61. Editorial Note

On June 15, 1983, Secretary of State George Shultz testified publicly before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on U.S.-Soviet relations. In his opening statement, Shultz said: “The management of our relations with the Soviet Union is of the utmost importance. That relationship touches virtually every aspect of our international concerns and objectives—political, economic, military—and every part of the world. We must defend our interests and values against a powerful adversary that threatens both. And we must do so in a nuclear age, in which a global war would even more thoroughly threaten those interests and values. As President Reagan pointed out on March 31: ‘We must both defend freedom and preserve the peace. We must stand true to our principles and our friends while preventing a holocaust.’ It is, as he said, ‘one of the most complex moral challenges ever faced by any generation.’” (Department of State Bulletin, July 1983, page 65)

In his memoir, Shultz explained the thrust of his testimony was “captured in my statement: ‘Strength and realism can deter war, but only direct dialogue and negotiation can open the path toward lasting peace.’” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, page 277) Jack Matlock, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European and Soviet Affairs in the NSC Staff, later wrote in his book that this testimony was “the most comprehensive and forward-looking explanation of U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union since Reagan had taken office.” He concurred that Shultz’s sentence quoted above became the “basic thrust” of the administration’s approach to relations with the Soviet Union. (Matlock, Reagan and Gorbachev, page 61) The full text of Shultz’s testimony is printed in the Department of State Bulletin, July 1983, pages 65–72.

Much attention was given to drafting Shultz’s testimony. Originally written in the Department of State, the testimony was then coordinated with Matlock. On April 21, Charles Hill, Executive Secretary of the Department of State, forwarded an early draft to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs William Clark. As Shultz wrote in his memoir: “I had worked on this testimony with great care. Jack Matlock [Page 194] had taken an important part in the effort.” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, page 276) Matlock had joined the NSC Staff in early June and later commented in his book that his “first major task was to work with Richard Burt, my counterpart in the State Department, and his deputy for Eastern Europe, R. Mark Palmer, on a statement to be delivered by Secretary Shultz to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I found the State Department draft consistent with my own views, made a few minor suggestions, and recommended that the president approve it.” (Matlock, Reagan and Gorbachev, page 61)

On June 8, Clark forwarded Reagan the most recent State Department draft of the Secretary’s testimony with notes, edits, suggested changes, and a page of typed footnotes by National Security Council Staff member John Lenczowski. Lenczowski had numbered sections in the draft and typed out 11 corresponding footnotes, suggesting changes to the testimony and providing analysis. For example, on page 3 of the draft testimony, Lenczowski crossed out the following lines: “We believe our people cannot—and need not—accept as inevitable the prospect of endless, dangerous confrontation with the Soviet Union. For if we do, then many of the great goals that the United States pursues in world affairs—peace, human rights, economic progress, national independence—will also be out of reach. We can—and must—do better.” In his corresponding footnote 1, analyzing this section, he wrote: “It is unrealistic and misleading to hold forth the hope that the essential political-moral conflict with the USSR will end within the foreseeable future. It is even more misleading to hint that we can mitigate this basic conflict through ‘dialogue.’ That is not to say that dialogue is not in the national interest—but it is to say that if we are to speak publicly about the prospect of ending the conflict, it should be in the context of our confidence that democracy will ultimately triumph and not that true compromise can be reached between irreconcilable forces.” (Reagan Library, John Lenczowski Files, NSC Files, Chron File June 1983)

In another example, Lenczowski crossed out the text: “respect legitimate Soviet security interests,” and wrote in footnote 5: “We must never acknowledge that an illegitimate regime has legitimate security interests.” And in the following section of the testimony he took issue with the statement that “the Soviet Union is and will remain a global superpower,” countering in footnote 6: “The idea that the USSR ‘will remain a superpower’ is standard Soviet propaganda that we should not repeat.” (Ibid.)

After reviewing the draft testimony and Lenczowski’s comments and suggestions, Reagan wrote on the June 8 memorandum from Clark: “I have crossed out most of the numbers in the margins to indicate I don’t think the footnotes they indicate apply & thus the crossed out [Page 195] lines should be restored. As to insert on P.20A I would only offer that to Sec. Shultz as a suggestion and leave it to him to accept or reject.” Lenczowski had added a typed insert on page 20A entitled: “Rebuilding America’s Moral, Spiritual and Political Strength.” The first few lines read: “Finally there is the question of America’s moral-political-spiritual strength. This is the factor of our own national power that the Soviets scrutinize most closely. It is on the basis of their assessment of the levels of this strength that the Soviets make most of their strategic decisions.” (Reagan Library, William Clark Files, US-Soviet Relations Papers, Working File: Contains Originals (13)) None of this suggested section was added to Shultz’s final testimony.

In his note to Clark, Reagan commented: “I read the footnotes loud & clear but believe they fail to recognize some of the problems we are trying to resolve with Congress. At the same time some of them suggest or could be taken as indicating that war is inevitable. I can’t accept that.” (Ibid.) In accordance with Reagan’s note, very few of Lenczowski’s additions and changes were incorporated into the final version of the testimony. In each of the examples above, the testimony remained as it was originally written in the draft.

In his memoir, Shultz recalled: “Several days before testifying, I took a copy over to the White House, gave it to the president, and went over it with him line by line.” Shultz continued: “I got the committee’s attention by telling them of President Reagan’s personal involvement. ‘The President has taken the time not only to talk with me about this, but he has read through this testimony and made a few suggestions,’ I said, adding with a smile, ‘which I found it possible to accept.’ Everyone laughed. I continued, he ‘has signed off on the testimony, so I feel very confident in saying that I am speaking not only for myself but for the President in this statement.’” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, page 276)

During his testimony, the Secretary addressed the primary factors contributing to tensions between the United States and Soviet Union: “A peaceful world order does not require that we and the Soviet Union agree on all the fundamentals of morals or politics. It does require, however, that Moscow’s behavior be subject to the restraint appropriate to living together on this planet in the nuclear age. Not all the many external and internal factors affecting Soviet behavior can be influenced by us. But we take it as part of our obligation to peace to encourage the gradual evolution of the Soviet system toward a more pluralistic political and economic system and, above all, to counter Soviet expansionism through sustained and effective political, economic, and military competition. In the past decade, regrettably, the changes in Soviet behavior have been for the worse. Soviet actions have come into conflict with many of our objectives. They have made the task of managing the Soviet-American relationship considerably harder and have needlessly [Page 196] drawn more and more international problems into the East-West rivalry. To be specific, it is the following developments which have caused us the most concern.” Shultz listed four developments: first, “the continuing Soviet quest for military superiority even in the face of mounting domestic economic difficulties;” second, “the unconstructive Soviet involvement, direct and indirect, in unstable areas of the Third World;” third, “the unrelenting effort to impose an alien Soviet ‘model’ on nominally independent Soviet clients and allies;” and fourth, “Moscow’s continuing practice of stretching a series of treaties and agreements to the brink of violation and beyond.” (Department of State Bulletin, July 1983, pages 66–67)

Shultz explained several ways the United States worked to increase its strength in the face of Soviet challenges: “In a rapidly evolving international environment, there are many fundamental ways the democratic nations can, and must, advance their own goals in the face of the problem posed by the Soviet Union. We must build a durable political consensus at home and within the Atlantic alliance on the nature of the Soviet challenge. We must strengthen our defenses and those of our allies. We must build a common approach within the alliance on the strategic implications of East-West economic relations. And we must compete peacefully and even more effectively with the U.S.S.R. for the political sympathies of the global electorate, especially through the promotion of economic dynamism and democracy throughout the world. Finally, we must continue rebuilding America’s moral-spiritual strength. If sustained over time, these policies can foster a progressively more productive dialogue with the Soviet Union itself.” (Ibid., page 67)

Shultz also listed four items on the U.S. agenda in dealing with the Soviet Union: “To seek improvement in Soviet performance on human rights, which you emphasized, Mr. Chairman [Senator Charles H. Percy], in your opening statement; To reduce the risk of war, reduce armaments through sound agreements, and ultimately ease the burdens of military spending; To manage and resolve regional conflicts; and To improve bilateral relations on the basis of reciprocity and mutual interest. This is a rigorous and comprehensive agenda, and our approach to it is principled, practical, and patient. We have pressed each issue in a variety of forums, bilateral and multilateral. We have made clear that the concerns we raise are not ours alone, but are shared by our allies and friends in every region of the globe. We have made clear that each of our concerns is serious, and the Soviets know that we do not intend to abandon any of them merely because agreement cannot be reached quickly or because agreement has been reached on others.” (Ibid., page 69; brackets are in the original)

Shultz concluded his testimony by examining prospects for improvement in Soviet-American relations: “We have spelled out our [Page 197] requirements—and our hope—for a more constructive relationship with the Soviet Union. The direction in which that relationship evolves will ultimately be determined by the decisions of the Soviet leadership. President Brezhnev’s successors will have to weigh the increased costs and risks of relentless competition against the benefits of a less tense international environment in which they could more adequately address the rising expectations of their own citizens. While we can define their alternatives, we cannot decipher their intentions. To a degree unequaled anywhere else, Russia in this respect remains a secret. Its history, of which this secrecy is such an integral part, provides no basis for expecting a dramatic change. And yet it also teaches that gradual change is possible. For our part, we seek to encourage change by a firm but flexible U.S. strategy, resting on a broad consensus, that we can sustain over the long term whether the Soviet Union changes or not. If the democracies can meet this challenge, they can achieve the goals of which President Reagan spoke at Los Angeles: both defend freedom and preserve the peace.” (Ibid., page 72)

On June 27, the Embassy in Moscow reported on Soviet reactions to the Secretary’s testimony: a “June 24 article by Izvestiya political observer S. Kondrashov sharply criticizes the Secretary’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 15 as sounding conciliatory, but, in fact, presenting no new U.S. approach toward the Soviet Union. Kondrashov notes that the Secretary’s speech had been called the ‘most detailed, comprehensive description to date’ of the Reagan administration’s approach to U.S.-Soviet relations and that the President ‘looked over’ the speech himself, ‘corrected’ it and ‘gave it his blessing’. Kondrashov accuses Shultz of supporting President Reagan’s ‘crusade’ against the Soviet Union, claiming that while Shultz’s approach is ‘more measured’, his desire to ‘encourage the gradual evolution of the Soviet system’ is just a sweeter way of pushing for ‘interference in the Soviet Union’s internal affairs.’” The Embassy commented: “Kondrashov’s rejection of the sincerity of the U.S.’s ‘flexible’ and ‘conciliatory’ approach to arms control talks follows the standard Soviet line. His vehement opposition to the Secretary’s remarks on bilateral relations, and to what he views as unwarranted attempts to interfere in Soviet internal affairs, shows Moscow’s continued sensitivity to the U.S. ideological offensive.” (Telegram 8095 from Moscow, June 27; Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D830364–0999)