130. Note From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (McFarlane) to President Reagan1

Mr. President,

In follow up to your direction that we give some thought to how we might form a cooperative SDI research/development program, my staff has been thinking and consulting quietly with outside experts. They have come up with one rather novel idea—a jointly manned spacelab from which experiments would be conducted on applied technologies holding promise of intercepting ballistic missiles in flight. We would also invite the other nuclear powers to participate (Brits, French and Chinese).

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Clearly there are some things we ought not share—supercomputers, for example. But this concept is worth pursuing in my judgment. Is this the sort of thing you had in mind?



Paper Prepared by the National Security Council Staff2

Points on Sharing SDI Technology with the Soviets

1. Sharing our SDI technology with the Soviet Union is one way to ease the transition from a world of nuclear offenses to anti-nuclear defenses. But we must remember that it is one thing for the U.S. and the Soviet Union to move independently along parallel tracks towards a world in which they have better defenses and less offenses. It is a very different matter for the Soviet Union to be building its defenses and future offensive systems with full knowledge of our defensive technology. For example, if we told the Soviets how we searched for and tracked ballistic missiles, they would have a much better idea of how to evade that search. While we do not object to Soviet defenses, we should not teach them how to beat our defenses, particularly at a time when their offensive force is larger than ours.

2. Sharing SDI technology could reduce our technological lead in non-nuclear military areas. SDI technology, in many cases, can be used to strengthen other Soviet military capabilities. Super computers will be at the heart of SDI. Sharing those with the Soviets would also help the Soviets find our submarines, and design better fighter aircraft. We must eliminate the threat of nuclear war. We must not do so at the price of increasing Soviet non-nuclear military capabilities.

3. We have gone to our European allies and asked them to help with our SDI research. If we now give it to the Soviets for free, they will be justly upset. They, and the Chinese, will view U.S.-Soviet collaboration on SDI as a project that will neutralize their small nuclear arsenals. How will China feel if its small nuclear force is neutralized by Soviet defenses using American technology, while the Soviets still have hundreds of missiles aimed at China? We should think more [Page 537] about how to share our military technology in sensitive areas with our allies before we begin to share it with the Soviets.

4. The Soviets, however, have been attacking us for “militarizing space.” This, of course, is incorrect; they militarized space long ago. But if we proposed joint, multi-national research into the feasibility of space-based anti-ballistic missile weapons, their attacks on us might be answered. This research could take the form of the Apollo-Soyuz space mission of the mid-1970s. We could talk to the Soviets about creating an international space-lab to do research into non-nuclear ways to destroy ballistic missiles in flight. As with Apollo-Soyuz, we would be careful not to transfer technology that would have undesirable military applications (other than ABM, of course). We should invite Great Britain, France, and China to participate, since their nuclear ballistic missile forces would be affected as well. The fruits of that research would be unclassified, and would be made available to all, as is done with other forms of scientific research.

5. The first step would be to propose to the Soviets a scientific commission involving the five nuclear ballistic missile powers to investigate the possibility of international manned experiments in space on anti-ballistic missile weapons.

6. We would continue with our existing SDI research in the meantime, just as we would expect the Soviets to continue their own independent work on anti-ballistic missile defenses.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Robert McFarlane Files, Chronological File, Sensitive Chron 1985; NLR–362–7–40–10–7. Secret.
  2. Secret.