185. Memorandum From W. Averell Harriman to President Carter1

In compliance with your request, I state below the high spots of my talk with Dobrynin last night. Pam and Mrs. Dobrynin were present at dinner but not afterwards.

Dobrynin indicated the Soviets would be ready to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan providing we stopped outside intervention, particularly from Pakistan. He did not mention China. He concentrated on Pakistan as the source of greatest danger. He suggested that if necessary the Soviet government would be willing to join in guaranteeing Pakistan’s security and independence. He said also we should not establish any military bases in the Persian Gulf but made no mention of the Indian Ocean.2

At a different time, he indicated the Soviet Union would strongly object to any U.S. military assistance to China but said they were not concerned by intervention by Iran.

He had indicated that they were developing a carefully trained communist regime, but in answer to my question he said that he did not rule out the possibility of a neutral government for Afghanistan. He had emphasized their satisfaction with the government under the King, which of course Daoud overthrew. He emphasized the cruelty of Amin and maintained specifically that not a single individual had been executed since their troops intervened and most of the political prisoners had been released from jail.

Dobrynin was deeply concerned because it appeared to him there was no channel of communication between our two governments. This he considers dangerous.

May I suggest, as I indicated yesterday, that you write a letter to Brezhnev in which you emphasize the importance of Soviet troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and that conditions surrounding it might be discussed in an early meeting between Cy and Gromyko.3 I recognize that it will take some time before all of the Soviet troops can be with[Page 521]drawn, but substantial withdrawals might begin promptly and be completed on a step-by-step basis.

In addition, it may be worthwhile your asking Brezhnev to see our Ambassador, Tom Watson, and in turn indicating that after that you would receive Dobrynin.4 I am satisfied that Tom can be of enormous help at this time if he gets entrée to Brezhnev as well as Gromyko.

In answer to my question on Brezhnev’s health, Dobrynin told me that Brezhnev had some good days and some bad ones.

Of most importance is getting the troops out of Afghanistan. The Soviet threat in the area would then be vastly reduced. At an appropriate time Cy might indicate to Gromyko that if we agree to have no bases in the Persian Gulf, the Soviets should agree that there would be no communist regime in Iran.

In sum, a complete withdrawal of all Soviet troops from Afghanistan by the autumn, with the installation of a neutral government and an agreement by the Soviets on Iran, would be a good way out of the crisis.

If ratification of SALT II could be obtained, it would be useful. I would hope progress could be made in the negotiations in the arms control field, which I understand are continuing. Progress on MBFR and theatre nuclear weapons would be important.

I will, of course, continue to be in touch with Cy.

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat (ES), Sensitive and Super Sensitive File, 1979–1983, Lot 96D262, Box 3, 1980 Super Sensitive I, Jan, Feb, Mar–1980. No classification marking. In the upper right corner, Carter wrote: “Private—cc V.P.—Cy—Zbig. J.”
  2. Carter drew a bracket along the left side of this paragraph and an asterisk in the margin.
  3. Despite Harriman’s suggestion, no letter from Carter to Brezhnev was found. Vance wrote to Gromyko on February 8; see Document 202.
  4. No record of a meeting between Dobrynin and Carter or between Watson and Brezhnev was found. Watson met with Gromyko January 30; see Document 186.