304. Message From Secretary of State Muskie to President Carter1

WH07366. Forwarded per request of Secretary Muskie. Please deliver as soon as possible. Subject: Muskie-Dobrynin Meeting: Follow-up to Gromyko Bilateral.

1. (S-entire text).

2. Begin summary. Secretary Muskie met with Ambassador Dobrynin October 4 to take up several issues which time had prevented his raising with Gromyko in New York:2 Poland, the Sverdlovsk anthrax outbreak, the September 14 Soviet high-yield test, prospects for Madrid, including human rights issues, and a problem affecting continuation of construction of the new Moscow Embassy complex. He also responded to a question which Gromyko had raised during the New York bilateral on PD–59.3 In response, Dobrynin complained that most of what the Secretary had to say was negative, that there was nothing very positive about it. On the specific issues raised, Dobrynin said the Poles knew how to handle their problems without outside interference; there was no utility in continuing to discuss Sverdlovsk; he had no information as yet on the September 14 test; our plans for discussing human rights issues at Madrid would have a very negative effect; and he could understand that the construction problem was one that might bother us. The Secretary pointed out that the fact that we continued to set forth our views frankly, in an effort to lessen the differences between us, should not be regarded as “negative.” He also stressed the importance of resolving issues which would facilitate our efforts to achieve ratification of SALT II. End summary.

3. The Secretary told Dobrynin he thought his talk with Gromyko in New York on September 25 had been very useful and that he had appreciated Gromyko’s frankness and relaxed tone. Despite the fact that the meeting had been extended beyond the agreed time, however, there were several subjects we had not had time to cover. He thought the best way to treat these was to set out our position on each of them in a non-paper, briefly and without any polemics, which Dobrynin could [Page 897] transmit to Gromyko. If there were additional subjects which Gromyko would like to bring to the Secretary’s attention in a similar manner he would be glad to consider them.

4. The Secretary then summarized each of the issues orally and at the end of his presentation handed Dobrynin the following non-paper:

Begin text:

Follow-up to September 25 meeting

Poland: We wish to reiterate the commitment of the U.S. Government to exercise the greatest restraint in dealing with events in that country. This continues to be our position, and we expect others to exercise similar restraint. We continue to believe that the Polish people and Government must be left free to work out their problems without outside interference. Outside military intervention from any quarter would have incalculable consequences and would inevitably place in jeopardy the entire framework of detente in Europe.

On arms control matters, we wish to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to SALT II ratification and to the achievement of progress in CTB, MBFR, CW, and ASAT. We would also like to raise two matters which could have far reaching implications for the future of arms control negotiations in general and, in the near term, for SALT II ratification. First, the inability to find a suitable means of resolving the concerns expressed by the United States regarding the April 1979 outbreak of anthrax in Sverdlovsk raises serious questions concerning Soviet compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention. This is a problem that will not simply go away with the passage of time. We continue to believe that the best way to resolve our legitimate concerns in this matter would be to arrange for technical discussions among experts. Although we prefer to resolve this matter on a bilateral basis, the U.S. Government will also consider other ways to resolve our concerns in accordance with the terms of the Biological Weapons Convention—including possible multilateral action. Soviet cooperation in resolving this matter would be a very positive step.

Second, our seismic data concerning the Soviet nuclear test of September 14 strongly suggest that the yield may have exceeded 150 kilotons. The President is concerned about this matter and has directed that this be conveyed to the Soviet side. The U.S. attaches even higher priority now to its proposal of last December for the establishment of an ad hoc bilateral working group to exchange geophysical and geological data for regions of active test sites on both sides. This would help to reduce the uncertainties involved in estimating the yields of our respective nuclear tests. The U.S. attaches great importance to the statement we made in 1976 concerning limiting our tests to 150 kilotons and below. However, if the Soviet side is not responsive to our legitimate security concerns in this area, it will be increasingly difficult to con[Page 898]tinue the policy of restraint which we have consistently exercised. Further, it is particularly important that the Soviet Government understand that failure to resolve this problem could constitute a severe blow to SALT II ratification prospects.

With regard to the concerns of President Brezhnev over PD–59, conveyed by Foreign Minister Gromyko on September 25, 1980, we wish to make clear that PD–59 is not a radical departure from previous policy, nor is it a first strike strategy. Nothing in United States nuclear strategy, including PD–59, conflicts with our determination to avoid the outbreak of nuclear war or our commitment to the arms control process. PD–59 reflects our fundamental conviction that there can be no victor in a nuclear war of any kind or at any level. Thus, its purpose is to strengthen deterrence and reduce the likelihood of such a conflict. Specifically, with regard to alleged U.S. preparations to carry out a nuclear first strike, the President has asked that we reaffirm the categorical denial which Secretary Muskie gave Foreign Minister Gromyko in New York.

CSCE: One of the most important contributions to the lessening of tensions in Europe has been the signing of the CSCE Final Act in Helsinki. We look forward to a full and thorough review of the implementation of this agreement at the upcoming Madrid Review Conference. We are committed to work for a constructive session which avoids a sterile exchange of polemics and which creates the basis for balanced progress in all areas of CSCE. But we intend to discuss such retrogressive steps as the resumed jamming of the Voice of America and other Western radio broadcasts and to pursue in a businesslike manner the deep concerns of the American people and Congress concerning human rights, including freedom of emigration and the treatment of dissidents. We want to draw special attention to those cases of particular interest to the American people, for example the cases of A.D. Sakharov, and of Anatoliy Shcharanskiy, Yuriy Orlov and other members of the Helsinki Monitoring Group, the resolution of which would be welcomed in the U.S. and in the international community as a whole as a positive step which would improve the prospects for a fruitful review session.

Chancery construction: We wish to raise a matter which threatens our ability to continue with the construction of our new Embassy in Moscow. Despite the agreement reached in December 1972 that both sides would “assist each other in the unhindered importation and delivery of freight to the construction site,” problems with Soviet customs clearance of construction materials could force us to suspend the entire project. The United States has suggested a solution to the customs problem which we hope will receive an early and positive response from the Soviet side. If it should become necessary to suspend work on [Page 899] the U.S. complex, other aspects of the December 4, 1972 Agreement on Embassy Complexes would have to be addressed. End text.

5. Dobrynin said he would of course report the Secretary’s remarks to Gromyko. Overall, however, his impression was that they, quite frankly, were not very encouraging. He then commented briefly on the individual issues raised as follows:

—Poland is an independent country and knows how to handle its problems without outside interference.

—The U.S. knows the Soviet position on arms control very well: the Soviets favor a continuation. But we have discussed Sverdlovsk “hundreds of times” and he doesn’t see anything useful in discussing it further. As for the September 14 Soviet nuclear test, he has no information as yet.

—He would report what the Secretary had to say about PD–59.

—The Secretary’s remarks on CSCE were discouraging. The Madrid Review Conference should have two purposes—performance review and constructive steps for the future. The U.S. of course has the right to discuss anything it wishes. But in planning to raise such issues as the Shcharanskiy case, does the Administration understand that this will have a very negative effect? This was the beginning of the Soviets’ trouble with this Administration from the very beginning. In short, there is nothing positive in our remarks on CSCE—and even the allies of the U.S. are telling the Soviets that the U.S. has “only negative” plans for Madrid.

—As for the Embassy construction issue, Dobrynin would report what the Secretary had to say. He could understand it was a problem that might bother us.

6. Dobrynin then remarked that most of the questions the Secretary had raised were not new; many of them had a “long beard.” This surprised him; he had thought that, with the approach of elections, we would have something on the positive side to say.

7. The Secretary responded that it was obvious that the state of US-Soviet relations was such that the problems were difficult and sensitivities were strong. In presenting these problems, as in his discussion with Gromyko in New York, he was motivated not by a negative attitude but by a desire to find a positive way of improving our relations. He thought it necessary to keep working at resolving our differences. He had particularly mentioned the problems in the arms control area because they were all interrelated. He had told Gromyko of our plans for moving toward SALT II ratification and considered it important to mention as well the other [garble—related?] problems. While we plan to move for ratification in any case, the issue would be decided by a handful of votes and it was important to resolve as many problems as possible beforehand.

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8. The Secretary noted that PD–59 was an issue which had been raised on the Soviet side; he had the impression that Gromyko had expressed greater feeling in discussing that issue than on any other topic—to which Dobrynin responded, “that’s true.” Recognizing that it was obviously of concern to Gromyko, the Secretary continued, he had raised it at the highest level and wanted to reassure Gromyko. He recognized that that might not end the matter, but wanted to make the point that even if Gromyko should repeat his views on the subject he would not regard it as a “negative” approach, but rather as an indication that problems remained which must be ironed out, just as we succeeded in doing in the SALT process.

9. On human rights, the Secretary said he understood what Dobrynin was saying but pointed out that the problem was not simply one which was being raised by this administration. Rather, our position reflected concerns widely felt within this country, and we had an obligation to continue raising those concerns with the Soviets.

10. The Secretary reaffirmed the President’s and his own commitment to the arms control process but noted that we were going to need some assistance from the Soviets to get the job done. If we could make progress in resolving Afghanistan, we ought to try; if we could make progress in the other problem areas he had mentioned, we ought to try. It was in that context that he had raised them—not because of a negative attitude. Progress in all these areas would improve prospects for the arms control process, something which was important both in order to reduce the risk of nuclear confrontation and in order to reduce the cost of the arms burden on both sides.

11. The Iran-Iraq conflict, the Secretary said, drove home to both sides the importance of developing policies of restraint. So long as the fighting continued the threat of a broadening war became more evident. He had found concern over this possibility in his travels inside the U.S., in his discussions with other foreign ministers in New York, and in his meeting with Gromyko. He sensed that both the U.S. and the USSR were at present following a policy of restraint toward that conflict, and he thought restraint was the best description of what our policy should be. We should attempt to lessen irritants. He recognized that this was not going to be easy and that this was a very difficult period in our relationship.

12. Dobrynin then abruptly changed the subject by asking whether the Secretary was going to attend the Madrid Conference, adding that FRG Foreign Minister Genscher had told Gromyko he planned to do so. The Secretary said that it was not his present intention to go to Madrid. He then commented that he realized Madrid offered the possibility that there would be much shouting at each other, but that it was not his desire that the Conference develop in that manner. He thought there were [Page 901] possibilities for constructive progress at Madrid, adding that both Griffin Bell and Max Kampelman4 have a constructive attitude toward the Conference and want to see progress, not a shouting match.

13. The Secretary concluded that, even at the risk of repeating our position on subjects that have “long beards,” we should try to make progress and reach agreements, particularly in the field of arms control.

  1. Source: Carter Library, Plains File, Box 5, USSR (General): 9/77–12/80. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only; Nodis. Handwritten time of receipt reads “11:55 am, 05 Oct 1980 EST.” Sent from the White House Situation Room. The initial “C” written in the upper right-hand corner indicates that Carter saw the cable. Carter spent October 4 and 5 in a fishing cabin in Spruce Creek, Pennsylvania. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary)
  2. See Document 302.
  3. See footnote 5, Document 302.
  4. Former Attorney General Griffin Bell served as Ambassador and Chairman of the U.S. Delegation to the CSCE from 1979 until 1980; Max Kampelman served as Ambassador and Co-Chairman of the U.S. Delegation to the CSCE from 1980.