10. Telegram From the Department of State to Secretary of State Vance in the Middle East1

Tosec 20106/37513. Subject: Soviet Oral Statement on Human Rights.

1. Following is text of oral statement delivered by Dobrynin to Hartman at 6:30 pm Feb 17. Our comments follow.

2. Begin text.

I am instructed to bring the following to the attention of President Carter and the Secretary of State.

The placing before us by the US side of the question of releasing Ginzburg,2 a Soviet citizen brought to justice for actions criminally punishable in accordance with our legislation, has caused extreme bewilderment in Moscow.

The fact that such interference in our internal affairs is undertaken under the pretext of concern for “human rights” does not change the substance of the matter.

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Of course, everyone is free to have one’s own view of things including the question of how things stand with freedom and human rights in one or another country. We also have our interpretation of how these matters stand in the United States.

But it is quite a different thing to extend such views to the sphere of relations between states and thus to complicate them. Indeed, one cannot regard otherwise the position of the representatives of the US administration when they try to make questions which fall entirely within the internal competence of the Soviet state a subject of discussion. This touches upon an aspect of principle in our relations and here full clarity is required from the very beginning. Such a position is categorically unacceptable to us.

Both you and we realize that we have different ideologies and socio-political systems. And, of course, as a result we are far from having a similar approach to this or that question.

We in the Soviet Union are proud of the fact that the Socialist Revolution and our system not only proclaimed but also actually provided to all Soviet people the right to work, education, social security, free medical care, leisure—and really guarantee these rights.

At the same time Soviet laws protect our people against such antisocial phenomena as war propaganda in every possible form, dissemination of the idea of racial inequality and national discord or attempts at moral and ethical corruption of people. And with us no one has the right to violate laws which are equally obligatory for all.

We do not seek to impose upon anyone our concept of human rights and freedoms, though much of what is happening [omission is in original], the other social system seems unacceptable to our people!

It is not difficult to imagine what would happen if we, proceeding from our moral values, began to link the development of state to state relations with the US and other capitalist countries with problems really existing in those countries such as unemployment of millions, infringement of the rights of ethnic minorities, racial discrimination, inequality of women, violation of rights of citizens by administrative organs of the state, persecution of persons with progressive convictions etc.

Incidentally, if one is to speak about concern over human rights, then how, for example, does systematic US supporting for dictatorial, antipopular regimes appear in a number of countries where the most basic human rights and freedoms are constantly and brazenly trodden on?

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If we began raising all these issues to the level of our state to state relations then, obviously, there could be only one result: it could only complicate all relations between our countries, lead us far from the solution of issues which really can and must be the subject of interaction and cooperation of our states. Besides, efforts to ensure the right of man to live in a world free from war and the burden of the arms races under conditions of security and friendly contacts among peoples would also suffer.

Therefore we firmly adhere to the position that matters of internal development, reflecting differences in ideology and socio-political systems, should not be made a subject of dealings between states.

It is not accidental that it was that very principle, together with other fundamental provisions, that was clearly started in the Basic Principles of Relations between the USSR and the USA, signed in 1972.3 It is relevant to recall also that as far back as the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1933 our countries committed themselves to strictly respect the undeniable right of each other to organize their lives as they wish and refrain from interference in any way in the internal affairs of the other side.

However, the statements and actions of the US side do not correspond with that always or in all aspects. In effect the statements of “concern” about human rights in the USSR amount to support and direct incitement of individuals who oppose Soviet society. It is not that the administration simply adopts a demonstratively approving attitude toward some American correspondents in the Soviet Union who do nothing but search out and publicize so-called “dissidents”. Some members of the staff of the US Embassy in Moscow are also directly involved in such activities. We could say specifically who they are.

And when the Soviet authorities resort to the measures which are a prerogative of any state when Soviet citizens violate laws, this is used actively by the US side to the detriment of the relations between our countries.

Besides, it is known that the representatives of the US Embassy in Moscow meet secretly with Sakharov who possesses state secrets affecting the defense of our country. The most recent of these meetings was held on February 8 at the initiative of the Embassy. This is an outrageous fact and no reference to “human rights” will conceal that here we are dealing with direct activity of US special services against the USSR and the Soviet social system.

As far as references to the American public opinion, the mood in Congress etc. are concerned, there is public opinion in the USSR too [Page 32] which resolutely rejects any attempts to impose upon US rules inconsistent with the Socialist democracy and law. End text.

3. Comment and recommendations (Prepared with Marshall Shulman):

A. We read this demarche as an indication that the Soviets may be approaching the threshold where Brezhnev himself would feel obliged to take a stand. The involvement of the President pushes him in this direction. Everything considered, however, it is relatively mildly worded. It may have been intended as the prelude to some public statement or action on the Soviet side, but publicity on the Sakharov letter may alter their original intentions.

B. We do not believe any immediate response is required. We need to wait and see what develops further regarding Sakharov, and whether further actions are taken against Ginzburg and Orlov. We suggest that since the document is addressed to the President, as well as you, it would be useful on your return to get together with those concerned in the White House to discuss the problem and seek to arrive at an agreed strategy for dealing with these matters. Marshall and I are having a preliminary talk with Zbig Friday.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Global Issues, Mathews Subject File, Box 11, Human Rights: USSR, Eastern Europe, Helsinki: 12/76–4/77. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Mark Garrison (EUR/SOV); cleared by Lynn Pascoe (D) and Robert Perito (S/S); approved by Hartman. Sent for information Immediate to Moscow and the White House. Vance was in the Middle East, February 15–21 to meet with leaders and review the Middle East peace process.
  2. See Document 9. Also see Bernard Gwertzman, “U.S. Again Comments on Soviet Dissident: State Department Says Ginzburg Case is Being Watched,” The New York Times, February 8, 1977, p. 1.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 4.