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

2280. For Secretary from Ambassador Toon. Subject: President’s Letter to Sakharov.2 Ref: Secto 2016.3

1. In accord with reftel, EmbOff (Combs) telephoned Sakharov morning of February 17 and suggested he might wish to come to Embassy later that day: Sakharov agreed to come at 3:30 p.m.

2. Upon his arrival we delivered President’s letter. Sakharov expressed thanks and said he planned to hold a press conference at 7:00 p.m. that evening, February 17, at which he would announce full text of President’s letter.4 He said he would also release text of a new letter, dated February 17, which formally responds to President’s letter. Text of Sakharov’s new letter follows. Substance of other comments Sakharov made during February 17 meeting reported septel.

3. Regarding line to be taken with press, if Sakharov reveals that he received the letter via Embassy, we plan only to confirm that Embassy transmitted letter. We will not comment further. If Sakharov reveals that he gave Embassy his reply to President, we will merely confirm. We plan to answer any other questions with no comment.

4. Begin text: Dear Mr. President: Your letter of February 6 (sic), which I received today, represents a great honor for me and support for the single movement for human rights in the USSR and the countries of Eastern Europe, a movement in which we consider ourselves to be a [Page 28] part. You affirmed in this letter, just as you had done earlier, in your inaugural address5 and other statements, the devotion of the new U.S. administration to the principles of defense of human rights through-out the world. Of particular significance is your striving to facilitate the release of prisoners of conscience.

I wrote, in my congratulatory telegram on the occasion of your election, of the deep respect which your position evokes in us. I have frequently written and said that the defense of fundamental human rights is not interference in the internal affairs of other countries, but is one of the most central elements in international affairs, inseparable from the basic problems of peace and progress. Today, having received your letter, the exceptional nature of which I clearly understand, I can only once again repeat this.

I would like to take this occasion to refer to concrete cases, in particular the fate of those prisoners of conscience about which I wrote you in January.6 One of them, Sergey Kovalev, has a dangerous tumor. I ask you to intervene on behalf of his immediate transfer to the prison hospital in Leningrad. I once again underscore the arbitrary nature of singling out names of prisoners of conscience. I feel I do not have the right to make such a selection. The fate of many, many political prisoners requires the same kind of close attention.

Four members of the group to facilitate fulfillment of the Helsinki Agreement were arrested in February—Aleksandr Ginzburg, Mikola Rudenko, Oleksa Tikhiy, and the group’s leader, Yuriy Orlov. Their arrest is a challenge to all governments that participated in the Helsinki Meeting. I ask that you intercede for the release on bail or under guarantee of Ginsburg and Rudenko, both of whom are ill. The active efforts of the heads of state of all Helsinki-signatory countries are required so that all members of the group can be freed, so as to enable it to continue its important work.

From foreign radio broadcasts I learned that you have expressed a wish to meet with me, if I travel to the U.S.A. I appreciate very much this invitation. I have no doubt that such a trip and such personal contacts could have extraordinary significance. Unfortunately, however, at the present time I see no possibility for a trip of this sort.

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I would like to express the hope that the efforts of people of good will, your personal efforts, Mr. President, will assist in the realization of those high aims about which you wrote in your letter to me.

With deep respect, Sincerely, Andrey Sakharov

Moscow, February 17, 1977

Moscow, UL. Chkaldva no. 48 Apt: 68: 227–27–20; 561–70–17.

End text.7

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 78, USSR: 1–2/77. Confidential; Cherokee; Niact Immediate; Nodis. In the upper right-hand corner, an unknown hand wrote, “LDX E[yes] O[nly] Brzezinski.” A handwritten notation on the last page reads: “OCT did not pass Secretary.”
  2. See Document 5.
  3. Telegram Secto 2016 from Vance in Jerusalem, February 17, directed Toon to deliver Carter’s letter to Sakharov. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840076–0301; N770001–0575)
  4. See footnote 4, Document 8.
  5. See footnote 2, Document 3.
  6. See Document 2.
  7. In telegram 49989 to the White House, March 7, the Department transmitted the text of another letter from Sakharov. Sakharov pled on behalf of the Helsinki Group’s families that all four men and their families be allowed to immigrate to a western country. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, N770001–0773)