81. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Middle East, Horn, Belgrade CSCE, SALT


  • US
  • The Secretary
  • Marshall D. Shulman
  • USSR
  • Amb. Anatoliy Dobrynin

Ambassador Dobrynin came in at our request February 14. The discussion covered the following matters:

1. Middle East. The Secretary reported that the Sadat visit2 had been useful and that agreement had been reached to continue the negotiations, with an effort in the first instance to reach agreement on a statement of general principles, and then to bring others into the discussions.

In his meeting with Dayan on Thursday,3 the Secretary said, he proposed to review the statement of general principles, the question of Israeli settlements, and the West Bank/Gaza/Palestinian issues. On the latter cluster of issues, we would maintain our preference for a Palestinian homeland linked to Jordan, but a number of problems would need to be resolved beforehand, including Palestinian participation in the determination of their own future, and the conditions for an interim arrangement. Although the Israelis had manifested their unhappiness with some of our recent statements, the Secretary said it was evident that these statements were not new, and that the Israelis were prepared to have the US continue to perform a facilitating role. After the meeting with Dayan, he said, Atherton would be leaving for the Middle East, to move as necessary between the capitals to seek acceptance of the declaration of general principles as a first step in the process.

The Secretary gave Dobrynin advance notice of an announcement to be made later in the day concerning the US intention to permit the sale of specified aircraft to Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

2. Horn. The Secretary spoke of the mounting US concern over the course of events, and the need for prompt movement toward a cease[Page 278]fire and a negotiated settlement. He expressed the belief that the time had come to work through the UN Security Council, and reported that he had asked Andrew Young to talk about this with Ambassador Troyanovsky in New York. In response to a question from Dobrynin about the results expected from a Security Council discussion, the Secretary listed the following: ceasefire; recognition of international boundaries; withdrawal of the Somalis from the Ogaden; withdrawal of all foreign troops, including Soviet and Cuban, from Ethiopia and Somalia; and the beginning of steps leading toward a negotiated solution. Dobrynin expressed the view that there should be an immediate appeal for a Somali withdrawal, since this was, in the Soviet view, a precondition for the other steps. Dobrynin asked who should take the initiatives in calling for an SC meeting. The Secretary said it would be best if Nigeria or Gabon did so, since an African initiative would not make it appear that the UN was taking matters out of OAU hands, but that we would do so if necessary. Dobrynin said it should not appear to be a Soviet-American confrontation, and the Secretary agreed that an African initiative would be better from this point of view as well.

The Secretary emphasized the importance of a firm commitment that the Ethiopians and the Cubans would not cross into Somali territory, and the serious consequences that would follow if they did. Dobrynin repeated the assurances of the Ethiopians on this point, and added that Raul Castro4 had also made it clear during his visit to Moscow that the Cuban forces had no intention of moving into Somali territory. Dobrynin did not dispute the assertion that the Cubans were participating in the fighting, but insisted that Soviet personnel were not doing so.

Dobrynin said he would transmit the message to Moscow, and could not anticipate what its reaction would be to the Security Council move. He pointed out, however, that it had been negative up to this point and the USSR had insisted upon prior Somali withdrawal as a prerequisite to negotiations. He ventured his own opinion that a declaration of Somali intention to withdraw might suffice to start the process, if it were given without conditions, and if the withdrawal were to be completed within a definite time period, such as two weeks.

3. Belgrade CSCE. The Secretary expressed concern that Vorontsov had not been negotiating seriously on the neutral/non-aligned draft, and said that while the draft was not altogether to our liking, it offered an opportunity to move forward in a constructive way. Dobrynin replied that Moscow was determined not to have any language that changed the emphasis of the Helsinki accord, with its distribution of at[Page 279]tention to all three baskets; the West was now seeking to put all the emphasis upon Basket III, which would simply produce a new peg for future “propaganda warfare” against the Soviet Union on human rights issues. It would, he said, prefer a simple communique referring to the time and place of the next meeting. “Our experience shows how dangerous it is to provide pretexts for interference in our domestic affairs.”

4. SALT. Dobrynin referred to the recent Pravda editorial on SALT. He said it was not intended to be an attack on the US Administration, but on those who had been opposing a SALT agreement. Another reason for it, he said, was that some people in the Soviet Union had been expressing concern that the provision against modernization and new systems would work unfairly against the Soviet Union if it permitted the US to build new elements of the triad but did not allow the Soviet Union to build the single warhead land-based missile system it had projected. He also pointed out the concerns expressed regarding clear and unambiguous language on non-transfer of cruise missiles, and on the use of air transports to carry large numbers of cruise missiles. In response to a question about disparities between the editorial and some positions taken by the Soviet delegation at Geneva, it became clear that there is a misunderstanding, at least in Dobrynin’s mind, whether Gromyko assented to the provision regarding GLCM and SLCM testing. He said he would check on this and report back. Dobrynin asked whether, if the treaty were completed by spring, the Administration would be prepared to move toward ratification without waiting. The Secretary reaffirmed the President’s determination to do so. Both expressed the opinion that progress was being made at Geneva.

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Special Adviser to the Secretary (S/MS) on Soviet Affairs Marshall Shulman—Jan 21, 77–Jan 19, 81, Lot 81D109, Box 3, CV–Dobrynin, 2/14/78. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Shulman. The meeting took place at the Department of State.
  2. Sadat met with Vance on January 20.
  3. February 16.
  4. Cuban First Vice President of the Councils of State and Ministers.