or group of issues. He had cited examples such as a comprehensive nuclear test ban. This type of question could be singled out, agreed upon, and an accord signed and brought into force. There were also two agreements that had been negotiated in the past, but had not entered into force. They were part of the same category that Gromyko was talking about.

The Secretary said he understood.

Gromyko noted that he had listed them yesterday. He wanted to provide additional clarification on one point because he felt that the Secretary had not clearly understood the matter. Let us assume that significant progress had been made in one or more of the groups. As they saw it, it would not be necessary to wait for the other groups to finish their work before discussing the overall picture. The whole delegation should meet from time to time to review their progress. It would be good if everything could be completed at the same time, but this can hardly be expected. There should be a periodic overall analysis, and this would provide an organic connection of the work by all three groups.

For example, Gromyko continued, let us assume that group “x” had conducted ten meetings. At that point the delegation as a whole could meet to see how things were going. This should be standard practice. There would be one delegation that is split into three groups. Thus, there would inevitably have to be consideration of the interrelationship the ministers had talked about—provided, of course, both sides understood the meaning of the interrelationship in the same way. One should not rely exclusively on the literal meaning of the word, and one should not impose a kind of law on the groups under which they had to finish their work and wash their hands before a decision is made how to proceed further.

Gromyko said he hoped this explanation would be useful. He offered it because he suspected that the Secretary had not fully understood the Soviet concept.

The Secretary replied that this was an important clarification which he found very interesting.

Gromyko then noted the U.S. concern over the concept of non-militarization of space. Of course, one could invent some kind of symbol to replace this word, but Gromyko did not believe that it would be helpful to resort to algebraic techniques. If anything, that could be harmful. He added that the Secretary knows what the Soviet side means in this regard, and the Soviet side knows what the U.S. has in mind. Gromyko reiterated that he was convinced that the U.S. and USSR can prevent the militarization of space. If such militarization were to occur, the USSR, the U.S. and mankind as a whole will be pushed further [Page 1332] toward the abyss toward which we have been moving. This is what will happen unless we find a way to halt such movement. Thus, even though the U.S. might not like the term militarization and may on occasion scorn it, he would urge honesty and precision in dealing with this subject.

Secretary Shultz’s statements, Gromyko continued, had been reminiscent of those appearing in the U.S. press to the effect that it is wrong to raise the question of the militarization of space because space is already militarized. There are no scales which would measure the falsity of this thesis. We all understand that this is not the case. If we look at steps taken by both countries, there are things we can learn. For example, look at the U.S. space shuttle. If viewed in terms of its potential, one could conclude that under certain circumstances it could be used in ways in which no Soviet system can be used, and therefore that space is already militarized. But this would be an oversimplification. He did not want us to take this path since it would only make it harder to reach the goals before us.

Gromyko then reiterated what he had said the day before regarding space arms, or more precisely the non-militarization of space. The latter implies that there should be a ban on the development, testing and deployment of attack (or strike) space arms, accompanied by the destruction of existing systems of this kind. If such an approach is followed, far-reaching solutions to other issues would become possible as well. In order not to dilute the question of space arms by tangential issues, the Soviet side has proposed to talk about attack (strike) space arms. By attack space arms the Soviet Union means space arms based on any physical principle, regardless of basing mode, which can strike objects in space and which can strike objects on land, sea or in the air, that is on the planet earth, from space. Of course, this would include relevant anti-missile and ASAT systems.

Gromyko then said that, in referring to what he termed the U.S. defensive system, Secretary Shultz had spoken at length about research and about the difficulty in verifying a ban on research. To a considerable degree what the Secretary said about verifying a research ban is true. But let us assume that all this preparatory research should demonstrate that such systems can indeed be developed. The U.S. position is “if it’s possible, then let’s do it.” The Soviet position is to exclude this possibility since it would be a boon to mankind if this system is never developed.

Gromyko continued that this situation reminded him of the story of two men visiting Monaco. One of them suggests going to the casino in the hope of winning something; the other one refuses since he does not want to risk losing what he has. This illustrates the difference between the U.S. and Soviet positions. The Soviets feel the wiser course [Page 1333] is not to risk losing everything. This is not just the unanimous view of the Soviet leadership but is also shared by people everywhere. People instinctively feel that this path should not be pursued because it would generate a very great threat to peace and would intensify the arms race. Nothing would do more to enhance U.S. prestige than a decision to rule out that option. That was the way to reduce nuclear arms, a goal mentioned by the Secretary, the President, as well as the leadership of the Soviet Union. Specifically, General Secretary Chernenko had said this on numerous occasions and it had been repeated by Gromyko at this very table. Nuclear arms should be reduced down to their complete elimination from the arsenals of nations.

In the U.S., Gromyko continued, there is presently a popular thesis to the effect that one should switch the character and nature of deterrence and that instead of relying on strategic and medium-range nuclear systems for deterrence, one should rely on systems which the U.S. has baptized defensive systems. The Soviet Union believed that this would not serve the cause of peace, that this would increase the threat, that the threat would become awesome if the large-scale missile defense system was developed. Under such circumstances, the nuclear arms race would not be curbed by such systems but just the opposite would occur; it would acquire new momentum. The USSR can not understand how the U.S. fails to see this. It must be some kind of self-hypnosis. This plan will intensify the nuclear arms race.

Gromyko said that if the Secretary had no further comments on the substance, perhaps they should give some thought on how to conclude their meetings. Earlier, the Secretary had mentioned a draft which Gromyko assumed was a draft of a joint statement. The Soviet delegation would certainly take a look at this draft and consider it. The Soviet delegation, for its part, would present its own draft. Gromyko thought that at this point it would be advisable to have either a working break or to recess for lunch, after which they could see how to proceed with regard to the joint statement and consider where to go from there.

The Secretary replied that he liked Gromyko’s procedural suggestion, but wanted to make sure he understood clearly Gromyko’s description of how the set of negotiating groups in the delegation would work. Gromyko had mentioned a situation in which one of the three groups, Group X, had held ten meetings and had come up with something. It would then be appropriate—and in any event this would occur periodically—for the whole group to consider the results, and for Group X to report what it had agreed upon.

Gromyko confirmed that this was right.

The Secretary continued that he understood Gromyko had suggested that the whole group engage in a kind of summary review to judge whether this one thing that had been agreed upon could stand [Page 1334] on its own or whether it should wait. This would be the function of such periodic meetings.

Gromyko again confirmed that this was correct; the overall delegation would make a judgment on how the agreement reached fits into the framework of the other questions being negotiated.

The Secretary noted that the structure proposed by Gromyko was unusual and imaginative and the Secretary would have to testify in Congress and explain how it worked. Thus, he added jokingly, he might ask Gromyko to write his testimony.

The Secretary then presented the U.S. draft text of a joint statement. (Attachment 1)

Gromyko simultaneously gave the Secretary the text of the Soviet draft (Attachment 2).

The Secretary suggested that they adjourn for lunch and reconvene at 2:30 P.M., which would give them the opportunity to study each other’s drafts and to respond at the afternoon meeting.

The meeting adjourned at 12:00 Noon.

Attachment 1


The United States and the Soviet Union have agreed to begin a new complex of negotiations to address the interrelated questions of nuclear and space arms. To this end, three negotiating groups will be convened in Geneva, beginning on March 5, 1985, to begin the process of negotiating agreements on strategic offensive nuclear arms, intermediate-range nuclear arms, and nuclear defensive and space arms. The objective of these negotiations shall be the reduction of nuclear arms and the enhancement of strategic stability, with the ultimate goal of the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.

Attachment 2


As previously agreed, a meeting was held on January 7 and 8, 1985, in Geneva between Andrei A. Gromyko, Member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU, First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR, and George Shultz, the U.S. Secretary of State.

During the meeting they discussed the subject and objectives of the forthcoming Soviet-US negotiations on nuclear and space arms.

The sides agree that the subject of the negotiations will be a complex of questions concerning space arms, as well as both strategic and medium-range nuclear arms; moreover, all these questions will be considered and resolved in their interrelationship.

[Page 1335]

The objective of the negotiations will be to work out effective agreements aimed at preventing an arms race in space, limiting and reducing nuclear arms, and strengthening strategic stability.

The sides believe that ultimately the forthcoming negotiations, just as efforts in general to limit and reduce arms, should lead to the complete elimination of nuclear arms everywhere.

The date of the beginning of the negotiations and the site of these negotiations will be agreed through diplomatic channels within one month.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Jack Matlock Files, Chronological File, 1980–1986, Matlock Chron March 1985 (2/4). Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Matlock and Arensburger. The meeting took place in the Soviet Mission in Geneva.
  2. Shultz’s Geneva briefing book contained a section on human rights, with talking points and background information on specific cases and individuals. (Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S, Memorandum of Conversations Pertaining to the United States and USSR Relations, 1981–1990, Lot 93D188, Shultz-Gromyko at Geneva, January 1985) In his memoir, Shultz recalled: “I took Gromyko aside and went over our human rights views with him at length. He raised both his hands as if to shield himself from me and flapped his palms to make me go away. But I kept him in a corner, and he had to listen even though he pretended not to.” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, p. 516)
  3. The full text of Khlestov’s statement was sent in telegram 4927 from Vienna, May 18, 1979. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D790226–0408)