130. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • BW: The Sverdlovsk Incident


  • US
  • The Acting Secretary
  • PMReginald Bartholomew
  • S/MS—Marshall Shulman
  • USSR
  • Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin

Toward the end of a discussion on TNF, the Acting Secretary mentioned that he had one other matter to raise. This concerned the outbreak of anthrax in Sverdlovsk last spring.2 The Acting Secretary said that we felt that we hadn’t been able to engage the Soviet Government on this matter to the extent its seriousness warranted. He noted that Ambassador Earle would meet with Dobrynin to discuss this issue in some detail.3

Dobrynin responded by questioning what it was the US wanted, since this was not clear. He noted that the Soviets have already given us an explanation of this incident.4

The Acting Secretary again stressed the seriousness we attach to engaging in bilateral consultations so we could satisfy ourselves on this issue, and not permit this question to undermine the BW Convention or damage prospects for arms control generally.

Dobrynin reiterated that they have given us what they have on this matter, and that the Soviets have not seen anything from us that would contradict their explanation. He said that our goal should be preserving the Convention and prospects for arms control. Dobrynin again stressed that what they have heard was based on hearsay, and that if we have anything else more to say in terms of evidence or proof would we please tell them.

The Acting Secretary replied by stressing that Ambassador Earle will provide information that will underline the seriousness of our concerns.

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Due to the press of vacation plans, Dobrynin suggested that Ambassador Earle see Vasev instead and give him a paper, which Dobrynin would then make certain is dealt with in Moscow. Dobrynin stressed that he needed to take something back with him.

The Acting Secretary repeated that this was a serious political matter, that Ambassador Earle had important things to say about this question, and that Dobrynin should definitely try to see Earle before returning to Moscow.

Dobrynin said that he understood the seriousness of this issue, but suggested that it reflected domestic American election-year politics. But he asked whether we really had something to say. If so, this would be good. But he did not want to discuss just anything on this issue in a general fashion. People in Moscow are critical of the way in which this issue has been the subject of rumor, hearsay, and press reports.

The Acting Secretary said that this issue would be every bit as serious to the USG if we were now in the first year of this Administration instead of the fourth year. He suggested the possibility that the issue might be addressed by distinguished scientists from each country.

Dobrynin repeated again that up to now there has been no proof, and there have been indirect discussions in the scientific community which have caused a chain reaction. There has not been a single additional fact but only hearsay.

The Acting Secretary concluded this portion of the conversation by urging Dobrynin to see Ambassador Earle on the BW question.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office Institutional File, Box 42, INT Documents: #4200s: 7/80. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Bartholomew. In the upper right-hand corner of the memorandum, Brzezinski wrote, “M[arshall] B[rement], Next step? ZB.”
  2. See Document 114.
  3. See Document 131.
  4. See Document 116.