268. Minutes of a National Security Planning Group Meeting1


  • US Options for Arms Control at the Summit


  • The President
  • Mr. Donald Gregg (The Vice President’s Office)
  • State

    • Secretary George Shultz
    • Ambassador Max Kampelman
    • Ambassador Rozanne Ridgway
  • Defense

    • Secretary Frank Carlucci
    • Mr. Peter Sullivan
  • Energy

    • Secretary John Herrington
  • OMB

    • Mr. Joseph Wright
  • ACDA

    • Mr. David Emery
  • CIA

    • Mr. William Webster
    • Mr. Lawrence Gershwin
  • JCS

    • Admiral William Crowe
    • Vice Admiral Jonathan Howe
  • White House

    • Chief of Staff
    • Kenneth Duberstein
    • Colin L. Powell
    • John Negroponte
  • NSC

    • Robert E. Linhard
    • Linton Brooks
    • William Tobey
    • OSTP
    • William Graham
  • Special Advisors to the Mr. President

    • Ambassador Paul Nitze
    • Ambassador Edward Rowny
[Page 1190]


The meeting opened at 2:05 p.m.

General Powell: Mr. President, the purpose of today’s meeting is to review and identify US options for arms control outcomes at the Summit. Would you like to make a few remarks?

The President: We have important issues to discuss today. If the Soviets and we have a Moscow summit, it could be the most important meeting of all. We now have a range of arms control options, but depending on how we use our time, our options will narrow. I need your honest assessments of what we can and should achieve in Moscow. I would like to use the remaining months of this Administration to the best advantage. I meant what I said in the State of the Union2—we should all have our work shoes on. At the same time, I know how much must be accomplished before we can conclude another arms agreement with the Soviets. I will not rush to an agreement for agreements’ sake; so we should use this meeting to identify the option that should be protected and the work that is required to protect them. If we are to achieve our objectives, all the departments and agencies will have to work hard and work together.

General Powell: Thank you, Mr. President. Today, I would like to review a number of areas as we think about what we have to do with respect to the upcoming summit. Let me take a moment to review where we stand in our internal preparations for completing a START agreement.

To complete a START treaty, we need to do two things: first, we have to finish determining our initial position, and second, we have to reconcile that position with conflicting Soviet positions. I have no idea if the Soviets are prepared for serious negotiations. The tactics in Geneva suggest that they may not be. But for their own reasons, the Soviets might be anxious to complete work on a START treaty this year with this Administration. That’s why it is of some significant concern that we have so much remaining to do to complete the details of our own initial START positions. For example, our START Treaty calls for three Protocols—the Conversion and Elimination Protocol, the Inspection Protocol, and the Throw-Weight Protocol. I see serious problems with our progress on all three of these documents.

We tabled a Conversion and Elimination Protocol in Geneva in October,3 supposedly after a thorough interagency review. After it was [Page 1191] tabled, we began to get comments from agencies. As a result, a revision to our Conversion and Elimination Protocol was submitted yesterday to the President for the President’s approval with literally a dozen of changes, many of them substantive.4 Even as this revision is being considered, many additional changes are still coming in from agencies.

On the Inspection Protocol, we have not yet reached agreement on many sensitive issues, to include verifying compliance with RV-carrying rules, verifying compliance with ALCM-carrying rules, the conduct of close-out inspections, rules for suspect-site inspections, tagging Treaty-limited items and procedures for perimeter/portal monitoring. Instead, the current draft has placeholders in all these areas and has, essentially, a shallow listing on basic notification inspection procedures similar to INF. Even with a large number of issues we have had to defer, some have formally objected to the tabling of this version of the critical Protocol.

Finally, on the Throw-Weight Protocol, while limiting Soviet ballistic missiles, throw-weight has been a policy objective of this Administration since 1981. We are far from interagency agreement on how to define and measure throw-weight. The current draft Protocol lists three different options for computing throw-weight. It reflects significant disagreement on rules for flight tests; and there is no agreement on verification and monitoring ability of the Protocol provisions.

Finally, in addition to the Protocols, we have a number of problems with our draft Treaty itself. Many of these involve policy decisions. Among the outstanding issues are how we would limit and verify mobile ICBMs if we offer our position on mobile ICBMs; how we would count and verify ALCMs; how we would ultimately resolve the issue of SLCMs; and how we would limit non-deployed missiles. To deal with all these problems, we have established an ambitious formal START interagency Work Program, and it will complete our initial position, but even if we follow it, it’s not going to be done until mid-April.

If a sound agreement is to be reached, we really need to get on with it now. We need to think about the alternatives to signing a treaty because of the difficulties we face. We could consider recording a Joint Statement or perhaps in a framework agreement as we consider the summit. We should note that every one of the agencies at this table has told us that our START Work Program is too ambitious focused at mid-April. So we do really need to think about alternatives, and I would like to have your views on this subject. Secretary Shultz, would you like to start us off?

[Page 1192]

Secretary Shultz: Mr. President, it’s my impression we can get there if we give it the right priority and effort. We will need to work on many of the details, and we will need to make judgments in a number of areas. For example, we will need to make a judgment on the balance of the intrusiveness of inspections we require and the impact of the intrusiveness of our own security. These issues will be no easier eight months or two years from now. The real question is how important is this to us. I think it is important because the Soviets are a lot better than we are at producing and deploying ballistic missiles that are targeted at the United States, and that’s just the cruel truth. And it has to do less with our technology and our ability to build missiles than it does with our politics.

Congress blocks our ability to deploy such missiles. A clear example is what’s happening to ICBM program. So it benefits us to have placed equitable and stabilizing limits on forces, especially ballistic missiles. This is an issue of our national security.

I understand that we also have a problem, and many of us are uneasy at the idea that we are working against a deadline of a summit, but I’m not negative on that. I think that negotiating against the summit is what we need to do, because deadlines cause tough decisions to be taken. I wouldn’t be the negotiator for Jimmy Carter, because he would want agreement for agreement’s sake. But I have no fear that we will go bananas and grab a bad deal off the table under your leadership. I remember when Frank Carlucci and I walked away from Gorbachev in Moscow, when they refused to give us a summit date; I called back and asked him whether he wanted us to do anything different, and he said no, just press on. So from my point of view, with Ronald Reagan as President, the fact that we are working with a deadline is an advantage, not a problem. As to how intractable the details are, I can’t judge—although I have a feeling I’ll get into them fairly quickly now. [Laughter]

I think we’re far less along in our work towards the START Treaty than we could have been, and partially it’s because of INF; INF took up just too much time. My position is that we should all pledge to make an all-out effort. It would be wrong if we were not to do so; it could lead to a very grave mistake. On the other hand, Mr. President, I think I’d be very concerned if we moved towards a framework, especially if we moved in that direction too soon. Framework’s not a good idea; Congress would want us to observe a framework; we’d have no verification; we’d have no leverage on Soviet behavior; we really should press for a treaty. And with respect to verification, I know there are a lot of concerns, especially about cuts in the intelligence assets in the out-year budgets. We need to really watch this; it’s going to be a harder verification problem in START; we need to step up to the issue of funding for intelligence assets to accomplish this.

[Page 1193]

The President: [Interrupts] From my past experiences as a labor negotiator, maybe we need to do this: we need to go for the gold. You need to put down what the ideal agreement would be. After you’ve done that, you can decide among ourselves what our bottom lines should be—what we can and what can’t give up beyond; also where there’s no bargaining—those items on which we can’t bargain. And we should set up the things that are not essential. Now, once you have that, then you can see the negotiating pattern of what you absolutely must get, what you could try for but you’d still have a good agreement if you didn’t get, but the bottom line is you’ve got to go for the gold.

Secretary Carlucci: I don’t disagree we should go for the gold; we should work as hard as we can. Our question, though, that has been asked today, Mr. President, is how realistic is that really. In all candor, it’ll be very, very difficult to get from where we are today to a START Treaty by the summit. I’ve been up three times now on the INF Treaty to the Hill with Bill (Crowe), and we’ve been questioned very toughly on each trip. We have to be certain that the verification to the START Treaty is very, very good. Therefore, I think we should condition public mindset that negotiations will continue beyond the summit. We should take the line that if we get an agreement by the summit, that’s fine; if it takes by October, that’s fine; if not, whatever we do, it will be a benchmark for the future, and we’ll just keep negotiating.

I agree completely with Secretary Shultz that we should not go for a framework; a framework would be an absolute disaster. So, therefore, we ought to tell the public that we’re going to continue to negotiate towards a good START agreement, and if we get it by the summit, that’s okay.

Admiral Crowe: I’d associate with Secretary Carlucci. The JCS are down in the trenches, and they’re worried. The INF Treaty provided some good lessons, but START is becoming 50–100 times more difficult. There are at least three areas I think are tough—by the way, you mentioned getting to bottom lines; you know, it’s awfully hard to get a real bottom line in Washington. We get a bottom line often acceptable to the negotiators but not acceptable to the military.

With respect to the three areas, the first is the bombers and ALCMs. The Soviets are trying to erode our position in both these areas. We need to make sure that we maintain a good ALCM counting rule, that we protect the ALCM-range definitions that we need, and we protect the ability for us to deploy conventional ALCMs. The Soviets are going to press us on all three. These three are bottom lines. Second, we have verification. For START, we must be able to do better than monitor simply what’s in being, but we must also be able to monitor what’s in production. We also have to exchange data early, not at the end, because we won’t be able to make the decisions we need to make in the process [Page 1194] unless we get the information early. We need the information to make decisions.

Secretary Carlucci: [Interrupts] I must say, Mr. President, we’ve devoted an immense amount of time lately on the Hill discussing one site, Magna, Utah. We are going to have some real problems with the Defense contractors at handling a whole bunch of sites.

General Powell: [Interrupts] Mr. President, in the INF Treaty, we had 135 sites in the Soviet Union to look at. We are going to have to give you a magnitude about 1800 Soviet sites in the START Treaty.

Admiral Crowe: [Continues] Yes, Mr. President, that one plant caused us an awful lot of problems on the Hill. So we have to get out in front and notify and coordinate with the contractors and with the Congress before we sign a treaty. We were hit pretty hard on the Hill, Mr. President, for not talking to them before we signed. Therefore, all the above—these three areas—all pose questions about whether the time frame that we are working against is realistic. I agree that we ought go forward as Secretary Shultz suggests as hard as possible, but we ought to do it with our eyes open.

The President: There are things that we simply can’t retreat on. One of them is verification.

Admiral Crowe: But we’re still developing our approach to verification. Mr. President, we’ve gone a long way; the Chiefs have gone a long way, with respect to intrusive verification techniques, and we are prepared to go even further. We are considering in order to verify, we’re going to have to get on Soviet boats with their troops, and they’re going to have to be able to [do] the same for us. It’s not only tough intellectually to be fair, it’s tough emotionally.

Secretary Carlucci: Others suggested that we need to select the plants that we are going to monitor in advance, and, in fact, on the Hill, they suggested that we should, in advance of signing a treaty, have selected and completed the security upgrades at those plants before we sign.

General Powell: Judge Webster, do you have anything you want to add?

Judge Webster: The monitoring problem is ours; certainly, there is a greater number of places that we have to monitor than in INF, as Colin Powell said moving from 150 sites to over 1800. And in INF, we had no types of missiles that we had [to] monitor after the elimination, and in a START Treaty, we are going to have to monitor some 15–20 different types of systems. We’re going to come to loggerheads very quickly with the JCS, and the issue will be the amount of the infrastructure that we want to destroy to make the thing monitorable against the amount of infrastructure they need to maintain to do their mission. The Congress knows about all the cuts that we’re taking in our overhead assets in the outyears; we need to work on that.

[Page 1195]

Mr. President, I’m also worried that we may spook Congress on the INF Treaty if it looks like on the Hill that we’re rushing the START Treaty. You must know that we face major monitoring problems in a tough economic environment. However, for all those reasons, I support what Frank Carlucci said—the prospects of getting to where you want to be soon are simply not so good.

Senator Baker (Chief of Staff): I’m a little troubled by the feel of this meeting. It’s almost as if we’ve all decided that we can’t do it. If this attitude sets in, we simply won’t be able to do it. Now, we are vulnerable in some respects in that we set a date and some of you, if we don’t get a START Treaty at that date, will fail. But I don’t think we should worry about that. We should go forward with an honest effort to get a START Treaty, and we ought to pursue that START Treaty. In fact, I would argue that if we don’t get a START Treaty, we may not have been right chasing an INF Treaty.

I remember, Mr. President, discussions we had in Miami while we waited for an energetic Pope to finish innumerable photo ops, and you, Frank Carlucci, and I sat in the room, and I watched Frank Carlucci walk you through a long list of detailed decisions, and you made them one after the other to allow us to get down on an INF Treaty. I always felt that that was one of the most important meetings I had the honor to attend during my tenure here. Unless we decide to press on seriously forward, let Colin Powell drive this action, and get the President involved in making decisions where he needs to make them, it’s going to drift away from us, and that would be the wrong legacy for you, Mr. President.

Acting Director Emery, ACDA: I wanted to say exactly what Senator Baker said, but he said it first. The interagency process has its drawbacks; it’s slow and it’s ponderous. To meet your goals and the expectations of the public, we need to identify key issues and cut through the system and get decisions as we need them. We may finish if we do this; we need to give it a good try.

The President: We must not ignore certain things. First of all, the situation is not the same as in INF. In this case, the Soviets want a START Treaty too. In INF we were the demandeurs. They had the SS–20’s; we had to force them out of them. But in this case, it’s very evident that they, too, want a START agreement. They feel they need START. In that context, I can’t be too pessimistic. One thing of interest is that they have an innate eye to protect the homeland at all cost, and it may be that they recognized after Chernobyl that facing the nuclear forces they face, they can’t do this. So I think we must press.

General Powell: I think we have, therefore, Mr. President, a decision, and the decision is that we’ll go for the gold, and we will drive towards that end. We will need high-level involvement now. We can’t stand [Page 1196] situations where we don’t get agency inputs when required. A lot of this will fall on the OSD, JCS, and the DCI. We’re going to throw it into overdrive. Let’s hear from agencies once on issues.

Mr. President, with respect to Defense and Space, basically our current position is that we should pursue a separate treaty on the Defense and Space area and that we should pursue a treaty that best protects SDI. Unless the Cabinet has any reason to relook at this issue, I’d like to press on to another subject.

[No Cabinet Discussion]

[Omitted here are discussions relating to nuclear testing, scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XLI, Global Issues I.]

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC: National Security Planning Group (NSPG) Records, 02/09/88. Secret. The meeting took place in the Situation Room.
  2. Reference is to “Address Before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union,” January 25, Public Papers: Reagan, 1988, volume I, pp. 84–90.
  3. In telegram 315873 to NST Geneva, October 9, 1987, the Department transmitted the text of the protocol. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D870832-0378)
  4. Not found.