The Euro-Missile Crisis to the 1987 INF Treaty | Jason Saltoun-Ebin googlea0aa0d8ee69b5ad6.html

The Euro-Missile Crisis to the 1987 INF Treaty

By Andrea Chiampan (University of Padua), and 

Jason Saltoun-Ebin (University of California Santa Barbara)

October 17, 2011

* Please cite as: Jason Saltoun-Ebin & Andrea Chiampan, "The Reagan Files:  The Euromissles Crisis to the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, 1979-1987," (, Oct. 17, 2011. 

(Photo: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)

I. The Origins of the INF negotiations (1979-1983)

West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, in 1977, called for new tactical weapons in Western Europe to counterbalance the installation of the new Soviet SS-20, a new class of intermediate range ballistic missiles with longer range, improved accuracy, the capability of carrying three warheads, and based on a mobile launching platform making the missile nearly impossible for the NATO forces to target. Even though the Carter Administration was less concerned than the Europeans with the SS-20, inter-NATO negotiations commenced on how best to respond. An ad hoc High Level Group (HLG) was then established to decide if NATO should respond to the Soviet deployment of SS-20s with its own modernization program.


Negotiations within NATO quickly stalled over how modernization could best enhance the credibility of the American and NATO deterrent. By 1979, however, the Soviet Union had already deployed 130 SS-20s with a total of 390 nuclear warheads pointed at Europe. With the rapid deployment of the SS-20s and the pressure from the Europeans to respond, the United States, Britain, France, and West Germany met in Guadaloupe in early 1979 to jumpstart a decision. The four quickly reached an informal agreement that NATO needed to develop and deploy its own new class of intermediate range ballistic missiles. The NATO Ministers officially adopted the "Dual Track" decision during a special meeting on December 12, 1979.


The Dual Track decision committed NATO to negotiations with the Soviet Union to limit nuclear weapons in Europe, and at the same time, to modernizing NATO intermediate range nuclear forces by deploying a new class of ground launched cruise missiles as well as the next generation of Pershing missiles (Pershing IIs). The Dual Track decision called for deployment of NATO’s modernized forces by the end of 1983 unless, by that time another agreement had been reached, which the Reagan administration interpreted as the Soviet Union dismantling all its SS-20s pointed at Europe.


President Reagan inherited the NATO decision to both negotiate the removal of the Soviet SS-20s from “Eastern-Europe” and to deploy modernized intermediate range nuclear weapons if the Soviet Union did not remove its SS-20s. In many ways, Reagan’s first year in office reflected this approach. For example, his November 18, 1981 speech on national defence called for the complete elimination of intermediate range nuclear weapons in Europe (the “zero-option”). The Soviets immediately rejected this “zero-option”, largely because it did not include British and French forces, but probably also because it appeared as an imbalanced proposal as the Soviet Union would had to dismantle its SS-20s while the United States only had to promise not to deploy.

Among the recently declassified documents from the Reagan Library that are now available to researchers on The Reagan Files website are the memorandums of conversation between Secretary Haig and Foreign Minister Gromyko from their important September 1981 UN meetings. Most importantly, Haig and Gromyko agreed to officially open the negotiations over the INF issue in Geneva on November 30, 1981. 

With the negotiations at an impasse over whether or not British and French forces would be counted as part of NATO forces, Reagan’s chief arms control negotiator, Paul Nitze, and the Soviet chief arms control negotiator, Yuli Kvitsinskiy, decided in the summer 1982 to undertake an unauthorized initiative to reach an interim and informal agreement that they would then present to their governments. Their initiative started with their now famous “Walk in the Woods”, in which they agreed to present to their governments a plan calling for: 1) equal reductions in intermediate range weapons with a cap of no more than 225 delivery systems by December 31, 1987; 2) a submarine ceiling of no more than 75 missile delivery systems; and 3) reductions in aircraft bombers should also be included in any agreement.

Back from Geneva, the White House was skeptical about the Nitze discussions, with one internal memo arguing that Nitze had gone way “off the reservation” and may have jeopardized President Reagan’s chances of achieving the “zero-option.” The Soviets were probably also skeptical, which might explain why arms control negotiations stalled following the Nitz/Kvitsinskiy initiative. 

However, in late 1982 and early 1983, the United States launched two diplomatic initiatives to alleviate European concerns over the stalled Geneva process. First, Eugene Rostow (the head of the Arms Control Disarmament Agency (ACDA)) spent almost two weeks in Europe in October 1982 as part of Reagan’s efforts to persuade the European leaders that the United States very much wanted an arms control agreement and that the “zero-option” was still the best approach. Rostow argued that anything less than the total elimination of intermediate range nuclear forces would lead to disproportionate reductions that would export the European problem to the Asian theater given that the Soviets wanted to maintain their SS-20s as a deterrent in Asia. 

With still no breakthrough in reductions, Vice President Bush went to Europe in February 1983 to speak to the Europeans about the status of arms control negotiations and the impending deployment of Pershing IIs and GLCMs. Bush emphasized to the Europeans that the negotiations would be successful as long as the Allies stuck together in their commitment to the “zero-option,” but also stressed that the U.S. would be flexible if the Soviets proposed verifiable reductions. Bush also hand delivered a letter from Reagan to Prime Minister Thatcher. Her response echoed this new approach: “Your statement should reinforce the point [that] the zero option was not a take it or leave it proposal.” Days later, in a speech on February 22, Reagan said for the first time that the “zero-option” was not a “take-it-or-leave-it” approach.

Historians continue to debate whether or not President Reagan’s “zero-option” was just a publicity stunt designed to appease the nuclear freeze movement, or whether it was actually a serious proposal that Reagan would have followed through with had the Soviet Union agreed to a global zero elimination of intermediate range nuclear weapons before the Pershing IIs and GLCMs were deployed in 1983. Those arguing that Reagan was not serious about arms reductions early in his administration point to the fact that the Nitze initiative actually would have accomplished a significant first step towards the “zero-option.” More importantly, Paul Nitze, one of America’s most important Cold War diplomats, actually endorsed the arms control proposal he worked out with Kvitsinskiy in the summer of 1982. Reagan’s unwillingness to pursue the Nitze initiative, however, suggests that he was really not serious about the “zero-option,” and that regardless of Soviet reductions, he was committed to not only deploying the Pershing IIs and GLCMs in 1983, but also to a comprehensive modernization of American defense forces. Moreover, those claiming that the “zero-option” was nothing but a publicity stunt need not look further than the transcripts of Reagan’s October 13, 1981 NSC meeting. That day, after Secretary of Defense Weinberger proposed the “zero-option” because it would be a sweeping proposal that would put the Soviets on the defensive, Reagan quickly responded, “Do we really want a zero-option for the battlefield? Don’t we need these nuclear systems? Wouldn’t it be bad for us to give them up since we need them to handle Soviet conventional superiority?” 

II.  The Nuclear and Space Talks: from Geneva to Washington (1985-1987).

In the summer of 1984, as Reagan was moving forward with his intention to research and deploy the Strategic Defense Initiative, the Soviets called for bilateral meetings on the “militarization of space” to be connected with INF and strategic arms negotiations. The NST (Nuclear and Space Talks) negotiations, however, quickly stalled as the Soviet’s were undergoing a leadership crisis: three General Secretaries of the Soviet Union died between 1982 and 1985 giving Reagan the opportunity to famously say that he had been trying to negotiate with the Soviets since he took office in 1981 but that it was impossible because they all kept dying on him. With the ascendency of Mikhail Gorbachev to the position of general secretary, the Soviet Union was now led by a youthful reformer who would test Reagan’s sincerity by proposing to not only eliminate intermediate range nuclear weapons, but all nuclear weapons. 

Although arms control negotiations quickly resumed once Gorbachev settled into the Kremlin, it was not until Reagan and Gorbachev decided to meet in Geneva in November 1985 that the negotiations took on a sense of urgency.  About a month before, in October 1985, Gorbachev tried to inject energy into the negotiation with a public call for a 50% reduction in “nuclear delivery systems”; a ceiling for strategic weapons; equal reductions of 6,000 warheads; and to move towards the goal in ten-to-fifteen years of eliminating all intermediate range nuclear weapons in Europe. 

The United States formalized its response to Gorbachev’s proposal in NSDD 195, signed October 30, 1985, and publicly presented the new American proposals the next day in a nationally televised speech. Reagan told the world that the new U.S. plan called for a limit of 6,000 ballistic missile warheads for the Air-Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCMs), a sub-ceiling of 4,500 warheads, and a ceiling of 1,500 for ICBMs, which approximately represented a 50% reduction in strategic weapons. In terms of INF, Reagan proposed equal reductions, with a cap of 140 delivery systems around the world.

The Geneva Summit, a month later, marked the first meeting in seven years between a president of the United States and a general secretary of the Soviet Union. The super-power summit started with a private meeting (interpreters and note-takers only), in which Reagan characterized U.S.-Soviet relations as a “peaceful competition” and Gorbachev emphasized cooperation rather than confrontation” and the importance of halting the arms race. Reagan, perhaps already sensing that a deal was not in reach, suggested starting with confidence-building measures. “In the meeting with the larger group, where we should soon move,” Reagan told Gorbachev, “the sides can explain why there is mistrust, but can also begin to try to eliminate this mistrust.” 

Moving into the big conference room for the first plenary session, Gorbachev welcomed Reagan’s proposal for further exchanges in the areas of science and technology to help remove the distrust that currently existed. Moving to SDI, Reagan called it a “shield” and criticized Gorbachev for trying to curtail SDI when the Soviet’s already had “the same kind of research program.” “If one or both of us come up with such a system,” Reagan added, “then they should sit down and make it available to everyone so no one would have a fear of a nuclear strike.” Gorbachev held his response until the afternoon session.

“We think SDI can lead to an arms race in space, and not just a defensive arms race, but an offensive arms race with space weapons,” Gorbachev told Reagan in their afternoon session. The General Secretary continued,  

Space weapons are harder to verify and will feed suspicions and mistrust. Scientists say any shield can be pierced, so SDI cannot save us. So why create it? It only makes sense if to defend against a retaliatory strike….

I know that you, Mr. President, are attached to SDI, and for that reason we have analyzed it seriously. Our conclusion is that if the U.S. implements its plan, we will not cooperate in an effort to gain superiority over us. We will have to frustrate this plan, and we will build up in order to smash your shield.

You say the Soviet Union is doing the same, but this is not the case. Both of us do research in space of course, but our research is for peaceful purposes. The U.S., in contrast has military aims, and that is an important difference. The U.S. goal violates the ABM Treaty, which is of fundamental importance. Testing is also inconsistent with the Treaty, and can only exacerbate mistrust. 

If the U.S. embarks on SDI the following will happen: (1) No reduction of offensive weapons; and (2) We will respond. This response will not be a mirror image of your program, but a simpler, more effective system.

Three more private meetings and two plenary sessions followed over the next two days, but both Reagan and Gorbachev were committed to their positions.  All was not lost, however, because Gorbachev agreed to visit Washington in 1986 and Reagan agreed to go to Moscow in 1987. 

Stopping at NATO headquarters on the way home, Reagan called SDI “one of the most important developments of this century… it was clear that we could not reconcile our differences over SDI.” With respect to a possible INF agreement, Reagan reported an interim agreement capping NATO missiles at the level deployed at the end of that year with the Soviets reducing down to the same level within range of NATO Europe as well as proportionate reductions in Asia. Foreshadowing an INF agreement, Reagan also stated that they agreed to separate out INF talks so that INF “would not be held hostage to progress in space talks.” 

Fearing that arms control negotiations would continue to no avail, Gorbachev made an informal proposal in September 1986 for a quick two-day meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland to inject urgency into the arms control negotiations. Gorbachev, however, did not want to use the opportunity for a simple meeting – he wanted to achieve a major breakthrough in arms reductions. Reagan, who by this time was probably more serious about reaching an arms control reductions agreement than any other time in his presidency, however, came to Reykjavik with the expectation that the two leaders were only going to feel each other out, not actually engage in serious negotiations. This difference in attitude made for some very tense meetings, which spanned all areas of U.S.-Soviet relations. In terms of arms control, Gorbachev presented to Reagan sweeping concessions that included: 1) The complete removal of both Soviet and American intermediate range nuclear forces from the European theater while still allowing the British and French to keep their existing intermediate range weapons; and 2) A ceiling of 100 intermediate range missiles outside of Europe.  In terms of strategic arms, Gorbachev also proposed an across-the-board 50% reduction for both the United States and Soviet Union. Gorbachev said that all these reductions were contingent on Reagan agreeing to restrict SDI testing to laboratories for the next ten years, but that SDI could be deployed once these reductions were accomplished. This way, Gorbachev argued, the United States would not gain the ability to have both a first strike capability as well as the possibility of defending against a second strike retaliatory response. 

SDI research and testing, Reagan told Gorbachev, was non-negotiable because he had promised the American people he would not restrict SDI. Reagan even asked Gorbachev for “a favor” in agreeing to include the language providing for unrestricted SDI testing, but Gorbachev could not face returning to the Soviet Union without an agreement on SDI. Summing up the feel in the room, Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze made one last plea to Reagan’s sense of history: “If future generations read the minutes of these meetings, and saw how close we had come but how we did not use these opportunities, they would never forgive us.” 

The reality, however, was that Reagan and Gorbachev were not nearly as close to an agreement as Shevardnadze thought. In fact, according to a very top-secret paper prepared by Poindexter after the Summit, “Immediately following Reykjavik, the President…concluded that: “The United States would continue to reject eliminating all nuclear weapons in 10 years, and focus attention on the proposals that you handed over to Gorbachev in writing in Iceland which were focused on the elimination of all offensive ballistic missiles in 10 years; however The United States would stand firm by our long-term commitment to the ultimate goal of the total elimination of all nuclear weapons, but always cast this in terms of a long-term goal which will require the correction of existing conventional force imbalances and other conditions that require us to have the nuclear weapons in the first place.” (The Reagan Files, p. 348.)

Another highly top-secret memo, this one from Nitze to Shultz, dated March 11, 1987 (not released until May 2009), suggests that even before Reykjavik the United States was conducting space-based SDI testing. Nitze wrote in that memo that another test was planned for early 1988 and that the test was within the restrictive interpretation of the ABM Treaty although Weinberger wanted to move to the broader interpretation “to add a test of a space-based kinetic-kill interceptor against a target launched into space from earth.” (The Reagan Files, p. 348.)

Almost immediately following the Reykjavik Summit, the Reagan administration was consumed with defending itself against charges that it illegally traded arms-for-hostages in Iran and that it then used the proceeds of the arms sales’ to fund the Contras in Nicaragua. The year 1987, however, also marked the most important year of the Reagan administration in terms of arms reductions. In fact, just shortly after Reykjavik, Gorbachev quickly backed away from his insistence on linking START negotiations to INF negotiations, and not long thereafter, the two sides informally agreed to formally sign the INF Treaty at the Washington Summit in December 1987. 

Thus, by the time Gorbachev flew to Washington in December 1987 (thanks to the hard work of Secretary of State Shultz and Foreign Minister Gromyko), all that was left for the INF Treaty was for Reagan and Gorbachev to sign the documents, which they did as one of the first acts of the Summit.  The signing of the INF Treaty was an historic event because it was the first time an entire class of nuclear weapons was eliminated. Nevertheless, the INF Treaty only required each side to reduce its nuclear forces by about four percent, meaning that by the time the INF agreement was fully implemented in 1991, the Soviet Union destroyed 889 of its intermediate-range missiles (compared to 677 for the U.S.) and 957 shorter-range missiles (compared to 169 for the U.S.). 


Document #1: December 12, 1979, The NATO “Double-Track Decision.”

NATO’s December 12, 1979 “Double-Track Decision” to 1) pursue military modernization with the goal of deployment of Intermediate Range Nuclear weapons in Europe in 1983 along with 2) a commitment to nuclear weapons limitation talks with the Soviet Union, is credited with rejuvenating stalled arms control talks with the perceived failure of SALT II. The “Double-Track Decision”, which did lead to the deployment of Pershing II missiles in 1983, is essential to understanding the extension of the Cold War arms race into the Reagan administration. In fact, Reagan would often claim that he was obligated to deploy the Pershing II’s in West Germany as a result of the “Double-Track Decision.”

Source: (NATO/OTAN Online Library, at:

Document #2: September 23, 1981, Memorandum of Conversation, “Meeting between Secretary Haig and Foreign Minister Gromyko with Delegations.” 

In this important memorandum of conversation, Secretary Haig and FM Gromyko agree on “a statement that would make clear that the USSR and US had agreed to begin talks this year (to limit nuclear weapons)”, to be held “on the basis of the principle of equality and equal security” with “no preconditions”. 

Click here to download: 81.9.23.pdf

Source: (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library,  CLARK, WILLIAM PATRICK: Files, 1982-1983,  BOX 3,  [File Folder: Haig/Gromyko Meetings 09/23/1981 and 09/28/1981] Doc.6709)

Document #3: September 28, 1981, Memorandum of Conversation, “Meeting between the Secretary Haig and Minister Gromyko with Delegations”, (Second Session).

Five days after Haig and Gromyko agreed on the basic principles on which their countries would enter a new round of arms control talks, the two are now faced with the challenge of overcoming their basic disagreements on the forces to be included in any negotiations. Today’s disagreement -- Gromyko insists that any British and French nuclear forces must be included in the negotiations while Haig acknowledges that the U.S. cannot negotiate the British and French forces– serves as the basis for the disagreement that will plague the two sides until the INF Treaty is finally signed in 1987. 

Click here to download: 81.9.28.pdf

Source: ( Ronald Reagan Presidential Library,  CLARK, WILLIAM PATRICK: Files, 1982-1983,  BOX 3,  [File Folder: Haig/Gromyko Meetings 09/23/1981 and 09/28/1981] Doc.6710)

Document #4: November 18, 1981, The Ronald Reagan's “Zero Option” Speech.

Just one week before the Soviet Union and the United States are scheduled to meet in Geneva to discuss limiting Intermediate Range Nuclear Weapons (INF), President Reagan tries to gain public sympathy by announcing that he would agree to not deploy the Pershing II’s in Europe if the Soviet Union dismantled their intermediate range nuclear weapons. Reagan’s  support for the “Zero-Option,” originally a German proposal, was coupled with a proposal to begin strategic arms limitation talks as well which would cover all offensive weapons.  President Reagan’s speech can be accessed by clicking here:

Document # 5A: January 26, 1982, Memorandum of Conversation, “Meeting between the Secretary Haig and Minister Gromyko”, 10AM-12:40PM

Haig and Gromyko met on January 26, 1982 at the US Mission in Geneva to further discuss INF and strategic weapons.  Gromyko told Haig that the US was violating “the principle of equality and equal security” by building up strategic weapons, while discussing a reduction/limitation of INF and that this approach  affected the Soviet capacity to trust the U.S. In terms of the arms to be counted in the INF negotiation, Gromyko insisted on including Independent Nuclear Forces and NATO aircrafts, while Haig insisted that only NATO and USSR intermediate-range missiles would be counted.

Click here to download: 82.1.26.pdf

Source: (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library,  CLARK, WILLIAM PATRICK: Files, 1982-1983,  BOX 3, [File Folder: Haig/Gromyko Meetings 01/26/1982 10:00am]).

Document # 5B: January 26, 1982, Memorandum of Conversation, “Meeting between the Secretary Haig and Minister Gromyko”, 2PM-7PM

This memorandum of conversation is the afternoon session of Haig and Gromyko’s January 26, 1982 meeting in Geneva on arms control. In this five hour meeting Gromyko tries to link INF talks with strategic weapons. Haig responds that the U.S. prefers to keep INF and strategic weapons separate.  

Click here to download: Haig-Gromyko (26jan82)2.pdf

Source: (Source: (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library,  CLARK, WILLIAM PATRICK: Files, 1982-1983,  BOX 3, [File Folder: Haig/Gromyko Meetings 01/26/1982 - 02:00pm]).

Document # 6A: NSC Meeting on START, April 21, 1982

Document # 6B: NSC Meeting on START, May 3, 1982

Document # 6C: NSC Meeting on START, May 21, 1982

Document #7: July 16, 1982 – Memorandum of Conversation of Paul Nitze’s “Walk in the Woods”

Paul Nitze, one of the greatest American diplomats of the 20th century, was asked by the Reagan administration to serve as its chief negotiator on arms control. In this capacity, on July 16, 1982, Nitze met with his Soviet counterpart, Kvitsinskiy, in which he indicated that the U.S. was willing to make concessions in order to reach an agreement.  Nitze’s proposal was informal and it soon became clear that both the US and the USSR did not support it. This now famous “walk in the woods” was a fundamental attempt to reach an agreement in Geneva, probably the most serious until the meeting of Reagan and Gorbachev in the fall 1985. This document is the complete memorandum of the conversation.

Click here to download: Nitze Walk in the Wood Memcon.pdf

Source: (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library,  WHORM: CLARK, WILLIAM PATRICK: Files, 1982-1983,  BOX 3, [File Folder: Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF): Nitze Meeting “Walk in the Woods” - 07/29/1982-07/31/1982]).

Document #8: July 29, 1982 – Unknown Memorandum for Clark: “Rostow/Nitze Initiative on INF Talks”.

This memorandum shows the White House skepticism toward Nitze's initiative. “Mr. Nitze has strayed way off the reservation – he has gone far beyond his instructions. If his efforts are legitimized with a Presidential umbrella now, it could set a precedent […]”. 

Click here to download: 82.7.29.pdf

Source: (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library,  WHORM: CLARK, WILLIAM PATRICK: Files, 1982-1983,  BOX 3, [File Folder: Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF): Nitze Meeting “Walk in the Woods” -07/29/1982-07/31/1982]).

Document #9: July 30, 1982:  Memorandum For the President, “The INF Package,” prepared by the Arms Control Disarmament Agency (ACDA).

This unsigned memorandum, on official ACDA letterhead, was likely sent to the White House on July 30, 1982 to give the President ACDA’s view of the Nitze initiative. “In short,” the unsigned memo says, “the compromise presented here is an American response to a strong Soviet signal. It is a modification your plan of November 18, 1981 but satisfies all the criteria of that plan.” Although the proposal is not the “zero-option,” the memo argues that all other American objectives are met, and therefore Nitze should be authorized to continue INF discussions. 

Click here to download: 82.7.30.pdf 

Source: (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library,  WHORM: CLARK, WILLIAM PATRICK: Files, 1982-1983,  BOX 3, [File Folder: Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF): Nitze Meeting “Walk in the Woods” -07/29/1982-07/31/1982]).

Document #10: July 30, 1982 – Draft Talking Points on “New INF Package”.

Click here to download: July 31 draft TPs.pdf

Source: (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library,  WHORM: CLARK, WILLIAM PATRICK: Files, 1982-1983,  BOX 3, [File Folder: Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF): Nitze Meeting “Walk in the Woods” -07/29/1982-07/31/1982]).

Document #11: August, 1982 – Draft Talking Points for Upcoming NSC Meeting on START

This document is a draft set of Talking Points for an upcoming NSC meeting on the Geneva negotiations. The draft talking points were likely prepared by the NSC staff for National Security Adviser Clark. The talking points show the options the NSC likely discussed: drop the Nitze plan because the negotiation are too far apart; dropping the Nitze plan while still using it as a base for a different outcome in further negotiations; and accepting the plan and sending Nitze back to Geneva to attempt a formal agreement. From this paper it is clear that Rostow endorsed the third option while Weinberger was on the other side eager to drop the plan completely.

Click here to download: TalkingpointsonEUpositionINF(1983).pdf

Source: (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library,  WHORM: CLARK, WILLIAM PATRICK: Files, 1982-1983,  BOX 3, [File Folder: Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF): Nitze Meeting “Walk in the Woods” - August, 1982]).

Document # 12: August 9, 1982 NSC Meeting on Strategic Arms Reductions Talks. 

The following summary is from “The Reagan Files: The Untold Story of Reagan’s Top-Secret Efforts to Win the Cold War.” 

“Today’s meeting is called to continue the discussion on START. The issue for discussion is how to get the Soviets to agree to meaningful verification requirements. Reagan suggests, ‘Our attitude has to be that of the preacher in church who let the only one-armed man pass the basket.’ 

“Weinberger argues that on-site inspections are necessary because anything else ‘would be hollow and shallow.’ Adelman says the problem over the years has been calling out violations. Reagan suggests telling the Soviets, ‘If we find even one (violation), we’re back in an arms race and we’ll out-build you.’” 

Document #13A: October 6, 1982 – Rostow's Talking Points for his upcoming Trip to Europe.

“The trip has two purposes,” Rostow’s Talking Points start. “1) to continue the regular cycle of consultations by the Director with the Allies at the political level on the whole arms control agenda; and 2) to brief heads of government and foreign ministers on a highly confidential basis about the state of the INF and START talks.”

The talking points show that the U.S. was still committed to reducing the threat of nuclear war in Europe by emphasizing that both the Soviet Union and United States should completely eliminate their intermediate range nuclear weapons. Anything short of complete elimination, the talking points indicate, would be exporting the European problem to Asia. 

Click here to download: Rostowtalkingpointtriptoeurope(6oct82).pdf

Source: (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library,  WHORM: CLARK, WILLIAM PATRICK: Files, 1982-1983,  BOX 3, [File Folder: Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF): Nitze Meeting “Walk in the Woods” - September-October 1982]).

Document # 13B: NSC Meeting on Start, January 25, 1983

Document #14: February 8, 1983 – Memorandum from Richard T. Bovarie to William P. Clark, “Ambassador Nitze's discussions with Vice-President Bush” on the INF negotiations

NSC staffer Richard Bovarie prepared this memo to update his boss (Clark) on the status of Nitze’s arms control proposals. Nitze’s most recent idea is to appease the Europeans who have been complaining that the “Zero-Option” is too rigid. Nitze thus proposes a ceiling for both European and Asian intermediate nuclear forces as an interim step towards reaching the “Zero-Option.” 

Click here to download: MemotoClark(feb83)discussions-Bush-Nitze.pdf

Document #15: 16 February, 1983 – Letter from President Reagan to British Prime Minister Thatcher in anticipation of “Vice President Bush Visit to London”

In this letter Reagan thanks Thatcher for her support.  Reagan also stresses to Thatcher the importance of keeping the “Zero-Option” as the ultimate goal of the Geneva negotiations.

Click here to download: ReaganThatcherINF(16feb83).pdf

Source: (Ronald Reagan Library, WHORM: NSC, Head of State File, [File Folder: Thatcher: Cables [2])], Box 34)

Document #16: 18 February, 1983 – Letter from Prime Minister Thatcher to President Reagan

In response to Reagan’s letter of February 16, Thatcher suggests that the “timing of a major new initiative involving a proposal for fixed limits above zero on INF weapons will need to be considered very carefully … Your statement should reinforce the point [that] the zero option was not a take it or leave it proposal.”

Click here to download: Thatcher reply(18Feb83).pdf

Source: (Ronald Reagan Library, WHORM: NSC, Head of State File, [File Folder: Thatcher: Cables [2])], Box 34)

Document #17: 22 February, 1983: Speech by President Reagan: “Remarks at the Annual Conference of the American Legion”.

President Reagan used his speech to the American Legion to affirm his  “deep, personal commitment to achieving an arms reduction agreement at the negotiations in Geneva on intermediate-range nuclear forces.” Borrowing a line from Prime Minister Thatcher, he called the American proposal “not a take-it-or-leave-it proposal,” and that  the “negotiations in Geneva are premised upon sound principles, supported by all the allies after long and careful consultation.”

Source: John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters, The American Presidency Project [online]. Santa Barbara, CA. Available from World Wide Web:

Document #18: 23 February, 1983 – Memorandum of Conversations of Vice President Bush with SPD Leader Roy Jenkins and Liberal Party David Steel

Click here to download: Meeting Bush-Jenkins (Feb83).pdf

Source: (Ronald Reagan Library, WHORM: Mahley, Donald Files, Box92059, [File Folder: INF-LRINF Status, UK 1983-1984])

Document #19: 14 March, 1983: Letter from President Reagan to Prime Minister Thatcher: “Next Steps in INF”

President Reagan sent this letter to Thatcher and all the leaders of NATO countries to ask for unity in the upcoming Geneva talks to “counter [sic] Soviet efforts to delay or prevent the deployment or any real progress in Geneva.” “It seems to me,” Reagan wrote, “that our consultations, particularly during the Vice President’s trip and in written exchanges since, have served that purpose very well.”

Source: MTF,

Document #20A: 25 March, 1983 – Draft of Reagan's Speech on INF negotiations for NSC meeting of 26 March, by Mr. Rodman for William P. Clark.

Click here to download: Reaganspeech(26Marchmeeting)draftedbyRodman.pdf

Source: (Ronald Reagan Library, WHORM: Executive Secretariat – NSC: Subject Files, BOX 71, doc n. 2028, [File Folder: Nuclear Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) – 02/11/1983-02/24/1983]). 

Document # 20B: NSC Meeting on Strategic Forces Modernization and the MX Missile, April 14, 1983.

Document #21A: 16 June, 1983 – Memorandum for Robert Kimmitt from Don Gregg, “Inclusion of French and British Nuclear Weapons Systems in Arms Control Negotiations.

This cover memo is a request from Don Gregg (Office of the Vice President) for a comprehensive paper on the inclusion of French and British systems in arms control negotiations as well as talking points that the Vice President could use in his upcoming trip.

Click here to download: Doc 21 A Memo for RK (UK-Frenchfrorces)(16jun83).pdf

Source: (Ronald Reagan Library, WHORM: Kramer, Sven: Files, BOX 91043, doc n. 29867, [File Folder: Nuclear Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) –UK/France Systems---CRS Study). 

Document #21 B: July 5, 1983 – “British and French Nuclear Forces in the INF Negotiations”, by C.R. Gellner – Office of Senior Specialists

This document, a paper prepared for by the Congressional Research Service office of the Library of Congress, was found in the same folder as the above request from Gregg. It appears that it was forwarded to the VP for his use on his upcoming trip. It can be downloaded by clicking here: Doc 21 B 83.7.5 paper on INF.pdf

Source: (Ronald Reagan Library, WHORM: Kramer, Sven: Files, BOX 91043, doc n. ISSUE BRIEF n.IB83117, [File Folder: Nuclear Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) –UK/France Systems---CRS Study). 

Document #22: September 29, 1983 – “Summary of Conversation between the President and British Prime Minister Thatcher,” Oval Office, 11:30 AM -12:30 PM

In this important meeting between Prime Minister Thatcher and President Reagan, Thatcher and Reagan discuss all areas of East-West relations. In terms of arms control, Thatcher emphasizes that “British and French forces don't belong in INF or START” negotiations, but that she would be willing to reduce British forces once the Soviet Union drastically reduced its intermediate range weapons. 

Most significantly, Thatcher differs from President Reagan in insisting that the Western allies “strive to establish normal relations” with the Soviet Union because “we must live on the same planet with the Soviets.” Reagan and Thatcher also agreed that when a “mutually advantageous” opportunity arises, the Western allies should work with the Soviets. 

After the NATO deployment of Pershing II’s and GLCMs in November 1983, arms control negotiations stalled until Mikhail Gorbachev brought a new urgency to negotiations in 1985.  

Document #23: October 3, 1985 – Memorandum from Secretary of State Shultz to the President, “Response to Soviet Arms Proposals.”

In this memo, Secretary Shultz tells the President that the latest Soviet arms reductions proposal is a publicity stunt that will require a well-coordinated effort on the American side to show that the Soviet proposal would actually lead to a Soviet advantage, rather than equitable reductions. Shultz also emphasizes the importance of a counter-counterproposal that would help move towards a deterrence based on defense. 

Click here to download: 85.10.3.pdf

Source: (Ronald Reagan Library, WHORM: Kraemer, Sven: Files, [File Folder: Geneva-NSDD n.195 – 10/30/1985], Box 90719)

Document #24: October 5, 1985 – Press Background Paper, “The Soviet Counterproposal”

This document is a background paper prepared for the press which gives a detailed summary of the latest Soviet arms control proposal.  The paper also explains the American reaction: “While we welcome the fact that the Soviets finally have put a specific proposal forward, the specifics of their counterproposal would have the effect of blocking our strategy program and halting US strategic modernization...”

Click here to download: 85.10.5.pdf

Source: (Ronald Reagan Library, WHORM: Kraemer, Sven: Files, [File Folder: Geneva-NSDD n.195 – 10/30/1985], Box 90719)

Document #25: October 10, 1985 – Memorandum from S. Steiner for Kraemer, “Guidance on Soviet Counterproposal”.

Another evaluation of the 30 September Soviet proposal forwarded by Steven Steiner – member of the Arms Control Directorate and of the Defense Programs and Arms Control Directorate of the NSC...

Click here to download: USreactiontoGorbaciovplan(oct85).pdf

Source: (Ronald Reagan Library, WHORM: Kraemer, Sven: Files, [File Folder: Geneva-NSDD n.195 – 10/30/1985], Box 90719)

Document #26: October 30, 1985 – NSDD-195, “The U.S. position: Nuclear and Space Talks”.

This National Security Decision Directive states the official American position in the NST in Geneva in the fall 1985. It is an exhaustive analysis of the nuclear and space priorities for the American and NATO allies.

Click here to download: 85.10.30 NSDD 195.pdf

Source: (Ronald Reagan Library, WHORM: Kraemer, Sven: Files, [File Folder: Geneva-NSDD n.195 – 10/30/1985], Box 90719)

Document #27: November 15, 1985 – Department of State chart comparing the Soviet and American arms control proposals

Click here to download: 85.11.15 State chart.pdf

Source: (Ronald Reagan Library, WHORM: Kraemer, Sven: Files, [File Folder: Geneva-NSDD n.195 – 10/30/1985], Box 90719)

Document #28: December 16, 1986: NSC Meeting on ICBM Modernization and Arms Control

On December 10, 2007, the National Security Archive published The INF Treaty And The Washington Summit: 20 Years Later, Electronic Briefing Book No. 238 edited by Thomas Blanton and Svetlana Savranskaya documenting the period leading  up to the signing of the INF Treaty at the Washington Summit. The briefing book includes the most  recently declassified documents on the period from February 1987 to the signing of the INF Treaty in December 1987. 

Please click here to go to the National Security Archive Website to read these important documents:

President Reagan's Remarks on Signing the INF Treaty can also be seen on YouTube by clicking here:

© Jason Saltoun-Ebin 2016