1. Letter From President Reagan to Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev1

Dear Mr. General Secretary:

As you assume your new responsibilities, I would like to take this opportunity to underscore my hope that we can in the months and years ahead develop a more stable and constructive relationship between our two countries. Our differences are many, and we will need to proceed in a way that takes both differences and common interests into account in seeking to resolve problems and build a new measure of trust and confidence. But history places on us a very heavy responsibility for maintaining and strengthening peace, and I am convinced [Page 2] we have before us new opportunities to do so. Therefore I have requested the Vice President to deliver this letter to you.

I believe our differences can and must be resolved through discussion and negotiation. The international situation demands that we redouble our efforts to find political solutions to the problems we face. I valued my correspondence with Chairman Chernenko, and believe my meetings with First Deputy Prime Minister Gromyko and Mr. Shcherbitsky here in Washington2 were useful in clarifying views and issues and making it possible to move forward to deal with them in a practical and realistic fashion.

In recent months we have demonstrated that it is possible to resolve problems to mutual benefit. We have had useful exchanges on certain regional issues, and I am sure you are aware that American interest in progress on humanitarian issues remains as strong as ever. In our bilateral relations, we have signed a number of new agreements, and we have promising negotiations underway in several important fields. Most significantly, the negotiations we have agreed to begin in Geneva provide us with a genuine chance to make progress toward our common ultimate goal of eliminating nuclear weapons.

It is important for us to build on these achievements. You can be assured of my personal commitment to work with you and the rest of the Soviet leadership in serious negotiations. In that spirit, I would like to invite you to visit me in Washington at your earliest convenient opportunity. I recognize that an early answer may not be possible, but I want you to know that I look forward to a meeting that could yield results of benefit to both our countries and to the international community as a whole.


Ronald Reagan
  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Head of State File, U.S.S.R.: General Secretary Gorbachev (8590272, 8590336). No classification marking. On March 11, Reagan wrote in his personal diary: “Awakened at 4 A.M. to be told Chernenko is dead. My mind turned to whether I should attend the funeral. My gut instinct said no. Got to the office at 9. George S. had some arguments that I should—he lost. I don’t think his heart was really in it. George B. is in Geneva—he’ll go & George S. will join him leaving tonight.” He continued: “Word has been received that Gorbachev has been named head man in the Soviet.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, vol. I: January 1981–October 1985, p. 434) According to the President’s Daily Diary, Shultz and Reagan met in the Oval Office on March 11 from approximately 2 to 2:30 p.m. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) Presumably Shultz delivered this letter to Reagan during the meeting for his approval and signature. In a March 11 covering memorandum to Gregg and McFarlane, Platt transmitted a draft of the letter and explained that the letter should be “hand delivered by Vice President Bush to incoming General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev.” Bush traveled to Moscow as the official U.S. representative at Chernenko’s funeral, along with Shultz and Ambassador Hartman. They met with Gorbachev on March 13; see Document 5.
  2. Reagan met with Gromyko in Washington on September 28, 1984, and with Vladimir Shcherbitsky, a member of the Soviet Politburo, also in Washington, on March 7, 1985. See Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. IV, Soviet Union, January 1983–March 1985, Documents 286287 and 378.