96. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

532. For the Secretary from Matlock. Subject: Dobrynin on START Sublimits.

1. Secret—Entire text.

2. When I called on Dobrynin yesterday to deliver the First Lady’s letter to Mrs. Gorbachev, we had a brief exchange regarding the principal items on the summit agenda. In that context, I asked Dobrynin (as I have in the past) whether the Soviets could accept the 4800 sublimit for ballistic missiles, with freedom to mix. While in the past he has never hinted that they would go beyond their current position, this time he said that the 4800 ceiling should be no problem so long as the freedom to mix applied both to ICBM’s and SLBM’s. In other words, they would not insist upon an SLBM sublimit if we would not insist upon an ICBM sublimit. I did not comment on his statement other than to tell him that I would share his remarks with you.

3. Comment: This is the first time, to my knowledge, that a responsible Soviet official has indicated that they might accept the 4800 ceiling. I pass it on for whatever it may be worth. I should note that Dobrynin made the comment quite informally, and therefore U.S. officials should not rpt not mention this exchange to other Soviet officials.

4. Regarding other topics, there was nothing new. I did note that Dobrynin seemed relaxed regarding the prospects of finishing the INF agreement and, in discussing START, did not harp on the “necessity” of “strengthening the ABM Treaty” simultaneously. I do not interpret this to mean that the Soviet position on this point has changed. But the lack of stress could signal continued flexibility in the Soviet approach.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Shultz Papers, Secretary’s Meeting With the President, 11/20/1987. Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Calypso. In telegram 361819 to Moscow, November 20, the Department instructed Matlock to tell Dobrynin that Shultz had received this report and found it to be useful. (Ibid.)