Archive (Reagan Library)

Cold War: Reagan call to Kohl (reporting Washington Summit) (record of conversation) [declassified 2000]

Document type: Declassified documents
Venue: Oval Office - ?Federal Chancellory, Bonn
Source: Reagan Library: Presidential Handwriting File: Records (Presidential Telephone Calls) (Folder 193)
Editorial comments: Declassified 29 June 2000. A Talking Points memorandum in the file shows that the President stuck closely to his prepared text.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1,516 words
Themes: Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)

Declassified F98-016#29
By dIb, NARA, Date 6/29/00


White House, Washington


SUBJECT: Telephone Call between President Reagan and Chancellor Kohl
PARTICIPANTS: The President, Chancellor Helmut Kohl
DATE, TIME December 11, 1987, 9:57 a.m. – 10:22 a.m.
AND PLACE: Oval Office

The President opened the conversation by telling the Chancellor that he wanted to get back to him as he promised earlier to provide him with a personal readout of his meetings with General Secretary Gorbachev. The Chancellor responded that he was very pleased to get this report and he wanted to convey his personal congratulations to the President for the very successful Summit. Kohl said that the meetings were “very good for the President and very, very good for us”. He said that he was extremely pleased to hear how well things apparently went. The Chancellor said that he had gotten the impression that in spite of their differences that the two of them had gotten on rather well on the personal level.

President Reagan said that was correct. He added that he found the General Secretary to be very confident, not at all like a political leader who was under fire. He said that Gorbachev was clearly in charge of the Soviet team. The President noted that he had five hours with the General Secretary. He said that while the talks were cordial, they were also very candid. Positions were firmly stated. While he showed some flexibility, he took a very tough line on human rights and regional issues.

The Chancellor asked if Gorbachev had shown any flexibility on human rights. The President said that there was a little flexibility on the General Secretary’s part, but he took a very hard line. It appears that he believes they are doing more than we think they are. What we have been doing, he added, is presenting with Soviets with specific lists of names and that has had some beneficial results. Kohl asked specifically if the President raised the matter of Jewish and German emigration. The President said that he did raise that concern. [end p1] The President said that clearly the INF Treaty was the key summit event. He told Gorbachev that this was a precedent that needed to be set – toward reductions, not just limiting the expansion of nuclear weapons. With respect to START the President said that real progress had been made toward reaching our objective of 50% reductions of strategic offensive weapons. He said that we also have gotten some real progress on counting rules, and on a sweeping verification approach building on the INF regime. Significantly, President Reagan added, the Soviets agreed to a sublimit of 4900 ballistic missile warheads, very close to our proposal of 4800. They originally had suggested 5100, so they moved farther down the path on cessions than we did. Chancellor Kohl said he agreed that this was very close to the US position.

The President said that with respect to SDI the Soviet rhetoric has changed, but Gorbachev remains adamantly opposed to our proposals. He wants to kill or cripple SDI while his own programs proceed. The President said he would not agree to that. He added, however, that it was significant that we were able to make this progress on START without sacrificing SDI. Kohl agreed, and asked if that meant it looked like a final START agreement could be completed before the President went to Moscow, specifically whether a final agreement on START could be reached without SDI being agreed?

President Reagan said that he thought it was entirely possible. He said that he was going to work very hard toward that objective and see if we could not wrap up a START agreement before he goes to Moscow in the Spring or early Summer. The President added that he thought it was also significant that Gorbachev expressed a strong desire to achieve progress in other areas, especially on conventional force reductions. Kohl asked if that meant that the President thought the prospects for a conventional arms accord were good. President Reagan said he felt that they were. In response to the Chancellor’s question on the prospects for a chemical weapons agreement, the President said he also thought that was possible. At least it is clear that Gorbachev wants to talk seriously about it. Kohl said that such an outcome would be “fantastic, just fantastic”.

The President said that he had a forceful exchange with Gorbachev on the regional issues, but frankly the General Secretary offered little that was new on Afghanistan or the Gulf. He said he pressed him to set a date certain for a withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of 1988, but the General Secretary only repeated that he had a 12-month withdrawal timetable. Gorbachev again insisted that everything would turn out all right if the West would simply stop supporting the rebels. However, I made it clear, the President said, that we would not leave the rebels defenceless in the face of the Afghan army after the Soviets pulled out. We will keep talking with them on this score, and frankly I think we can work something out. On the Gulf Gorbachev was equally evasive. I wanted to get him to commit to having our U.N. ambassadors draft a second resolution to enforce a [end p2] ceasefire, the President said, but Gorbachev just stalled, insisting that Perez de Cuellar needs more time. The President concluded that he thought Gorbachev was under pressure to move on Afghanistan and the Gulf, not just from us, “but from staunch Allies like you,” and the moderate Arabs. So, he said, I think if we keep the pressure on we’ll see results.

Chancellor Kohl said that he would certainly continue to exert pressure and noted that only yesterday he raised this in the Bundestag. The President said that was great. He then said he wanted to get back to a point the Chancellor raised earlier, on human rights. He said much of the discussion related to human rights – it was at the top of his agenda. The President said he told Gorbachev that we recognized the positive steps the Soviets have made, but much more has to be done. He said that this meant on emigration, not just for the Soviet Jews but for the Germans and others. Progress is being made here, but there were no major breakthroughs.

The President wrappd up the call by noting that George Shultz was coming to Bonn to provide the Chancellor with a more complete readout, but he wanted to pass on these personal impressions right away. He said that he thought our consulting so closely had made it clear to Gorbachev that he could not split the Alliance. Overall, the President said, he wanted to emphasize that all of us here were very enthusiastic about the accomplishments that we achieved at the Summit.

Chancellor Kohl said he felt the results were just excellent. He would be discussing this in more detail with George Shultz, but had two questions first. He asked if the President had the impression that Gorbachev was secure in his position or was in trouble at home? The President responded that he would say that while Gorbachev certainly had problems at home, he appeared very confident and very much in charge. He had serious economic problems to deal with at home, and really wants to make progress in getting arms reductions in order to alleviate some of that pressure. Kohl asked if he could do anything to help on the INF ratification process – he emphasized that it was important that the treaty be ratified quickly. The President said he appreciated that. He just had a meeting with Congressional leaders, which he described as the best and most productive of the meetings they have had. Kohl asked if this meant that the President thought the agreement would be ratified. The President said he thought so, but said that anything the Chancellor could do to show how our Alliance supports the treaty would be very helpful. Kohl said he would do that and asked if the President’s staff had any specific suggestions that they might let his office know. For example, he said that he might be helpful in writing or calling to key members of Congress. He added that he thought it might be useful for he and the President to get together soon to discuss next steps. He said that if he were to come to Washington that might be a good time to meet with Congressional leaders. [end p3]

The President said he was very kind to suggest it, and then conveyed his best wishes for the Christmas holidays to the Chancellor and Mrs. Kohl. The Chancellor also wished the President and the First Lady a very merry Christmas and a most happy New Year.

The call concluded at 10:22 a.m.