81. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • INF; START; Defense and Space


  • US

    • The Secretary
    • National Security Advisor Carlucci
    • Asst. Sec. Ridgway
    • EUR/SOV Director Parris (Notetaker)
    • Mr. Zarechnak (Interpreter)
  • USSR

    • Foreign Minister Shevardnadze
    • CPSU Secretary Dobrynin
    • Deputy FornMin Bessmertnykh
    • Shevardnadze Advisor Tarasenko (Notetaker)
    • Mr. Palazhchenko (Interpreter)

THE SECRETARY said he would like to open by making a few points on INF.

On the question of the phasing of destruction, the Secretary said the U.S. could accept the Soviet formula that equality between the two sides’ forces would be reached at 150 warheads 70% of the way through the process. The U.S. believed that LRINF reductions should be completed in three years. SRINF would be destroyed within a single year, with some minor exceptions, were the formulation proposed by the Soviet side that morning to be accepted. In the context of a three-year destruction schedule, the U.S. would be prepared, to agree that a limited number of missiles could be destroyed by launching within a specific, limited period—perhaps six months after entry into force of a Treaty. There would, of course, be myriad details to be worked out under such an approach, e.g., spares, etc. But if the Soviet side could accept the limitations he had described, the Secretary said, the U.S. could go along.

SHEVARDNADZE noted that the original Soviet proposal had been that LRINF missiles be destroyed in five years; the U.S. had called for a three-year destruction period. The Soviet side had now reached the conclusion, however, that its LRINF missiles could in fact be destroyed in three years by detonation. If the U.S. were prepared to accept some launches to destroy as well, it would make it easier to [Page 424] complete destruction within that timeframe. So that seemed to take care of one outstanding issue.

With respect to SRINF, the original Soviet proposal had been for destruction within a year. Subsequently, Soviet experts had concluded that at least 18 months would be necessary to complete the task. The Soviet side was nonetheless prepared to destroy all SRINF in less time if it should later be established that this was feasible. But for the moment, 18 months seemed an irreducible minimum.

THE SECRETARY suggested that it might be possible to agree that SRINF destruction should take no more than 18 months, or in 12 if that proved technically feasible. SHEVARDNADZE said that he could agree to a 3 years/18 months framework for LRINF/SRINF destruction. THE SECRETARY said that this was acceptable, with the proviso that SRINF would be destroyed in 12 months if it proved to be technically feasible.

CARLUCCI reiterated that the formulation the Soviets had proposed before lunch for dealing with the P–1a problem implied some exceptions to this general rule. SHEVARDNADZE confirmed this.

Moving to a new subject, THE SECRETARY recounted Ambassador Glitman’s assessment that the structure of brackets which had emerged in the context of drafting the INF Treaty was such that the resolution of certain key issues would allow whole clusters of brackets to fall away. Perhaps the most serious group of remaining issues had to do with verification. It was probably not for the ministers themselves to resolve these issues, but they should seek to give their experts a push so that it would be possible to get through the massive amount of detailed work which had to be done.

CARLUCCI added that there were certain areas, e.g., exceptions to suspect site inspections, where the two sides should focus their efforts. He suggested that working groups be told to work on such problems even as the ministers continued their discussions, and into the night if necessary.

SHEVARDNADZE agreed to this approach. But he wanted to raise another issue at this time—noncircumvention. The Soviet side attached great importance to this problem, as, he was sure, did the American side. Differences in this regard had been narrowed, but assurances were still needed that the Treaty would be complied with, particularly regarding the non-transfer to third countries of types of missiles covered by the accord. The U.S. had proposed language affirming that neither side would do anything inconsistent with the Treaty. Perhaps a way could be found to bring the two approaches together in a way which met the concerns of both sides.

THE SECRETARY suggested that the subject was best handled by working groups. The U.S. was concerned about overly vague language [Page 425] which could be mischievously interpreted at a later date. Experience suggested those concerns were not exaggerated. So experts should wrestle with the problem, and come up with language which was not overly general. SHEVARDNADZE said he agreed, but on the clear understanding that there should be no transfers of INF missiles to third countries. THE SECRETARY said that the more specific the language involved, the better.

CARLUCCI suggested that the INF working group should be briefed on the ministers’ discussion. It was pointed out that the experts would be convening at 4:30.

SHEVARDNADZE noted that there had been some difficulty in Geneva with respect to the exchange of data on INF. To overcome those difficulties, he proposed that the two sides agree to exchange data on LRINF and SRINF launchers and warheads “now.” The Soviet side was prepared to provide its data “even today or tomorrow.”

THE SECRETARY welcomed this, noting that the last thing either side wanted was a surprise on data late in the game. He agreed that there should be an early exchange, in Moscow if possible.

DOBRYNIN emphasized that the Soviet side was ready to exchange aggregate data in the areas Shevardnadze had specified immediately, on a reciprocal basis. As for other data, it could be exchanged prior to signature of the Treaty. THE SECRETARY agreed.

SHEVARDNADZE asked if verification issues should be taken up by the ministers or their working groups. THE SECRETARY said that the ministers should lean on working groups to ensure they gave these issues top priority. If the overall groups found themselves trying to do too much, perhaps it would be possible to break off those members most familiar with verification to address outstanding problems on an ad ref basis.

SHEVARDNADZE asked if the Secretary was proposing the formation of a verification sub-group. THE SECRETARY said that this might be a way of telling the working groups to focus on verification. CARLUCCI said that he would advise Nitze that a verification sub-group should be established. Urging that they intensify efforts to reach compromise solutions, SHEVARDNADZE agreed that experts should intensify their discussion of verification.

Following a brief exchange on SS–24/25 production/assembly inspection and the difficulties of SLCM/GLCM verification, THE SECRETARY suggested that these issues also be referred to experts. SHEVARDNADZE agreed, noting that the experts had to consider a daunting range of problems: inspections of missile destruction; non-circumvention; inspections of initial data exchange; inspections of final assembly points for ballistic missiles and GLCM’s; procedures for the destruction [Page 426] of warheads and of INF subsidiary structures. They would need adequate authority to satisfactorily address them all.

CARLUCCI noted that the U.S. team had been given instructions to enable them to address the questions Shevardnadze had raised. If the Soviet side did as well, progress should be possible. SHEVARDNADZE said this was good.

THE SECRETARY suggested that the discussion return to the question of Pershing 1a’s, and handed over a U.S. draft responding to the “alternatives” presented by Shevardnadze during the morning session. The text read as follows:

The United States and the Soviet Union agree that all U.S. and Soviet intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles and their associated reentry vehicles will be eliminated within an agreed overall period of elimination. It is further agreed that all such missiles will, in fact, be eliminated fifteen days prior to the end of the overall period of elimination. During the last fifteen days, a party shall withdraw to national territory reentry vehicles which, by unilateral decision, have been released from existing programs of cooperation. Subsequently, these reentry vehicles would be eliminated using agreed procedures.

SHEVARDNADZE sought confirmation that this was U.S. language which had not been agreed to by Soviet experts.

A discussion of the text ensued, during the course of which BESSMERTNYKH expressed concern that the U.S. language did not make sufficiently explicit the link between the withdrawal and elimination of reentry vehicles, or the relationship between these actions and the concept of a single time frame. After checking with the Secretary, CARLUCCI passed Bessmertnykh a new draft, identical to the original except for the substitution of the final two sentences by the following single sentence:

During the last fifteen days, a party shall withdraw to national territory reentry vehicles which, by unilateral decision, have been released from existing programs of cooperation and eliminate them during the same time frame using agreed procedures.

On reading the revision, BESSMERTNYKH nodded and explained the significance of the change to Shevardnadze. SHEVARDNADZE agreed “tentatively” to the new draft, but suggested that experts study it in more detail. THE SECRETARY expressed the hope that the agreement which had just been reached would put an end to the P–1a issue.

CARLUCCI undertook to brief the working group on the results of the ministers’ conversation, and to set experts to work on the verification issues Shevardnadze had listed. In response to SHEVARDNADZE’s comment that solutions on some of these points should be possible, CARLUCCI said that the experts should work on them all night if necessary.

[Page 427]

SHEVARDNADZE said that, before leaving INF, he wished to touch on something he found disturbing—increasing talk of “compensation” as the prospect of a Treaty became more concrete. Shevardnadze said he wanted to make clear that if the U.S. were to start an arms race in another area it should know—and the U.S. military should know—that the Soviet side would respond. Moscow did not want this. If the U.S. saw the Soviet Union acting in a way which caused it concern, it should raise the problem. But nothing should be allowed to undermine the progress which an INF Treaty would set in motion.

THE SECRETARY cautioned that there was a strong and natural desire on both sides to seek the strongest possible deterrent within the framework of whatever rules were agreed to. This was a natural, ongoing process. We viewed an INF Treaty as of great importance, but as only one part of a broader pattern. It would be necessary to address more directly areas beyond INF—notably strategic arms—to affect that pattern. Treaties were important because they set parameters. Where activities were not bound by agreements, however, neither side could expect the other not to continue the process of military development. The Secretary said he could see why the Soviet side might find “compensation” a provocative word, but it simply described a process which would go forward in the absence of formal restraints.

SHEVARDNADZE protested that it was wrong to open a discussion of how to “compensate” for limitations established by a treaty at the very moment that the treaty was being completed. He concurred with the Secretary’s suggestion that the conclusion of an INF Treaty underscored the importance of parallel work on strategic and other arms.

THE SECRETARY said he agreed with that, pointing out, however, that the debate could lead to different conclusions. In the wake of a INF Treaty, for example, something would have to be done about the conventional imbalance in Europe. If it were impossible to negotiate a more balanced situation—and the experience of MBFR did not inspire confidence—then we would have to correct the balance. That was why it was important to agree on a mandate for conventional stability talks in Vienna and get talks underway.

The history of strategic arms negotiations was also enlightening in this regard. Initially, the focus had been on limiting launchers. But then MIRV’s had been developed, and the problem had to be rethought. Now both sides had agreed on the concept of counting not just launchers, but other variables as well. But those things which were not controlled would be worked on, as they had in the past. All of this, the Secretary concluded, reinforced the importance of a comprehensive approach.

SHEVARDNADZE expressed concern that the pace of weapons development generally exceeded that of negotiations. It was thus [Page 428] important to avoid new rounds of the arms race whenever possible. This implied the need for close involvement of the military on both sides.

As to the question of conventional imbalances in Europe, it would be good to discuss this question both multilaterally and bilaterally. The Soviet side viewed the mandate discussions in Vienna as important. It had also encouraged direct contacts between Ministries of Defense to discuss doctrinal questions which, after all, were the basis for “everything” in the military field.

[At this point Carlucci, who had left fifteen minutes before to brief the U.S. working group, returned.]

CARLUCCI said that the Soviet side was typing up the Russian version of the text which had been agreed to. BESSMERTNYKH asked if the Secretary would need to phone the President. THE SECRETARY said that he would want to tell the President that the discussion was going well.2

SHEVARDNADZE said that the Soviet side shared that view. He added that it appeared the ministers had done what they could on INF. Did the Secretary wish to move on to strategic arms?

THE SECRETARY said that he was prepared to make a few preliminary remarks to set the stage.

His starting point was that final decisions with respect to strategic arms and related issues would have to be made by the two countries’ leaders. But the ministers and delegations in Geneva could lay the groundwork for a fruitful discussion at the summit.

Beyond that was the problem of verification, which would be extraordinarily difficult—much more so than in INF. This was essentially a job for the delegations, but the ministers should not ignore it at their level. A good INF agreement would whet appetites for progress in START, and perhaps open up avenues for creative work. It was a fact that an INF agreement alone would be of much less significance than if coupled with a START agreement.

The Secretary recalled that General Secretary Gorbachev had referred to strategic arms as the “root problem,” and that he had suggested that it might be possible to conclude a START agreement by the following spring. The U.S. agreed, and was prepared to work to make it possible to present a signed treaty to the Senate for ratification in 1988. The Secretary noted that the breakthroughs made in Reykjavik and subsequent moves by both sides had established the basic foundations for a START agreement: a 6,000 warhead limit, a 1,600 launcher [Page 429] limit, and a bomber counting rule. The main outstanding elements were sublimits and mobile missiles. Were these resolved, there would be agreement on the basic numbers.

In more specific terms, the Secretary noted that both sides shared the basic concept of a triad in structuring their strategic forces. The U.S., for its part, considered it important that a certain minimum percentage of nuclear weapons be devoted to air-breathing delivery systems. In that context, we had noted past suggestions by the Soviet side that it would be prepared to limit ballistic missile warheads to 80% of overall aggregates, since this implied that the remaining 20% would be reserved for air-borne systems. As applied to the 6,000 warhead limit agreed to in Reykjavik, the Soviet 80% figure would come out to 4,800. If the Soviet side were prepared to accept such an outcome, it would be a major step forward.

The Secretary noted that other possible sublimits could also be considered to regulate other elements of the triad. Shevardnadze had expressed in Washington the Soviet side’s willingness to agree that no more than 60%—or 3,600—warheads should be on any single leg of the triad. For its part, the U.S. had proposed that ICBM warheads should be limited to 3,300 because of the qualitative differences between ICBM’s and other types of launchers. The U.S. was prepared to go to 3,600, but was not prepared to apply such a limit to both ICBM’s and SLBM’s, so that was another point of difference between the two sides.

The Secretary noted that the U.S. had also called for a 1,650 warhead limit on heavy and highly fractionated missiles, and believed this to be a reasonable proposal. The U.S. knew of the heavy investment that the Soviet Union had made in mobile ICBM’s and was prepared to consider means of taking that into account. There was much to be said for mobile missiles, which, because of their survivability, tended to enhance stability. But we had wracked our brain to come up with a means of verifying any limits which might be agreed to. The Secretary suggested that an intensive effort be made to come up with solutions to this problem before the President and Gorbachev met.

Noting that he had not mentioned other outstanding differences, the Secretary briefly summarized his understanding of where things stood in the strategic arms talks: much had been accomplished as a result of the Reykjavik meeting; the U.S. considered the 4,800 limit a necessity; the 3,300 or 60% limitation should be applied only to ICBM’s because of the qualitative difference between them and SLBM’s; even with the 1,540 limit, it was desirable to concentrate efforts on particularly destabilizing weapons systems; there was a need to pin down 50% throwweight reductions; there was much to be done on verification in general, and on mobile missiles in particular. So that was the U.S. view of the state of play on START, and the Secretary’s assessment of what needed to be decided at a political level.

[Page 430]

In response to the Secretary’s query as to whether he had anything to add, CARLUCCI said it would be good to have Shevardnadze’s views on START.

SHEVARDNADZE said he shared the Secretary’s view that there had been progress in the strategic arms area since Reykjavik. The fact that both sides were working from a joint draft treaty was itself a step forward. There had indeed been movement during Shevardnadze’s Washington visit—notably the Soviet agreement to a 60% warhead limit on any leg of the triad. But, in anticipation of the Secretary’s meeting with the General Secretary the next day, what were the main obstacles to further breakthroughs?

Shevardnadze said that he did not intend to get into a detailed discussion of numbers. Gorbachev would do that the next day. Rather, Shevardnadze wanted to call the Secretary’s attention to some frankly discouraging factors.

Shevardnadze said that the progress which had been achieved since Reykjavik had been undermined to a significant degree by certain artificial obstacles erected by the U.S. delegation in Geneva. He complained specifically about the U.S. approach to ICBM’s which, he said, struck the Soviet side as designed to eliminate all heavy missiles. He also objected to the U.S. insistence upon a mobile ICBM ban, insisting that a combination of national technical means and cooperative measures should be sufficient to overcome verification problems. Nor could Shevardnadze understand why the Backfire bomber question, which had been resolved in SALT II, should have been revived. There were also problems with respect to U.S. demands on counting rules and definitions. All these complications had appeared after the Reykjavik meeting, apparently with the purpose of making it more difficult to conclude a treaty. If the U.S. were serious about achieving 50% reductions, they should be dropped.

An even more difficult problem, Shevardnadze noted, had to do with the ABM Treaty and its relationship to any agreement on strategic arms. If the U.S. was prepared to agree that the ABM Treaty would remain operative, 50% reductions were possible; but if the U.S. insisted upon the “broad interpretation,” it was another matter.

In Washington, the Secretary had noted that there were areas of overlap in the two sides’ positions on the ABM Treaty. This was true and to some degree encouraging. The Soviet side was trying to be creative in its approach to the problem. It had dropped the terms of its insistence on a non-withdrawal pledge from twenty to ten years. But ten was a minimum. Similarly, Moscow had clarified its position on laboratory research in order to move closer to the U.S. position. If the ABM Treaty were observed and there were agreement to ten years of non-withdrawal, the Soviet side could accept a broad interpretation of the word “research.”

[Page 431]

On the important definitional issue, the Soviets had also sought to find a means of reaching a mutual understanding—their proposal to develop lists of devices to be banned from outer space if they exceeded certain agreed parameters. Shevardnadze said he understood there had been some misunderstanding in Geneva of the Soviet position. He reaffirmed his Washington offer remained fully in effect: whatever was not expressly banned under the agreed parameters would be permitted.

Perhaps, Shevardnadze suggested, the confusion in Geneva stemmed from the complexity of the Soviet “parameters” proposal. In that case, the Soviet side was prepared to accept a simple obligation to observe for ten years the Treaty as signed and interpreted in 1972. Were it necessary to clarify certain points, the Standing Consultative Committee—reinvigorated as necessary by, for example, the participation of Ministers of Defense—could do so.

Shevardnadze noted that there was a broader problem as well. The Secretary had spoken of a summit. The two sides had agreed it would take place that fall. It was clear that an INF agreement would be available for the signing. But what would be the basis for further high-level contacts? The next task was to find points of convergence on START and related issues. If there were greater clarity on the role of the ABM Treaty, it would be possible to return to the idea of a key provisions agreement which could be signed at a fall summit and serve as the basis for a full-scale treaty to be signed at a second summit in 1988.

As to the Secretary’s remarks on sublimits, Shevardnadze repeated that the General Secretary would be prepared to address them the following day. Shevardnadze reaffirmed that Gorbachev viewed strategic arms as a “pivotal” problem, and urged that the Secretary be prepared in his discussion with the General Secretary to address the ABM Treaty and those artificial obstacles to concluding a START agreement which had arisen since Reykjavik. Shevardnadze then read what he described as excerpts from past conversations with the Secretary, in which the Secretary had spoken favorably of bridging the two sides’ positions on the ABM Treaty.

After asking for the floor, CARLUCCI noted that the U.S. did not accept the validity of any linkage between the ABM Treaty and a START agreement, but asked for a clarification of the Soviet position on ABM observance. Both sides agreed that the Treaty banned the deployment of prohibited systems. The U.S. view was that space-based systems based on other physical principles could be developed and tested. What was the Soviet position on this point?

SHEVARDNADZE replied that the ABM Treaty banned the testing, development and deployment of space-based ABM systems. But the Soviet parameter proposal was an attempt to begin a serious scientific discussion of the issue Carlucci had raised. Why was the U.S. avoiding such a discussion?

[Page 432]

CARLUCCI responded that, if the Soviet objective was to achieve greater predictability with respect to deployment, the U.S. could probably accommodate that desire. If, on the other hand, the objective was to place constraints on the development of SDI, that was something else.

SHEVARDNADZE reiterated that the Soviet side had itself taken important steps to accommodate the U.S. position: on the definition for laboratories; in proposing a discussion of parameters below which activities in space would be permitted. There had been no U.S. response.

THE SECRETARY said that he wanted to make only a few points in the interest of time. First, it appeared that both sides agreed that START delegations should focus their attention on verification questions, with the Soviet side to provide ideas on how to verify mobile ICBM’s. The objective should be to achieve sufficient progress so that the two leaders could have an informed discussion of these issues at their meeting.

With respect to the ABM Treaty, the Secretary understood the Soviet position, as articulated by Shevardnadze in their September meeting to consist of the following elements: (a) a ten-year pledge not to withdraw from the ABM Treaty, defined as observance of the “narrow” interpretation of the Treaty; and (b) the Soviet “list” proposal, which the U.S. took to permit testing in space within certain limits.

SHEVARDNADZE replied, with respect to the list proposal, that any activity below agreed thresholds would be considered to be permitted. He noted, however, that those thresholds had not yet been defined.

The meeting concluded with Shevardnadze’s observation that it had been a good one, and that the ministers would reconvene that evening at 8:00.3

  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/Washington Oct. 1987. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Parris. All brackets are in the original. The meeting took place in the Guesthouse of the Soviet Foreign Ministry.
  2. Following this meeting, Shultz spoke on a secure voice line to Reagan from 10:55 to 11:00 a.m. Washington time. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Dairy)
  3. The meeting reconvened at 9 p.m.; see Document 82.