249. Memorandum From the Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State on Arms Control Matters (Nitze) to Secretary of State Shultz 1


  • Assortment of Meetings

1. Yesterday Bob Linhard from the NSC Staff came to see me. He had a draft of the letter from the President to Gorbachev as it had emerged from a meeting on Wednesday between the President, Cap [Page 1022] Weinberger, and John Poindexter.2 He asked me to read it and write my comments on it, but said he was instructed not to leave it with me.

I questioned the wisdom of permitting SDI testing during the first five years without setting any standard governing the nature of testing and without making it clear whether such testing would be within the limitations of the ABM Treaty or not. I questioned the wisdom of permitting each side to observe the others’ testing without clarifying the purpose and nature of such observance. I doubted whether we wished to give the Soviets an unlimited right to observe what’s going on in our labs, even prior to an agreement concerning reductions, and the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons. I questioned the advisability of setting what appeared to be an ultimatum that suggests we would denounce the ABM Treaty in seven years in the event the Soviets had been unwilling to agree to the total abolition of all ballistic missiles. I asked how one could avoid immense problems with our Allies if we made any proposal for total elimination of ballistic missiles without the prior agreement of the British, French, Chinese and our other Allies and friends.

Linhard then showed me the draft of the paper which he had prepared, which had been the subject of the Wednesday meeting, and the modifications of that paper which had emerged from the Wednesday meeting.3 He indicated that the modifications had come more from the President than from Cap. Linhard’s primary objective was to obtain reasonable working instructions for the SACG and its support group so the difficulties in the proposal would emerge from their analysis. After that had happened he hoped serious work on a revised draft of the letter could be initiated in time for a revised and more sensible letter to be sent, hopefully as early as July 15th.

2. Yesterday afternoon I had a one-hour meeting with Admiral Crowe. His mind was particularly focused on the Packard Defense Reorganization legislation. After we got through that subject, I went over with him the main elements of the State Department’s proposed comprehensive counter-proposal and the difficulties I saw in the approach Linhard was about to explain to him in a meeting scheduled to begin immediately after my meeting with him. He commented that [Page 1023] it was difficult to change Cap’s view on any matter, although it is sometimes possible; on matters concerning SDI, however, he did not believe it possible at all.

3. This afternoon I had a one-hour discussion with Ed Teller.4 He is persuaded that the project for a pure fusion reactor is bound to be unsuccessful because the cost of making such reactor safe would be impossibly high. He explained why he thought a different approach involving a hybrid fission/fusion reactor would be inherently safe and would not be excessively expensive. He said that the Soviets had given much thought to a hybrid approach including some ideas of Sakharov of some 20 years ago.

4. I had lunch today with Jim Wade who is Assistant Secretary of Defense for Procurement. Among other things he said was that at current yield rates of 1%, the mercury/cadmium/tellurium crystals used for infrared sensors in the SDI program would cost $35 billion over five years. They need a $500 plus million program to develop the technology to increase the yield to 20 to 30 percent and thus reduce costs to a tolerable level. They have not yet found a way of getting this into the SDI budget.

  1. Source: Department of State, Ambassador Nitze’s Personal Files 1953, 1972–1989, Lot 90D397, June 1986. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Wednesday was June 25. In a June 21 memorandum to Reagan, prepared by Linhard, Matlock, and Kraemer, Poindexter forwarded a packet of material, “Guidance for the Arms Control Support Group,” which included a rough draft letter to Gorbachev and a paper, “Guidance on the Evolution of the U.S. Arms Control Policy.” Reagan initialed the recommendations to review both documents. This letter and paper were discussed during the June 25 ACSG meeting. (Reagan Library, Robert Linhard Files, Compartment File, SAGE 01–02–Overview (1); NLR–334–45–10–4–6) A heavily revised version of the letter was sent on July 25; see Document 254.
  3. See footnote 2, above.
  4. Teller, an American physicist who helped develop the hydrogen bomb, was a major proponent of the Strategic Defense Initiative. Documents on the evolution of SDI and Teller’s role are scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XLIII, National Security Policy, 1981–1984.