56. Personal Note Prepared by the Deputy Secretary of State (Dam)1

I attended a dinner this evening at the White House for Members of the House of Representatives. The purpose was to lobby for the approval of the MX. The evening ended when Tom Foley, the House Democratic Whip, announced that he was going to support the approval of the MX. This suggests that the vote should be rather strongly for the MX. If this is true, this culminates a period of aggressive Presidential activity on behalf of this ICBM system. The strongest arguments have been the arms control arguments, namely, that the determination of the Congress to support the MX will induce the Soviets to come to the table to negotiate seriously in the START talks and that we cannot expect our NATO allies to agree to the deployment of the Pershing II and GLCM missiles unless we are willing to deploy the MX.

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I attended a meeting with Secretary Shultz and the President this morning in the Oval Office.2 Shultz’s purpose was to convince the President that he should go ahead with his plan of engaging the Soviets on a broad range of discussions.3 Specifically, the Secretary sought approval by the President of the Kiev-New York consulates and the cultural agreement. It was an awkward situation, because a number of people were there who had nothing to do with foreign policy (specifically, Ed Meese and Jim Baker). Among the foreign policy group there was, of course, Bill Clark and Bud McFarlane, as well as the Vice President. This was in effect a continuation of the normal 9:30 meeting on national security matters. The President said that he was willing to go forward with the consulates but that he was troubled about the cultural agreement. Although he realized that the cultural agreement would be in the national interest, because at present the Soviet Union was able to bargain and pick and choose among private sponsors of Soviet cultural events in the United States and the cultural agreement would give us some control of that process and some equal bargaining power, he felt, nevertheless, that voters would not understand the applause for the Bolshoi Ballet and laughter concerning Soviet circuses at the same time that Soviets were gassing Afghan rebels in Afghanistan. The Secretary did the best he could with the situation and tried a number of tacks in discussions with the President, but the President clearly was unable to focus on the broader subject of relations with the Soviet Union. Bill Clark had already frightened him to death with our intelligence reports on the number of Soviet ships visiting Nicaragua, something that was brought home to me when he raised it again this evening at the dinner with the House Members on the MX. It was not a hopeful harbinger of the future. Indeed, even worse news arose later in the day when I realized that Bill Clark had appointed Ron Lehman, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, as his principal arms control staff man on the NSC staff. Although Lehman is an honorable man and certainly one who understands the technical aspects of arms control, he has thus far been aligned with those who tend to view any arms control agreement as a threat to national security. How he will turn out remains to be seen, but the initial reaction at the State Department is to view this as a very ominous development.

My arms control discussion group met this morning to discuss the next eighteen months of arms control negotiations. Because I was [Page 183] meeting with the Secretary and the President, I arrived after the discussions had started. I arrived to find that Richard Perle and Richard Burt were scoring points off each other and generally raising each other’s temperature. I have sought to make these arms control discussions a calm and reasoned place in which issues can be discussed, but I find that that consensus about purposes of the discussions is beginning to dissipate. On the one hand, the change of temper must be because the question of arms control is becoming a major national issue. On the other hand, Richard Burt, who is clearly one of the brightest and most dedicated analysts of arms control matters, is also a person who doesn’t know how to use his ammunition carefully in an interagency debate. Since he joined the group, I find it difficult to maintain the atmosphere of civility with our Defense Department colleagues. Until he was confirmed, I did not include him in the discussions, because I felt that it was not in his self-interest to be so deeply involved in arms control matters, and especially in view of the strong opposition among the high conservative members of the Senate. Obviously he belongs in the discussions, but it shows how deeply held the views are and how emotional some of them are when he enters into these discussions with his opposite numbers in the Defense Department.

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S–I Records, Deputy Secretary Dam’s Official Files: Lot 85D308, Personal Notes of Deputy Secretary—Kenneth W. Dam—Oct. 1982–Sept. 1983. Secret. Dictated on May 23.
  2. Shultz and Dam met alone with Reagan from 9:43 to 10:23 a.m. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) In his May 23 diary entry, Reagan wrote: “Met with Shultz re our moves with the Soviets. I thought we’ve come to a point where we should include Bill Casey & Cap W. in some of our decisions.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, vol. I, January 1981–October 1985, p. 229)
  3. See Document 54.