110. Telegram From the Delegation to the Nuclear and Space Talks in Geneva to the Department of State1

NST Geneva 06819. Subject: NST: Overview of Round II.

1. Secret—Entire text. (This is NST II-020).

2. Below is my personal evaluation of the second round of our negotiations.

3. Round II was disappointing but not surprising. The essential element of the Soviet position was the continuation of a “hostage” situation among the three areas of negotiation. START was a double hostage—to resolution of INF and to a [garble] on space research. INF was a hostage to space. And progress in the Defense and Space Group was a hostage to the unacceptable Soviet demand that SDI research be banned.

4. There was some contrapuntal movement in Soviet tactics in START and INF. In INF the movement was backward: from the Round I statement that an INF agreement could be negotiated and implemented on its own to the Round II insistence that INF must await the resolution of the SDI issue. In START the movement seemed to be in the direction of greater flexibility, although the Soviet framework idea is clouded with ambiguities—as Ambassador Tower has called it, an unknown percentage of an unknown number.

5. Except in INF, the Soviets approached us with fewer polemics and a more businesslike approach during Round II. But they clearly [Page 414] were not ready for serious negotiations; the rigidities of their March opening position remained intact throughout. Nevertheless, in addition to the START framework, we saw some hints in the Defense & Space Group of where they think the negotiations could go. Kvitsinskiy put great emphasis on the Gorbachev letter to the Union of Concerned Scientists2 and even quoted the relevant parts of it in a plenary statement. It pointed to a joint reaffirmation of the ABM treaty and an agreement on ASAT. Both Karpov and Kvitsinskiy have disclaimed any special meaning in Gorbachev’s omission of research from the ABM treaty’s strictures; but that, too, may be a later direction for Soviet movement.

6. One cannot help but conclude that the changes in the Soviet Foreign Ministry have played a role in the spiritless Soviet conduct in Geneva over the past few weeks. In START they began putting caveats to their previous flexibility, and in the other areas they seemed to be on hold. At lunch with me the day before the round ended, Karpov refused to be drawn out on any of the areas where possible movement had been hinted, offered no speculation on the role of the approaching summit meeting, and noted that he had never met Shevardnadze. His final plenary statement the next day was short and cautious—apparently an effort to change no positions but close no options pending a review this summer by the new leadership.

7. The rigid Soviet negotiating position has been helpful to us. My visits during the round to several NATO capitals confirm my impression that in neither Europe nor America is there pressure on us to give up SDI research. The effect of the Soviet demand that INF and START be linked to space is thus greatly muted. In any case, no concessions have been offered in INF or START even if we give up SDI, which of course we will not do.

8. Gorbachev’s threat of a walkout has been played back in Geneva, but in a very minor key. Karpov continues to talk of continuity, though he calls the current situation “alarming.” In light of the obvious disadvantages that a walkout would have for the Soviets, the hints of one at this stage are probably another Soviet effort at public pressure. But our eyes and ears should be open.

9. I see us as well positioned for whatever the Soviets might spring on us in the near future. It is their position, not ours, which is unreasonable—and in all three negotiating groups. They have so far failed to divide us from our allies, our Congress, and our publics. And they have not stampeded us away from the calm and flexible approach with which we entered the negotiations in March. Our watchwords thus remain patience and perseverance.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D850507–0850. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Sent Immediate for information to the Mission to NATO. Sent Priority for information to USNMR SHAPE and Moscow.
  2. See footnote 6, Document 109.