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INTRODUCTION During the second session of the 99th Congress, the Defense Policy Panel conducted a series of ten hearings related to the implications of the meeting on October 11 and 12, 1986, at Reykjavik, Iceland, between President Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. The focus of the hearings was on the underlying process supporting the discussions and on the military and international implications of the positions taken by each side at the meeting.
A wide variety of viewpoints were solicited from participants at the summit and observers, from civilians and military officers, from the Administration and the private sector. The witnesses included Richard Perle, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy; Kenneth Adelman, Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency; Admiral Willam Crowe, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Ambassador Paul Nitze, Special Assistant to the President on Arms Control; Honorable James Schlesinger, former Secretary of Defense; a panel of former negotiators (Ambassador Paul Warnke, Ambassador Raymond L. Garthoff, Ambassador Gerard Smith, Ambassador Louis Fields, and Mr. Helmut Sonnenfeldt); Professor Albert Carnesale and Mr. Richard Haass, authors of the study “Learning from Experience with Arms Control”; members of the Scowcroft Commission (General Brent Scowcroft, Mr. James Woosley, and Professor John Deutch); and General Bernard Rogers, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. 1
Based on the information gathered during the extensive hearings, the Defense Policy Panel issued two reports. The following report addresses the process underlying the preparation for and the discussions at Reykjavik. A companion report analyzes the implications of the positions put forth at Reykjavik on U.S. security objectives.
THE REYKJAVIK PROCESS The surprise announcement on the last day of September of an impending meeting in Iceland between Soviet leader Gorbachev and President Reagan set off a round of volatile expectations about U.S.-Soviet relations and hopes for arms control.
During the two weeks preceding the meeting itself, the Reagan Administration did all it could to downplay both the significance of the meeting and the likely outcome. As a consequence, the word on the last day of the summit of an added session was greeted as a sign of a possible breakthrough in negotiations. The brief euphoria brought on by this development was to be dashed by final reports from both sides that the meeting had ended in failure. But within hours, the White House had recast the outcome, putting a positive
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"See endnotes on p. 20.
"spin" on the results of its efforts. A follow-on meeting between Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Edouard Shevardnadze three weeks later in Vienna promised hope of reestablishing the momentum, but it, too, ended with each side blaming the other for blocking an agreement of impressive proportions.
The ups and downs have not lessened since then. The Reykjavik meeting has been portrayed as a real and lasting success, as an historic lost opportunity, as both more and less conclusive than initial accounts led the world to believe. These various interpretations have been fueled by the astonishing degree of confusion surrounding what actually happened in Reykjavik: about the genesis of, preparation for and actual conduct of the negotiations between the superpowers. This report is intended to answer some of these questions. Background
The meeting in Reykjavik was the culminating event in an unorthodox series of proposal swaps between Reagan and Gorbachev going on over a year. The process began with agreement between the two men at the November 1985 summit to seek 50% reductions in strategic arms and an interim agreement on Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF), leaving some missiles in this category on both sides in Europe. Soviet focus on this particular formulation ended with a January 15, 1986, letter from Gorbachev to Reagan. This letter proposed the elimination of all nuclear weapons by the year 2000 in three stages, with the first stage (1986-1994) resulting in elimination of long-range INF (LRINF) missiles in Europe. The Soviet proposal also dropped their previous demand for compensation for British and French nuclear systems and linkage between progress on INF and progress in the talks on space weapons.
President Reagan responded with a letter on February 22 that proposed the elimination of all LRINF missiles worldwide within three years. This represented a return to the U.S. position during the first Reagan Administration, before the United States had de ployed any of its own LRINF systems in Europe, and a dramatic shift from the fall 1985 American proposal to limit each side to an equal global ceiling, a sub-ceiling of 140 launchers in Europe (about 420 warheads), and proportional Soviet reductions in Asia (to about 90 launchers or 270 warheads). 2
The Soviets made no major responses to this proposal in Geneva. However, in late spring they introduced new proposals in START and in the Defense and Space talks. Previously, the Soviets had insisted that all space weapons and research, development and testing of such weapons—the heart of the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)—should be banned. In return they would agree to 50% cuts in strategic weapons (i.e., weapons that could strike the other side's homeland). On June 11, this position was amended to allow research, development and testing of SDI in the laboratory if both sides agreed not to withdraw from the ABM Treaty for 15 to 20 years. At the same time, the Soviets suggested that both sides reduce their strategic weapons by only 30%.
These moves were followed by a letter from the General Secretary to the President on June 23 that stated Gorbachev's willing
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2 See endnotes on p. 21.
ness to compromise on INF, without giving any specific proposals. The letter also made a personal appeal for U.S. consideration of the latest Soviet concessions in Geneva, which had linked a loosening of research, development and testing restrictions on "space strike arms” to more modest cuts in offensive systems.
President Reagan responded with another letter of his own a month later. This letter marked a turning point in U.S. arms control policy-making in two respects: first, it contained a radical new U.S. position, and, second, its drafting process was characterized by a new "top down” approach in which the President and his top advisors established the proposal framework themselves, in effect cutting out the bureaucracy and putting policy into the hands of a very few. The contents focused on strategic and defense issues. Reagan indicated that the United States would not demand 50% reductions in strategic forces, and he suggested a complicated scheme that would have permitted deployment of strategic defenses by either side within seven and a half years while remaining within the bounds of a modified ABM Treaty. During this time, the two sides were to negotiate a plan for sharing the benefits of strategic defenses and for the elimination of all offensive ballistic missiles. 3
The latter element of the proposal was a considerable departure from past U.S. positions. The idea to eliminate ballistic missiles did not come up through the arms control interagency process. The letter was reportedly drafted by a small group of advisors, including Secretary of State Shultz, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, Admiral John Poindexter, the National Security Advisor, and White House Chief of Staff Donald Regan, supervised by the President himself.
Members of the National Security Planning Group (NSPG), a subset of the National Security Council, which includes representatives of both the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), did review the letter prior to its release to the Soviets. The Joint Chiefs in particular had "quite a bit of discussion back and forth” 4 over the ballistic missile proposal. In the end they—and the other members of the NSPG-agreed to the proposal as it had been offered: as a broad goal in the abstract. Apparently believing both the novelty and the lack of specificity in the proposal to mean it was not a central element of U.S. arms control policy (even though it was introducted in Geneva on September 18), the JCS did not undertake a study of its implications at that time.
When the President's proposal to Gorbachev was publicly repeated in Reagan's address to the United Nations on September 22, it was similarly vague: “* * * if, after 1991, either side should decide to deploy such a system (strategic defense), that side would be obliged to offer a plan for sharing the benefits of strategic defense and for eliminating offensive ballistic missiles.” The failure on the part of the bureaucracy to take the President seriously would come back to haunt both the military and the President when the proposal was reintroduced with specifics at Reykjavik.
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3 See endnotes on p. 21. * See endnotes on p. 22.