183. Information Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs (Ridgway) to Secretary of State Shultz 1


  • Gorbachev’s Arms Control Proposal: A Reflection of Assertive Leadership

The NST elements of Gorbachev’s January 15 initiative have grabbed the headlines, and, as we have noted elsewhere, may well represent an important evolution in Moscow’s positions in some areas (e.g. INF). There are other aspects of the proposals, however, which are also worth noting. One involves moves in non-NST arms control negotiations; another, perhaps even more important, is what the initiative tells us about Gorbachev’s domestic position.

Other Arms Control Moves

Gorbachev also announced moves on nuclear testing, MBFR, CDE, and CW. The moves were not major concessions, but they did make unreasonable Soviet positions a bit less unreasonable. They included:

Nuclear Testing: A three-month extension on the unilateral Soviet moratorium (the Soviets traditionally do not schedule many tests during the winter).

CDE: Readiness to defer notification of naval exercises until the second phase of CDE. They are still pushing for notification of air exercises. Independent air and naval activities are both explicitly excluded from the CDE mandate.

MBFR: Acceptance of permanent manned entry points for verifying forces entering the MBFR reductions area—something we have insisted upon for years as a necessary element of any meaningful verification regime. They did not respond to the verification proposals made in the latest Western proposal, including up to 30 challenge inspections annually.

CW: Support for prompt declaration and eventual destruction of CW production facilities, as well as destruction of CW stockpiles, to take place under “international on-site verification;” and a ban on transfer of CW to third countries. While the Soviets have, of course, [Page 793] been violators of past CW agreements, there has been less evidence of such violations under Gorbachev. Combined with Gorbachev’s Geneva non-proliferation statement, this latest move may foreshadow a more forthcoming Soviet stance on some CW issues than in the past.

Implications for Gorbachev’s Domestic Position

These steps in non-NST arms control fora, while by no means adequate, are moves in our direction. Like Gorbachev’s decision to put off compensation for British and French systems in INF, they cannot have been popular with the Soviet military.2 Indeed, they come in the wake of evidence of strains between Gorbachev and his top military brass. That Gorbachev was able to force these decisions through in the face of probable military opposition, at a time when preparations for the February Party Congress and the far-reaching personnel and programmatic changes which will accompany it are reaching a critical stage, suggests that his position is extremely strong. A leader so clearly able to have his way on controversial issues at such a time is—in contrast to his predecessors—one with whom a serious give-and-take, and ultimately a balanced agreement on arms control should be possible.3

  1. Source: Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, Executive Secretariat Sensitive (01/18/1986–01/21/1986); NLR–775–15–8–10–6. Secret; Sensitive. Sent through Armacost, who did not initial the memorandum. Drafted by Fried and Schoettle on January 17; cleared by Parris, Palmer, Burton, Caldwell, and Thielmann. Fried initialed for all the clearing officials.
  2. In a January 27 information memorandum to Shultz, Rodman wrote in the summary: “Our knowledge of Gorbachev’s relations with the Soviet military is very sketchy, and we cannot be sure that Soviet Generals are uniformly opposed to his present posture on arms control. There may well be a diversity of views in the Soviet military. Under these circumstances, we should be cautious in allowing speculation about civil-military strains in the USSR to influence our policy.” (Department of State, S/P, Memoranda/Correspondence from the Director of the Policy Planning Staff, Lot 89D149, S/P Chrons January 1986)
  3. In his memorandum to Shultz (see footnote 2, above), Rodman continued: “I read with interest Ambassador Ridgway’s January 21 memorandum to you, in which she stressed that Gorbachev’s arms control proposal is a reflection of his assertive leadership and his strong position in the Kremlin. Although I concur with Ambassador Ridgway’s view that Gorbachev is an assertive, politically secure leader, I would be more cautious in concluding that Gorbachev pushed through his proposal against the opposition of the Soviet military. We know far too little about internal Soviet debates to support conclusions of this kind.”