20. Memorandum From Jack Matlock of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (McFarlane)1


  • President’s Reply to Gorbachev Letter of March 24

I have reviewed State’s draft reply to Gorbachev,2 and I believe that it is not an effective response to the Gorbachev letter.3 Not that I object to any of the substance per se, but rather to the pedestrian approach, which is devoid of personality and reeks of being staff-written. We can do better, and I believe we should try before asking the President to approve it.

Specifically, my objections are the following:

—It does not really engage Gorbachev in a dialogue. Now that there is a Soviet leader who reads his mail and who seems to enjoy a spirited debate, I believe that the President should engage him on some key issues. His letter provides several openings, and we should exploit them.

—Although it was written to include items from each element on our agenda, it really comes through as a grab-bag of disparate issues. It should be tightened, made more selective, and given a focus on some of the key issues.

Although I understand that Secretary Shultz would like to provide the letter to Dobrynin tomorrow, I believe we should take more time with it and make sure it is the best we can do. (Shultz has a number of other agenda items to take up with Dobrynin, so the letter is not really necessary for the meeting.) In principle, I think it would be better to have Hartman deliver it anyway. He will be going back to Moscow next week and it would be useful to give him the opportunity to schedule a discussion with Gromyko on the basis of his consultations here.

I am working on a redraft, and hope that we can avoid undue haste in making final decisions on the text.

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That you suggest to Secretary Shultz that we work on the text further, with the goal of having something ready for the President by the end of the week.4

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Jack Matlock Files, Head of State Correspondence (US-USSR) April 1985 (1 of 3). Secret; Sensitive. Sent for action.
  2. A draft letter, dated April 15, is attached but not printed.
  3. See Document 10.
  4. McFarlane initialed the “Approve” option and wrote in the margin: “done 4/16. He agrees.”