93. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union1

70455. Subject: Bessmertnykh Call on Shulman March 18.

1. Summary. At his request Bessmertnykh came in March 18 to deliver response to the points made by the Secretary to Dobrynin on the Horn in their meeting of March 11.2 He also delivered a non-paper on the Arafat visit.3 Shulman took advantage of the meeting to stress the pro-SALT intentions behind the President’s speech at Wake Forest.4 End summary.

2. The non-paper Bessmertnykh brought in on the Horn makes the following points:

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—Somali withdrawal has not been a gesture of good will, but rather a step forced on it;

—and “the Ethiopian leadership” rejects the idea of foreign observers in the Ogaden because of the implicit support for Somali territorial claims which would result.

Non-paper goes on to claim absence of Ethiopian aggressive intentions vis-a-vis Somali, though implicitly links it with withdrawal of Somali irregular units and renunciation of territorial claims. It praises President Carter’s call for Somali commitments not to “dishonor” the Ethiopian and Kenyan borders, but again reiterates, at length and in usual terms, rejection of U.S. claims that Soviet and Cuban motives in their intervention are anything but the purest.

3. Non-paper asserts that to let events in the Horn further burden our bilateral relationship will do neither side any good, and calls for rapid implementation of U.S. alleged interest in early elimination of negative consequences and early progress in other practical aspects of the relationship.

4. Non-paper also rather sharply chastises U.S. for claiming, in “press reports attributed to official sources,” Soviet agreement to stationing of foreign observers in the Ogaden and to reductions in Cuban forces, adding that such “misrepresentations” do not contribute to a resolution of the matter and reduce the effectiveness of the exchange of opinions with the U.S. on the question.

5. Non-paper on the Arafat visit offered nothing new and included following standard points:

—Separate negotiations between Egypt and Israel have, in effect, cancelled positive movement toward comprehensive Middle East settlement as mutually expressed in joint US-Soviet statement of Oct 1, 1977.

PLO leadership views negatively efforts supported by US to work out a so-called “Declaration of Principles” and PLO disapproves of attempts to hold any preliminary conference under aegis of UN.

—In Moscow discussions, Arafat confirmed readiness of PLO to take part in achieving comprehensive Middle East settlement if it is returned to channel of collective efforts, with PLO participation and a clear turning away from separate agreements.

6. Shulman, under instructions from the Secretary, passed the following non-paper to Bessmertnykh on the President’s March 16 speech, and orally further reinforced its main points. Bessmertnykh said he would send “private message” relaying the non-paper and sense of the discussion to Dobrynin immediately.

Begin text: President Carter’s address at Wake Forest University on March 16 should be read as emphasizing to the American public and [Page 308] its decision-makers our confidence in our defensive potential, and our determination to maintain that confidence in the future. When our public is reassured that our armed forces are sufficiently strong to carry out their responsibilities, it will support further arms control agreements. If it is uncertain, its acceptance of such agreements is put in doubt. President Carter’s speech should thus be interpreted as supporting a SALT II agreement, and further progress beyond that to even more comprehensive arms limitation agreements.

We are confident that a careful reading of the entire text of the President’s address, rather than reliance on excerpts which the media may choose to publicize, will make this point clear. End text.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840176–1265. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by Shulman; cleared by Tarnoff; approved by Shulman.
  2. See Document 89.
  3. The text of the non-paper on the Arafat visit was not found. In telegram 74592 to Moscow, March 22, the Department transmitted the text of the non-paper on the Horn of Africa. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840176–1291)
  4. For the text of Carter’s Wake Forest speech, March 16, see Public Papers: Carter, 1978, Book I, pp. 529–538. In this speech Carter focused on strategic nuclear capabilities, especially in comparison with the Soviet Union. He argued that U.S. forces must match those of the Soviets, in order to continue to protect U.S. interests.