250. Information Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs (Ridgway) to Secretary of State Shultz1


  • Next Steps With Moscow

You asked for my views on how we should handle the Soviets’ offer to send a Deputy Foreign Minister here to organize preparations for your meeting with Shevardnadze and the next summit. I believe we should take them up on the offer.

What the Soviets Have Done

For all the obscurity in which it has been couched, the Soviet offer appears to be an attempt to create the basis for a summit meeting this year. Gorbachev faces a difficult set of choices. He does not want to walk away from his commitment to see the President in 1986, since that would raise questions abroad about his reliability and at home about his judgement in agreeing to a meeting in the first place. But he also can not afford to come here immediately after or before we exceed SALT II numerical limitations.

Moscow’s 11th hour NST initiatives appear in retrospect to have been aimed at establishing the basis for enough movement by a year-end summit to either avoid a U.S. SALT II breakout or make it irrelevant. Realizing that a go/no-go decision on a summit will have to be made by the time you meet Shevardnadze, Gorbachev is now pressing his people to find out what might be possible if summit dates are set. To do that, there has to be a dialogue. And with Geneva in recess, and the negotiations having in any case been relatively fruitless thus far, Moscow is searching for other modalities. Thus the idea of a visit.

The Soviets have, in effect, come close to buying our idea of a special channel. They are not calling it that, for reasons which probably have to do with rivalries in Moscow. But in sending someone like Bessmertnykh here, the Soviets are signaling as clearly as they ever do in these things that they want to set about seeing what can be done on NST for the next summit—and don’t want to waste any time doing so. Dubinin made it clear to Mark Parris that, while whomever the [Page 1025] Soviets send would be prepared to address other issues (e.g., CDE, CW), his main interest would be NST.

At the same time, Bessmertnykh or even Vorontsov would be equipped to work through the rest of the agenda and to pick and move issues further toward decision. The fact that the Soviets do not appear to want radically to change or duplicate existing channels would thus work to our advantage. Billing the visit as a review of the whole agenda preparatory to your next meeting with Shevardnadze would also reduce exposure on NST—or indeed on any single topic.

What We Should Do

Our point of departure is that if we want a summit this year that produces results on arms control and other issues which serve our interests, we must soon engage the Soviets meaningfully. I am convinced that, unless we get into a serious discussion with Moscow on NST over the next month or so, Gorbachev will come to the conclusion that he can not afford to take the risk of setting dates. We could soon lose 1986—and perhaps the whole process. As our objective since last spring has been to get the Soviets into precisely the kind of discussion Moscow now seems to be proposing, I see no reason to play coy.

I recommend that:

—We advise the Soviets we accept the overall approach set out in Gorbachev’s letter (which is based on our four-part agenda and the Geneva concluding document and is consistent in terms of modalities with our views on how to prepare for the next summit);2

—We confirm to the Soviets our willingness to receive their Deputy Foreign Minister to discuss preparations for your next meeting with Shevardnadze, which we consider to be agreed in principle for September 19–20;

—We schedule the Deputy Foreign Minister visit to follow immediately the President’s decision on our response to the Soviet NST initiatives. We will, of course, need your guidance on this. If you believe we can predict a date, I recommend we tell the Soviets generally when we would be prepared to receive their Deputy Minister. We could then follow up with a specific date when we have one.

—We wait until their envoy arrives here to transmit the President’s reply. Art Hartman could formally deliver the reply in Moscow, perhaps to Gorbachev himself. We would provide Dubinin and their emissary a copy at the same time. Waiting until their man was already here would deny the Soviets the opportunity to delay the trip if they found elements of our response objectionable.

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—We plan a program covering the full range of issues on the agenda. There is useful work that can be done now in areas other than arms control. Human rights is one where we would want to make a special effort. NST would have its place on the agenda, but the Soviet envoy would be available for off-the-record discussions as well.

—We consider how to respond to a likely Soviet suggestion for follow-up discussions on NST issues during the month of August. This is heart of the “mechanism” the Soviets say they want, although it is unclear precisely what they have in mind. It is possible that whomever they send would simply stay on here for extended discussions with whomever we designate. Or they may favor bringing NST negotiators back early from vacation. Paul, Allen and I will give you our recommendations on this.

If you agree to this general approach, we can provide appropriate talking points for your use with the President and John Poindexter on Friday, with a view toward getting back to the Soviets that afternoon.3

  1. Source: Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, Executive Secretariat Sensitive (07/10/1986–07/13/1986); NLR–775–16–20–4–8. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Parris; cleared by Simons.
  2. For Gorbachev’s letter, see Document 247.
  3. Friday was July 11. Shultz’s regular Friday meeting with Reagan took place in the Oval Office 1:30–2:11 p.m. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) Shultz’s briefing packet, prepared in advance of the meeting, included talking points entitled “Next Steps with the Soviets.” The main points read, in part: “Based on further talks with Soviets (both their Embassy here and Art with Dep. Foreign Minister Bessmertnykh), it’s now a little clearer what Dubinin was trying to say Wednesday [July 9]. Their main concern is to be able to discuss strategic/defense issues between now and September.” The last round of the NST in Geneva had concluded on June 26 and was not scheduled to resume until mid-September. The points continued: “It looks, therefore, like the Soviets are trying, however indirectly, to get the process back on track. It’s in our interest to respond positively.” (Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, Secretary’s Meetings with the President (07/11/1986 & 07/25/1986); NLR–775–19–4–1–6) In his diary on July 11, Reagan wrote: “A meeting with Sec. Shultz—mainly on the game playing going on about a summit. I think he’ll have a ministerial level meeting to work on this—but they are being coy.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, vol. II: November 1985–January 1989, p. 617)