94. Non-Paper Prepared by Secretary of State Shultz1


Because of strength and philosophy, the U.S.-Soviet relationship will always be unique and always difficult to manage.

But it is increasingly clear that the Soviet Union is going to be seen by history as Ronald Reagan’s “China.”

If so, what is that going to mean:

—A Soviet Union basically focused on its own internal situation;

—A reduction of Soviet intervention to exploit regional conflicts;

—An ability to solve practical problems between us;

—A steadier attitude: no euphoria, no depression. A safety net of economic, cultural, etc., links that will enable the relationship to ride out points of crisis that inevitably will come along.

We have already seen progress in all four areas of our agenda. Just as with China, we see the other side changing on our terms.

How do we go about keeping this momentum up and institutionalizing it?

Again, look at the China model. China decided to change because of fear—fear of falling too far behind the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union is now changing also because of fear—fear of China’s reforms, fear of Eastern European restlessness—but most of all because of fear of falling permanently behind the U.S.

Our interest is to keep the Russians well behind us but not so far behind that they become desperate and dangerous.

So it is a matter of managing change. Here are some general principles:

—Keep holding out the vision of the future that the Soviets are not capable of handling without change (the information age).

—Keep making it clear that their old policies just will never work (regional intervention, attempts to limit SDI, non-market economics, etc.)

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—Don’t urge better relationships (it will be read as though we are reaching) but always be quick to act to build them when the opportunity comes.

—Give Gorbachev all the chances he seeks for greater exposure and attention. The more he talks up his programs the higher the expectations he arouses among his people and the world’s.

—Keep our role of being the “psychologically superior” party. So far, we have brilliantly allowed Gorbachev to posture as the innovator and take the credit for moves that come in our direction and follow our agenda.

—And when we make trade-offs, be sure they tend to lock in our positions and our version of the future. We are doing this with INF. We can do it with SDI too.

The road ahead is going to be rocky—but more so for Gorbachev than for us. He, like Mao, is trying to fire up his people without giving them any incentives; he so far will not permit deviations from basic Marxist–Leninist principles. If he remains rigid in this regard, his programs won’t meet his people’s aspirations. Young Soviets will be glad to go to more rock concerts but unwilling to work harder for no added economic benefits. One part of the society will be bitterly disappointed, the other will be alarmed. The strains this will generate should tend to keep the Soviets focused inward—but the process of reform is unlikely to be checked even if a “Deng” will have to replace Gorbachev in order to do it.

We have entered one of those rare historical periods when significant planned change is possible in relations between states. We are at a crossroads where East and West could transform the nature of their postwar relationship with a more constructive form of competition. It is American ideas, strengths, and policies that have drawn the Soviets in this direction. It will be up to us to carefully manage its continued progress through a balance of toughness and inducement.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Shultz Papers, 1987 Nov. 16 MTG w/the PRES. No classification marking. An unknown hand wrote in the upper right-hand corner: “Mtg w/Prez 11/18 (GPS gave this to Prez).” According to the President’s Daily Diary, Reagan met with Shultz, Howard Baker, Carlucci, and Duberstein from 1:36 to 2:13 on November 18. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) Carlucci’s readout of the meeting indicates that Shultz distributed and summarized his “non-paper” at this meeting. (Reagan Library, Carlucci Files, Secretary Shultz (11/04/1987–11/18/1987))