101. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Secretary’s Debrief on his meeting with Ambassador Dobrynin, November 11, 1981; 2:45 pm; with Messrs. Eagleburger and Bremer

The Secretary indicated that he had shown the non-paper on possible release of Soviet dissidents to Dobrynin.2 Dobrynin had noted that Sakharov does not want to leave the Soviet Union and is happy to stay and create problems for the government. He asked that we give him another name in Sakharov’s place. The Secretary said that he had emphasized that Shcharanskiy was very important. Dobrynin noted that Shcharanskiy had been a spy for the Knesset, but otherwise raised no objection to his release. Dobrynin asked what was in it for Moscow if they, in fact, released some dissidents. The Secretary noted that it would ensure a positive outcome for the Madrid CSCE meeting.

Ambassador Dobrynin then asked what was happening in the Administration. He was concerned about Dick Allen’s article on detente.3 The Secretary indicated that the article did not accurately reflect the President’s views on US-Soviet relations. He wants the relationship back on the track. The Secretary gave Dobrynin possible dates for the Secretary’s next meeting with Gromyko. He told him to pick two days in the January 26–29 time frame. Dobrynin commented that it was important that the Secretary be prepared to discuss SALT at that time.

Eagleburger then expressed his concern about the Presidential speech on foreign policy. Bremer indicated that the White House had promised us a draft by November 11. Eagleburger commented that he had heard Dick Perle had been involved in redrafting our draft. He was quite worried and emphasized the need for us to win our position on TNF.

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Discussion then turned to the willingness of the Administration to be tough. The Secretary related that in the previous day’s NSC meeting,4 when there was significant opposition to any readiness to take military measures, the Secretary said that if we were not willing to go all the way if need be, we should not even start on that path. He then proposed that we immediately open negotiations with Cuba.5 The Secretary believed that this had jolted the others and caused them to rethink their positions. They were subsequently willing to be a bit tougher. The Secretary noted that he had taken the President through an emotional and intellectual meat grinder. The President had slept on it and judging from the Secretary’s call to him this morning, he now appreciated yesterday’s meeting.6

The Secretary then related the substance of his conversation with the President, where the President expressed worry over the reception of his press conference and the Secretary reassured him.7

The Secretary gave a brief read-out on the morning’s meeting on East/West trade at the Commerce Department. The bottom line of most of the participants, i.e., Weinberger, Perle, Allen and Casey, is that anything that could in any way be helpful to the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe was wrong. Allen wants to review again the whole of East/West trade. The Secretary commented that this was because Allen and DOD had lost on all their arguments and that they found it difficult to accept such losses even though the President made the decision. The Secretary commented that we needed to get out-of-office help on this issue. We should call together a group of non-government experts such as Billington, Scowcroft and Sonnenfeldt to review all the issues involved in East/West trade and take recommendations. The basic question is should we go into economic warfare as some in the Administration have argued.

Eagleburger asked if we really had to go through all the issues again and the Secretary replied in the affirmative, and lamented that the NSC always tries to redo Presidential decisions with which it does not agree. He commented that we should perhaps not engage in the interagency process any more. The Defense Department has ceased to participate constructively. We may just have to do everything on our [Page 350] own from now on. Bremer gave the example that DOD and Commerce have refused even to comment on the papers we had circulated relating to oil and gas technology exports.

Larry Eagleburger then raised the need for the Secretary to call the West German Ambassador. Genscher had told the press that he had asked his Ambassador to talk to the Secretary about the President’s statements on nuclear war. Eagleburger added that as well as reassuring the Germans we should indicate that we have had enough of their bellyaching. The Secretary lamented that the press seems to be trying to push us into a war of words with Europe, and asked if those present had seen the way the press kept harping on the nuclear statement in the Secretary’s press conference yesterday.

At 3:00 pm the Secretary called FRG Ambassador Hermes. He read the talking points which Eagleburger had provided. He added that it is also a burden in Europe for the leadership to speak out boldly on this issue. The Secretary said that anyone who saw the President’s press conference could hardly say that this was an effort to inflate the issue.

E. Anthony Wayne8
  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Haig Papers, Department of State, Day File, Box 58, November 11, 1981. Secret; Sensitive. An unknown hand wrote in the upper right-hand corner: “Day & Cuba.”
  2. Attached but not printed is the undated non-paper calling for the release of Sakharov and Shcharanskiy “as soon as possible, but in any case by Christmas,” and for quiet negotiations on the topic at the meeting of the CSCE in Madrid.
  3. Reference is to Richard Allen, “The Atlantic Alliance at a Crossroad,” Strategic Review, 1981 Fall.
  4. The National Security Council met on November 10 to discuss strategy toward Cuba and Central America. The minutes are scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XIV, Central America, 1981–1984.
  5. An unknown hand drew two vertical lines in the margin of this sentence and the final clause of the previous sentence and wrote: “Cuba.”
  6. Haig spoke to Reagan on the phone from 10:45 to 10:52 a.m. on November 11. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) No minutes of this conversation were found.
  7. Reference is to Reagan’s press conference of November 10. (Public Papers: Reagan, 1981, pp. 1031–1038)
  8. Wayne initialled “EAW” over his typed signature.