Archive (Reagan Library)

Cold War: Reagan letter to Thatcher (nuclear proliferation) [declassified 2000]

Document type: Declassified documents
Venue: White House
Source: Reagan Library: NSA Head of State File (Thatcher: Cables [3]) Box 35
Editorial comments: Despatched 1450 GMT 3 September 1983; declassified 22 March 2000.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 712 words
Themes: Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), MT contacts with Ronald Reagan
Declassified F96-107#38
By SMF, NARA, Date 3/22/00


1. Ambassador or DCM is requested to deliver to appropriate authority text of President’s letter in paragraph 3 below at earliest opportunity. Signed original will follow by pouch.

2. In delivering President’s letter, department requests that post make the following points:

-- I would like to provide you with some additional information regarding President Reagan’s proposal in his letter for a meeting of major nuclear supplier countries on ways to strengthen the framework of peaceful nuclear co-operation within a sound and effective safeguards regime.

-- We would envisage that such a meeting would be small and confidential, with no formal agenda.

-- Its major purpose would be to consider how best to serve our shared non-proliferation goals, including especially discussion of the papers on comprehensive safeguards that we have already provided to you.

-- We would hope to identify areas of agreement and disagreement, while considering how a consensus could be formed.

-- The President has asked Ambassador-at-large Richard T. Shannon to represent the United States. [end p1]

-- We proposed that the meeting take place in late November/early December, at a site to be agreed upon later.

-- We would be prepared to host this meeting in the U.S., or at any European location that the other parties might suggest.

-- I strongly hope that HMG [Her Majesty’s Government] will be able to participate.

3. Begin text:

August 19, 1983

Dear Margaret:

On March 31st, I wrote to you about comprehensive safeguards, and I appreciate your government’s expression of support for this principle. I had hoped to discuss this matter in some detail at our Williamsburg meeting, but as you know the agenda included other issues, both complicated and pressing, that required our urgent attention.

As I indicated earlier, I believe that we must take every possible step to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons. This is a matter of critical national security concern that we share. If nuclear weapons spread to additional regions, the delicate balance of regional stability can be upset, the danger of conflict will grow, security burdens will increase, and even peaceful nuclear co-operation will be jeopardized.

Unsafeguarded nuclear activities manifestly are a source of concern, wherever they may exist. Even where these activities are not intended to serve the purpose of explosives development, they inevitably generate suspicion. It was this concern which led me to suggest agreement now by the major nuclear suppliers to require comprehensive safeguards as a condition of significant new nuclear supply commitments.

Agreed nuclear rules of trade, including stronger safeguards as a condition of supply, are needed also if [end p2] we are to ensure that legitimate competition for nuclear trade does not lead to the use of non-proliferation conditions as a bargaining factor in pursuit of sales. The result could only be an unraveling of the non-proliferation regime damaging to us all.

The emergence of new suppliers adds urgency to the need for new cooperative action. We must find the way to convince these countries to adhere to sound norms for their own participation in international nuclear commerce. But if we are to have any chance of success, we must agree now on stronger safeguards and guidelines for nuclear trade, and be prepared to stand by them. [end p3]

As we have agreed, our countries have a shared responsibility in this area. I look forward to working with you to strengthen the framework for peaceful nuclear co-operation within a sound and effective safeguards regime. I suggest an early meeting of our representatives and those of the other major supplier countries (including the Soviet Union) to develop concrete proposals for advancing our common goal. We look forward to hearing your views.

Margaret, this is an important priority for me, for which I would deeply appreciate your personal support. I hope to be in close touch with you by telephone on this matter closer to the date of the meeting of our representatives. I am convinced that in unifying the nuclear suppliers in support of comprehensive sfgdsm we will have achieved a concrete and immediate arms control success.