29. Telegram From Secretary of State Shultz to the White House1

Secto 9112. Department for S/S Only. Subject: Memorandum to the President on Gromyko Meeting.

1. S—Entire text.

2. Memorandum for: The President

From: George P. Shultz

Subject: My Meeting With Gromyko in Vienna May 14

[Page 113]

3. Our meeting went on for almost exactly six hours, and was basically an exhaustive review of the whole agenda of issues between us.2 While there was Soviet movement on some issues, Gromyko had very little new to say, especially in the arms control field. Hence the discussion was fairly sterile, frequently repetitive and generally predictable. Overall, it seemed to confirm the view Art Hartman has been giving us in his reporting that Gorbachev’s preoccupation at this point is to consolidate his domestic political base, with foreign policy creativity taking a back seat at least for the time being. As an anecdote illustrating this, one of Gromyko’s aides, in a side conversation with a member of my team, appeared more interested in talking about the the upcoming crackdown on vodka consumption than in Afghanistan or Nicaragua.3

4. I set the scene by saying that this is a moment in our relations that is both promising and troubled. On the positive side, I mentioned your solid new mandate to pursue your approach with the Soviets, and the fact that Gorbachev is now settling in, so that we are in a position to proceed from a long-term perspective. On the negative side, I went through three major obstacles the Soviets have created to forward movement. First, I reiterated our demands that the Soviets offer an apology and compensation to the family for Major Nicholson’s killing, and that we reach agreement on concrete measures to prevent any recurrence. Second, I stressed the dangers created by Soviet unilateral reservations in the Berlin air corridors, and the need for joint management to ensure safety on these routes.

5. Finally, I made a presentation on human rights. Here I reiterated the permanent importance of these issues on our agenda, and reviewed previous discussion of Gorbachev’s proposal to the Vice President and me that we appoint rapporteurs, and the Soviet undertaking to Tip O’Neill to get back to our congressional group on their human rights cases. I noted that we had seen some small promising signs in recent weeks on the composition and levels of Jewish emigration and hoped for sustained movement. I also noted that there is a link between emigration and MFN trade treatment for the Soviets. Finally, I pointed to persecution of Hebrew teachers as an urgent issue, and to Dr. and Mrs. Sakharov, Shcharanskiy and Ida Nudel as cases where Soviet gestures could have an important effect. Gromyko, as usual, claimed this was an area the Soviets do not discuss.

6. Gromyko for his part started by expressing surprise that I had not yet mentioned arms control, and keen disappointment at the way [Page 114] we had handled the VE-Day anniversary, particularly the fact that we had not mentioned the Soviet contribution to the common victory during your trip to Europe. He said the Soviets considered your anniversary message to Gorbachev a “positive” development, but made it clear that Gorbachev himself was “hurt”—his word—by our overall treatment of VE-Day.4

7. The rest of the meeting consisted of a detailed run-through of every area and almost every topic of our agenda, beginning with an hour-long Gromyko presentation on arms control. The exchange on the Geneva negotiation was without surprises: Gromyko avoided detailed discussion and in the main eluded contact. On other issues, nevertheless, discussion was less sterile. In fact, there were limited signs of progress on such topics as nuclear non-proliferation, exchanges on regional issues and a number of bilateral issues. So it was a mixed picture of the kind we expected.

8. On arms control, my main impression was that Gromyko had no mandate to get into the substance of the Geneva talks. I laid out the proposals we have put forward in Geneva in some detail, stressing the flexibility you have given your negotiators and our disappointment at Soviet regression from positions they had previously put forward and their unfounded public charges about our approach. Gromyko scarcely defended their conduct during Geneva I; instead, he simply hammered away at the theme that we are responsible for lack of progress because of SDI. I pressed him on a number of points of detail, including their existing ABM system and Bud’s conversation on this topic with Karpov in Geneva.5 I also raised compliance in general as a problem for arms control and for our relations, and a whole series of specific compliance issues in particular—the Krasnoyarsk radar, telemetry encryption, and new missile types. Finally, I raised our concern about their new mobile MIRVed ICBM. He did not respond to most of these points, and where he did the responses were standard (and hence unsatisfactory). The only new element I detected was greater attention than before to the ABM treaty. The point he seemed to be making was that since the treaty forbids research aimed at creating a nationwide defense, our research in this direction is not consistent with it.

9. Exchanges on other arms control issues were only marginally better. I reiterated the four proposals to enhance confidence you put forward in your Strasbourg speech, but Gromyko commented nega[Page 115]tively in response.6 For his part, he raised the non-use-of-force treaty the Soviets have proposed at Stockholm, non-first-use and a Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB) in predictable terms. In response, I said we are prepared to move forward at Stockholm along the lines of your Dublin speech proposal.7 On the Limited Test Ban and Peaceful Nuclear Explosions treaties, Gromyko urged us simply to ratify them; I urged them to accept your UNGA address offer of reciprocal exchanges of experts visits to improve verification procedures. Until we got further on these more modest testing measures, we were not prepared to discuss CTB.

10. I raised chemical weapons, stressing how serious a problem they are and how we need to work both for a complete and verifiable ban and against proliferation. Here I invited Soviet negotiators to the U.S. this summer to view destruction procedures and technology related to a total ban, as we have done with other negotiators, and I proposed that our experts get together in Moscow bilaterally over the next few weeks to exchange information on the Iran-Iraq situation and explore ways to express our concern about it. Finally, on nuclear non-proliferation, we agreed that our bilateral talks have been very useful, and Gromyko—in a rare forward lean—praised our initiative in proposing a joint statement supporting the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and seeking a constructive NPT review conference this fall.

11. On regional issues, we exchanged views on all five of the areas that are under discussion for possible experts’ level talks—Southern Africa, Afghanistan, the Middle East, the Far East and Central America/the Caribbean. The discussion itself was neither very novel nor very constructive. It seemed to me that he put more stress on Central America than in past meetings, and was tougher in presenting Soviet views, but that is perhaps natural after the Contra vote and the Ortega visit to Moscow.8 Basically, the views expressed were standard. We did however reiterate the agreement previously reached to have experts’ talks on Southern Africa in Paris May 30 and on Afghanistan in Washington June 18, and I suggested that the Far East should be the next region we talked about in that format.

12. In contrast to the other areas, Gromyko was relatively upbeat on bilateral issues. This was particularly true on our exchange agreement [Page 116] negotiations and on revitalizing our cooperative activities under existing agreements. Nor was he negative when I urged him to break the current logjam involving Pacific air safety, civil aviation and consulates by completing a Pacific air safety measures agreement quickly. So there may be some modest latitude for forward movement here. Just before the meeting the Soviets had signalled they are about to propose another round on Pacific air safety in Moscow May 20, and we and the Japanese are gathering our negotiating teams to be there.

13. At the end Gromyko asked to see me alone briefly to ask about attending the meeting to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act in late July-early August. I said we had made no decision yet, but I think it highly likely we will both be there and should have another meeting to continue the bilateral dialogue. We will want to get our NATO allies’ agreement to attendance at Foreign Ministers’ level before announcing a decision.

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S Records, Memorandum of Conversations, 1981–1990, Lot 93D188, Shultz/Gromyko at Soviet Embassy, Vienna May 14, 1985. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by Simons; cleared by Palmer and McKinley; approved by Shultz. Sent from the Secretary’s delegation in Vienna. All brackets are in the original.
  2. See Document 28.
  3. See Document 25.
  4. See footnote 4, Document 24.
  5. No record of this conversation between Karpov and McFarlane was found.
  6. See footnote 2, Document 27. The four proposals were: exchange of military observers at military exercises, regular high-level contacts between U.S. and Soviet military leaders, prompt CDE action and agreement on confidence-building measures, and establishment of a permanent military communications link.
  7. See Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. IV, Soviet Union, January 1983–March 1985, Document 224, footnote 3.
  8. According to the Washington Post, Daniel Ortega met with Gorbachev in Moscow on April 30 to request more assistance for Nicaragua from the Soviet Union. (Celeste Bohlen, “Ortega Meets Gorbachev,” Washington Post, April 30, 1985, p. A1)