179. Memorandum From the Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State on Arms Control Matters (Rowny) to Secretary of State Shultz1

Mr. Secretary,

In a memo last August, I described Gorbachev as an example of the “‘New Soviet Man’: young, articulate, and relatively unencumbered by dogmatic adherence to the status quo.”2 At the time, I had expected it would take longer for Gorbachev to solidify his power base. The swiftness with which he has managed to change the complexion of the Politburo and the Central Committee is remarkable.

Although Gorbachev is a product of the nomenklatura, and has been put in by them to protect their interests, it appears now that Gorbachev feels secure in his position. He has gotten his own people behind him and believes he can break the mold of past arms control proposals.

I would feel better about this proposal if Gorbachev’s letter to the President had not been accompanied by the separate news release.3 He has taken this page directly from our own Public Diplomacy manuals. I recommend that we low-key our official response, and try to get things back into quiet channels.

This reinforces my strong belief that we need a public diplomacy czar like the Dailey-run operation in 1982.4 We need to nip in the bud the notion that the Soviets have responded to the CCP.

Gorbachev has given us his own version of a “no lose” situation. If we reject the proposal, he is seen as the great visionary and we the villains.

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We must take this proposal, therefore, and attempt to turn it to our own advantage.

Our normal knee-jerk response to Soviet initiatives has been to say, “It contains significant pitfalls, but we will study it.” Of course it has great propaganda appeal. Of course it has the unacceptable condition that we give up SDI. Of course it will have great appeal to our European Allies and act to split us from them. Of course it is lacking in essential specifics regarding verification. However, now is not the time to be negative toward this proposal.

Rather, we should acknowledge the unique, unprecedented sweep of this proposal and adopt the attitude that Gorbachev has recognized the appeal of the President’s message and has concluded that he must respond.

The President has said that it is his goal ultimately to rid the world of nuclear weapons. With that in mind, let us respond to Mr. Gorbachev by telling him we welcome his proposal, are interested in it, and challenge him to come up with details in Geneva.

Such a broad-gauged, upbeat, positive response should be all that we say at this time. I will provide you my detailed comments on the proposal separately.5

Ed Rowny6
  1. Source: Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, Executive Secretariat Sensitive (01/16/1986–01/17/1986); NLR–775–15–7–4–4. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Not found.
  3. See the attachment to Document 177.
  4. Reference is to the Ambassador to Ireland Peter Dailey, whom Reagan appointed as Chairman of the European Security and Arms Control Public Diplomacy Committee, but in 1983, not 1982. In his memoir, Shultz wrote: “Peter Dailey, our ambassador to Ireland and a man skilled in what we called public diplomacy, had been asked by the president to help out in the year of the missile, 1983. The Soviets were proceeding with a heavy hand, I told Dailey on January 18, ‘but they may have stepped in a hole by using threats,’ causing resentment by their overbearing approach. Dailey urged us to speak about the outcome we sought rather than the process. ‘The process, arms control, means weapons. What we want to talk about is peace,’ he said.” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, pp. 162–163)
  5. In a separate memorandum, January 16, Rowny provided Shultz with a three-page overview of the proposal. (Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, Executive Secretariat Sensitive (01/16/1986–01/17/1986); NLR–775–15–7–3–5)
  6. Rowny signed “Ed” above his typed signature.