5. Memorandum From Paula Dobriansky of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Clark)1


  • Cable from Ambassador Hartman

Attached (Tab I) is Ambassador Hartman’s cable on the ongoing arms control negotiations and the projected tenor of U.S.-Soviet relations.2 I take strong exception to the overall thrust of the Ambassador’s argument, namely that the zero-zero option has “outlived” its usefulness and should be abandoned.

Ambassador Hartman’s cable begins by citing the most fundamental objective of U.S.-Soviet relations as the lessening of the danger of a nuclear war. This assertion is self-evident; yet, the Ambassador’s idea on how to accomplish this objective is faulty. The implication of his argument is that moving away from the zero option would buttress deterrence through the establishment of some, albeit imperfect, arms control regime, and prospective improvement in U.S.-Soviet relations, which he alleges hinge upon the successful conclusion of the talks in Geneva. Despite Ambassador Hartman’s disclaimers notwithstanding, his argument is a straightforward rehash of the failed approach to arms control pursued during the 1970s.

Deterrence is more likely to fail if the existing strategic-nuclear asymmetries favoring the Soviet Union are not redressed. Meaningless agreements which do not restore at least parity at both the intercontinental and theater levels would not restrain Soviet international behavior but would make Moscow more prone to gamble in a crisis period. Our fundamental policy objective, which simultaneously would provide us with high-quality deterrence, is the restoration of parity at both the intercontinental and theater levels through the combination of arms control and new deployments. Because the Soviets presently enjoy an overwhelming superiority in long-range, Euro-based nuclear systems, a non-zero solution would effectively perpetuate this asymmetry.

Ambassador Hartman sought to strengthen his assertion with background on INF history, Soviet propaganda efforts and the likely impact [Page 16] on Alliance unity of U.S. adherence to a zero-zero option. He envisions that the Soviets would continue to peel their “propaganda onion,” unraveling more and more suggestions. The Ambassador further anticipates growing European intransigience with U.S. “rigidity”, which would place INF deployment in jeopardy.

He correctly notes that the original impetus for INF deployment came from the Europeans, namely Chancellor Schmidt,3 who among others, was convinced that regional imbalances were impermissible in an age of strategic parity and had to be rectified. The original purpose of INF deployment was to reassure the Europeans and eliminate the growing fear of “decoupling”. According to Hartman, what was intended to reinforce Atlantic unity, now has turned into a divisive issue. Moreover, he contends that even if we persist deployment is unlikely given the current European mood. His prescription is to trade-in our increasingly shaky deployment option, while it is partially credible, get an arms control agreement with the Soviets which is supposed to improve U.S.-Soviet relations and buttress deterrence, and remove an irritant from badly strained trans-Atlantic relations. He proposes that we move soon, lest Soviet propaganda would lead the Europeans to reject the projected deployment with all the attendant damaging consequences to U.S. prestige, NATO’s unity, etc.

I find two fundamental errors in Ambassador Hartman’s argument. First, it is basically irrelevant how the INF decision came about. At this point in time, whether we like it or not, the issue has been made a litmus test of NATO’s viability. Non-deployment without the establishment of a genuinely balanced and stable theater arms control regime would cast major doubt on the Alliance’s ability to implement any controversial decisions. It would also further embolden the already strong pacifist and anti-American forces in Europe, effectively insuring the eventual demise of NATO as a viable security organization. Moreover, I disagree fundamentally with Ambassador Hartman’s reading of the European mood. The recent statements by Mitterrand are very supportive of INF; the Italians are still holding firm; and despite recent statements by the British and Germans, it remains more than likely that they would honor their deployment commitments.

I recommend that we hold firm on the zero-zero option and further intensify efforts to demonstrate our sincerity and good faith to the Europeans—an approach the Administration is already taking with [Page 17] Ambassador Dailey’s efforts and Vice President Bush’s trip.4 If, as I expect, the Soviets do not seriously alter their untenable position, we should deploy the first INF units as scheduled. It is then and only then that fundamental change in the Soviet position might take place. If such a change does not materialize we should complete the full deployment. However, if at this juncture, the Soviets seriously restructure their INF position in a more balanced fashion, we might consider moving away from the zero-zero option toward an arms control regime which would establish theater-nuclear parity through asymmetrical reductions (the Soviets retire most of their systems and we deploy some INF units).

Presently, any indication that we are unilaterally ready or even seriously considering the abandonment of the zero-zero option would be extremely deleterious as it would embolden the anti-deployment forces in Europe, embarrass some of the European governments in a manner reminiscent of Carter’s neutron bomb fiasco, and remove any incentives for the Soviets to compromise.5

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Country File, Europe and Soviet Union, USSR (01/24/83–01/27/83). Secret, Sensitive; Nodis. Sent for information. Copies were sent to Boverie and Blair. Clark’s stamp appears on the memorandum, indicating he saw it.
  2. See Document 2.
  3. Helmut Schmidt was Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1974 to 1982.
  4. Reagan had appointed Peter H. Dailey, who was serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, to chair an interagency committee on arms control, INF, and public diplomacy, in coordination with European governments. (Telegram 27340 to Bonn, January 30; Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D830053–0142) For information on Bush’s trip, see footnote 5, Document 2.
  5. At the end of the memorandum, Dobriansky added a typewritten message: “Please note: While I recognize that the Vice President’s trip may have significant bearing on the outcome of this issue, I still felt compelled to express my views at this time. PD.”