6. Information Memorandum From the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Abramowitz) to Secretary of State Shultz1


  • Divided Soviet Approach to Geneva Arms Control Talks

In late February, the Soviet leadership was divided and uncertain about its approach to the arms talks in Geneva, [3 lines not declassified] this uncertainty was due to 1) Chernenko’s illness and divided opinions within the Politburo, and 2) uncertainty about U.S. intentions and aims at Geneva. Nevertheless, [less than 1 line not declassified] the overriding Soviet aim at Geneva would be to prevent deployment of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). [less than 1 line not declassified] to achieve this end the Soviets would be prepared to make marginal concessions on [Page 18] other parts of the Geneva negotiations and in such atmosphere-affecting secondary areas as human rights and Nicaragua.

[less than 1 line not declassified] characterized guidance currently issued to Soviet diplomats abroad as infrequent, imprecise and simplistic compared with briefings available at the time of Soviet campaigns against the neutron bomb or deployment of INF. [less than 1 line not declassified] the decision to resume negotiations and the Soviet approach to them had been the subject of a major debate within the Soviet political and military leadership. The latter was thought to be inherently distrustful of arms control agreements, considering it a dangerous delusion for the USSR to accept constraints on its weapons systems in return for U.S. assurances. The military was also thought to dismiss apparent differences of opinion within NATO as coordinated propaganda attempts to weaken Soviet vigilance.

Political and military leaders agreed, however, that pressure must be put on the Americans to prevent deployment of SDI and resultant strains on Soviet resources. To this end, [less than 1 line not declassified] the USSR would be prepared to exploit linkage among the three sets of talks at Geneva, play on differences in U.S. and Western European approaches to arms control, and use moderation in certain non-vital areas not connected with arms control.

In this regard, [less than 1 line not declassified] the Soviets would be prepared, in exchange for concessions of more value to the USSR, to compromise on their demand that British and French forces be counted in INF, though they would then insist on taking account of them in START. Human rights concessions intended to influence Western opinion could include Jewish emigration, the treatment of dissidents, (possibly the expulsion of Shcharanskiy and Sakharov), and ending radio jamming. If necessary, policy could be moderated in areas where Soviet interests were opportunistic, not vital, such as Nicaragua. In contrast, no significant shift could be expected where the USSR was seeking to defend an entrenched position, such as Afghanistan or Ethiopia.

INR Comment: [less than 1 line not declassified] comments are interesting as an indication of what conclusions senior Soviet officials [less than 1 line not declassified] have reached about their government’s likely strategy and tactics at Geneva—conclusions strikingly similar to those of many Western observers.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, Executive Secretariat Sensitive (03/14/1985–03/15/1985); NLR–775–13–29–9–7. Secret; Sensitive; Noforn; Nocontract; Orcon. Drafted by D.G. Simpson (INR/PMA/GPT) on March 14. A stamped notation reading “GPS” appears on the memorandum, indicating Shultz saw it.