65. Memorandum From Jack Matlock of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (McFarlane)1


  • Horowitz Trip to Moscow: “Messages” from Soviets

Larry Horowitz briefed me today on his trip to Moscow this week, with the caveat that the information should be held very closely. Essentially, he meant to you and John Poindexter, plus—of course—the President and Secretary Shultz to the degree you feel that would be interested. Horowitz, as you know, is a member of Senator Kennedy’s staff, and said that only the Senator has been briefed and that Kennedy gave instructions that no other members of his staff, or anyone else on Capitol Hill, should be briefed on the matter.

Horowitz passed on a very specific and detailed message from Shevardnadze’s Special Assistant, the comments of several other senior officials (including Academician Velikhov), and shared several of his [Page 241] impressions as to the general atmosphere in Moscow and regarding the persons who are playing important roles now in foreign affairs.

The Shevardnadze “Message”

The most detailed comment on U.S.-Soviet relations came from Foreign Minister Shevardnadze’s new special assistant, one Alexei Bukin, who was described as a very bright 29-year-old who speaks perfect English. Bukin read his points from a prepared paper, and insisted that Horowitz take notes (even supplying the pad for that purpose), in an apparent effort to stress the importance of what he was saying. While Bukin asked only that Senator Kennedy be informed of this statement, Horowitz assumes that it was also intended for us.

Bukin made the following points, which I have reproduced virtually verbatim from Horowitz’s reading of his notes:

Shevardnadze was personally aware of Horowitz’s visit, and recalled his meeting with Senator Kennedy in Tbilisi in 1974.2 This meeting had made a deep impression on him, and he recalled several of the things Kennedy had said to him at that time.

—Preparations are underway for the President’s meeting with Gorbachev in November. The U.S. seems to want to cover systematically every problem in the relationship, but the Soviets feel that before we can solve problems, we must have an agreement on the framework of our future relations, some “rules of the road,” so to speak.

—The Soviets also believe that we both need to agree first on some of the more important problems, such as the Stockholm CDE and Vienna MBFR, before we can make much headway otherwise.

Dobrynin’s discussion with Shultz July 3 was considered not very constructive; in fact in some respects it represented a step backward.3

—While Shultz agreed that arms reduction is a central area for our relationship, he stated that he did not see the prospect of progress before November and turned his attention to other matters. Dobrynin had called his attention to MBFR, but Shultz had said that no immediate progress is likely there.

—The Stockholm CDE presents a different picture. It seems that both sides wish to reach an agreement involving a non-use-of-force declaration and CBM’s. We have scheduled a very important meeting [Page 242] in Moscow in September, and it should be possible to wrap up an agreement in time to announce at the meeting in November.4

—[A statement was then made on CW, but Horowitz’s notes were not clear and he did not remember precisely what was said.]

—Regarding non-proliferation, the U.S. has offered an outline of an understanding and the Soviets are prepared to agree and to announce this at Geneva.

—Regarding the Geneva negotiations, however, the U.S. has changed its position since the January agreement. It is the Soviet understanding that the U.S. wants to conclude an agreement on just one of the three areas—which would be inconsistent with the January agreement. Also the Soviets will not enter into an agreement which “legalizes” SDI.

—The Soviets were struck by the fact that Shultz did not mention the TTBT or PNET, and that he refused to discuss a testing moratorium, and consider this disturbing.

—On regional issues, Shultz said the U.S. is willing to discuss bilaterally various regional issues, including the Middle East, Afghanistan, East Asia, Southern Africa and Central America. The Soviet position is that all are discussable, including and particularly Afghanistan.

—In regard to Afghanistan, if the U.S. would suspend temporarily and publicly assistance to the resistance, there would be a solution. Gorbachev has decided to solve the problem. [Horowitz asked what solution he had in mind, and Bukin said that he was not prepared to describe the solution, but that one is possible and desirable and that Gorbachev had made the decision to proceed with it.]

—Regarding human rights, the Soviet Union will ignore U.S. demands in this area since they constitute impermissible interference in internal affairs.

—Regarding trade, there are upcoming discussions with Block and the Soviets are willing to enter into further agreements in this area [Page 243] [NB: It is not clear whether this refers to the Agricultural Cooperation Agreement or something else.]5

Shultz also cited a “package” of bilateral questions: North Pacific Air Safety; a Civil Air Agreement, Consulates and an Exchanges Agreement. The Soviets are prepared to wrap these up and announce them at the November meeting.

—Therefore, there seems to be the prospect of six agreements for announcement in November: CDE, non-proliferation, and the four bilateral ones named.

—If the White House wants to settle for this as the concrete results of a meeting, then the Soviets will agree.

—However, from the Soviet point of view, such a result would mean that the meeting had failed, since none of the main problems would have been touched.

—Several high-level meetings are coming up, but the White House has been derelict in not preparing adequately in regard to the issues under negotiation in Geneva and Vienna.

—The Soviets expect the Gorbachev-Mitterrand meeting to be much more productive.6 They expect good agreements in the economic area and substantial agreement on major topics such as SDI, Eureka and INF.7

—The U.S. should be aware that November is the terminal date for the Soviet moratorium on INF deployments. If there is no agreement in a significant area at the November meeting, there will be dramatic and [Page 244] sudden additions to the Soviet INF deployments. This will be necessary to show the world that any interpretation of the Reagan-Gorbachev meeting other than a failure is impossible.

—In addition to ending their moratorium on INF deployments, the Soviets will also consider terminating the Geneva negotiations, although no final decision on this has yet been made, as is the case in regard to substantial new INF deployments.

—They hope Senator Kennedy could use his influence to encourage “more serious” preparations on the American side for the November meeting.

—Regarding the Geneva negotiations, the Soviets are confused about some aspects of the current American position. The Soviet delegation had asked Kampelman whether, if the Soviet Union proposed deep reductions, this would have a positive effect on the American position in regard to space weapons. Kampelman had replied that significantly lower levels of offensive weapons would help both sides to lower the levels of space weapons.

—However, when Soviet negotiators asked what the American reaction would be to a Soviet proposal to cut offensive weapons by 50%, Kampelman replied that no decision had been made regarding deployment of space weapons; that this would depend on the outcome of the negotiations. The Soviets regard these two statements as inconsistent with each other.

—Furthermore, the Soviets were disturbed when, following these exchanges in Geneva (which they considered encouraging even if not fully consistent), they read a speech by Gen. Abrahamson in Europe which stated that even if there were a 50% cut in offensive weapons, SDI would be necessary.8 This was regarded as a calculated answer to the Soviet probe at Geneva.

—The U.S. says that there have been no sound Soviet proposals and that the U.S. has proposed a reduction to 5000 warheads. But the Soviet Union believes that the American number is unacceptable because it ignores cruise missiles. The Administration refuses to discuss an overall concept for reductions which includes cruise missiles.

—The Soviets, however, think there may be some promise in looking at the ASAT question. It is clear that there is an integral link between ASATs and ABMs, since satellites are necessary for the latter—for detection and targeting if nothing else.

—The Soviets are prepared to discuss an agreement on “rules of the road” for satellites—something analogous to the Incidents at Sea [Page 245] Agreement. They proposed something like this in 1983 and think the time may be ripe to return to it. If agreement could be reached in this area, it would be seen as a major first step in resolving the SDI problem.

This was the extent of the “message,” which I will comment on later, but Horowitz also reported on an interesting conversation with Velikhov.

Velikhov’s Comments:

When Horowitz arrived at the airport he was taken directly to Velikhov’s house, without even stopping at the hotel to change. A conversation ensued which went on until 1:00 A.M. The salient points Velikhov made were the following:

—The next “crisis” in U.S.–Soviet relations is likely to occur over Midgetman. The Soviets cannot accept that the U.S. should have the MX, the D–5 and also the Midgetman and hold to the SALT–II quantitative limits.

—When Horowitz mentioned the Soviet two new types, Velikhov denied that a second “new type” was involved, claiming it was only a permissible upgrade, and reiterated that the SALT–II limits will not be observed if the Midgetman is deployed.

Horowitz reminded Velikhov that Senator Kennedy is a strong supporter of Midgetman, which seemed to take Velikhov by surprise.

—As for the contours of a possible agreement, Velikhov stated that the key to solving the impasse at Geneva may be to define the boundary between SDI research and testing. If the boundary can be defined, SDI research could be allowed to continue.

—If this definition could be achieved, he stated, the Soviets would be willing to offer deep reductions in warheads—up to 50% if this can be applied flexibly with each side determining the distribution among systems.

—In return for this, the Soviets would accept a time-limited moratorium on SDI testing (as defined by negotiation). The time limit could be in the range of 4–5 years.

Velikhov commented on the time-limited moratorium with the observation that this would get them past the Reagan Administration, and they would have to take their chances with his successor.

Horowitz brought up the problem of the Krasnoyarsk radar. Velikhov, somewhat to his surprise, stated that the Soviets would accommodate our concern in this regard if we could reach an agreement on the central issues. [He did not, however, describe how, except to say that on-site inspection would be possible in the context of an agreement to reaffirm the ABM Treaty.]

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Other Observations:

Horowitz made several interesting observations about the current mood and role of individuals:

1. The atmosphere was totally businesslike and non-polemical; there was no railing against the U.S. in emotional terms as was the case during his visit last year.

2. His contacts told him that Alexandrov-Agentov is in full charge of U.S.–Soviet relations in Gorbachev’s immediate office. He has very close ties, including a long-standing personal relationship, with Shevardnadze. Horowitz spoke to Alexandrov on the telephone—he was on vacation in Riga (Horowitz added that he was staying with Mike Bruk there).9

3. Gorbachev’s other key staffer is Nikolai Kruzhina, who was described by Soviets as his “Don Regan”—the chief of staff. They stated that all paper going to Gorbachev passes through him. He does not seem to have a formal substantive role, but obviously has the opportunity to give advice as he sees fit.

4. Zagladin was out of the country when Horowitz was there. He was told that Zagladin is “in close” with the Gorbachev group and also plays an important role. (He is now in East Germany receiving treatment for a liver ailment, but Horowitz was told that it was not serious.)

5. All of Horowitz’s contacts expressed delight that Gromyko is “out”—and some stated “even if we had to make him President to get rid of him.” There seemed no doubt that he will have no effective role in foreign policy in the future.


I will provide more detailed comment when I have had time to digest all of this, but I can think of two possible motivations—not mutually exclusive—for the Soviets to pass so much information to Horowitz:10

1. They want to make points with Kennedy, both to stimulate Democratic opposition to some of the President’s policies, and also because they see him as a possible Presidential candidate in ‘88.

2. They genuinely wished to get some of these messages to the Administration.

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My hunch is that both motivations are present. I would by no means discount the second; I think it may be as important to them as the first.

Several situations were of course presented in distorted fashion, in their characterization of U.S. policy and the Administration’s attitudes. [I tried to set Horowitz straight on the more important of these.] There is also a major element of special pleading, and transparent threats. Nevertheless, I believe that we would be remiss if we did not give careful thought to some of the nuggets here.

The basic message may well be authentic. That is, that the Soviets will go out of their way to portray the November meeting as a failure if they feel they get nowhere on any of the issues they consider the key ones. The comment on the INF decision (to deploy many new weapons suddenly) would explain their current activity in constructing numerous new bases.

Though the most extensive in detail, this is just one of many “messages” we are getting these days. Either the Soviets are genuinely probing to see if a deal is possible in the nuclear/SDI area, or else they are going to enormous efforts to confuse us. We need to find a way to smoke them out without going out on a precarious limb ourselves.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Robert McFarlane Files, Subject File, Soviet Union—Sensitive File—1985 (06/16/1985–08/31/1985). Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Poindexter initialed the memorandum and a note in the top margin reads: “RCM has seen.” All brackets are in the original.
  2. Senator Kennedy visited the Soviet Union in April 1974, traveling to Moscow, Leningrad, and Tbilisi. (Telegram 5944 from Moscow, April 22, 1974; Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D740093–1005; and telegram 6195 from Moscow, April 25, 1974; Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D740099–0108)
  3. See Document 55.
  4. According to telegram 12354 from Moscow, September 6, Goodby “held consultations with Soviet CDE Ambassador Oleg Grinevskiy in Moscow September 2–3. Discussions covered CBM’s, non-use of force, procedural issues, and the relationship of CDE to the Vienna review meeting.” (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D850633–0127)
  5. In telegram 12179 from Moscow, September 4, the Embassy provided a wrap-up of Block’s visit from August 25 to September 1, stating that the visit “resulted in Soviet assurances that they would honor the provisions of the five-year agreement on grains (LTA) and buy the remaining 1.1 million tons of wheat by September 30. The Secretary also signed a protocol with the Agriculture Minister V.K. Mesyats on the exchange of young agricultural specialists and was treated to an exceptionally good (by Soviet standards) tour of farm enterprises near Moscow, Kiev and Leningrad. Perhaps most important, he had the opportunity to develop good rapport with accompanying Deputy Minister of Agriculture, V.G. Kozlov—a man of considerable stature whose influence is likely to grow in the years ahead.” (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D850628–0539)
  6. See footnote 6, Document 114.
  7. In the spring of 1985, France proposed a “common Western European research project in high technology areas similar to those covered” by SDI. (Michael Dobbs, “French Plan Gains Backing in Europe,” Washington Post, May 23, 1985, p. A29) According to telegram 11634 from London, May 22, the program, known as Eureka, called for “increased European collaboration in specific areas of advanced technology.” (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D850359–0718) By July, 17 European nations “agreed on broad outlines for a research drive that would coordinate new and existing research projects in fields such as supercomputers, robotics, biotechnology, and telecommunications.” (William Echikson, “Europeans join forces on ‘Eureka’ research. Now 17 nations are talking about rival to US ‘star wars’ project,” Christian Science Monitor, July 19, 1985)
  8. Speech not found.
  9. See Document 59.
  10. See Document 66.