8. Information Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs (Burt) and the Acting Director of the Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs (Hawes) to Secretary of State Shultz 1


  • The Soviet Proposal at Geneva for a Blanket Moratorium

As we had expected, the Soviets have attempted to seize the initiative in the Geneva talks early on by tabling a proposal for a general freeze for the duration of the talks on “the arms race” in all three areas under negotiation. Though there may be some interesting, if as yet basically undefined, suggestions of movement inherent in portions of the Soviet proposal (e.g., implicit acceptance of some level of US LRINF deployments), it essentially appears to be a packaging together of previous Soviet declaratory proposals—all fundamentally unacceptable to Western interests. The nature of the Soviet proposal suggests that they will doubtless go public with this call for a moratorium in the near future, (perhaps in a speech or “interview” by Gorbachev or Gromyko), trumpeting it as a major negotiating initiative on their part.

The Soviet Proposal

Characterizing it as “a first major, urgent step toward achieving the goals of these negotiations,” Soviet Ambassador Karpov tabled on Tuesday2 a draft joint statement in which the U.S. and Soviet Union would agree to refrain, until final agreement is reached on the “entire complex of questions” under negotiation, from:

—the development (including scientific research), testing and deployment of space-strike arms;

—the quantitative build-up of strategic offensive arms in terms of the total number of nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles; and

—a build-up of “medium-range” missiles in Europe.

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The draft statement went on to note that verification of compliance with this general freeze would be carried out by national technical means. In presenting it, Karpov took pains to continue to stress Soviet insistence on linkage: “the resolution of questions of limiting and reducing nuclear arms will also depend upon the resolution of the question of preventing an arms race in space.” In subsequent comments, the Soviets said their proposal is intended to help the negotiating climate, and is not a precondition to negotiations.

At initial reading, much of the proposal appears familiar. The Soviets have previously proposed freezes in these areas in the context of the earlier START and INF talks and at the UNGA (on the questions of space arms). The blanket moratorium concept continues to contain basic flaws and unacceptable features: it would lock the U.S. and NATO into a position of inferiority in important areas; it would be unverifiable in several important respects; it would require lengthy, complicated negotiations to develop unambiguous provisions; and it would effectively remove any serious incentive for the Soviets to negotiate further on the reduction, as opposed to capping, of their own arsenal.

Some New Elements?

That said, Tuesday’s proposal may reflect slight movement from previous Soviet positions. The evidence in this regard, however, is as yet tentative, and in places, ambiguous or contradictory. Both Karpov’s formal plenary statement and the more informal supplementary comments by other Soviets in post-plenary conversation were deliberately vague in details (one of the senior Soviets has, in fact, commented to Mike Glitman that as a political statement, the moratorium proposal did not require further details).

On INF , the Soviets characterized their proposal as “halt[ing] the deployment of new U.S. missiles in Western Europe and at the same time, halt[ing] the increase in Soviet countermeasures, with subsequent reduction of medium-range nuclear systems in Europe to a level to be agreed upon.” This reiteration in more formal form of Gromyko’s comments on INF to you of last January may represent an implicit Soviet acceptance of the “legitimacy” of at least some level of U.S. LRINF missiles in Europe—the major sticking point in the earlier INF negotiations.3 On the other hand, the question of follow-on reductions to an agreed-upon level leaves open the possibility for the Soviets to press for an eventual outcome of zero U.S. LRINF by continuing to argue for compensation for French-British forces. Of course, the Soviets continue to seek to equate U.S. LRINF with their countermeasures, [Page 24] which include shorter-range deployments as well as the continued deployment of SS–20s.

On START , the new Soviet proposal lays emphasis on the quantitative nature of their proposed freeze on strategic arms, fixing SNDVs and weapons at current levels. (They have described the weapons limit in such a way, however, as to suggest continued Soviet insistence on including gravity bombs and other short-range bomber weapons). Their earlier version in the former START talks placed greater stress on qualitatively freezing the current situation through various one-sided modernization constraints.

Karpov seemed to echo the qualitative theme by stating in the plenary that both sides should seek as an objective in the negotiations “to renounce or strictly limit programs for the development and deployment of new strategic arms (long-range cruise missiles, new types of ICBMs, new types of SLBMs, and new heavy bombers).” In post-plenary conversation, however, General Detinov stated that the proposed moratorium would allow for freedom-to-mix and no modernization constraints. If correct, such an interpretation would permit MX, ALCM and Trident II deployment, under such a moratorium, provided compensatory draw-downs in warheads and launchers were made.

On space, the Soviets argue that their moratorium on research, testing, and deployment of “space-strike weapons” does not go beyond the constraints provided in the ABM Treaty. In trying to capture our SDI research, they are using a familiar tactic of stretching the definition of “development” of ABM systems, which is prohibited in Article V of the ABM Treaty. The Soviets claim that by their definition research is one stage of development, which runs on a spectrum from conceptual analysis to laboratory experiments to development of components or models of components. The Soviets would, however, exempt laser research from their moratorium, on the grounds that such research is not oriented toward developing “space-strike weapons.” (How would the Soviets verify compliance with a research ban? One Soviet replied in post-plenary that “cutting off the funding” would satisfy Moscow’s concerns.)

In post-plenary conversation, General Detinov defined space-strike arms as: space-based ballistic missile defense, the US ASAT, the Soviet ASAT, and “space based systems which can attack targets in space, in the air, on the earth or at sea.” The Soviet ban would not include ground-based ICBMs which might have some incidental capability against satellites. (You’ll recall from last January’s meeting with Gromyko, Karpov in a side conversation with Bud McFarlane begrudgingly acknowledged that some current Soviet ABMs would be caught under Gromyko’s definition of space strike weapons. Although Gromyko’s own response was somewhat ambiguous, it was fair to conclude that [Page 25] ABM systems were encompassed by the Soviet concept of “space-attack weapons.” This new Soviet formulation does not address this, and as such represents some backsliding from their January position in Geneva. The Soviets have thus conveniently defined their moratorium in space to have a maximum impact on our systems and research, while having a minimal impact on their ground-based systems and well-advanced laser research.

In sum, the new Soviet moratorium proposal contains some interesting new variations on previous Soviet positions which our delegation should be able to explore with the Soviets in the weeks and months ahead. The bottom line, however, is that the Soviet proposal is a political document, fundamentally unacceptable to us, and not intended as a serious basis for arms control limitations.

Next Steps

The Soviets will probably publicize their proposal for a blanket moratorium in the near future. (When directly queried on this, one of the Soviets in Geneva responded that the confidentiality agreement covered delegations, but not governments—which indeed has been our position as well). This is consistent with their standard negotiating practice of seeking to put us immediately on the defensive in the arms control propaganda battle. They will clearly expect us to reject their proposal and thus allow them to portray themselves to European and American audiences as the party most interested in serious arms control. Moscow will likely couple their moratorium proposal with their continuing efforts to depict us as somehow reneging on your January agreement with Gromyko to address seriously the “prevention of an arms race in space” within the “entire complex of questions.”

To help blunt the impact with the Allies of the Soviet call for a moratorium, we have sent a letter from Rick to his NATO SCG colleagues with similar messages to the Japanese and Australians.4 It advises them of the Soviet proposal and provides our preliminary reaction so that their own governments can be ready for an appropriate response when the Soviets go public. (This will, of course, also enable them to say that they have had prior consultation with the Americans [Page 26] on this question). In informing the Allies, we have taken care not to appear to be dismissing the Soviet proposal out of hand, stressing that we will study it seriously, but also indicating that we see little new from previously unacceptable Soviet proposals. When the Soviets do go public, we will also express regret that the Soviets are focusing on serious reductions, and our hope that this is not the final word from Moscow.

We believe that the disadvantages for the West of such moratoria schemes are so self-evident and familiar as to help to minimize the appeal of this specific Soviet proposal. On the other hand, current interest and sometimes optimism over prospects for East-West movement that Gorbachev’s ascension has inevitably sparked in Western media increases the potential for well-crafted and orchestrated Soviet public diplomacy efforts to do damage. If public interest in the proposal is not easily dampened, we may need to consider a more extensive public diplomacy effort.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, Executive Secretariat Sensitive (03/20/1985–03/21/1985). Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Dunkerley and Tefft; cleared by Palmer, Dobbins, Redman, Schwartz, Grobel, and Pifer. Patrick Moon, EUR/RPM, initialed for the drafting and clearing officials. Brackets are in the original. In a March 21 covering memorandum to McFarlane, Kraemer and Linhard sent a “background package for the President’s use during tonight’s press conference if the Soviets go public with this March 19 moratoria/freeze proposals.” (Reagan Library, Sven Kraemer Files, [Mar 1985] Chron File: [No. 82–No. 90])
  2. March 19.
  3. Shultz and Gromyko discussed INF issues during their January meetings in Geneva. See footnote 2, Document 4.
  4. In telegram 83957 to all NATO capitals, Tokyo, and Canberra, with copies to Moscow, the NST delegation, and Seoul, March 20, the Department transmitted a letter from Burt. He wrote: “Soviet negotiators in the new arms talks in Geneva have now put forward a call for a blanket moratorium.” He continued: “our initial reading of this proposal suggests that this is essentially a packaging together of previous Soviet declaratory proposals, with all of their inherent faults and unilateral advantages for the Soviet Union. The U.S. position on the basic unacceptability of such moratoria remains unchanged.” (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, N850004–0164)