Excerpts of Interviews With President, Shultz, Regan: A Look Back at the Summit
Following are excerpts of interviews, in order , with White House Chief of Staff Donald T. Regan, President Reagan and Secretary of State George P. Shultz:
Question: Despite their public determination to have something on SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative, or “Star Wars”), did the Soviets really think they could get anything or were they just making a public show?
Regan: I have no way of knowing that for certain. It was my impression that they tried at various times during the 48 hours two different methods to achieve that objective of having us give somewhat or as much as we could or would on SDI. One was cajoling and by congeniality and, two, by trying to overpower us from vehemence . . . and neither ploy worked.
Regan: (Discussing Gorbachev’s manner) The vehemence was always in the plenary. Gorbachev was very quiet, more persuasive, more congenial as the President described it to me in his one-on-one. He never showed that side of him in the one-on-one.
Q: Could you tell us a little bit more about . . . how this took place and what Gorbachev actually said in these plenaries?
Regan: Well, . . . as I recall, what their main thrust was that they honestly believe that what we’re trying to accomplish is not what we’re saying--we are not trying to find a defense against a ballistic missile, we are trying to find a weapon that we can put in space under this guise that will become another form of offensive weapon that will not only shoot down ballistic missiles but buildings as well. That is what they tried to indicate to us. They did not want, would not stand for and if necessary, they would have to build their own in order to threaten us if we threaten them that way.
Q: Gorbachev said at his press conference that some of the exchanges were in translation very, very lively indeed. What were those occasions?
Regan: Well, the liveliest of them was Wednesday morning in which there was a very fast (exchange)--faster than almost a Ping-Pong match--with remarks going back and forth from one side to the other and Gorbachev demanding answers, demanding answers from the President. The President was sitting back calmly saying, “I am answering you; if you’ll just wait, you’ll get your answer.” That type of thing . . . .
Q: Mr. President, could you . . . give us some detail on the discussions concerning so-called regional tensions, Afghanistan, Nicaragua and human rights?
The President: Well, he and I in one of our fireside chats had quite a discussion of that. As a matter of fact, as you know, it was several hours of the total time was spent with just the two of us in one-on-one, and I gave him our view of these regional issues and pretty similar to what I said in the United Nations speech, that between us that we could have the power and the ability to withdraw the outside forces and then to form groups, perhaps multinational groups that could help to supervise and allow the people in these countries where the troubles were to arrive at their own idea of what they wanted . . . and . . . he very obviously believes in things that are current in the thought there in the Soviet Union about us, and he brought up the fact that, well, what about us in areas of the world where we declared that these were of vital interest to us, and I said, yes, of course, there were areas of vital interest, but I said, we don’t have them occupied with troops, and we’re not fighting there with our troops or with proxies.
Q: Mr. President, you obviously talked very strongly to Gorbachev about your feelings about human rights. What intrigued me in reading the joint statement was that there was a one-sentence reference, an allusion to human rights, rather than the mere mention of it as a category. My question is was this your way of conceding publicly to Mr. Gorbachev that you were not going to beat him over the head publicly about human rights, the fact that it was just one-sentence long?
The President: I know this is all on the record here. Will you just believe me and trust me when I say that I believe, and I believe the past record indicates that, that is not a subject which should be brought up publicly and some kind of an agreement signed because in the world of politics to try to push someone in a corner in which he must then publicly try to get out of that corner and in doing so, appear to be taking orders from a figure in another government, that becomes an impossibility? All I can say is it is a subject that we went into quite deeply, and I think we should just wait and see what happens.
Q: Did you bring up any specific cases?
The President: Types of cases.
Q: You said last night (Thursday) “we moved arms control forward from where we last January.” Does that go beyond just telling the negotiators in Helsinki and in Geneva to work faster, or are there more specific things you can tell us about moving arms control forward from where we were in January?
The President: The SDI still remains a problem with that regard. On the other hand, however, we did come to an agreement on the overall total that we both agreed we would like to see reduced, and that--we’re both on the record as agreeing to that.
There are some details to be worked out because each country has a different mix of weapon types, and it takes a little maneuvering and figuring to find out how you can keep parity with a 50% reduction and not create an advantage or disadvantage depending on how--what systems you applied it or how you applied it. So these were details that were being worked on by our people in Geneva. . . .
Q: Did you agree to a single numerical limit that both sides agreed on, sir?
The President: Yes, we set a 50% reduction.
Q: Can you tell us whether you’re prepared to extend SALT II? That was a discussion at the meeting about what we’re going to do about SALT II. Did you discuss that with Gorbachev?
The President: All of this was discussed, and I made it plain that we--that I was going back to a report before the study that had just been delivered prior to the trip about their violations of SALT II and that we certainly were not going to bind ourselves with something that was not equally binding on them. Now, this is pretty much what I said sometime ago that we--I don’t think this is classified; I think I’m safe to say to you we have found 23 violations of the SALT II agreement, and these are things that have to be cleared up between us.
Q: Does he deny those violations?
The President: We didn’t get an answer to that one.
Q: Mr. President, in the event that there is misunderstanding between you about what actually happened in the walk through the woods or along the lake, may I ask whether any report was made by the interpreters involved as to what actually was said?
The President: Yes. Both interpreters take notes, of course, and they’ve been made available to their own sides. Sometimes, I have to tell you, I’m afraid I cheated on my interpreter, and his notes might not be completely accurate. I told you that Mr. Gorbachev was a good listener, and I have to tell you that I got carried away. He would be looking at me so intensely, and I would be talking, and I’d forget all about them and ask--I was just assuming that he was understanding what I was saying until finally out of sheer mercy for my interpreter, a couple of times he had to put his hands up and point to the interpreter.
Then I’d look and see my interpreter turning page after page trying to keep up with what I had said. . . .
Q: Mr. Secretary, could you fill us in on what was said about on the issue of Soviet compliance with existing arms control agreements?
Shultz: The subject of compliance and the importance of it was stated very strongly by the President. The Soviets stated their agreement that verification and compliance is an important element of arms control or any other thing that they might be talking about. Obviously, there are big differences of opinion about the violations of treaties. . . .
Q: Did you discuss specifically any of the 23 violations which you brought up, and did they have any specific response on any one of them?
Shultz: So far as I know within the nature of the meeting, . . . I don’t think that that was done. As you know, these violations--I don’t know about all 23 of them, but (they) have been discussed in the special group in which that’s done, and we feel that the violations are quite clear. They have a different view. So it isn’t as though these have never been discussed.
Q: Mr. Secretary, . . . did you in your preliminary discussion in arranging the meeting through (Soviet) Ambassador (Anatoly F.) Dobrynin here or in your visit to Moscow, discuss with the Soviets the possibility of the two leaders spending quite a bit of time together one-on-one?
Shultz: Yes. That is, we said that probably the President would want to start by having at least a short session with the General Secretary, and everybody rather jokingly said that you can put down 15 minutes, but if the two heads of state (sic) decide they want to spend longer, nobody is going to do much about that. I think at one point in the first meeting, one of the President’s assistants came around to me and he was looking at his watch and he was saying they were supposed to meet for 15 minutes, and they’ve been there for three-quarters of an hour, shall I go in and break it up. I said, “If you’re dumb enough to go and break that up, you’re too dumb to be employed here, let them break it up when they choose.”