129. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

5415. For the Secretary from Ambassador. Subject: Message for Foreign Minister Gromyko. Ref: State 167936.2

1. I delivered your letter to Gromyko at 9:55 a.m. Sunday, July 3.

2. Gromyko, accompanied by First Deputy Foreign Minister Korniyenko, clearly had been given advance warning by Dobrynin of a possible demarche on the correspondents. After Gromyko read the letter, I added that this case was causing a storm in the US and that it would be useful if the case could be removed from the books. Gromyko responded firmly that this was “impossible,” that the trial would take place. But, he added, it could be delayed. Now scheduled for July 7, it could be postponed until Monday, July 17.

3. I said that would be helpful, but it would be much better if the case could be dropped. I also briefly explained our understanding of the substance of the case, noting in particular that Piper and Whitney themselves did not say that the TV confession of Gamsakhurdia3 was fake. They only quoted sources to this effect; and the stories did not appear in the USSR.

4. Gromyko reiterated that it would be impossible to eliminate the case. It made no difference where the stories appeared. Korniyenko added that Piper and Whitney had after all spread lies about the Soviet Union. You do not resort to this method in the US, he said, and we do not here. This case was part of a chain of events which was set into motion by the US side (Gromyko clearly had in mind the arrest in Woodbridge of Chernyayev and Enger).4 It is a matter of reciprocity. The So[Page 423]viet side had “overlooked a great deal” with respect to the conduct of US citizens in the USSR. But when “you take such a line, we also must do so. You speak of concern, but we have the same concern expressed to us from our people in New York. It would be better to remove the source of such concern. This is all very bad, as I told Secretary Vance.”

5. I said I was sorry Gromyko could not do more to alleviate this very serious problem, but would relay his response to you along with his offer to delay the Piper-Whitney trial until the 17th.

6. As the meeting concluded, Gromyko repeated his familiar line about the forthcoming Geneva meeting: he hoped the meeting would be useful, but it all depended upon the positions of the US side.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 52, USSR: 7/78. Secret; Cherokee; Niact Immediate; Nodis. Printed from a copy that indicates the original was received in the White House Situation Room.
  2. Vance’s message to Gromyko, transmitted in telegram 167936 to Moscow, July 1, regarding the case of Craig Whitney and Harold Piper is in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840172–2667. Whitney of The New York Times and Piper of The Baltimore Sun were reporters summoned to Soviet courts on June 27 and charged with libel against Soviet state television. See David K. Shipler, “2 U.S. Newsmen Get Soviet Libel Charge,” The New York Times, June 28, 1978, p. NJ19.
  3. Zviad Gamsakhurdia, a Georgian novelist and dissident; see ibid.
  4. See footnote 6, Document 109.