92. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Middle East, Horn of Africa, SALT, Other Multilateral Matters
- The Secretary
- Marshall Shulman, S/MS
- Gerard Smith, S/AS (Portions)
- Amb. Anatoliy Dobrynin
SUMMARY: During a tour d’horizon at a luncheon prior to Dobrynin’s return to Moscow on consultations, the Secretary handed Dobrynin oral notes2 responding to previous Soviet inquiries about South African nuclear test plans and Israeli possession of nuclear weapons.3 Dobrynin presented an oral note4 deploring the Israeli military action in southern Lebanon and urging the US to use its influence to induce Israeli withdrawal. The Secretary said we would call for Israeli withdrawal and the establishment of a UN peacekeeping force. On the Horn of Africa, the Secretary expressed satisfaction that the Ethiopians had not crossed the border into Somalia but indicated concern about reports of reprisals in the Ogaden. Dobrynin said the Ethiopians had been told that the Soviets and Cubans “did not intend to and preferred not to” become involved in Eritrea.
MIDDLE EAST: Dobrynin handed over an oral note on the Israel-Lebanon situation. The note asserted that Israel’s military action is dangerous and that the risk of involvement by other Middle East states cannot be ruled out. It said Israeli military intervention in Lebanon could set back by many years the possibility of a Middle East settlement and urged the US to exert influence on Israel to halt the intervention and withdraw.[Page 304]
The Secretary told Dobrynin that we would call for Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon and the establishment of a UN peacekeeping force in the area to stabilize the situation. He said we hoped the Lebanese would bring the matter to the Security Council, but that we would consider doing so if they did not.
Dobrynin replied that the Soviet position was simply to call for Israeli withdrawal without conditions. He expressed the opinion that the Lebanese would agree to a peacekeeping force only if it had the concurrence of the Syrians. He said that he would keep us informed of any development in the Soviet position, and the Secretary said that we would keep the Soviet Union informed of our plans with regard to the Security Council.
On the topic of a comprehensive Middle East settlement, Dobrynin explained why the Soviets reacted so strongly to the Sadat initiative. He said they had just succeeded in obtaining Syrian agreement to go to a Geneva conference when Sadat announced his trip.
HORN OF AFRICA: The Secretary told Dobrynin we were pleased the Somalis had withdrawn, and that the Ethiopian forces and those fighting with them had respected the border, but he expressed concern at recent reports of reprisals in the Ogaden. Dobrynin expressed the personal view that this might be because of Siad Barre’s support of irregular forces left behind. The Secretary said we were planning to give support to the UN High Commissioner’s efforts to deal with human needs in the area, and hoped the Soviets would cooperate. He also informed Dobrynin that the President would be sending Moose as emissary to Siad Barre.
Dobrynin implied that the reduction or withdrawal of Soviet forces from the area would be less difficult if there were not public statements to make it seem that this was being done under pressure. Dobrynin said the Ethiopians had been informed that the Soviets and Cubans would be very careful not to be involved in Eritrea. When questioned about the Cuban and Soviet presence on the coast around Assab, Dobrynin said he had no information, but that he would find out when he got to Moscow.
Dobrynin made the familiar point about the presence of US forces in Iran in justifying a Soviet case for a presence in Ethiopia, adding that the Administration had testified before the Congress that the US military presence would go as high as 40,000. The Secretary corrected him and pointed out that the US has about 1200 uniformed personnel plus about 6000 civilian contract employees connected with sales of military equipment. He said that the total US community, including the above, their dependents, and businessmen, is about 40,000.
In the course of the conversation on the Horn, Dobrynin mentioned that the Somalis had recently raised with the Soviet Union the [Page 305] question of whether the idea of a federation in the Horn (discussed by Castro during his visit last year) could be revived, but he said they were not given any encouragement.
SOUTH AFRICAN NUCLEAR TEST SITE: Ambassador Gerard Smith joined the conversation during discussion of this subject. The Secretary gave Dobrynin an oral note5 in response to the Soviet message of March 6.6 In the discussion, the Secretary and Smith made the points that we had no information about the additional sites mentioned by the Soviets and that we would be glad to have any further information the Soviet Union wished to make available. We did not think a Security Council discussion of the subject would be useful at this time, and we would hope the USSR would consult with us before going to the Council.
Dobrynin asked Smith whether our observers had visited the site and was told that they had not. Smith also referred to a Pravda story on March 8 that claimed NATO was giving South Africa nuclear assistance; he emphasized that this was in error—it was completely wrong.
ISRAELI NUCLEAR CAPABILITY: In response to a recent Soviet message on this subject, the Secretary gave Dobrynin an oral note7 saying that we accepted Israeli assurances that they had not produced nuclear weapons. Dobrynin rather persistently questioned whether we really believed what the Israelis said. The Secretary said there was no evidence that Israeli assurances were untrue.
ENVIRONMENTAL MODIFICATION TREATY: The Secretary referred to a recent Soviet message on this subject,8 explaining that it would not be feasible for us to present this treaty to the Senate for ratifi[Page 306]cation before the UN Special Session on Disarmament, as the Soviet Union had requested.
SALT: The Secretary stressed our determination to press ahead, and took note of the most recent Soviet steps at Geneva. Dobrynin said they were trying to clear away the underbrush. The Secretary told Dobrynin we would soon be communicating with the Soviet Union on the Backfire problem, and stressed its importance.
Dobrynin expressed the view that only small differences exist between the numbers of strategic forces given by the Soviet side and the US estimates, bearing on the launching pad test sites. The Secretary said that so far as he knew there was no major disagreement on this point and pointed out that the Administration had sought to correct a press story that had said that two additional Soviet nuclear subs had been permitted. We had pointed out that these had not yet had sea trials and there had been no action contrary to the Interim Agreement.
- 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, 3/16/78. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Shulman. The meeting took place at the Department of State. An unknown hand struck through the typed date of March 21 on the original and wrote March 16 above it. The March 11 memorandum of conversation (Document 90), indicates that Dobrynin was scheduled to meet with Vance on March 16.↩
- Not found attached.↩
- For earlier Soviet inquiries about South African and Israeli nuclear capabilities, see Documents 83, 87, and 90.↩
- Attached but not printed.↩
- Not found attached. An unknown hand underlined the words “oral note” and wrote above the paragraph “See cable to Moscow for text.” Telegram 68704 to Moscow, March 17, transmitted the text of the non-paper given to Dobrynin by Vance, which indicated that the United States had no knowledge of new test sites or new testing activities. The U.S. Government had encouraged the South African Government to adhere to the nonproliferation treaty and institute international safeguards to be overseen by the IAEA. (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, 3/16/78)↩
- See Document 87 and the attachment thereto.↩
- Not found attached. An unknown hand underlined the words “oral note” and wrote above the paragraph “See cable to Moscow for text.” Telegram 68706 to Moscow, March 17, outlined U.S. acceptance of Israeli assurances that it did not possess nuclear capabilities. The non-paper reiterated the U.S. belief that nuclear weapons production should be contained and requested that Israel sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. (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, 3/16/78)↩
- See footnote 4, Document 90.↩