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

10852. Subj: Discussion With Korniyenko. Refs: (A) State 179940, (B) Moscow 10680.2

1. (S-entire text.)

2. My luncheon conversation with First Deputy Foreign Minister Korniyenko today, at times heated and at times amiable, was general in [Page 849] nature, covering a broad range of topics touching on the current state of US-Soviet relations. Much familiar ground was gone over again, but a few points of interest emerged:

3. TNF negotiations. I did not bring up the Soviet TNF proposal and Korniyenko offered no comments on the proposal itself. He did say, however, in the course of a general discussion of the desirability of resuming the SALT dialogue, that “it is possible” that the Soviets will be sending us a direct communication on the proposal they had discussed with Chancellor Schmidt. As he had told me at the 4th of July reception that there would be no such communication from the Soviets to us, it was clear that he was correcting himself on that score, though there was nothing definite in what he said.

4. NATO LRTNF decision. As is customary, Korniyenko asserted that the US had shelved the SALT II Treaty long before Afghanistan, and he made the usual references to the Cuban brigade issue, our defense spending increases, etc. A new argument which had not been made directly to me before was that the December NATO modernization decision violated “both the letter and the spirit” of SALT II. His argument was that the protocol to SALT II and the Joint Statement of Principles for SALT III made it clear that the cruise missiles issue was to be left open for discussion in SALT III. By deciding now to deploy cruise missiles we were unilaterally determining that the general issue of cruise missiles was no longer open for discussion and that we would only be prepared to discuss numbers of cruise missiles. I pointed out that this was not an interpretation which we can accept, since it was clear that the protocol had a fixed expiration date. In addition, as he had become almost belligerent in his allegations that we had scuttled SALT, I spoke with considerable frankness on Afghanistan as being at the root of the difficulties with SALT and with the state of our relations in general.

5. Afghanistan. I probed for any indication of interest in additional Soviet steps on Afghanistan but basically drew a blank. My political counselor, as we had agreed beforehand, raised the point suggested in ref A as to how the Foreign Ministry was translating “transitional arrangements”. He noted that, since the Soviets had thrown cold water on our willingness, expressed privately and publicly, to explore such arrangements, and since the Soviet press was translating the term as “settlement,” Washington was wondering whether the point might have been misunderstood. Both Korniyenko and USA Department Chief Komplextov insisted that it was not a question of translation but of concept. They then asked for a fuller explanation of what we had in mind by the concept, and we described transitional arrangements in terms of measures or a process by which we would get from today’s situation to a situation in which Afghanistan was once more an independ[Page 850]ent non-aligned nation with no foreign troops. As had been officially stated by the US, the sorts of arrangements that might be reached for that interim period were something that could be discussed if it was of interest to the Soviet Union.

6. Instead of responding directly, Korniyenko said that the President has already made clear what we had in mind by transitional arrangements in his February 13 press conference3 and that the Secretary had defined the term to Dobrynin by referring him to that press conference. This meant, in effect the overthrow of the legitimate Government of Afghanistan and was therefore unacceptable to the Soviet Union. I suggested that the February 13 remarks should be considered illustrative and that there was no point in going into any greater detail in the absence of a Soviet indication of interest in discussing the possibilities, while Korniyenko implied that there was nothing to discuss if the February 13 formulation was what we were proposing.

7. Korniyenko then reiterated in considerable detail the May 14 Afghanistan proposal,4 which he said the Soviet Union fully supported, and asked what was wrong with that approach to a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan. I responded that the basic problem for the Pakistani and Iranian Governments was that the starting point of that proposal was that they should deal with a government that had been imposed on Afghanistan by outside force.

8. US-Soviet relations. Early in the conversation and at various points throughout, Korniyenko made the familiar point that the Soviet Union desired no freezing in our relations and that the fault lay entirely with the United States for trying to link totally unrelated matters together. Though I had made the point in previous conversations with him, I again explained in no uncertain terms the political realities in the US which do mean that, until there is some real movement on Afghanistan, SALT ratification remains problematical despite the firm desire of the President and the Secretary to move the treaty through the Senate at the earliest possible time.

9. Aside from disputing the fact that Afghanistan was at the root of our problems, Korniyenko also tried to belittle the significance of the measures we had taken in response to Afghanistan. He spoke derisively of our refusal to request flight clearance for Armand Hammer5 to come to the Olympics in his private plane (something on which he said he had just received a telegram from Washington) and asked what pur[Page 851]pose we thought was served by the grain embargo. I told him that the Hammer action was directly related to our Olympics boycott and that it, like the grain embargo, whether they had any effect on Soviet conduct or not, were designed to show the depth of our feelings about the Afghan invasion—a feeling which I noted was shared by the vast majority of the world’s nations.

10. Possible meeting with Brezhnev. At the outset of the discussion, Korniyenko said he had discussed with Gromyko my earlier request for a courtesy call on Brezhnev and was authorized to tell me that Brezhnev would receive me when he returns from his current vacation. He first asked if it was correct that I was returning in mid-August, and I said I would be glad to do so if Brezhnev wished to see me then though my present plan was to return September 3. Korniyenko said I should not rush back and that early September would be fine.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 83, USSR: 7/1–10/80. Secret; Cherokee; Immediate; Nodis.
  2. Both reference telegrams are in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P910096–1617 and P880025–0435. Both telegrams address Watson’s scheduled luncheon with Korniyenko. Telegram 179940 to Moscow, July 9, deals specifically with questions regarding transition arrangements in Afghanistan and TNF.
  3. During the February 13 press conference, Carter answered a variety of questions, including several about the situation in Afghanistan and the 1980 Summer Olympics. See Public Papers: Carter, 1980–1981, Book I, pp. 307–315.
  4. See footnote 3, Document 279.
  5. President of the Occidental Petroleum Corporation.