44. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Burt) and the Director of the Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs (Howe) to Secretary of State Shultz1


  • Follow-Up to Soviet Response on CBMs

Issue For Decision

As you are aware, Dobrynin called on Ken Dam April 18 with a formal Soviet response to our proposals for additional confidence-building measures (CBMs).2 We need your agreement to our general approach on the next steps in our follow-up to this Soviet message.

The Soviet Response

The tone of the Soviet reply—in the form of an “oral statement”—was one of cautious interest in some, but not all of our proposed CBMs. While reiterating at some length their position that CBMs cannot be allowed to divert public attention from the central issues of arms reductions, the Soviets did state a willingness to discuss both upgrading the Hotline and our proposed multilateral convention on procedures for handling crises involving nuclear weapons and terrorism. They rejected, however, the suggestions to establish a Joint Military Communications Link and high-data rate links between our respective foreign ministries and embassies.

In sum, the Soviets are prepared to talk with us about two of the proposed CBMs. We should bear in mind, however, that they may well stall or back away entirely from such discussions should it appear to them the U.S. is reaping significant public relations benefits from this as a demonstration of progress in Soviet-American arms control. Thus in our follow-up, we will need to be especially careful in balancing our public diplomacy needs with the requirements for a quiet, businesslike approach to substantive negotiations.

Next Steps

Your Meeting With Dobrynin: In your arms control meeting with Dobrynin tomorrow, it will be important for you to give a personal [Page 156] reply to the Ambassador’s demarche. We will be providing you with talking points promising that we will approach the Soviets shortly with more specific ideas on the two proposals they have agreed to discuss, and urging their renewed consideration of the other two.

Next Interagency Steps: Thus far, these measures still have the public status of DOD recommendations only. It is expected that sometime within the next week or so, the President will announce his official approval of them. Secretary Weinberger will be eager to move quickly to interagency agreement on negotiating modalities for the Hotline upgrade and the convention on nuclear terrorism as well as on concrete U.S. recommendations for presentation to the Soviets and our allies, so that the President can include these specific decisions in his public statement. Additionally, OSD is certain to press for the President to renew publicly the call for establishment of a Joint Military Communications Link, their favorite measure but one which Moscow has already rejected.

These matters will be considered by the START interagency group, probably later this week or early next week. If you agree, we propose to take the following general approaches:

1. Multilateral Convention on Nuclear Terrorism: Because this issue is closely related to nuclear non-proliferation and the key parties are the same, we believe Dick Kennedy should handle the diplomatic approaches on this. He is scheduled to travel to Moscow this June for our non-proliferation bilaterals with Soviet counterparts; this would appear to be the most appropriate time and venue for presenting greater detail on this proposal with the Soviets. He could brief the relevant Allied Ambassadors in the Department sometime before then. OSD, however, may seek to shorten this time frame drastically by having the President speak to negotiating considerations in his public statement. Since the effectiveness of such bilaterals rests in part in their low-key nature, we believe too much public detail at this stage would be a mistake.

Recommendation: That Dick Kennedy be selected to take the lead in discussions of this proposal with the Soviets and Allies during the course of his already-scheduled bilaterals.3

2. Hotline Upgrade: The Soviet “oral message” refers to past precedent in expressing a willingness to hold discussions on this subject “at the level of technical experts.” At this stage, we believe that the most productive approach might be to dispatch a technical team to Moscow for negotiations to be headed up by Ambassador Hartman on our side (Conversely, a Soviet team could come to Washington). Given the [Page 157] present Soviet tactic of stonewalling on all areas of potential agreement within the START talks, we think it would be a mistake to attempt to insert this proposed measure into those negotiations—thus making Hotline upgrade hostage to larger Soviet START concerns and confounding our desire for tangible progress in this area.

Recommendation: That we seek to negotiate the Hotline upgrade through Ambassador Hartman, backed up by an appropriate team of technical experts to be sent out to Moscow.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S, Special Handling Restrictions Memos, 1979–1983, Lot 96D262, ES Sensitive, April 9–20 1983. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Dunkerley and Minton; cleared by Hall, Combs, Palmer, Dean, and Labowitz. Forwarded through Eagleburger. A stamped notation reading “GPS” appears on the memorandum, indicating Shultz saw it.
  2. See Document 43.
  3. Shultz initialed his approval of this recommendation.
  4. Shultz initialed his approval of this recommendation.