159. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • US-Soviet Relations


  • The President, Vice President Bush, Counselor Meese, Chief of Staff to the President Baker, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Clark, Secretary of State Shultz, Secretary of Defense Weinberger, Deputy Director of Intelligence McMahon, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs McFarlane

BACKGROUND: The purpose of the meeting was for the attendees to receive a status report on the state of US-Soviet relations as expressed in the dialogue undertaken at the President’s instruction by the Secretary of State in February 1983. There have been approximately ten meetings between the Secretary and Ambassador Dobrynin which have been focussed upon four generic areas: Human Rights; Regional Issues; Arms Control; and Bilateral Issues.2

The Secretary of State opened with a summation of the President’s thinking for why the initiative had been authorized originally. He referred to the President’s success in establishing a solid beginning toward the restoration of our military strength. More recently, Williamsburg3 had [Page 636] presented solid evidence of greatly improved allied cohesion which would contribute significantly to Soviet perceptions of Western strength in any negotiation we might undertake.

The Secretary stated that the President’s instructions had been to explore Soviet responsiveness to our interests in each of the four general areas. These discussions were to take place at the Ambassadorial level and based upon the results a decision could be taken as to whether or not the dialogue should be elevated to the Foreign Minister level with a view ultimately toward a meeting between the Heads of State.

STATUS REPORT: The Secretary of State then went into the results thus far achieved in each of the four generic areas.

Human Rights. There appears to be some promise of progress in the human rights area as exemplified by the release of Lydia Vashchenko.4 The other members of her family have applied for their visas. The other family (Chymkhalov) has experienced difficulty in making their application. In short, while the process seems to be in motion all except Lydia remain in the Soviet Union.

The Secretary noted the possible promise of a channel established by Ambassador Kampelman with his KGB counterpart in the Soviet delegation at the CSCE-Madrid. While a solid agenda had been discussed no tangible results have thus far been achieved however. Time will tell.

Regional Issues. The Secretary of State said that with regard to discussions on Afghanistan, Poland and Central America, essentially nothing had been achieved. He noted that the Soviets had expressed an interest in discussing the Middle East. He had intentionally restricted references to the Middle East to only the most summary comments.

Arms Control. The Secretary noted that we have had mixed results in discussions on arms control. Today he had heard that the Soviets had made a somewhat encouraging statement in response to the President’s recent START announcement.5 With regard to INF, we have thus far not been able to make progress. Concerning MBFR, we have had an apparent “nibble.” Finally, concerning confidence building measures (CBMs) [Page 637] the Soviets appear to have some interest in two of the four proposals we had made.6

Bilateral Issues. In this area the Secretary said the only initiative proposed by either side had been our offer for negotiation of a new long-term grain agreement (LTA).7 He noted that the Soviets viewed this proposal as serving our interests and not theirs. As a consequence it had a rather ambiguous standing.

The Secretary then went on to describe the format for the sessions with Dobrynin. These normally included two phases: the first in which staff specialists contributed to particular issues on the agenda, (e.g., Ambassador Nitze on INF); followed by a private one-on-one session between the Secretary and Ambassador Dobrynin.

Before going on to propose an agenda for the forthcoming meeting on Saturday, June 18, he asked if anyone had any comments.8

Deputy Director McMahon noted that Chernenko’s speech at the CPSU Central Committee Meeting in support of Andropov was an indicator of the latter’s strength.9

The next meeting. The Secretary then proposed that the forthcoming meeting follow the same format as before with the agenda this time to include a discussion of our recent initiative at MBFR (Ambassador Abramowitz to attend) and the President’s recent proposal for START (Ambassador Rowny to attend for this item). The Secretary of State said he would also describe the Williamsburg Conference—the point to be made, that of Allied solidarity. In addition to these subjects, the Secretary proposed going once more into each of the four generic areas. With regard to bilateral relations, the Secretary proposed that he be authorized to express US willingness to open talks toward the establishment of a Soviet Consulate in New York City and a US Consulate in Kiev. In addition, he [Page 638] proposed that he be authorized to express our willingness to open talks devoted to the negotiation of a new cultural agreement. The Secretary went on to explain that the net benefit from any such agreements would accrue to the United States. Specifically, with respect to the proposed consulates the Secretary noted that the improved intelligence accruing to the Soviets from a New York City consulate would not add that much to the capability they already enjoy through the United Nations presence. On the other hand, a window for the United States in Kiev would provide us a substantial improvement in our collection capability.

With regard to the cultural agreement, the Secretary noted at the moment the Soviets were free to send as many cultural representatives to this country as they wished since these are arranged through private sources and the government now has no real control over them. He noted that a treaty would give us an instrument for seeking greater reciprocity in this area and would also legitimize a higher flow of cultural visits from West to East.

The Secretary then noted that with regard to regional issues the situation had worsened in Central America and that this might be a outgrowth of a flaw in the marker we had earlier laid down to the Russians. Specifically, our statement that we would find the introduction of high-performance aircraft or Cuban combat units “unacceptable” may have implied that all actions other than these would be tolerated. The Secretary stated that we should clarify this.

Judge Clark noted that in the early 70’s when the Soviets commenced submarine operations out of Cienfuegos, Cuba, the Administration had characterized this as “an unfriendly act.”10 Ultimately this had led to the termination of these operations. He recommended that the Secretary treat current Soviet activities in Central America in the same fashion—that is, that their activities which contribute to unrest generally (not just the introduction of modern weapons and combat units) will be unacceptable. The President approved this proposal.

The Secretary then raised the matter of how any mention of a summit ought to be treated. He reiterated existing Administration policy with regard to summits: that is, that we are not opposed in principle however they would need to be well prepared in advance and hold the promise of significant accomplishment.

Secretary Weinberger noted the inconsistency which would be represented by our conducting discussions of the possibility of a [Page 639] summit while the Soviets remained in Afghanistan, Poland and Central America.

This subject was not conclusively resolved.

At this point the meeting evolved into round-table remarks which were basically supportive of the Secretary proceeding according to the format he had proposed. The Vice President noted in particular the value of the private meeting after the larger set piece agenda had been disposed of. He believed that this private session held the most promise for getting results.

As the participants rose to leave, the Secretary of State asked whether he should bring Ambassador Rowny back to participate in Saturday’s meeting. The President agreed that he should.

The Secretary also asked, “what about the other items?” The President answered go ahead.

Conclusions: After the meeting it was confirmed that the President approved:

  • The convening of a meeting by the Secretary of State with Ambassador Dobrynin on Saturday, June 18.
  • That this meeting should be conducted according to the same format as meetings of the past.
  • That the Secretary should summarize important issues and proposals put forth by our side since the last meeting (e.g., START proposal and the results of Williamsburg).
  • He should discuss human rights, arms control, regional issues and bilateral issues.
  • That in discussing the situation in Central America, the Secretary should protest the recent Soviet escalation of military deliveries to Nicaragua and state that we consider these actions and other Soviet measures of support to Nicaragua for the export of revolution to neighboring countries to be unfriendly actions which must cease.
  • That Ambassador Rowny and Ambassador Abramowitz should return to participate in the arms control portion.
  • With regard to bilateral issues the Secretary was authorized to propose that the U.S. and the Soviet Union open talks devoted to the conclusion of agreements for the establishment of consulates in New York City and Kiev; and for the conduct of cultural exchanges between the two countries.

There were no conclusions reached with regard to:

  • Any future possibilities of a summit meeting, or
  • Travel by the Secretary of State to Moscow for meetings with Soviet officials.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, Miscellaneous Papers Dealing With the Soviets (05/26/1983–12/19/1983); NLR–775–20–31–3–2. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the Treaty Room of the residence at the White House. No drafting information appears on the memorandum. The memorandum of conversation is also in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. IV, Soviet Union, January 1983–March 1985, Document 62. Under a June 14 briefing memorandum, Burt sent Shultz talking points for the meeting. (Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, Miscellaneous Papers Dealing With the Soviets (05/26/1983–12/19/1983); NLR–775–20–31–2–3) In his personal diary for June 15, the President described the meeting, noting that Shultz was “meeting with Dobrynin & Gromyko and wanted to check with us on subject matter & positions. We were all in agreement that we be firm, willing to hold out a hand at same time let them know we d--n well want them to stay away from Central America.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, vol. I, January 1981–October 1985, p. 237)
  2. Records of these meetings are in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. IV, Soviet Union, January 1983–March 1985, Documents 9, 10, and 11. Shultz further elaborated upon these four areas in a March 3 memorandum to the President (see ibid., Document 13). He also discussed them during his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the morning of June 15; see Document 158.
  3. The Williamsburg summit was held May 28–30. For the text of the President’s May 28 statement, his May 28 remarks, a joint statement read by Shultz on May 29, Shultz’s May 29 news briefing, the President’s May 29 news briefing, the “Declaration on Economic Recovery” read by the President on May 30, Shultz’s May 30 news briefing, the President’s May 30 news briefing, his May 30 dinner toast, and his May 31 interview, see Department of State Bulletin, July 1983, pp. 3–22. Documentation on the Williamsburg Summit is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XXXVI, Trade; Monetary Policy; Industrialized Country Cooperation, 1981–1984.
  4. See footnote 4, Document 135.
  5. Reference is to the President’s June 8 remarks on START, made from the Rose Garden at the White House. He announced that he had “directed new steps toward progress in achieving real arms reductions at the START negotiations,” including increased flexibility for U.S. negotiators and an adjustment of the U.S. “position on deployed ballistic missiles by relaxing our current proposal for an 850 deployed ballistic missile limit.” (Public Papers: Reagan, 1983, Book I, pp. 832, 833)
  6. The President, in his November 22, 1982, address to the nation (see footnote 14, Document 146), indicated that he had proposed confidence building measures (CBMs) to Soviet officials. At the START negotiations in Geneva in early March, the U.S. delegation had tabled a proposal outlining four CBM proposals; see footnote 17, Document 146. In an April 12, 1983, statement, the President noted that the Department of Defense had completed a report that recommended additional confidence building measures. These included an upgrade to the Direct Communications Link known as the “hotline,” the establishment of a Joint Military Communications Link, the upgrading of existing diplomatic communications channels and “a proposal for an agreement, open to all states, which would call on the signatories to consult with each other in the event of a nuclear incident involving a terrorist group.” (Public Papers: Reagan, 1983, Book I, p. 526) The text of the April 12 DOD report is printed in Documents on Disarmament, 1983, pp. 309–324.
  7. See footnote 3, Document 147.
  8. The memorandum of conversation is in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. IV, Soviet Union, January 1983–March 1985, Document 64.
  9. Chernenko delivered the keynote address at the June session of the Central Committee. For the text, see Current Digest of the Soviet Press, vol. XXXV, No. 24, July 13, 1983, pp. 1–10.
  10. Reference is to Soviet activity at Cienfuegos Bay, Cuba. In September 1970, a reconnaissance plane photographed construction that suggested that the Soviet Union was constructing a naval facility, which went against the 1962 understanding that the Soviets would not base offensive weapons in Cuba. Documentation on the incident is in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XIII, Soviet Union, October 1970–October 1971 and Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–10, Documents on American Republics, 1969–1972.