233. Memorandum From Secretary of State Shultz to President Reagan1


  • Letter to General Secretary Gorbachev

I noted in my recent discussions with you that, as a result of Chernobyl and other events since last year’s summit, the Soviets are becoming increasingly defensive and withdrawn.2 Much of this problem is of their own making, and you are under no obligation to make a special effort to bring them back to a more active negotiating posture. Nevertheless, the current Soviet mood undermines the prospects for significant progress in our own agenda. A prolonged deadlock in U.S.-Soviet relations also may increase the electoral difficulties facing such strong supporters of yours as Mrs. Thatcher and Helmut Kohl. An American act of statesmanship now could go a long way to helping us on both these scores in the months ahead.

As I mentioned to you last week, I think the time is right for a forward-looking personal letter to Gorbachev which notes your dissatisfaction with results since the summit, tells him the time for recrimination is over, picks up his suggestions for cooperation on nuclear reactor [Page 962] safety, reminds him of the ideas you gave Dobrynin in April,3 and urges him to get down to business. The letter also notes that, given Gorbachev’s stress on atmospherics, you will make a speech in the near future on U.S.-Soviet relations. A draft letter is attached.4 We will provide a draft speech text in the next few days.

In addition, I strongly recommend that you receive Armand Hammer and Dr. Robert Gale (the physician who treated many of the Chernobyl victims) on Thursday.5 Both met recently with Gorbachev and may be able to provide fresh insights on his current thinking. In addition, the meeting would provide an excellent opportunity to underscore your support for greater cooperation between the U.S. and Soviet peoples despite recent tensions in the relationship.6

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Head of State File, USSR: General Secretary Gorbachev (8690389, 8690420). Secret; Sensitive.
  2. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Reagan met with Shultz on May 14, 1–1:52 p.m., and on May 16, 1:31–2:10 p.m. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) See also footnote 1, Document 227.
  3. See Document 212.
  4. Not attached. In his memoir, Shultz wrote: “I sent the president a draft of a letter for him to send to Gorbachev, just as a way of making these ideas operational. Let’s get started on our mutual objective of eliminating nuclear weapons by working first on major reductions in strategic systems, the draft said. While pressing in this way for START, I remembered that Dobrynin had told me that Gorbachev felt INF was possible. I thought so, too. A verifiable treaty on significant reductions of such weapons would be a far-reaching step. And the political impact of removing all of those missiles—the zero-zero outcome—would be historic.” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, p. 717) See also Document 231.
  5. Thursday was May 22. In telegram 8356, May 16, the Embassy in Moscow reported on the May 15 meeting of Gale and Hammer with Gorbachev before they left Moscow. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D860381–0748) There is no record of a meeting between Reagan and Gale and Hammer, but see footnote 2, Document 235.
  6. Poindexter wrote in the left-hand margin: “George no longer recommends this. I did not recommend. John.”