66. Memorandum From Secretary of State Shultz to President Reagan1


  • Goals and Priorities

Attached is my reply to your memorandum of June 7, in which you asked me to identify our goals and priorities in foreign policy over the next 18 months.2

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Paper Prepared in the Department of State3


In your memorandum to Cap and me on June 7, you asked us to identify the priority objectives in foreign policy on which we should concentrate our energies over the next 18 months, with special emphasis on your activity and involvement. This paper lists these priorities and lays out our strategy for pursuing them.

As your memorandum said, we have achieved a great deal in the first half of this Presidential term. In the second half of the term, however, we will need to start drawing dividends from our efforts. The restoration of our military strength, our firmness with the Soviets, the greater unity of the allies, and the promising initiatives we have launched in many areas are a solid foundation from which we can now move forward. The next six months—before the full Presidential campaign begins—are particularly important.


Our foreign policy priorities through the remainder of this term, it seems to me, are the following:

—We must maintain allied cohesion through the difficult period of INF deployment. This will require intensive Presidential contacts with key allied leaders (including Japan); public diplomacy to neutralize the expected sharp Soviet reaction to our deployment; and efforts to ensure that the Soviets, and not we, are blamed if negotiations fail.

—We should use our new leverage with the Soviets to explore the possibilities of constructive dialogue aiming at visible progress on our own agenda, including arms control. The question of a summit should be considered in terms of whether it is a way to make the Soviets face up to the long-term direction of our relationship and whether it is an effective way to demonstrate to our public and our allies that we are not to blame for any tensions.

[Omitted here is material unrelated to the Soviet Union.]

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Success or failure in any one of these areas will affect our success or failure in the others. Our success in holding the democracies together obviously will affect our negotiations with the Soviets, and vice versa. Success in the Middle East would affect our Alliance relationships; a setback in Central America would weaken us in all areas. Bearing in mind these interrelationships, let me discuss each of the priority areas in turn.

The Democracies and INF

The electoral victories of Thatcher, Kohl, and Nakasone are reflections of a strengthened resolve among our democratic allies, and the Williamsburg Summit showed an impressive unity among free world nations. Nevertheless, we are still basically dealing with an uncertain and dispirited Europe, as reflected in the deep polarization in some societies (particularly West Germany). Therefore, it will be no easy task to help these leaders manage through this critical year. Plans have been announced for very large and possibly violent “peace” demonstrations this fall. This will put unprecedented strain on allied solidarity and on West Germany’s political cohesion. The Soviets will try to lure wavering allies into seeking a “delay” of INF deployments while negotiations continue, threatening new missile deployments and an increase in tensions if NATO deployments go forward.

Our strategy for maintaining allied unity in support of deployment will require, first of all, continual consultation at the highest level, drawing heavily on your close personal relationship with the key leaders. Bilateral and perhaps multilateral meetings with key leaders may well be essential as the December date of deployment approaches (particularly with the heads of government of the three initial basing countries: FRG, UK, and Italy). You will need to stay in constant touch with all of them. Next year’s UK-hosted Economic Summit will undoubtedly be an important occasion for reaffirming allied cohesion and our willingness to negotiate with the Soviets on INF.

The second key component of our strategy will be public diplomacy. A bellicose posture is risky for the Soviets, since it could forfeit much of what they have gained through detente in Europe; we should be prepared to exploit it. As the Soviets prepare to stir up tensions to intimidate the allies, our job is to prepare the allies psychologically so they are not shaken by these pressures, and to ensure that European publics place the blame squarely on the Soviets for whatever tensions arise.

Related to this is the third component: our negotiating strategy toward the Soviets on INF. The allies will want reassurance that we have negotiated in good faith and that the blame for failure rests on [Page 217] the Soviets. This may require, down the road, some agile maneuvering and tactical flexibility, at least in presentation. Whether or not we make any further adjustments in our negotiating position, a major Presidential speech on arms control may be helpful at the appropriate moment.

A possible US-Soviet summit could come after the Soviets have given up hope of delaying the start of INF deployments. That timing would put you in the best position to move the dialogue to your agenda. Any such summit, in any case, should probably also be preceded by your meeting with at least Thatcher, Kohl, Mitterrand, and the Italians in Europe.

A Dialogue with the Soviets

Over the next 18 months, we are sure to come under increasing pressure at home and abroad to do more to improve Soviet-American relations and in particular to hold a summit meeting between you and Andropov.

At a minimum a summit could help demonstrate to our public and our allies that we are pursuing every avenue of possible progress, and that if no progress results, the Soviets are to blame. However, while the shaping of public attitudes is important, our real starting point in assessing a possible summit should be whether it contributes to attaining our policy goals.

Looking to the next year and a half we can distinguish between our minimum objectives in US-Soviet relations and a series of more ambitious but still reasonable goals:

—Regional conflicts: at a minimum, our aim is no new Soviet gain or critical US setback owing to Soviet sponsorship; if possible, a Soviet retreat from a major geopolitical position (e.g., Angola, Nicaragua).

—Arms talks: at a minimum, no uncompensated sacrifice of key Western weapon systems; if possible, a breakthrough agreement on acceptable principles.

—Human rights: at a minimum, sustaining unified Western pressures for improved Soviet performance; if possible, a major dissident release or emigration increase.

Our record to date gives reason for confidence that all the minimum goals are attainable. By the standards of the 70’s this will represent a real achievement. It will require vigilance and effort, especially to sustain public support at critical junctures.

What is less certain is whether meeting our minimum goals is sufficient for sustaining the tougher, more realistic policies this Administration has introduced. I believe that putting the superpower relationship on a more satisfactory footing for the long term may depend in part on whether we can move beyond minimum goals in the short term. [Page 218] If not, our policies may be vulnerable to charges of a poor return on our investment (and allowed to unravel, as happened to even the Nixon-Ford policies under Carter). Particularly if the Soviets react to our INF deployments by increasing tensions, the payoff for our firm approach may be still further questioned.

Protecting our minimum goals over the rest of the decade may depend, in short, on making a serious effort to attain at least some of our more ambitious objectives. For this purpose, the leverage we have developed over the past two years—especially our military strength as leverage in the arms talks, and the public consensus that gives all our policies credibility—will be invaluable. However, it is likely that we will have to give increasing attention, as in any negotiation, to defining acceptable adjustments in the two sides’ positions. And we will have to find ways of bringing these issues to a decision point for the Soviets.

My judgment is that a summit may prove a useful device for focusing Soviet attention on the longer-term direction of our relationship. While it cannot by itself substitute for leverage developed in other ways, it may help us to put this leverage to the test.

The prime worry in connection with a prospective summit is how to ensure public understanding of an event which might well produce only limited results or no results at all. I believe this problem will be manageable, especially as your political position continues to strengthen.

If the Soviets prove utterly inflexible and we end up having to tough out the next 18 months without any improvement in US-Soviet relations, we will not necessarily be any worse off whether or not a summit has taken place. In either case, we will face the real job of showing that the Soviets are to blame. Avoiding a summit will not free us of this task.

The problem of public expectations applies not just to a summit that does not produce results but perhaps even more to one that does. You will have to make a major effort to control expectations generated by whatever agreements we are able to achieve. We will need to make clear—within the government, in public, and to the Soviets—that we are capable of sustaining a competitive posture even if the Soviets try to use agreement in one area as a kind of safety valve. To put Soviet-American relations on this secure footing for the long term may be as challenging as restoring our competitive posture in the first place.

On balance, I believe you would enter a summit in a relatively strong position. Precisely because you will not need the meeting to attain your minimum goals, you should be able to shift the negotiating burden to the Soviets. But even if a summit does not produce major progress, as is quite possible, it could have some tangible benefits. The [Page 219] preparations are likely to have a constraining effect on Soviet conduct, and the follow-up to a summit could be quite productive if it became clear to the Soviets that the fact of holding it had strengthened your hand.

Making a decision in principle, of course, would still leave many issues unresolved—timing, preparations, content, and (perhaps crucially) how to protect against the possibility of failure. My tentative view is that a meeting relatively early next year might be desirable, especially to help keep the INF confrontation within bounds. If Andropov comes to the UN General Assembly in the fall, we will face a different set of considerations, which must be carefully examined. These questions will require thorough consideration over the rest of this summer, so that we can have in place by the fall a plan that can be well insulated against the coming Presidential campaign season. I will be sending you further analyses of these questions in the next several weeks.

[Omitted here is material unrelated to the Soviet Union.]

  1. Source: Department of State, S/P, Memoranda/Correspondence from the Director of the Policy Planning Staff, Lot 89D149, S/P Chrons PW 6/16–30/83. Secret; Sensitive. Hill initialed for Shultz. On June 23, Bosworth sent Hill a draft of the memorandum and attached paper, which Hill forwarded to Clark. Hill commented in a covering note to Clark “Attached is the Secretary of State’s reply to the President’s memorandum of June 7 on our foreign policy goals and priorities over the next 18 months. We have treated this reply as particularly sensitive and have not distributed it in the Department of State. It includes, at the end, an annex on Presidential travel which refers to some sensitive matters discussed between the President and the Secretary. If this paper is given a wider circulation (which we do not recommend), you have the option of detaching the last section.” (Ibid). On June 13, in a memorandum to Bosworth, Shultz wrote: “I look to you to organize a discussion of this important subject sometime within the next 10 days. It seems to me that all the members of your council should be included. We might consider, also, some people outside of the Department, in Government or out. I am not suggesting a gigantic meeting but some way of organizing discussions promptly and aggressively.” (Ibid.)
  2. On June 7, the President sent Weinberger and Shultz a memorandum asking them “to reflect on the demands and opportunities in your respective areas and submit as detailed a forecast of your recommendations as possible. By forecast, I intend your priority objectives together with your prescription of the actions/milestones along the way to meeting them.” The memorandum continued: “I ask that Bill Clark convene a meeting soon to review our thoughts and then to seek your help in integrating these individual efforts into an overall strategic agenda by the first of July.” (Ibid.) The memorandum is in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. I, Foundations of Foreign Policy, Document 155.
  3. Secret/Sensitive. An earlier version of the cover memorandum indicates the paper was drafted by Rodman. (Department of State, S/P, Memoranda/Correspondence from the Director of the Policy Planning Staff, Lot 89D149, S/P Chrons PW 6/16–30/83)