42. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Secretary
  • Deputy Secretary Kenneth Dam
  • START Negotiator Ambassador Edward Rowny
  • Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Richard Burt
  • Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin, Soviet Embassy
  • Minister-Counselor Oleg Sokolov, Soviet Embassy

The Secretary noted that Secretary of Defense Weinberger’s Report to the Congress on Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) had been held up for a few days, but had been finally released since the Soviet Embassy had not gotten back with a reply from Moscow.2

Ambassador Dobrynin stated he had waited too, but had received no instructions in time.

[Page 146]

The Secretary made reference to the just-released TASS article on the CBMs proposal and expressed the hope this did not constitute the formal and final Soviet response.

Ambassador Dobrynin said he hoped so as well. He did not know the background of the article in TASS, which generally reflects prevailing opinion. But, he cautioned, we should wait to see what develops.

The Secretary noted Rick Burt would be calling in Sokolov soon to discuss Threshold Test Ban Treaty verification improvements.

Ambassador Dobrynin stated that was fine.

The Secretary noted that by some miracle, the decision on the Long-Term Agreement (LTA) had not yet leaked.

Ambassador Dobrynin interjected that Agriculture Secretary Block was aware.

The Secretary noted he had informed Secretaries Block and Regan personally. Nevertheless, when would the Soviet government reply on this question?

Ambassador Dobrynin stated he would get in touch as soon as he received word from Moscow.

The Secretary noted that in his absence, the Ambassador should get in touch with Ken Dam or Rick Burt directly.

The Secretary went on to observe that he had read the report of Ambassador Hartman’s most recent conversation with Korniyenko.3 Not much had been accomplished, he noted, save that we were at least meeting for such discussions. He emphasized that somehow we must make progress on these regional issues.

The Secretary then noted the unfolding case of the Pentecostalists.

Ambassador Dobrynin stated the Pentecostalists were all back home now and expressed the hope the next steps would work out.

The Secretary stated that we had kept this low-key as the Soviets asked.

Ambassador Dobrynin acknowledged this fact.

The Secretary then stated the main topic he wished to discuss this day was START.

Ambassador Dobrynin interjected when would we finish?

The Secretary noted that to reach any eventual agreement, our present START dialogue would have to be opened up. The Ambassador had earlier suggested the utility of informal exchanges on this issue. [Page 147] The Secretary was now taking him up on this to demonstrate the seriousness of the Administration in seeking progress towards a mutually-acceptable START agreement. Such meetings should not replace the Geneva talks, but rather explore possible directions to be pursued by the negotiators.

The Secretary observed that there had been a disappointing lack of results in the last round of START negotiations in Geneva. The U.S. had taken several important steps, such as proposing limitations on air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs). For their part, the Soviets had tabled a draft treaty but had continued to leave key elements of their proposal blank.

Ambassador Dobrynin interjected this showed how flexible the Soviet proposal was.

The Secretary stated that nonetheless, the Geneva talks currently lacked a sense of direction which these informal and exploratory conversations might help to determine. In that regard, he had some questions for Dobrynin on three areas in which flexibility would be necessary.

The Secretary noted that in Geneva, the U.S. Delegation had proposed a ceiling of 850 deployed ballistic missiles and 400 heavy bombers. These figures, of course, could not be simply added together because of the significant differences between the weapons systems. The Soviets had proposed reductions to total of 1800 strategic nuclear delivery vehicles. The gap between the U.S. and Soviet numbers was major, but they were not that widely apart. The Secretary stated he did not wish to negotiate these figures here, but posed the general question to the Ambassador whether the Soviet figures could come down if the U.S. numbers went up?

Ambassador Dobrynin stated he would get back to Moscow with the Secretary’s interesting proposal. He noted that the current Soviet proposal in Geneva dealt with weapons across the board whereas the U.S. proposal differentiated between missiles and bombers. Perhaps even more important than numbers in regards these reductions proposals was their structure. The U.S. proposal, with its undue emphasis on ICBMs and its philosophy—as publicly expressed by Ambassador Rowny—of making the Soviet Union “buy now and pay later,” was unacceptable to the Soviet Union.

The Secretary suggested that, on the basis of the Ambassador’s remarks, there were three components to the Soviet Union’s problems with the U.S. proposal—the timing of reductions, the ratio of missiles versus bombers, and the ICBM sub-limits within the ballistic missile category.

Ambassador Dobrynin agreed and then inquired whether the structure of the U.S. proposal in this regard was fixed.

[Page 148]

Ambassador Rowny noted that the 850 limit on deployed ballistic missiles in the U.S. proposal included not just ICBMs but SLBMs as well. His “buy now, pay later” remark, he explained, had been meant to reflect his belief that proposed reductions would be in the ultimate interest of the Soviet Union.

The Secretary noted that both the structure of reductions and the composition of remaining forces were legitimate subjects for negotiation.

Ambassador Rowny offered his personal view that ICBM sub-limits might be easier to deal with in this regard than the issue of launcher limits in separate categories.

Ambassador Dobrynin stated that the Soviet Union continued to think SALT II had been sound in dealing with weapons across the board. The Soviets did not accept the U.S. theory of differing destabilizing effects of various weapons systems. Rather, the U.S. proposal focused on those weapons which were the backbone of Soviet strategic forces, some 70 percent. There was a need for greater balance in the U.S. proposal.

The Ambassador went on to note the U.S. proposal offered a equal ceiling of 400 heavy bombers at a time when the Soviet Union had only some 150. The U.S., of course, even included Backfire in this category. The Ambassador related an anecdote from SALT II in which Soviet Marshal Ogarkov reportedly offered a inter-continental ride in a Backfire to General Rowny to prove the plane would run out of fuel well before reaching land.

Ambassador Rowny interjected that he had not turned down that invitation.

The Secretary stated that we would consider this question of structure.

The Secretary then raised the question of ALCMs. He noted that in Geneva Ambassador Rowny had made quite clear the U.S. position that the Soviet call for a complete ban on all long-range cruise missiles was unacceptable. The U.S. considered ALCMs a reality and a necessary element in our modernized deterrent forces in the case of increasing Soviet air defenses. The U.S. was, however, ready to discuss a system of realistic limitations on ALCMs. Was the Soviet Union, he asked, now ready to negotiate with us seriously on this question?

Ambassador Dobrynin said he had no flexibility at this time on this. The Soviet Union still sought a complete ban. Did the Secretary have any more on this?

Ambassador Rowny noted that in START the U.S. had proposed ALCM limitations analogous to SALT II.

The Secretary moved on to his third question in regards to the effect of any agreement on the large numbers of Soviet heavy and [Page 149] medium missiles. He stressed that the U.S. perceived the MIRVed Soviet heavy SS–18’s and medium SS–17’s and SS–19’s as a very real threat to our deterrent forces. This was not, he stated, a contrived or peripheral issue for the U.S. In Geneva, the U.S. delegation had proposed various direct and indirect constraints on these missiles which the Soviet Delegation had rejected without offering any alternative of meeting these basic U.S. concerns. At times, he went on, the Soviet Delegation had alluded to possible reductions of heavy missiles in connection with its own reductions proposal but had essentially avoided direct discussion of this issue.

The Secretary concluded by noting that the Ambassador had asked whether the U.S. numbers in its proposal were frozen. The answer was no, but that the U.S. was still in dark as to the Soviet proposal and particularly its effects on this heavy/medium missile problem.

Ambassador Dobrynin stated that the Soviets were quite familiar with the arguments advanced by Ambassador Rowny in Geneva on this, but were nonetheless prepared to look at this further.

The Secretary noted that, in general, the U.S. was looking for a readiness on the part of the Soviet Union to work together on the successful resolution of these problems. The general purpose of U.S. efforts was to facilitate progress. He noted that despite the importance of the INF, MBFR and other negotiations, START was truly the most serious and far-reaching in its implications.

The Secretary emphasized his seriousness and that of the President in achieving a mutually-acceptable agreement. He noted the President’s careful interest in this question and stated that if the President were able to get satisfactory START agreement, he would be able to get it ratified. The Secretary noted that he had spent the previous weekend with the President at Camp David where, during the course of long discussions, the President had expressed his desire to see something accomplished in START.4

Ambassador Dobrynin noted in response that the Soviet Union was prepared to make arms reductions. Both countries, he went on, desired reductions. The key fact, however, was that all systems should be dealt with on an equal basis. The U.S., he remarked, was inviting the Soviet Union to restructure its forces along U.S. lines; while the Soviet Union could make similar proposals, it would not do so because the U.S. would reject such a proposition. A reductions agreement must have equal application, he stated, but the U.S. was seeking more in [Page 150] this regard from the Soviet Union than it was itself prepared to do. The present U.S. proposal would, he concluded, leave the U.S. with more missiles and warheads.

The Secretary asked just what effect the Soviet proposal would have on throw-weight numbers.

Ambassador Dobrynin stated he could find out, but cautioned realism in regards this issue of throw-weight. Even Henry Kissinger, he remarked, had agreed that throw-weight was not that important in connection with the U.S. decision in previous years not to build heavier missiles.

The Secretary noted that even Henry Kissinger had not always been right.

The Secretary stated that the U.S. was not seeking an agreement which would be to the obvious disadvantage of one party. Rather, he explained, he was seeking to determine through his talks with the Ambassador a way to find a mutually advantageous agreement. He agreed that both countries wanted to reduce their forces, but their differing force structures clearly complicated that effort. Perhaps less important than the numbers reduced, he commented, would be where the two sides ended up.

Ambassador Dobrynin suggested this would not necessarily be so if the end result reflected an unwarranted focus on ICBMs.

The Secretary noted that he hoped to meet again with the Ambassador before too long on INF and MBFR matters. In his absence, however, Ken Dam might meet with the Ambassador.

Ambassador Dobrynin promised to let the Secretary know of Moscow’s response to his questions and comments on START.

On this note, the meeting ended.

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S, Memorandum of Conversations Pertaining to the United States and USSR Relations, 1981–1990, Lot 93D188, Reagan/Shultz/Dobrynin plus Shultz or Dam/Dobrynin in Washington, D.C. February–1983. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Burt.
  2. Shultz, Weinberger, and Dobrynin discussed CBMs during their April 7 meeting (see Document 38). On April 12, Reagan made a brief statement: “I am pleased to note the completion of the report of the Secretary of Defense on Direct Communications Links and Other Measures to Enhance Stability. I believe that the proposals in this report, which was prepared in accordance with Public Law 97–252, are fully consistent with our goal of reducing the risk of nuclear war.” (Public Papers: Reagan, 1983, Book I, p. 525) The report is printed in Documents on Disarmament, 1983, pp. 309–324. See also Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. I, Foundations of Foreign Policy, Document 159, footnote 8.
  3. Hartman and Korniyenko met in Moscow on April 9 to discuss the situations in Afghanistan and the Middle East. (Telegram 4311 from Moscow, April 9; Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, N830003–0219)
  4. Reagan wrote in his diary for April 8–10: “Then off to Camp David. We had the Shultz’s with us as guests.” He continued: “They are nice to be with. George & I had hours of discussion of all our international problems.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, vol. I, January 1981–October 1985, p. 214)