70. Letter From President Reagan to Soviet General Secretary Andropov1

Dear Gen. Secretary Andropov

I appreciate very much your letter pledging an, “unbending commitment of the Soviet leadership and the people of the Soviet Union to the course of peace, the elimination of the nuclear threat and the development of relations based on mutual benefit and equality with all nations.”

Let me assure you the government & the people of the United States are dedicated to, “the course of peace” and “the elimination of the nuclear threat.” It goes without saying that we also seek relations with all nations based on “mutual benefit and equality.” Our record since we were allied in W.W. II confirms that.2

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Mr. General Secretary could we not begin to approach these goals in the meetings now going on in Geneva? You and I share an enormous responsibility for the preservation of stability in the world. I believe we can fulfill that mandate but to do so will require a more active level of exchange than we have heretofore been able to establish. We have much to talk about with regard to the situation in Eastern Europe, South Asia, and particularly this hemisphere as well as in such areas as arms control, trade between our two countries and other ways in which we can expand east-west contacts.

Historically our predecessors have made better progress when communicating has been private and candid. If you wish to engage in such communication you will find me ready. I await your reply.


Ronald Reagan
  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Head of State File, U.S.S.R.: General Secretary Andropov (8290913, 8391028, 8391032). No classification marking. The editor transcribed the letter from Reagan’s handwritten original. An image of the handwritten letter is Appendix C. In his memoir, Shultz noted: “I later discovered that the president had shown his first draft to Bill Clark and, on the advice of Clark, he had taken out the sentences ‘If we can agree on mutual, verifiable reductions in the number of nuclear weapons we both hold, could this not be a first step toward elimination of all such weapons? What a blessing this would be for the people we both represent.’ President Reagan was consistently committed to his personal vision of a world without nuclear weapons; his advisers were determined to turn him away from that course.” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, p. 360)
  2. On June 17, Reagan sent Andropov a letter of congratulations upon his election as Chairman of the Presidium. (Reagan Library, Jack Matlock Files, USSR Subject File, Andropov (4)) On June 22, Andropov sent a short reply including the lines Reagan quotes in his letter. (Ibid.) In a July 6 memorandum to the President, Clark wrote: “Andropov’s reply (Tab A) to your congratulatory message avoids the code words known to be offensive to us (such as ‘peaceful coexistence’). However, instead of speaking of working together, as you did in your message, he implies in his last sentence that the burden of proof is on us to take ‘practical steps.’

    “This thrust is consistent with Gromyko’s recent comments on the prospects for a summit, which also implied that a change in U.S. policy is necessary. I consider this an obvious but not surprising attempt to position the Soviets as the aggrieved party. The main implication for our own public statements is to continue the same cautious, non-committal line we have followed up to now in commenting on the prospects for a summit meeting.” (Ibid.) Reagan initialed Clark’s memorandum, indicating he saw it.