Structure and Scope of the Foreign Relations Series

This volume is part of a subseries of volumes of the Foreign Relations series that documents the most important issues in the foreign policy of the administration of Ronald Reagan. This volume documents U.S. bilateral relations with the Soviet Union from January 1983 to March 1985. Due to the importance of U.S.-Soviet relations during the Reagan administration, the Reagan subseries includes an extensive examination of U.S. bilateral relations with the Soviet Union in four volumes: Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, Volume III, Soviet Union, January 1981–January 1983; Volume IV, Soviet Union, January 1983–March 1985; Volume V, Soviet Union, March 1985–October 1986; and Volume VI, Soviet Union, October 1986–January 1989. In conjunction with these volumes, several other volumes in the subseries will provide the reader with a fuller understanding of how U.S.-Soviet relations impacted the global character of the Cold War and U.S. strategy during the Reagan era. For documentation on U.S.-Soviet nuclear arms control negotiations, see Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, Volume XI, START I, and Volume XII, INF, 1984–1988. Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, Volume V, European Security, 1977–1983, documents the NATO dual-track decision and TNF/INF negotiations through 1983. Documentation dealing with nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear testing, chemical and biological weapons, and space arms control, including anti-satellite systems, will be published in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, Volume XL, Global Issues I. The development of the Strategic Defense Initiative and ABM-related issues and other strategic considerations are addressed in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, Volume XLIII, National Security Policy, 1981–1984, and Volume XLIV, Parts 1 and 2, National Security Policy, 1985–1988. For selected documentation on the human rights situation in the Soviet Union, see Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, Volume XLI, Global Issues II.

Focus of Research and Principles of Selection for Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, Volume IV

This volume documents the development of the Reagan administration’s policies toward the Soviet Union from January 1983 to March 1985. With Reagan’s signature of National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 75 on January 17, 1983, the administration’s approaches and policies toward the Soviet Union were codified in a specific four-part agenda: arms control, human rights, regional issues, and bilateral relations. This volume examines the efforts of administration officials, [Page X] namely Secretary of State George Shultz, President’s Assistants for National Security Affairs William Clark and later Robert McFarlane, and NSC Staff member Jack Matlock, to implement the four-part agenda in dealing with the Soviet Union. The documentation demonstrates how administration officials developed policies related to the four-part agenda, mainly in the National Security Council (NSC) and Department of State, and then promoted these various tracks during meetings between Shultz, and on occasion Reagan, and Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko in various fora. Although no high-level meeting took place between Reagan and either Soviet General Secretaries Yuri Andropov or Konstantin Chernenko during their short tenures, the documents provide a window into how the Reagan administration viewed the Soviet leadership and formulated policies to deal with whomever was in charge.

The volume also documents the bureaucratic struggle Shultz faced against the NSC in implementing the four-part agenda laid out by NSDD 75 and in gaining access to President Reagan. After some wrangling, by June 1983 an understanding emerged between Shultz and Clark, which allowed Shultz regular weekly meetings with Reagan. When Jack Matlock joined the NSC Staff as primary adviser on the Soviet Union, Shultz gained a like-minded ally in approaches to dealing with the USSR. While some administration officials, such as Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, consistently argued that negotiating with the Soviet Union seemed futile, Shultz, Matlock, and others pushed President Reagan to see the value in keeping lines of communication open with the Soviets. Even during tragic events, such as the Soviet downing of the KAL 007 airliner in September 1983, Shultz kept his meeting with Gromyko a few days later in Madrid and used this as an opportunity to admonish the Foreign Minister for this inexplicable act and the inability of the Soviet Union to admit fault on the international stage.

The volume documents several Cold War flashpoints during the contentious months of 1983. The announcement in March 1983 of Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) caused concern for the Soviet Union because it shifted the strategic balance from the theory of mutually assured destruction toward a defensive nuclear posture. Aside from the downing of the KAL airliner, the Euromissiles crisis came to a head with U.S. deployments of INF missiles to several NATO allies in late November 1983. While the bulk of the documentation dealing with these negotiations is covered in two other volumes, the scheduled deployments permeated all other aspects of U.S.-Soviet relations in 1983. The volume also presents selective documentation related to the 1983 Soviet “War Scare” and the November 1983 NATO nuclear exercise, Able Archer (see Appendix A). The volume attempts to dem[Page XI]onstrate that even with these challenges, Shultz and others pressed to keep moving ahead with the four-part agenda and promote greater dialogue in U.S.-Soviet relations.

After the Soviet walkout of the INF negotiations in Geneva in late 1983, the administration focused throughout 1984 on developing a framework to restart arms control negotiations; the documents in this volume demonstrate the difficulties involved in opening new talks with the Soviet Union. Reagan’s SDI program continued to cause problems. The Soviets believed SDI would “militarize space,” and therefore the debates over how SDI would be dealt with during negotiations were a major point of contention during this period. When Shultz and Gromyko met in January 1985, they finally reached an agreement on a new round of umbrella negotiations. The Nuclear and Space Talks (NST), scheduled to begin in Geneva in March 1985, would have three tracks, START, INF, and Defense and Space. The documents in the volume trace how various positions from the Department of State, NSC, the Department of Defense, and the Central Intelligence Agency impacted the decision to move forward with the three arms control tracks. While the other parts of the four-part agenda remained in play during this period and were discussed in bilateral meetings, restarting arms control talks seemed to trump the other areas of concern. Little did the U.S. or Soviet negotiators know that on the eve of these new NST negotiations, Chernenko would die, and a younger, more ambitious Soviet leader would emerge and dramatically change the course of U.S.-Soviet relations.


The editor wishes to acknowledge the invaluable assistance of officials at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, especially Lisa Jones and Cate Sewell. A special thanks to the Central Intelligence Agency staff for providing access and assistance with Reagan Library materials scanned for the Remote Archive Capture project, and to the History Staff of the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence for arranging full access to CIA records. The editor wishes to acknowledge the staff at Information Programs and Services at the Department of State for facilitating access to Department of State records and coordinating the review of this volume within the Department. Sandy Meagher was helpful in providing access to Department of Defense materials. The editor extends thanks to the family and executor of the Estate of former Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger for granting Department of State historians access to the personal papers of Secretary Weinberger deposited at the Library of Congress. Additional thanks are due to officials of the Library of Congress Manuscript Division for facilitating that access.

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Elizabeth C. Charles collected, selected, and annotated the documentation for this volume under the supervision of David Geyer, Chief of the Europe Division, and Adam Howard, then General Editor of the Foreign Relations series. The volume was reviewed by David Geyer and then Historian Stephen Randolph. Kerry Hite and Chris Tudda coordinated the declassification review under the supervision of Carl Ashley, Chief of the Declassification Coordination Division. Kerry Hite also performed the copy and technical editing under the supervision of Mandy Chalou, Chief of the Editing and Publishing Division.

Elizabeth C. Charles, Ph.D.