9. Editorial Note

On November 25, 1986, the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs John Poindexter resigned as a result of his role in the Iran-Contra affair. In his diary that evening, President Ronald Reagan recalled meeting with Poindexter that morning to accept his resignation. President Reagan went on to describe “an N.S.C. meeting to see how we’d handle the roll out of the 131st [B–52] bomber equipped for Nuclear Cruise Missiles. It puts us 1 plane above the restraints of SALT II which the Soviets & us had agreed to observe even though the treaty had never been ratified. The Soviets have regularly violated the agreement. My decision is to h—l with them we roll out the plane.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, Volume II, November 1985–January 1989, p. 661.) The minutes of the November 25 National Security Council meeting are scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, Volume XLIV, National Security Policy, 1985–1988.

On December 3, President Reagan appointed Frank Carlucci President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs. During the interim period and for several weeks while Carlucci fulfilled contractual obligations to Sears, Alton Keel served as Acting President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs.

On December 18, President Reagan met in the Situation Room with his senior advisors from 11:03 a.m. to 12:10 p.m. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) Reagan characterized the meeting as “a briefing & decision on replying to a covert sounding that we should contact Dobrynin re a possible meeting (secret) of someone on our side about a possible arms deal.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, Volume II, November 1985–January 1989, p. 669–670.) Present at the meeting were President Reagan, Vice President George H.W. Bush, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John Vessey, Secretary of State George Shultz, Deputy Director for Intelligence Robert Gates, Counselor to the Department of State Max Kampelman, Ambassador Paul Nitze, Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle, Colonel Robert Linhard, Ambassador Jack Matlock, Acting President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Alton Keel, White House Chief of Staff Donald Regan, and Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency Kenneth Adelman. The topic of conversation [Page 65] was how to achieve agreements on START and INF in a manner that would not permanently constrain research into, and development of, strategic ballistic missile defenses. Handwritten notes of this meeting are in the Reagan Library, Linhard Files, Soviet Back Channel Offer: 12/18/1986 Arms Control Senior Advisors Meeting (1).

On December 19, President Reagan met again with his senior advisors in the White House Situation Room, from 11:03 to 11:06 a.m. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) He wrote in his personal diary: “Met with Senior advisors in situation room—re a third party message that Gorbachev (possibly) but Dobrynin definitely want a secret rep. of ours to come to Moscow. We argued about it but between Xmas & New Years Paul Nitze & Perle will go & return.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, Volume II, November 1985–January 1989, p. 670.) No further record of this meeting has been found. The anticipated trip by Nitze and Perle did not occur.

In his memoirs, Secretary of State George Shultz recalled the efforts to establish new lines of communication in the aftermath of the Reykjavik Summit: “The president agreed that I should propose to the Soviets that we send Paul Nitze and Richard Perle to Moscow to probe how best to move forward. Word came back from Moscow: Nitze and Perle were ‛not what we have in mind.’ The presence of Perle, the Soviets said, would make talks ‛pointless.’ They were misjudging Perle, who was tough-minded but creative. Our initiative went nowhere.” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, p. 869)