Archive (Reagan Library)

Cold War: Reagan letter to Thatcher (& others) (resuming Geneva arms talks) [declassified 2000]

Document type: Declassified documents
Venue: White House
Source: Reagan Library: Executive Secretariat NSC Head of State File
Editorial comments: Despatched 0531 GMT 5 Jan 1985; declassified 30 Jun 2000.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1,517 words
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), MT contacts with Ronald Reagan

Declassified S98-001#151
By SMF, NARA, Date 6/30/00

[Annotated by the President:]
“RR 1/7/85”


1. Secret entire text.

2. Embassies should deliver letter from President to Allied leaders (below) as early as possible January 5. US NATO should give copy to Carrington. There will be no signed original. For salutation and signature lines, use names reflected in most recent correspondence with respective heads of state/government. [end p1]

3. Begin text.

As we approach the completion of our preparations for Secretary Shultz’s Geneva meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko, I want to express my appreciation for the wise counsel and warm support we have received from Allied Governments. I know you share my hope that this meeting will open the way to renewed nuclear arms control negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union and establish a productive basis for progress in these talks.

- During the next ten years, the US objective is a radical reduction in the power of existing and planned offensive nuclear arms, as well as the stabilization of the relationship between offensive and defensive nuclear arms, whether in earth or in space. We are even now looking forward to a period of transition to a more stable world with greatly reduced levels of nuclear arms and an enhanced ability to deter war based upon the increasing contribution of non-nuclear defenses against offensive nuclear arms. This period of transition could lead to the eventual elimination of all nuclear arms, both offensive and defensive. A world free of nuclear arms, is an ultimate objective to which we, the Soviet Union, and all other nations can agree.

- We have, as you know, been giving close consideration in recent weeks to the approach we should adopt in Geneva, and I want to share with you the tentative conclusions we have now reached.

- We feel that our foremost objective should be the early resumption of negotiations on offensive nuclear [end p2] arms reductions. Soviet spokesmen, for their part, have identified anti-satellite weapons, the Strategic Defense Initiative and the general area of space as matters of high concern to the Soviet Union, and we are accordingly prepared to address these issues as well.

- One question which will need to be dealt with in Geneva is that of the negotiating fora to be established. The United States, supported by its allies, has reiterated throughout the past year our readiness and desire to resume the START and INF negotiations which were interrupted by the Soviet Union in 1983. We continue to believe that these two fora represent a straightforward and effective means of organising our negotiating efforts on offensive nuclear arms reductions. We are also ready, however, to examine other possibilities which would permit both offensive and defensive systems to be addressed, including those raised by the Soviet Union. I intend to instruct Secretary Shultz to seek to work out with Foreign Minister Gromyko mutually agreeable arrangements which will permit the convening of early follow-on negotiations.

- The forthcoming meeting in Geneva is not likely to provide time for detailed exchanges regarding the two sides’ approaches to nuclear arms control. I do believe, however, that some general exchange on substance can be helpful.

- For our part, I plan to authorize Secretary Shultz who will be joined by Paul Nitze and Bud McFarlane, to indicate that the US is prepared to begin negotiations on the full range of nuclear arms, both offensive and defensive, and to address Soviet concerns on space-related issues as they apply in the context of [end p3] negotiations on offensive nuclear forces and defensive nuclear forces.

- With respect to negotiations on offensive strategic nuclear arms, the United States will be prepared to explore trade-offs that would address asymmetries in the two sides’ force structures, provided the Soviets are prepared to approach the problem in an equally constructive manner. He would note that US negotiators will have extensive flexibility as to the structure and content of the trade-offs.

- Secretary Shultz will stress the high priority we attach to achieving equitable and verifiable limitations on intermediate-range nuclear forces. He will remind Gromyko of the position which the United States, based upon Alliance consultations, put forward to the Soviets in September 1983, and indicate that the United States will be prepared, in negotiations, to explore how the development of the various elements of this position could provide the basis for overcoming existing differences in the two sides’ approaches. (For NATO countries: we will continue to consult closely with you as our exchanges with the Soviets on this point progress.) At the same time, we will, of course, reject any proposals for a moratorium on INF deployments as a precondition of negotiations, reject the inclusion of third-country systems, and reaffirm that the NATO deployment program decided upon in 1979 can be altered only as a result of a concrete arms control agreement.

- Secretary Shultz will also be prepared to address in a constructive manner the other areas of apparent Soviet concern. He would thus be authorized to agree to negotiations that address space-related issues as elements of the broad range of offensive and defensive [end p4] arms. With respect to anti-satellite systems, he will make clear that, in follow-on negotiations, the United States will be ready to consider areas of mutual restraint. Secretary Shultz will also indicate our willingness – indeed, our desire – to discuss the relationship between present and future defensive and offensive capabilities of both sides.

As you know, the Soviet Union has sought with increasing intensity over recent weeks to identify the US program of research on strategic defenses as an obstacle to progress in arms control. In Geneva Secretary Shultz will respond to any such approach by noting that it is the Soviet Union that has undermined the assumptions on which the ABM Treaty is based. He will reaffirm that the US Strategic Defense Initiative is a research program that is permitted and being carried out in full conformity with the ABM Treaty, and note that any decisions as to testing or deployment of systems not permitted by the Treaty would be a matter for negotiation. He will also point out the activities of the Soviet Union that we believe are not consistent with the Treaty.

- Noting that the Soviet program of research on new forms of ballistic missile defenses parallels and, in some areas, surpasses our own, Secretary Shultz will note the impracticality of seeking to limit research activity, but he will also stress the desirability of initiating a dialogue regarding the longer-term implications of new defensive technologies for arms control and deterrence.

- In my view, new forms of defense against the threat of ballistic missile attack may, in the long run, offer a means of enhancing deterrence and reducing the importance of [end p5] nuclear ballistic missiles in the overall strategic relationship. We also recognize, however, that such a development, if it proves technically feasible, should be addressed cooperatively. Thus, even while US and Soviet scientists look into the technical possibilities for the future, I am prepared to begin discussion with the Soviet Union now on the strategic and arms control implications of these new technologies. I would note that the long-term goal of the eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons has been embraced by both sides.

- If the Soviet Union comes to Geneva genuinely desirous of opening a new and more productive phase in US-Soviet arms control efforts, I believe that the two sides should be able to reach early agreement on the subject and objectives for new talks, and on the appropriate negotiating fora. We must anticipate, however, that the Soviets may continue to pursue their multi-tiered strategy of diplomacy, propaganda and intimidation designed to secure Western concessions and restraint without comparable limitations on their own forces. We have successfully resisted these Soviet efforts in the past, and I am confident that we can do so in the future.

- At this stage, I believe we must avoid establishing artificial deadlines for progress, and must resist excessive expectations. For our part, we will be prepared to devote as much time and effort as is necessary to launch this next stage of US-Soviet arms control negotiations. With goodwill, patience, and your continuing support, I am optimistic that we can succeed.

- In order to assure the best prospects for success in Secretary Shultz’s forthcoming discussions, I ask that [end p6] you hold all the above in utmost confidence. We will, of course, brief you as early as possible on the results of the Geneva talks (add for NATO allies: (Senior members of the Secretary Shultz’s party to Geneva will brief the North Atlantic Council in Brussels on January 9)). I look forward to receiving your continued counsel on these issues.

Ronald Reagan (or Ron or Ronald, as appropriate)