MEMORANDUM OF CONVERSATION
SUBJECT: Summary of President's NATO Consultations: Special Session of the North Atlantic Council
Donald T. Regan
Robert C. McFarlane
Assistant Secretary Ridgway
Peter R. Sommer, NSC
Prime Minister Martens
Foreign Minister Tindemans
Prime Minister Mulroney
Foreign Minister Clark
Prime Minister Schluter
Foreign Minister Ellemann-Jensen
Foreign Minister Dumas
Foreign Minister Genscher
Deputy Prime Minister Haralambopoulos
Ambassador Vassilicos [end p15]
Prime Minister Hermannsson
Foreign Minister Hallgrimsson
Prime Minister Craxi
Foreign Minister Andreotti
Prime Minister Santer
Foreign Minister Poos
Prime Minister Lubbers
Foreign Minister van den Broek
Prime Minister Willoch
Foreign Minister Stray
Prime Minister Cavaco Silva
Foreign Minister Miranda
Foreign Minister Fernandez-Ordnonez
Pr1me Minister Ozal
Foreign Minister Halefoglu
Prime Minister Thatcher
Foreign Minister Howe
DATE, TIME: November 21, 1985 4:15 - 5:45 p.m.
AND PLACE: NATO Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium
In opening the meeting, Lord Carrington extended a personal welcome to the President and thanked him for attending the Special NAC. Carrington congratulated the President on his [end p16] accomplishments in Geneva and praised the very successful consultative process which took place prior to Geneva. He was confident that consultations would be a key feature of the future process. Carrington then noted that time is relatively short and he urged everyone to be brief in responding to the President. (U)
The President said it was a special pleasure to be in Brussels to report on his two days of meetings with General Secretary Gorbachev. The President added he would also like to address the way ahead as the United States sees it for East-West relations. He praised NATO governments as having been instrumental in helping the United States and him personally to prepare for the Geneva meetings. NATO can rightfully claim part of the credit for the talks' success. The President emphasized that he did consider the talks successful --an important step forward in our efforts to build a basis for more stable and constructive East-West relations.
The President expressed gratitude for the Allies' efforts to come to Geneva for today's meeting and thanked Lord Carrington in particular for making today's meeting a reality. The President opined that his discussions with Gorbachev confirmed that our approach to East-West relations is correct. We have based our policy on realism, strength and dialogue. He thought that common efforts to rebuild Western defenses, the equally important restoration of economic vitality and the reaffirmation of Alliance cohesion and solidarity had all helped convince the Soviet leaders that propaganda and intimidation will not serve their ends vis-a-vis the West.
The President noted that he had seen Gorbachev at the Geneva airport shortly before departing and the General Secretary –who was on his way to Prague to brief the Warsaw Pact – had asked the President to convey his best regards and greetings to the NATO members. The President jokingly added that he had told Gorbachev to do likewise in Prague. The President continued that he had had a considerable amount of private discussions with Gorbachev and believed that he had convinced the General Secretary that while arms reductions are exceedingly important, in a sense they tend to put the cart before the horse. Gorbachev seemed to accept and endorse the concept that we must first remove mutual suspicions and distrust. Nations do not distrust each other because they have large arsenals, rather they arm themselves because of distrust. The President added that he found the private discussions especially useful. In the plenary sessions, Gorbachev was clearly in charge; all others deferred to him. He acted with decisiveness and energy and frequently without a script.
Continuing, The President said Gorbachev had alleged that U.S.-Soviet relations were at their lowest level ever. He also said there was no opposition among the Soviet leadership towards immediate improvements and that it should be done without prior [end p17] conditions. It is also evident, said the President, that Gorbachev believes deeply in the Soviet system. He also labors under several misunderstandings about Western societies, particularly the United States. For example, he believes that the U.S.'s economic well being is dependent on military spending. The President said he explained that the Defense budget was a small part of our GNP. Gorbachev also noted that the U.S. and the Soviet Union were once Allies and that we have never been at war with each other. Interestingly, on several occasions Gorbachev said he prayed to God that this would never happen. On other occasions he also referred to the Deity.
The President opserved that he and Gorbachev had had rather extensive discussions of nuclear arms control questions both in the private and larger meetings. Gorbachev said he wanted to reduce the level of resources allocated to the defense sector. Gorbachev stronglv opposed SDI. He made one point that the President said he had not heard before: that our defensive research could lead to heretofore, unknown offensive systems. The President said he had assured the General Secretary that SDI was a research program: that we would not deploy it without sitting down and discussing it with the Soviets. He had also expressed his personal hope that SDI could bring an end to nuclear war. He had also reaffirmed his readiness to explore with the Soviets ways of sharing any strategic defensive capabilities that emerge from the U.S. research program. Gorbachev asked why SDI would be needed if offensive weapons were reduced. The President said it would be insurance --like gas masks which people kept even after the 1925 convention outlawing gas warfare.
It was clear, observed the President, that we could not reconcile our differences over SDI. The President said he had made it plain that the U.S. will not give up research which is clearly permitted by the ABM Treaty and which we know the Soviets are also conducting. Calling SDI potentially one of the most important developments of this century, the President emphasized that he is convinced SDI holds out a real hope for a more secure world. Gorbachev was not pleased with my message, said the President, but we both agreed that our discussions had helped clear the air and that we should continue our work at the Geneva NST talks.
The President continued that they had discussed other arms control issues. He had reviewed for Mr. Gorbachev the essential elements of the United States' most recent start proposal, emphasizing our agreement to seek reductions of 50 percent in strategic nuclear weapons. The President underscored that he had also made clear that these reductions had to be taken in appropriate and comparable categories of strategic weapons. On INF, the President said he offered an interim agreement that would cap NATO missiles at the level deployed at the end of this year. The Soviets, of course, would have to reduce their systems [end p18] within range of NATO Europe to the same levels, as well as making proportionate reductions in such systems located in Asia. In short, we called for global parity and we were able to agree to joint language envisioning the idea of an interim INF agreement. The President added that it had also been agreed that INF talks would not be held hostage to progress in space talks. They could go forward on their own. The President noted they had also reviewed other arms control issues. The joint statement that resulted from the Geneva meetings contained specific language on a number of areas. We expressed our mutual support for enhanced U.S.-Soviet cooperation in the field of, nuclear non-proliferation. We agreed to study the feasibility of joint risk reduction centers. We endorsed the concept of a chemical weapons ban. We also emphasized the importance of achieving progress in the MBFR talks and we confirmed the need for concrete confidence-building measures as well as a reaffirmation of the non-use of force in the CDE negotiations. In this regard, the President noted that the General Secretary had said with the utmost intensity that the Soviet Union would never be the first to strike a blow or create a war.
Turning to human rights, the President said he found it much more useful to discuss this privately and he had done so during their tete-a-tete sessions. The President said he had made it clear that progress on human rights could have a beneficial impact on the overall U.S.-Soviet relationship. He had also made it clear that should there be progress, he would refrain from taking credit or boasting about it. The President said he had raised several well known individual cases as well as the problem of Jewish emigration. He had also noted that there had been some recent progress on reuniting divided families. Looking at Chancellor Kohl, the President said he had also mentioned a human rights case of special interest to the Germans. He had tried to make clear to Gorbachev that even if the Soviets said human rights were an internal matter that they do have a direct effect on U.S. Congressional and public attitudes towards the Soviet Union. Gorbachev had asserted that all those who had asked to depart had been allowed to leave the Soviet Union. The President noted he had simply said we had a longer list and promised to pass it to Gorbachev. Only time will tell whether we will make real progress on human rights.
The President noted that regional problems had also been discussed. He had pointed out how unacceptable Soviet activities in various Third World regions had created suspicion and distrust about Soviet motives. Gorbachev showed some sensitivity on this point and was quick to assert that the Soviet Union had no ambitions within the Third World. The President said in reply he had cited chapter and verse on Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan and the destabilizing activities of Cuban and Vietnamese proxies in Central America, Africa, and Indochina. The President said he had emphasized that the U.S. is not seeking [end p19] superiority or advantage through regional tensions or conflicts but that the U.S. is prepared to do whatever is necessary to maintain our security and that of our friends and Allies. We want to see regional conflicts resolved peacefully. He had repeated his U.N. regional initiative proposal. We disagreed on the causes of regional conflicts, but did agree to regularize periodic discussions between U.S. and Soviet experts. We also agreed that regional issues would continue to be discussed in depth by our Foreign Ministers.
Saying he was afraid he had run on too long, the President commented that he wished to sum up briefly. He had always seen this first meeting not as a watershed event in and of itself, but rather an important part of a vital long-term process. As a demonstration of that fact, he was pleased to confirm that Gorbachev would come to Washington in 1986 and that he would visit Moscow in 1987. The President jokingly noted that this had been arranged while standing in the parking lot at the conclusion of the first day's session. The President thanked everyone for coming to Brussels and said he believed that we are headed in the right direction. With the Allies help we will stay on course. All and all the Geneva talks had produced more results than many had anticipated. The atmosphere was cordial. The President said he believed that Mr. Gorbachev knows as I do that progress in U.S.-Soviet relations would be a benefit to all the world. In concluding, the President said he would now be happy to answer questions or to hear views on any of the issues he had discussed.
Belgian Prime Minister Martens welcomed the President and other heads of government and national representatives to Brussels. He said that NATO consultations, of which the President had just given an excellent example, were extremely important in the effort to achieve a constructive dialogue in East-West relations. Martens said he had listened with great interest to the President and had only one question on which he wanted to be briefed. Belgium's prime objective in the security field was to see the success of substantial arms reductions through negotiation. Since Belgium had been one of the countries accepting INF deployment, Martens said he particularly wanted to ask how the Soviets had explained their position in the INF negotiations.
The President replied that the U.S. and Soviets had not discussed specific elements of an INF agreement. The Soviets knew that our prime goal in INF was zero-zero. The main achievement was to separate INF from being held hostage to talks on SDI.
FRG Chancellor Kohl thanked the President for his remarks and also for the intensive consultations which had occurred prior to the Geneva meeting. The Chancellor noted that it was this week, two years ago, that the FRG Bundestag was making its decision on INF deployment. There had been demonstrations of hundreds of [end p20] thousands in the streets and predictions of an ice age in East-West relations. The Chancellor said one could imagine how good he felt today because of the positive results which President Reagan had brought back from Geneva. No one could have expected that all of the problems which existed could be solved in one meeting, but progress had been made. A broad dialogue had been started which was important for everyone. Germany especially welcomed the concrete statements on MBFR and CW and added he would be interested in knowing if specific timetables had been set for progress on arms control, but in the interest of saving time, this could perhaps be answered during coming Ministerial meetings at NATO. He stressed that the West must not leave the initiative in East-West relations to the Soviets and that he was glad the President had raised human rights issues, which were very important. The hopes of millions of Germans, including those in East Germany, had been with the President. Kohl said that he fas confident the climate in Geneva had not been like the weather outside and that even more progress would be made in the future. Kohl concluded by asking the President to convey his warm regards to Nancy who had played a wonderful role during the meeting.
The President thanked the Chancellor for his kind words and said that the previous night Gorbachev had told him that he (Gorbachev) was an optimist. The President said he responded that he was known as an inveterate optimist. Meetings between leaders could produce results but had to be approached correctly. On human rights, for example, the President said that the United States had taken just the wrong approach some years ago. It had stated publicly what would happen if the Soviets did not improve their human rights performance. This, of course, made it impossible for the other side to comply and he would not take the same approach. Looking at the other leaders, the President emphasized that we all as politicians understood that progress becomes very difficult if we push the other person into a corner.
The President went on to describe how he discussed arms control questions with Gorbachev. He went down a list of 12 dates, beginning in 1946, when the United States had made nuclear arms control proposals to the Soviets. on some of those occasions we were the only ones who possessed nuclear weapons or we had a clear superiority in them. Since the signing of the SALT I Agreement in 1969, however, the Soviets had added 6,000 warheads to their arsenal; they have added 3,250 just since the signing of SALT II; and they now possess even greater numbers. The President said he had made clear to Gorbachev that we did not seek nuclear superiority but neither would we allow the Soviets to gain superiority. We could build great arsenals or come together in a common sense way. The choice was thus either to agree to reduce nuclear weapons or to continue the arms race. Gorbachev indicated that he understood this reasoning. [end p21]
Spanish Foreign Minister Fernandez-Ordonez also thanked and congratulated the President and said the Geneva meeting had been an important step in East-West relations. He said he had only one question for the President. It was on the relationship of SDI to reductions in nuclear weapons. Did the President think some trade-off would be possible to promote such reductions? The President responded that he feels very strongly that we could not bargain away our right to do research in defensive systems. History showed that every offensive weapon had given rise to a defense. Since we are abiding by the terms of the ABM Treaty and would not automatically deploy any defense system, we cannot give away what might be the development of the century. Particularly with the U.S. open laboratories proposal, the Soviets should not fear our research. They have worked on defensive systems for years and we do not know how far they have gotten. The President said he told Gorbachev that, if reincarnation existed, he had perhaps been the man who invented the shield.
Norwegian Prime Minister Willoch congratulated the President and expressed gratitude for what had been achieved in Geneva. Arms control was important, but it had also been correct for the President to raise regional issues and deal with human rights in a quiet manner. Willoch said it was important gradually to try to integrate the Soviet Union back into the mainstream of European civilization through promoting East-West contacts. Norway wished to avoid an arms race in space and favored maximum flexibility on SDI in order to get maximum reduction of offensive weapons. He noted that the excellent Alliance consultations, which had taken place on the NST talks had prevented Soviet wedge-driving tactics. He concluded with three short questions: Had there been discussion of continuing observation of the SALT II Treaty? Had the future of the ABM Treaty been discussed? And did it appear that the Soviets had given up their resistance to SDI research?
The President said that the answer to the last question was unclear and remained to be seen. On the ABM Treaty, we were observing it whereas the Soviets were guilty of significant violations, such as the Krasnoyarsk radar. The question of SALT II observance had not come up for discussion. However, the President said that before his departure for Geneva, he had received a report with 23 documented Soviet violations of the SALT II Agreement. The President said, when he returned to Washington, he would have to face the decision of whether to give up on the SALT II Treaty or continue restraints, but only to the extent done by the Soviets. The point is that we are observing the Treaty and the Soviets are not. We will have to see whether we could afford to continue abiding by SALT II.
British Prime Minister Thatcher warmly congratulated the President and said the joint statement indicated success in the meeting on far more things than had been generally expected. The West should, nonetheless, follow President Reagan's public lead in describing the meeting positively, but not being euphoric [end p22] about it. We should not build exaggerated public expectations which prove difficult to fulfill when the real nitty-gritty of agreements is being worked out. Thatcher continued that the presentation and style of the Soviet leadership have changed but the substance appears the same. Based on Gorbachev's comments about SDI, she predicted that the Soviets would continue a major propaganda effort against SDI in the coming year by promising radical weapons reductions in return for giving up SDI. She said the West must resist such a campaign, counter Soviet propaganda, and support the President in his efforts. As a final point, Thatcher said that she was very pleased to hear that the United States would continue to abide by the ABM Treaty and planned to respect the SALT II Agreement. In an uncertain world, it was vital that the two great powers observed existing arms control treaties. She concluded by again thanking the President and saying all members of the Alliance were grateful to him, and he had their full support.
The President thanked the Prime Minister for her words and said the United States needed all the help and support possible from our Allies. He agreed that Gorbachev appeared to want to playa more active role in European affairs and that the Soviets saw the benefits that can come from different public presentation of their positions.
Canadian Prime Minister Mulroney said the President had reestablished many simple, but powerful truths. The Geneva meeting had been a success because it was predicated on the strength of the United States and the entire Western Alliance joined in unity. The Soviet Union understood and respected these realities. Mulroney said he was glad that Geneva had set in motion a constructive dialogue and established a personal relationship between the President and Gorbachev. It was clear that the President had been well prepared and that the Alliance had been deeply involved in these preparations. The President could return to the United States – to Congress and to Tip O'Neill – with the respect and admiration of the Alliance, to which he had given true leadership. The President thanked Mulroney for considering Geneva such a success and said that Gorbachev has been successful in some things also. The President jokingly observed that at one dinner he sat next to Shevardnadze who had told him that the Soviets must now come to Geneva to get Vodka. Thus it seemed Gorbachev was successful in shutting down alcohol sales.
French Foreign Minister Dumas congratulated the President on what he called a remarkable performance. Thanking the President for taking the time to come to Brussels, he said that contacts, such as the Geneva meeting, were essential to East-West relations. For the foreseeable future, Western security will rest on the principle of deterrence, and he was thus glad to see that the joint statement had not made reference to the elimination of nuclear weapons as a desirable goal. Dumas continued that it was also necessary to avoid concepts of security zones based on an illusory Euro-strategic balance. He said he was confident [end p23] that the President in his negotiations would keep in mind the security interests of Allies. An eventual agreement on nuclear weapons should be based on the lowest possible balance between U.S. and Soviet forces, and not between Soviet forces and those of all other nuclear powers combined as the Soviets would want. Dumas concluded with two questions: Had there been progress in Geneva on definition of strategic weapons which would be cut by 50 percent? And, what were the elements of an interim INF agreement which would give reason to believe that such an agreement was possible?
The President said that both sides accepted the principle of a 50 percent reduction, but there had been no effort in Geneva to negotiate the specifics of such an agreement. Our counter-counter proposal and the Soviet proposal were clearly structured differently. He and Gorbachev had focused on the possibility of setting down guidelines for the arms control negotiators to putsue. The President noted that Secretary Shultz had been awake most of the night working on the joint statement and could perhaps comment more. The Secretary said that it had been considered desirable to reaffirm a 50 percent reduction goal, but considerable differences remained on what the 50 percent would apply to. There had also been no progress on specific elements of an INF agreement, except for an understanding that INF negotiations could proceed separately and not be held hostage to other ongoing arms control talks.
Italian Prime Minister Craxi expressed satisfaction that the meeting had been successful and brought an opening of dialogue. He had no new questions, but wanted to voice a feeling of satisfaction. This new dialogue should lead to greater understanding and trust between East and West. Craxi said it was apparent that the President had shown flexibility during the meeting and the objective of peace deserved such an approach. Gorbachev was a new leader and might in time bring changes. He had to be tested, of course, and there would no doubt be disappointments along the way. Craxi concluded by again congratulating the President and citing an Italian proverb: He who starts well is half the way to his goal.
Turkish Prime Minister Ozal warmly congratulated the President on his successful meeting. He was very pleased to see progress made in Geneva, though he shared the view of Mrs. Thatcher on a likely Soviet campaign against SDI. He asked if the Middle East and the Iran-Iraq war had been raised in Geneva? The Secretary replied jokingly that while the President was doing something or another by the fireplace, the workers of the world did discuss these matters. The Middle East did not come up in the plenary. He had, however, discussed the Middle East in his general regional review with Shevardnadze, but there was nothing of significance to report from the conversation. The President added in jest that while the Secretary was having these talks, he (the President) was with a friend named Gorbachev. [end p24]
Danish Prime Minister Schluter said that everyone shared the hope ~hat this was the beginning of a new start in East-West relations. What happened between the two major powers could influence developments everywhere, even in Eastern Europe. He :hanked the President for this meeting and also for prior consultations in which the U.S. shared its thinking on preparations for the Summit. Now that the East-West dialogue could continue, he expressed the hope that such close and intensive consultations would also continue. Schluter remarked that one of the main East-West issues was the need to establish a stable offense/defense relationship. He asked the President if it was still an open question whether the Soviets would ever accept even limited numbers of defensive weapons? The President responded that yes, it remained an open question, although the Soviets knew how strongly we feel about continuing research.
Portuguese Prime Minister Cavaco Silva said he followed the President's remarks with great interest and appreciated all of the consultations which had taken place. He was particularly grateful for the President's presence today. Portugal supported :he American position on radical reductions in nuclear arsenals, but recognized that arms control was not the only element in East-West relations. Regional issues were also important, particularly since solution of regional problems depended on the relationship between the two super powers. He asked in this context whether the situation in Southern Africa had been liscussed in Geneva?
The President replied he had not discussed Southern Africa, and lsked Secretary Shultz if it had been raised at the Foreign Minister level. The Secretary said it had been raised briefly, though there was nothing special to report. The Secretary added, however, that the overall Soviet approach to regional issues was sgnificant. Discussion showed that the Soviets considered regional issues important and were prepared to have regular meetings on them. The Soviets did not accept the President's UN initiative on regional problems, but seemed to recognize that there must be some way of talking about the subject. This was especially apparent on Afghanistan which the two sides discussed more deeply.
Greek Deputy Prime Minister Haralambopoulos extended warm thanks to the President for his remarks and expressed deep appreciation for the consultations, which showed the legitimate interest of the Alliance partners in these issues. He said that Greece has repeatedly stated its wish to see nuclear arsenals reduced to the lowest possible levels and was one of the participants in a five continent appeal to nuclear powers to undertake such reductions. Greece was very pleased that the President and Gorbachev had established a working relationship, which opened the path to more constructive relations in the future. Every effort should be made that future meetings are held in the same constructive spirit. Haralambopoulos said he wanted to conclude by quoting one of President Reagan's statements: A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. [end p25]
Icelandic Prime Minister Hermannsson, after thanking the President for coming to Brussels, said that the Icelandic Government and people were fully behind the President's efforts to increase confidence in East-West rela.tions and to end the arms race. He hoped that the President saw the Geneva meeting as an important step, since in the past the President had commented on the futility of dealing with the Soviets. He asked if there was any possibility that a nuclear test ban treaty might come in the future? The President responded that a test ban could be . possible. Our resistance to recent proposals has come from the fact that the United States is playing catch up and a test ban would freeze the present imbalance. The United States has fewer nuclear weapons now than in 1969. The President remarked that Gorbachev appeared shocked to hear this. A test ban might be possible after parity has been achieved. The President added that when President Kennedy met with Khrushchev, there had been agreement on a three-year test ban. When it ended, the Soviets suddenly embarked on tests which suggested that they had been doing research all along in preparation for the end of the test ban. The United States could not have conducted such tests because it had not been doing research. The President said Kennedy quickly realized that the Soviets had taken advantage of the test ban.
Dutch Prime Minister Lubbers thanked the President for what had been accomplished in Geneva and said he was impressed with how enthusiastically the President spoke of the meeting. He jokingly said the President appeared to be in the third youth of his life. His enthusiasm clearly gave the impression that a new relationship was starting. The Netherlands realized and accepted that such a dialogue must combine realism and strength and hoped that Europe could contribute toward promoting the dialogue. It was essential to avoid a situation in which suspicion and mistrust could again arise. For that reason continued adherence to the ABM and SALT II Treaties was particularly important. Lubbers noted that in the joint statement at Geneva the two leaders called for acceleration of the NST talks. He asked the President what this word meant and whether specific timetables had been agreed upon. Lord Carrington noted that time is running short and asked the President to hold his answer until after Luxembourg's Prime Minister spoke.
Luxembourg Prime Minister Santer thanked the President for his mission, calling it a difficult and complex one. He said East-West relations could now be viewed with greater optimism. Luxembourg hoped that the meeting, which had already brought a new climate, would also bring positive results on disarmament questions.
The President thanked Santer for his kind words. Responding to the Dutch Prime Minister's question, the President said that no timetable had been set in Geneva, but the two leaders had agreed to tell their NST negotiators to go after it. The President [end p26] said jokingly that even if they didn't, he and Gorbachev could do so themselves because they had agreed to communicate directly. Noting that he had to fly off to Washington to address Congress –which may wait, but television will not – the President thanked the leaders for coming to Brussels and for their questions. He said before leaving he wanted to give one short example of how he had tried to test Gorbachev's sense of humor. He told Gorbachev the story of an American and a Soviet citizen who were debating freedom in their respective countries. The American said that he could walk into the Oval Office, pound his fist on the table, and say that he didn't like how President Reagan ran the United States. The Soviet citizen responded that he could do the same. He could walk into the Kremlin, pound his fist on the table, and say that he didn't like how President Reagan ran the United States.
In closing, SYG Carrington thanked the President for coming to Brussels and said that Gorbachev would be very lucky if he had the same support at his meeting in Prague as had been shown to the President here in Brussels. He wished the President a good flight home and a successful meeting with Congress.
The meeting concluded at 5:45 p.m.