33. Briefing Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs (Burt) to Secretary of State Shultz1


  • Meeting with the President on May 22—US-Soviet Relations—May 22, 1:45 pm

For your meeting with the President, we have attached talking points (Tab 1) and a calendar of US-Soviet events through the end of the year which you might hand him (Tab 2).2

The key issue for decision is how to respond to the Soviets with regard to timing and venue for a summit meeting. I believe we should agree to Gromyko’s proposal for November, thereby pocketing it.

On venue, I see three options:

• Simply reiterate our offer of Washington.

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• Propose that we have a summit meeting in the United States in November, agree that the next summit would be held in the Soviet Union and announce both elements.

• Work out a third country venue such as Geneva.

Standing pat on our present position will not move the process of reaching agreement ahead. On the other hand, it seems unnecessarily early to fall back to a third country venue. We can consider doing that later if it becomes clear the Soviets will not come to the United States under any circumstances.

However, if you want to proceed now with regard to a third country venue, we believe that Geneva is the best approach. While Gromyko retorted with Helsinki, it’s probable they will drop off if we insist on Geneva. We will have made a major concession by not insisting on the United States, they know the optics of Helsinki are bad for us given its location on the Soviets’ border, and they have agreed to Geneva frequently in the past. We have thought about other sites but each has problems: Vienna was the last Carter meeting,3 Stockholm boosts Palme, Iceland is a NATO country so the Soviets might not agree.

Jack Matlock and I think there is some chance Gorbachev would find the middle option attractive and that it is worth a try before we decide whether to fall back to a neutral site. You laid the groundwork for it in Vienna by mentioning that the President would like to visit Moscow in the future but that it is the Soviets’ turn to come to the United States.

The talking points also urge that we invite Gromyko down to Washington to see the President again during the UNGA. This could be used in setting the stage for the November summit meeting.

If you and the President agree to this approach on summit timing and venue, you could call in Dobrynin this week to present it.4

  1. Source: Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, Secretary’s Meetings with the President (05/22/1985). Secret; Sensitive. Sent through Armacost.
  2. Attached but not printed. At Tab I are the undated talking points entitled “US-Soviet Relations” and at Tab 2 the undated “Calendar of Upcoming US-Soviet Events.” According to the President’s Daily Diary, Reagan met with Shultz on May 22 from 1:45 to 2:20 p.m. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) In his personal diary, Reagan wrote: “Back to the W.H. for a late lunch then met with George S. re a meeting with Gorbachev. George will be seeing Gromyko before long—at Helsinki. I told him to suggest mid November here in Wash. & if they insist on a neutral locale—make it Geneva. We’re going to offer Wash. with a commitment that a subsequent meeting would be in Moscow.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, vol. I: January 1981–October 1985, p. 461)
  3. Carter met with Brezhnev in Vienna in June 1978; see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VI, Soviet Union, Documents 199201.
  4. In his memoir, Shultz recalled the May 22 meeting: “I went to President Reagan later that day with my full proposal for a November summit. He had thought it over further himself, I could see. He agreed with the plan—and also to inviting Gromyko to come to Washington at the time of the opening of the UN General Assembly, which Gromyko would attend in September. I now had the running room I needed to nail down time and place.” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, p. 566) See also Document 30.