332. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • US side:

    • President Reagan
    • Vice President Bush
    • D. Zarechnak, interpreter
  • USSR side:

    • General Secretary Gorbachev
    • P. Palazhchenko, interpreter

As the party got into the car, the President remarked that he was glad to have the opportunity to have the General Secretary drive around the island with him in his car, and Gorbachev replied that he was always glad to get “a freebie” (“na durniak”).

The President remarked that the windows on the car were three inches thick, although this was not noticeable until one opened the door.

As the car drove by the policemen on guard, the Vice President remarked that they were known as “New York’s finest”, and the President remarked that many of them were of Irish background. Gorbachev noted that this was the same as the President’s own background, and that perhaps the President could be accused of staffing the New York police department with people of his own kind? The President replied that he couldn’t be accused of that since the Irish background of the police went way back. His father used to tell him how it was the Irish that had built most of the jails in the US and had filled them as well, and that he was very proud of this. He couldn’t understand why his father could be proud of such a thing until he realized that by “filling” jails his father had meant “putting people in jails”, i.e., the work that policemen do.

The Vice President asked Gorbachev about the USSR’s relations with China, and Gorbachev noted that that was the country where the Vice President had served.2 He went on to say that the visit by the Chinese Foreign Minister had been a very good one. The Chinese had their own, independent foreign policy. They did not wish to have instability and they did not wish to be secretive. They wished to have normal relations with both the United States and the USSR, and this was as it should be.

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The Vice President remarked that it was good that there would be a meeting with Deng Xiaoping.

The President recalled that when Vice President Bush had been ambassador to China, they had been concerned about the different kind of diet that the Chinese had, and as a result would not let their dog wander the streets there.

The Vice President remarked about the great assistance the President had given him in his campaign, noting that the last time a vice-president had been elected president was in 1836.3 The President added that if Governor Dukakis had been elected, everything that had been built up between the two countries would have returned to the starting point. Gorbachev remarked that the USSR had taken the position that the US election was an internal matter for the American people to decide.

At this point the car drove up to the platform for viewing the Statue of Liberty, and everyone got out.

After viewing the Statue of Liberty, the President was a bit delayed in getting into the car because he was talking to correspondents. He jokingly told Gorbachev that he told them that Gorbachev had given in to everything the President had asked for. On a more serious note, he said that he had said that he and the General Secretary had agreed to continue the work they had begun. Gorbachev agreed that this was what should be done.

The President noted the school children waving to them, and Gorbachev remarked that he was sure that they were happy to be out of school.

After noticing two Coast Guard cutters going by, President Reagan mentioned that his present military assistant was a woman from the Coast Guard—the first time that anyone had been appointed to that post from the Coast Guard. He said that he had teased her, passing on what some Navy people had said, and she had replied very quietly that in times of crisis, it was the Coast Guard that all the other branches of the armed forces gathered around.

By this time the car had arrived at the departure point. Gorbachev expressed his thanks to the President for all the accomplishments they had made together, and expressed the hope that they might meet again. The President agreed, and said that he hoped the meeting would be in California.

  1. Source: Department of State, EUR Files, EUR/RUS Special Collection: Lot 00D471, New York Power Lunch 12/7/88. Secret. Drafted by Zarechnak. The meeting took place during a drive around Governors Island to escort Gorbachev to the ferry. Gorbachev was in New York December 7 to address the UN General Assembly and meet with the President and Vice President. See Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. VI, Soviet Union, October 1986–January 1989, Documents 180 and 181.
  2. Bush was the head of the U.S. Liaison Office in Beijing from October 21, 1974, until December 7, 1975.
  3. Bush and his Republican Vice Presidential nominee Senator J. Danforth Quayle (R–Indiana) defeated Democratic Presidential nominee Michael Dukakis and Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Senator Lloyd Bentsen (D–Texas) on November 8.