55. Note From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (McFarlane) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Clark)1

Judge Clark


  • Next Steps in US-Soviet Relations

I have not sent this paper to Cap or Bill for reasons of security and negotiating strategy.2

What do I mean? As you know, I have a fundamental problem with the way we are conducting our dialogue with the Russians. These deal with both style and substance. Here are the parameters as I see them:

—We are now strong enough and have enough leverage to get real concessions from the Russians—in short we are bargaining from strength.

—We must not fritter that leverage by making public what it is (consulates etc) because if it leaks, we are steamrollered into making some deal to suit the special interest group involved in the congress or the country at large. We must play our cards close to the vest.3

—In playing our cards, however, we must know what we want to achieve. Surely some of our leverage is more valuable than others. We should use it wisely and get substantial quids for it. This means we must have priorities. What do we want to get for consulates, for a cultural agreement, for the grain deal etc. Surely these agreements must not be signed for nothing more than “improved dialogue.” In short, what are our priorities?4

—Once we have our priorities set, we must have a negotiating strategy which tells us which cards we play first, second, etc; what our fallbacks are; when we stonewall etc.

Assuming we can put this together—and let me stress I do not believe it can be done within the European Bureau and perhaps not even within the Department at all—it must be handled very discreetly. Otherwise it will leak and we will come under enormous pressure to forfeit our advantages for the sake of agreement. This means we cannot staff US-Soviet Relations through the bureaucracy.

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How should we proceed? I think the only way to deal with this issue is to handle it from the White House. The options are that you deal with it personally; that I handle it privately with Dobrynin; or that the Vice President handle it. There are advantages to each of these. I guess I come down on the Vice President option for reasons of low visibility.

But we cannot go on as we are with State continuing to fritter away leverage, not being taken seriously by the Soviets and, at the end of the day, ending up with no strategic gain to show for our several incremental concessions.

Could we discuss this?

  1. Source: Reagan Library, William Clark Files, US-Soviet Relations Papers Working File: Contains Originals (6). Secret; Sensitive.
  2. See Document 54.
  3. Clark bracketed this point and wrote “style” in the margin.
  4. Clark wrote “strategy” in the margin next to this point.
  5. Printed from a copy with this typed signature. At the bottom of the page, Poindexter wrote: “Judge, I agree with this. As long as we have a strategy that the President agrees with the various aspects of such issues as consulates and exchange agreements can be analyzed outside the interagency process. John.”