30. Talking Points for Secretary of State Shultz Prepared in the Department of State1

Private talk with Gromyko

—After the ceremony yesterday in Vienna, Gromyko asked to speak to me alone, without aides or interpreters. We went off into a side corridor.

Gromyko had two points to make:

Between now and any summit, we should try hard to create a period of stability and an atmosphere that avoids major problems.

We should try to think of ways to give as much substance as possible to the summit.

—I replied that I agreed that we should try to manage things in a stable manner, i.e., avoid creating events that are difficult to manage, [Page 117] and manage the events that do take place in a way that keeps them under control. I told him not to make Berlin into a problem, and to do the right thing about Major Nicholson.

—I also agreed to his second point. A number of items are within reach. We should take steps to create an atmosphere for practical progress.

Gromyko took this as a reference to human rights. “Anything we do,” he said, “would have to be in conformity with our laws.”

—Then figure out how to do it in conformity with your laws, I replied.

—On venue for a summit, I urged him to think about Washington. It would be good for Gorbachev to see the U.S. and good for our people to see him.2 Gromyko said we should put it out of our mind. It is not possible. We can find a European city. He mentioned Moscow. I said that the President cannot go there until Gorbachev has come to Washington.3

Gromyko’s mood was good. I regard this private talk as a plus.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, Secretary’s Meetings with the President (05/16/1985). Secret. These talking points were included in a larger packet for Shultz dated May 16 and entitled “Meeting with the President on Middle East Trip and Gromyko Meeting,” prepared in advance of Shultz’s May 17 meeting with Reagan. Shultz returned to Washington on May 17 and met with Reagan that afternoon from 1:36 p.m. until 2:32 p.m. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary)
  2. In his memoir, Shultz recounted this private discussion with Gromyko in Vienna. As he was preparing to leave the meeting, an aide said: “‘Gromyko would like a private word with you.’ I went over to the corner of the room where he was standing. ‘Is there anything else you want to talk about?’ Gromyko asked me. ‘No,’ I answered, ‘I’ve gone through everything.’ ‘What about the summit?’ he asked. ‘What about it?’ I replied. ‘Gorbachev will not go to the United Nations [for the September opening of the General Assembly],’ he said. ‘November would be better. President Reagan would be welcome in Moscow.’ ‘It is your turn to come to Washington,’ I replied, as the most recent summits had been held in Moscow, Vladivostok, Helsinki, and Vienna. ‘Out of the question!’ Gromyko exploded. ‘It should be in Europe, in a third country.’ ‘I will communicate that to Washington. Are you suggesting Geneva?’ I asked. ‘If you say Geneva, I’ll have to say Helsinki,’ Gromyko growled.

    “So we were launched on our way to a summit. We agreed not to speak of this in public, and I held the information close: I did not even mention it in my cabled report to the president. I would ensure against a leak by reporting to President Reagan in person. Gromyko, I could see, had been instructed by Gorbachev to get the process started, to set the time and place. But Gromyko did not seem to have authority to engage on anything else. He was merely putting points down for the record. In six hours he turned not one new phrase, but simply waited for me to ask about a summit. The meeting had been sterile and peculiar—but at the final moment, productive.” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, pp. 563–564; brackets are in the original)

  3. In his memoir, Shultz also discussed his meeting with Reagan: “Back in Washington on Friday, May 17, I went to the Oval Office to report. I found the president leaning backward. He wasn’t sure about a summit in November. Maybe later. We should ‘think about it some more, play hard to get.’ I disagreed. There were big possibilities ahead, I told him, including in arms control. ‘Many key people in your administration do not want a summit,’ I said. ‘You have to make up your mind. You have to step up to the plate. And when it comes to the divisions in your administration over this issue, you can’t split the difference. Think about it,’ I said. ‘I will come back to you in a couple of days.’” (Ibid., p. 566)