293. Memorandum From Secretary of State Shultz to President Reagan 1


  • Reykjavik

I take the liberty of sending you these views because my schedule keeps me here at the UN and unable to meet with you this week when you are shaping your decisions about Reykjavik.

We should take a positive, self-confident and commanding approach to this meeting. The American people are all for it so we should not seem to be playing it down or disparaging its chances for solid progress. Similarly, we need not take a narrow-minded approach to low-key social events or courtesies to the Soviets when we are there.

We should not try to separate form from content or appearance from substance. As far as Reykjavik goes, they will be intertwined. To take charge of this event and manage it visibly and effectively, we need to:

—engage in serious and visible preparations that show we have a unified U.S. team as well as close allied consultation and support;

—aim to produce substantive progress (but no agreements per se) at Reykjavik that will enhance the chances for a successful summit in [Page 1240] the U.S. We will work across the full agenda, but the reality is that our work will not be seen as effective without some progress on two big issues: arms control and human rights. Gorbachev must go home with a clear sense that Moscow’s continuing insensitivity to the humanitarian dimension of the relationship will assume greater significance as prospects open up in areas of mutual concern;

—and after Reykjavik shape a program of public statements and consultations that indicate Reykjavik was useful, but without telegraphing our detailed plans for a substantive success at Summit II in the U.S.

I. Preparations

We should identify our key players now, and include the full range of players from every involved agency. We will be working with this large group all through the week ahead and making it known publicly that the entire team is involved. As for Reykjavik itself, either of two options will work: either take the entire group, on the understanding that the heart of the event will be one-on-one meetings and that only I, perhaps joined by John and Don, will attend other meetings with you—or leave all but the immediate substantive staff in Washington. The reality of the hotel situation in Iceland may make the decision for us, compelling us to travel with the smallest group possible (my list is attached).2

As for the allies, I suggest that I or, alternatively, a team headed by Paul Nitze, meet the NAC Foreign Ministers in Brussels early Friday and report to you in Reykjavik mid-day Friday.3

II. Substantive Progress

Arms control will be key not because that is what the Soviets want, but because we have brought them to the point where they are largely talking from our script. This doesn’t mean we will find Gorbachev easy to handle in Reykjavik, but it means we are justified in aspiring to accomplish something useful there.

We have a strong new START position on the table in Geneva. Your July proposal on defense and space is the most detailed initiative in the field the Soviets say is most significant. We are nearly down to the short strokes on INF. There have been experts meetings over the summer on nuclear and space issues, nuclear testing, chemical weapons, and risk reduction. I have just conducted a comprehensive review of all these with Shevardnadze. There is no issue on which we are not well prepared.

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I think we can realistically try to accomplish the following in Reykjavik:

—Get the focus for priority attention back on START, where we seek a ceiling on ballistic missile warheads and subceilings which can form the heart of a strategic arms reduction agreement;

—Give Gorbachev a direct and authoritative description of your July proposal on strategic defenses, and of how it responds to the concerns he expressed in Geneva;

—Settle most of the remaining issues on INF;

—Convince Gorbachev of the wisdom of our step-by-step approach to nuclear testing, in which we would first work out the verification provisions necessary to ratify the Threshold Test Ban Treaty, and then negotiate further restrictions on the number of nuclear tests in parallel with further reductions in nuclear forces.

We should also be prepared for a Gorbachev blast at your May 27 decision—and a probe on development of a mutual interim restraint decision, in part owing to his desire to avoid being embarrassed by our exceeding SALT II limits shortly before or after his U.S. visit.

If the discussions go well, you could propose a package of basic elements for agreements on START, INF and defense and space which our Geneva delegations could begin to put in shape immediately after Reykjavik. Formal agreement on such a package could be the centerpiece of a Gorbachev visit to the United States, permitting delegations in Geneva to work on Treaty texts for signature at a 1987 Moscow summit.

III. After Reykjavik

Assuming we will impose a press blackout during the meetings, the media pressure will be intense as we emerge. If we achieve something in the arms control field at Reykjavik, we will need to hew to a forceful and confident line with close coordination on the question of how much substance to reveal. We will need to mention general areas where the potential for substantive progress was enhanced, but without permitting the impression that Reykjavik itself was a Summit or raising false expectations for Summit II in the U.S. The theme should be that we are fully prepared for real progress and that Reykjavik contributed considerably to the potential of Summit II.

Following the two days’ sessions with Gorbachev, I would stop again in Brussels on my way back to Washington on Monday the 13th. Assuming you will make a public statement or hold a press conference in Reykjavik, and return to Washington on Sunday evening, John and Don might offer to do some Congressional briefings early Monday. As Monday is Yom Kippur, you might want to hold off calling in the Congressional leadership until Tuesday. I would, of course, be ready to be sent by you to the Hill as soon as possible after my return late Monday.

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The way to bring this kind of a result out of Reykjavik is to pull together a unified team under your leadership. I will gladly serve as your straw boss in this effort. Over the past year we have advanced positions with great skill and confidence. As the results of our negotiations in the field and your strong stance at home, the Soviets have come to us in many areas.

The policies you set in motion six years ago have put us in the strong position we are in today. Your handling of the events of the past month have demonstrated anew we are prepared to be tough when principles are involved, but are capable of creative negotiations in pursuit of long term goals. We are now entering the crucial phase in the effort to achieve real reductions in nuclear forces—an historic achievement in itself, and a major step toward your vision of a safer world for the future.

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S Records, Top Secret/Secret Sensitive Memorandum, Lot 91D257, Eggplant III 1986. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. October 3.