40. Telegram From Secretary of State Shultz’s Delegation to the Department of State and the White House1

Secto 6027. Subject: Memorandum of Conversation. Time: April 13, 1987, 8:30–10:30 p.m. Place: Foreign Ministry Mansion, Moscow.


  • US
  • Secretary Shultz
  • Ambassador Nitze
  • Ambassador Ridgway
  • Ambassador Matlock
  • Mr. Adelman
  • Ambassador Rowny
  • Ambassador Lehman
  • Ambassador Cooper
  • Mr. Perle
  • Mr. Timbie
  • Mr. Kamman (notetaker)
  • Soviet
  • Foreign Minister Shevardnadze
  • Ambassador Dubinin
  • Vice Minister Bessmertnykh
  • Ambassador Karpov
  • Mr. Tarasenko


  • Arms Control: Testing, CW, INF, Other

Summary: At a plenary session running about 90 minutes, the Secretary covered the arms control issues not discussed earlier in the day, ranging from nuclear testing to chemical weapons. Several issues were delegated for more detailed exploration to small groups or individuals. Shevardnadze professed to be flexible on initiating nuclear testing negotiations and proposed a competitive trial of CORRTEX2 and seismic verification techniques. He agreed there was little separating the positions of the two sides on nuclear risk reduction centers. At the conclusion of the session, Shevardnadze requested a one-on-one meeting with the Secretary at which he asked whether the U.S. was interested in concluding an INF agreement, since Gorbachev would be [Page 167] asking the same question in his meeting with the Secretary the following day. The Secretary said categorically that the answer was yes and reviewed the key elements of the U.S. INF position as well as other important objectives in the relationship. End summary.

Shevardnadze welcomed the Secretary back to the negotiating table and said he assumed the Secretary had been able to rest a bit. The Secretary said he had attended a seder at Spaso House and had been able to meet some of the people about whom he had talked to the Foreign Minister earlier in the day. He added that Mrs. Shultz had had a very fine day, seeing many things the Secretary wished he had time for. Shevardnadze gave the floor to the Secretary to present whatever thoughts he wished.

The Secretary noted that the U.S. delegation had considered the Soviet idea of forming an arms control working group, with three subgroups for the various issues. A group had already begun to meet on INF. The group dealing with strategic arms would be ready whenever the Soviets wished, either simultaneous with the present plenary or the following morning, as the Soviets wished. The group dealing with space and related issues would have to work out a time, but the U.S. suggested that in addition to Amb. Cooper, it could include Amb Nitze, Mr. Perle and Col. Linhard. They, too, could begin the next morning. Shevardnadze said the Soviets wanted to accept the U.S. formula. After some banter at Karpov’s expense, it was agreed that Karpov would be the Soviet designee for strategic issues, and he would get together with the U.S. team immediately after the plenum to fix an agenda and time for the strategic sub-group. Similarly, the space arms group could set its schedule after the plenary.

The Secretary then turned to the remaining agenda items, which he listed briefly as follows: Nuclear testing, nuclear risk reduction centers, nuclear non-proliferation, chemical weapons treaty, chemical weapons non-proliferation, conventional forces and arms, the Vienna CSCE follow-up, and a new item concerning a possible control regime for missile technology transfer, which he would explain further later in the session. He further suggested that regional issues be discussed the following day. Shevardnadze indicated his concurrence in this work program.

The Secretary said that on nuclear testing, he hoped it would be possible to launch a negotiation. The two sides had come close in Reykjavik, but didn’t quite make it. The key need was for confidence in compliance, which in turn depended upon improved verification. That was why we had set forth our views on the verification aspects of the TTBT and PNET; we had explained the CORRTEX system, which we had demonstrated at the Nevada test site. The Secretary recalled that the President had said in Reykjavik that we were prepared to [Page 168] proceed with step-by-step progress on testing issues in parallel with offensive reductions, to occur after the two treaties were approved on the basis of adequate verification. We had said we would accept a single forum for negotiating the various testing issues if the Soviets would agree to our step-by-step approach. We did not understand why the Soviets had a problem with the need to begin with verification, since this was the key to the other issues. The Soviet side had been talking about negotiations on verification in parallel with further limits, while the U.S. wanted to take these up sequentially. But recently, Soviet representatives had suggested that both sides postulate the goal of a comprehensive ban, while dealing in parallel with TTBT, PNET and further testing limits short of a CTB. This is a potentially constructive suggestion. Now we need to get started with negotiations. In our view, a single forum should deal with these issues, and it should first take up verification improvements. However, at the same time, it could consider the agenda for further limitations which could be implemented in parallel with reductions in nuclear arms. Both sides agreed that the ultimate goal was a comprehensive ban. Verification would be the foundation for the single forum. This was a change in our position designed to meet the Soviet position. Recapitulating, the Secretary said there could be an agenda discussion in parallel with verification improvements; when verification had been agreed and implemented, negotiations could take place on other steps. He concluded his presentation by urging that the two sides get started on the negotiation. He indicated that we had some language to propose regarding the initiation of talks.

Shevardnadze said the thoughts expressed by the Secretary were deserving of much attention. The Soviet side was prepared to display flexibility and take a constructive approach, seeking real results at the negotiations. The talks currently under way were fruitless. The Soviet side favored full-scale negotiations on all nuclear testing issues. The principal goal of such negotiations should be a comprehensive ban. Verification, limits on yields and number of tests, and verification of the 1974 and 1976 treaties3 were all important aspects. With respect to verification, the Soviet side had listened to the opinions of U.S., Soviet and third-country scientists. In the opinion of these experts, the hydro-dynamic or CORRTEX method of verification was insufficiently precise, with a margin of error of 30 percent. For measuring low yields, this was not sufficiently accurate. The more reliable method was seismic. The Soviet Union was proposing to conduct at government-to-government level, joint experiments employing the seismic method, to include [Page 169] exchange of data on the results at both countries’ test sites. The Soviets would not rule out the possibility of an American device being tested at a Soviet site and vice versa. Such experiments could be carried out in 1988. After doing the necessary work to try out the seismic method. The two sides could compare it with the corrtex method for both precision and comprehensiveness.

Shevardnadze then said he wanted to ask a “side question”. The Soviets had noted that a lot was being said in the U.S. Congress about a 1 KT threshold. Did the U.S. Administration have any sympathy for this idea? The Secretary quickly responded, “The answer to that is no.”

Continuing, the Secretary said the other thoughts expressed by Shevardnadze about finding the best way to measure yield were very constructive. The Soviet estimate of the range of error for CORRTEX was about the same as our own information. That was why the two sides ought to get started on negotiations in which the two sides would set forth verification objectives. We would be ready to shift our position, to discuss in the initial negotiations the agenda for follow-on talks in a step-by-step fashion. We were prepared to reach agreement here in Moscow to begin negotiations.

Shevardnadze said that as far as verification was concerned, the positions have moved closer. On objectives for the negotiations, we were closer there as well. He still favored the idea of a 1 KT threshold, however, and wanted to register his position in favor of it. The Secretary interjected that some members of Congress would like this idea, but the President would never agree to it. Shevardnadze continued that much depended on testing, for example in the realm of non-proliferation. He thought they had good experience with exchanges with American scientists, and it would be good to let the scientists compete in determining the best verification method. Should this issue be turned over to a separate working group?

The Secretary thought the two sides were basically in agreement. He suggested that we write out some language to see if, in fact, we agreed. Then we should get started on the talks. He would designate Mr. Adelman to work with the Soviet side to draft a paragraph the following day. Shevardnadze said he, too, would designate someone.

The Secretary indicated that on nuclear risk reduction centers, the two sides had discussed the issue in the past and it was our view that we should now be able to move forward. Two distinguished Senators, Nunn and Warner,4 were interested. Mr. Perle had done a lot of work on the issue, and could follow through for our side. Shevardnadze said nearly everything was agreed, except a few words needed to be [Page 170] removed. The Soviet side would designate someone to work on a final version with Mr. Perle. The only thing required was to drop from the U.S. draft the concept of exchanging information on political statements through the center—otherwise, the two sides were in basic agreement.

The Secretary reviewed nuclear non-proliferation, citing the way the two countries work together. The next round would be in June in Moscow, as he understood it. He wanted to mention one area of great concern to US, the situation relating to India and Pakistan. We were concerned, as were the Soviets, since we wanted to bring the threat of proliferation under control. We had raised the issue at the highest level with Pakistan, and for that matter, with India. Our message is getting through. We saw a number of things Pakistan could do, such as ratifying the NPT, accepting full safeguards, agreeing on a regional nuclear-free zone, and others. Pakistan appeared to be paying some heed, and to be willing if India goes along. We were also talking to India. The USSR had some influence on the subcontinent, and we would suggest that our non-proliferation representatives—in our case, Ambassador Kennedy—work on a proposal to be put to Pakistan and India.

Shevardnadze said if nuclear tests were not stopped soon, the two countries would encounter many problems in trying to prevent proliferation. He cited Pakistan, Israel, South Africa, Brazil and Argentina. The main way to stop this trend was for everybody to stop nuclear testing. As nuclear powers, the USSR and the U.S. had to show a responsible position to the non-nuclear powers. With respect to nuclear-free zones, the U.S. had a highly selective approach. Frankly, he could not understand (nor could the Australians) why the U.S. refused to sign the treaty of Rarotonga.5 There was also the proposal on the table to declare the Korean Peninsula a nuclear-free zone, as suggested by the DPRK. And the idea of nuclear-free zones had come up in his discussions with various East Asian countries such as Indonesia and the countries of Indochina. There was much sentiment in East Asia for declaring a large area a nuclear-free zone. A practical approach was required, and the USSR was ready to discuss this way of heading off the nuclear threat. With respect to India and Pakistan, Shevardnadze said he was convinced that India and its leaders by no means sought nuclear weapons, but they could not avoid the issue so long as Pakistan was developing them. He urged the U.S. to lean more heavily on Pakistan.

[Page 171]

The Secretary said we would be continuing to talk to the Pakistanis. He agreed that it would help non-proliferation if we could reach agreement on testing. It would be even more favorable if we embarked on nuclear weapons reductions. We should use every argument at our disposal, and we hoped for Soviet cooperation. If Shevardnadze would bring this point to the attention of his non-proliferation representative, we would do the same. Shevardnadze agreed to do so, anticipating that the non-proliferation negotiators would ask in turn that they be able to point to solid agreements on nuclear weapons between the two great powers.

The Secretary took note of General Secretary Gorbachev’s April 10 speech6 reference to chemical weapons, especially his statement that the USSR had stopped production of such weapons. It was good to see the Soviet Union acknowledging that it possessed chemical weapons, since it had not previously done so. Shevardnadze said the Soviet Union had never been asked, tongue in cheek. The Secretary went on that openness was important to achieve progress. We needed to look at the size of chemical weapon stocks, the extent of production facilities, and especially the issue of verification. We wanted a broad approach to a chemical convention. Mandatory inspection provisions were indispensable. The British proposal was inadequate, and the Secretary had told them so. From our viewpoint, we needed timeliness (since production facilities could be quickly rearranged to conceal what had been in production) and full exchange of data prior to treaty signature. The Secretary noted that the Soviet delegation in Geneva had been concentrating on agreement in principle, but when it comes to verification, the details are everything. A treaty would be very valuable; it could help prevent proliferation of chemical weapons. We are prepared to talk about a ban as well as ways to combat proliferation. We have been especially concerned about the use of CW in the Iran-Iraq War. If the Soviet side would like, it could pursue the CW issue with Mr. Adelman, who had a lot of experience with it.

Shevardnadze said that although Gorbachev had treated the chemical weapons issue in his Prague speech, he would like to make a few specific points. The USSR favored elimination of CW arsenals. This could be quickly done. The Soviet Union thought a treaty could be completed and perhaps signed this year, or at least by next year. The bilateral consultations we had held on this issue were useful. It would also be useful to discuss biological weapons, i.e., “non-chemical” weapons. Gorbachev had indicated that the USSR has stopped production of chemical weapons and was building an installation to destroy them. [Page 172] This would permit rapid implementation of a convention following signature. The USSR and the U.S. should work together on this. The USSR was in favor of the principle of challenge inspection, provided that the challenge was directed at a facility covered by the convention. If the challenge was directed at a facility not covered by the convention, the state receiving the challenge should be able to propose alternative means of establishing the facts. This was the idea in the British proposal. It would be hard to adopt an “automatic” challenge provision and this approach was not favored in Geneva. The U.S. might have some difficulty accepting this, since it would apply to private firms. The USSR was ready to work with the U.S. on this issue, taking into account the ideas of other countries such as Sweden. The Soviets were prepared to instruct their delegation; they should concentrate their efforts on this question (of inspection). It would be a great pity to pass up an opportunity to ban these terrible weapons.

There are not many remaining questions. The Secretary expressed appreciation for these thoughts and said the U.S. wanted to work closely with the USSR. He offered to have Mr. Adelman go into detail with a designated Soviet representative. Shevardnadze said Stashevskiy, one of Karpov’s deputies, would be available to work with Adelman on both the nuclear testing and chemical weapons issues. The Secretary said he knew Mr. Adelman would be offering an invitation for the Soviet Union to visit a chemical weapons destruction facility in the U.S. Shevardnadze said this was an interesting idea and the USSR would consider it.

The Secretary discussed conventional forces and armaments, observing that interest in this sphere was growing as people began to see serious prospects of reducing nuclear weapons. That was a point he had noted in the April 10 Gorbachev speech, and he was glad to see it. The Gorbachev approach seemed to be to establish a conventional balance at lower levels. In this respect, verification was a key element. We had been disappointed in the lack of a Soviet response to the Western proposal for data exchange (on conventional forces). The mandate talks were in progress in Vienna. It was appropriate that the two alliances talk to each other. To have a good CSCE conclusion, we would also need to see human rights performance compatible with the Helsinki Final Act.

Shevardnadze said it was true that Gorbachev had mentioned the conventional balance. He had in mind the fact that the Warsaw Pact might have advantages in certain categories, while NATO was superior in others. The fundamental approach was to lower the level of military confrontation. The U.S. was familiar with the Warsaw Pact Budapest appeal.7 The objective was to achieve major reductions with strict verifi[Page 173]cation, including on-site inspection, as had proved possible in the Stockholm negotiations. This should occur by stages, with the balance maintained at reasonable adequacy at each stage. Imbalances would be removed not through increases, but through reductions. Apparently the U.S. agreed with this concept. It would be useful to have exchanges of data regarding U.S. and other troops in Europe, as well as Soviet troops. This was not easy, but it could be done. The two sides should address tactical nuclear weapons and offensive (“strike”) air forces.

These both affected the balance as well as the military doctrine of the two sides. The GDR and Czechoslovak ideas of a non-nuclear corridor were useful. The USSR would like to see a meeting of Foreign Ministers of CSCE states to deal with both tactical nuclear and conventional forces. They could also consider ways to prevent surprise attack and sudden troop concentrations. This would permit a comprehensive approach to reducing the scale of military forces in Europe. The Soviet Union believed it was on the right course in this effort. Shevardnadze said the Secretary had mentioned the Vienna talks. It was necessary to consider all relevant forces in that forum, including the forces of France and Spain which had heretofore been excluded from consideration. At the Stockholm talks8 under the rubric of the Helsinki accords the two sides had achieved progress in verification. It was now time to examine sharp reductions in forces in Europe. Shevardnadze wanted to make one point: the U.S. was right that Warsaw Pact-NATO contacts were useful, but one should not offend the neutral and non-aligned nations, who had much to contribute and who had played a very important role at Stockholm. The Secretary said we didn’t have to offend anybody, but when one was discussing questions that did not affect the forces of the neutral countries, this was different from confidence building measures. We could probably work out a role for reporting to the neutral and non-aligned. The mandate talks would have to deal with the conceptual problems. With respect to the Soviet idea of incorporating tactical nuclear weapons, our first priority should be SRINF. It would be better not to mix nuclear issues with conventional at this stage.

The Secretary turned to his last agenda item, indicating that he was giving advance notice of a demarche that would be made to the Soviet Embassy in Washington on April 16. This related to nuclear missile technology transfer. The United States and several other industrialized countries would be announcing agreement to control the transfer of nuclear-capable missiles. While nuclear weapons themselves were controlled, there was a need to control the missiles as well. The [Page 174] U.S. would be inviting the Soviet Union to join in this effort, and was prepared to send a working-level delegation to Moscow to explain what we had in mind. We hoped it would be of interest to the USSR, and would welcome having the USSR with such capability in this field, consider joining this effort. Shevardnadze said the Soviet Union would consider our demarche and if worthwhile, would join. If not, they would tell us so.

The Secretary said he had covered all his agenda except regional issues, which he would propose to take up the next day. He thought it might be good to decide what to tell the press. He thought it premature to try to describe the status of the issues under discussion, but would propose to identify the topics that had been discussed and the duration of the meetings, as well as the fact that working groups had been set up. Shevardnadze said that was basically what was in the Soviet draft press statement. With the exception of the need to add a mention of the working groups. At this point, the session broke and Shevardnadze invited the Secretary to join him for a one-on-one meeting in an adjacent room.

In the one-on-one session, attended by interpreters and notetakers, Shevardnadze said he recognized there would still be extensive debate and discussion of the details of various issues, but he wanted to put a question frankly to the Secretary in anticipation of the meeting the next day with Gorbachev. The question Gorbachev would be asking was whether the U.S. was interested in concluding an INF agreement.

The Secretary said categorically that the answer was yes. As he had told Shevardnadze in the morning, the U.S. was prepared to stand by its Reykjavik offer of 100 on each side, on a global basis. The President believed that it was better to move to a global level of zero, and we hoped the Soviets would consider this. Nevertheless we were prepared to settle for 100 if this was as far as the Soviet Union was prepared to go. The Secretary emphasized that on SRINF, the key principles for US were global application and equality. We couldn’t present an unequal treaty to the Congress. It wouldn’t be good for either side. Having the right to deploy equally was of major importance. Whether we chose to exercise that right was a different question. There could be a formula of a freeze on SRINF at or slightly below existing Soviet levels, with the right to match these on the U.S. side, and a subsequent effort to achieve reductions within that envelope (for which we needed further consultations with our allies). Thus an agreement on a global total, with the right to match, combined with agreement on subsequent negotiations in line with the expressed Soviet views, would be about where we should come out.

Another issue, the Secretary continued, was verification. We seemed to be proceeding along parallel lines on this issue. So the [Page 175] short answer to Shevardnadze’s question was yes. Moreover, after the discussion just concluded in plenary, we might add to INF an agreement to initiate negotiations on nuclear testing. This might produce agreement that would allow ratification in the fall. With verification in hand, we could then proceed with discussions of further steps in the testing area. He hoped language would be agreed the following day to start negotiations, with the goal of treaty ratification by fall.

There might be other issues ready for agreement. Personally the Secretary felt—as did the President and Gorbachev—that strategic arms were the main thing. We had made some headway in Reykjavik. Maybe we could make some more.

Finally, the Secretary wanted to stress how important it would be to register progress on at least one or two regional issues. This would send a powerful signal. And the Soviets had no idea what an impact there would be if the changes in Soviet society could produce something positive in the field of human rights. Naturally, the Soviet Union had its own reasons for the actions it was taking, but as he had mentioned earlier, it would have great impact if, for example, some of the people such as Ida Nudel and Vladimir Slepak could be released. People were watching the Soviet Union these days, and they hoped the world would become a better place as a result of changes occuring in the country.

Shevardnadze said he had not had time to describe all the Soviets were doing and planning to do, and he hoped the Secretary would hear it from Ryzhkov and Gorbachev the next day.9 If not, he would try to cover it with the Secretary before the visit was over. The Secretary welcomed discussion along these lines.

Returning to INF, Shevardnadze made two points. First, it was not easy for the USSR to agree to disregard French and British systems. Second, the withdrawal of the Soviet operational/tactical missiles from the GDR and Czechoslovakia was not merely removal but destruction of these missiles. This would leave 60–65 missiles of operational/tactical range, and the USSR was ready to negotiate their elimination as well. This showed that the Soviet Union was serious in removing obstacles to an agreement.

Shevardnadze said he had always spoken frankly with the Secretary, and he wanted to say in that spirit that the USSR had no compelling military need to alter the military balance in Europe. But if there was real mutual interest in an agreement, it could be achieved. More work was clearly needed, but what was required at this stage was a political decision.

[Page 176]

Regarding strategic and space weapons, Shevardnadze said he had not looked carefully at the document the U.S. side had presented. He would do so later in the evening. He thought there were prospects in these areas, and the two sides should not reduce their efforts. He hoped the U.S. was also studying the paper presented by the Soviet side, which contained some new points.10 The Soviet Union had no monopoly on truth, and would be glad to hear U.S. ideas. He concluded by saying that in any case, INF appeared to hold the greatest promise.

The Secretary thanked him and said the discussion had been worthwhile. There was a mutual desire to take advantage of sharp reductions in nuclear weapons. This was the President’s objective as well.

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S Records, Memoranda of Conversations Pertaining to United States and USSR Relations, 1981–1990, Lot 93D188, Moscow trip—Memcons 4/12–16/87. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by Kamman.
  2. Reference is to a method of verifying the size of underground nuclear explosions using a cable buried close to the center of detonation.
  3. References are to the Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT) of 1974 and the Peaceful Nuclear Explosion Treaty (PNET) of 1976.
  4. Senators Sam Nunn (D-Georgia) and John Warner (R-Virginia).
  5. Reference is to the August 1985 Treaty of Rarotonga, which created a nuclear-free zone in the South Pacific.
  6. See footnote 5, Document 39.
  7. See footnote 11, Document 7.
  8. Reference is to the Stockholm Conference on Confidence and Security Building Measures, which concluded on September 19, 1986.
  9. See Documents 41 and 42.
  10. See footnote 5, Document 45.