115. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union1

327309. Subject: Soviet Embassy on Sakharov Decision.

1. (C—Entire text)

2. At working lunch December 9 with EUR DAS Scanlan and EUR/SOV Director Simons, after news that Liza Alexeyeva had been told a visa would be granted, Soviet Minister-Counselor Bessmertnykh said in response to a request for confirmation that the information he had would support the report.

3. At the same time, Bessmertnykh went on, the case had developed in an unfortunate way. He and Ambassador Dobrynin might recommend one thing, but there are “others” who think differently. In the meantime a tremendous public uproar develops, with damaging consequences. It would have been better to choose one course and stick with it. This way, not only has damage been sustained but the “principled, consistent” policy approach which should govern has been sacrificed.

4. Comment. We do not overinterpret these remarks, since they are characteristically ambiguous and ingratiating after the fact. At the same time, they bring to mind Bessmertnykh’s concluding remark during Under Secretary Stoessel’s November 27 demarche2 to him on the Secretary’s behalf concerning Sakharov, where on a “personal” basis he expressed confidence that the case would not end as “many” were then projecting. They also tend to confirm our assumption of serious and shifting policy debate on Sakharov. Finally, they support the thesis that the decision to release Liza Alexeyeva has indeed been taken.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number]. Confidential; Immediate; Exdis. Also sent Immediate to Madrid and the U.S. Mission to NATO. Drafted by Simons; cleared by Matthews in P; approved by Scanlan.
  2. See Document 107.