68. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs (Ridgway) to Secretary of State Shultz1


  • Gorbachev Testing Moratorium/Presidential Letter on Our Testing Proposal

Sokolov brought me today a letter from Gorbachev to the President stating that they intend to announce a moratorium on nuclear testing for the period August 6 to next January 1 (Tab 1). As you know, we have been expecting something of this sort tied to Hiroshima and just before the NPT Review Conference,2 and the proposal for a Soviet calibration visit to our testing site has been developed as a counter. Our proposal was included in the draft letter to Gorbachev that none of us particularly liked.3

With the Soviet letter—and a probable announcement in Moscow today or tomorrow—our problem now is one of timing. We need to get our proposal out immediately so we can announce it as a counter to the Soviet ploy. We believe this could be best done by sending a letter to Gorbachev this afternoon including the nuclear testing proposal only (Tab 2).4 It would not mention the Soviet letter, but would parallel it as a one-issue, pre-announcement notification. We believe this would be far preferable to a letter along the lines that was earlier proposed. We have discussed this by telephone with Mike. He agrees it would be useful to get our initiative out in some form, but he has not had a chance to review this memo.

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Embassy Moscow could hand over the letter early tomorrow morning. We would then announce our proposal shortly after the Soviets announce theirs. At Tab 3 is a draft announcement that emphasizes the importance of our proposal and criticizes theirs in appropriately moderate terms.5 We have further Q & A’s prepared on both subjects that can be used tomorrow.

I recommend you discuss this with Bud immediately on your return.

Tab 1

Letter From Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev to President Reagan6

Dear Mr. President,

I would like to inform you of the following.

Striving to promote cessation of the dangerous rivalry in building up nuclear arsenals and desiring to set a good example for other nuclear countries, the Soviet Union has taken a decision to cease unilaterally, starting August 6th, 1985, any nuclear explosions. Our moratorium is declared till January 1, 1986. However, it will continue to be in effect even longer if the United States, on its part, refrains from conducting nuclear explosions. All this will be contained in an official statement.

We hope, Mr. President, that the United States will duly appreciate this peace-loving step by the Soviet Union and will follow its example. A mutual Soviet-American moratorium would be an important contribution toward a healthier international situation and lessening the danger of war.

In taking this decision we proceeded, in particular, from our desire to promote a more favorable atmosphere in view of the forthcoming meeting between you and me in November as well.

I take this opportunity to wish you once again the speediest recovery.7


M. Gorbachev
  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S Records, 1985 NODIS and EXDIS Secretariat Memorandums, Lot 94D92, NODIS July 1985. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted on July 28 by Pascoe; cleared by Palmer and Holmes.
  2. In telegram 10430 from Moscow, July 30, the Embassy reported: “Gorbachev’s statement announcing a five-month unilateral moratorium on Soviet nuclear explosions appears to be a public relations effort timed to coincide with the tenth anniversary observances of the Helsinki Accords, the fortieth anniversary of Hiroshima, and the upcoming Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. The announcement builds on several earlier statements proposing a multilateral nuclear weapons test moratorium and it adds another Soviet unilateral disarmament proposal to a growing list.” (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D850540–0744) Gorbachev’s July 29 statement is printed in Documents and Disarmament, 1985, pp. 444–445.
  3. See Documents 64 and 67.
  4. Attached but not printed is a draft cable containing the text of a letter from Reagan to Gorbachev. See Document 69.
  5. Attached but not printed.
  6. No classification marking. Printed from an unofficial translation. The text of the letter, translated from Russian, was provided by the Soviet Embassy. In telegram 231307 to Moscow, July 28, the Department sent the text of Gorbachev’s July 28 letter. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, [no file number])
  7. On July 12, Reagan had surgery at Bethesda Naval Hospital to remove polyps from his colon. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary).