117. Telegram From the Department of State to Secretary of State Haig’s Delegation in Brussels1

329853/TOSEC 150178. Subject: Under Secretary Stoessel’s Meeting with Bessmertnykh, December 13.

1. (S—Entire text)

2. Under Secretary called in Soviet DCM Bessmertnykh, in temporary absence of Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin, to provide text of Secretary’s 4:00 p.m. Brussels statement on the Polish situation.2 The Under Secretary, in walking Bessmertnykh through the statement, emphasized that the U.S. was deeply concerned about developments in Poland and their effect on the stability of the region. He said the U.S. urged all parties to exercise the maximum degree of restraint, prudence, and caution in their approach to the Polish situation. The USG, in briefing congressional leaders and other public figures, had urged them to be cautious in their public statement; the U.S. did not want to see an over-reaction or excess excitement, but at the same time wanted to convey to the Soviet Government how deeply concerned we were. Stoessel drew particular attention to the last paragraph of the Secretary’s statement to effect that Poles should find solution to their problems without any outside interference.

3. Bessmertnykh, in response, said he wanted to clarify just what was being discussed. The Secretary’s statement expressed concern about the situation “in” Poland, and noted that this had been taken up with the Polish authorities. This was not, he stated, a subject for the US-Soviet bilateral relationship. The Polish events were a domestic matter, not the subject for any diplomatic activities between us. The Under Secretary replied that the USSR was closely allied with Poland. It had to be assumed that there had been close consultations between the Polish and Soviet Governments prior to recent events. For this reason the U.S. wanted to communicate its general concern.

4. Bessmertnykh said he understood the U.S. concern, and welcomed the U.S. appeal for cautiousness. He urged the U.S. not to get excited, but to exercise coolness and calmness until it had a clearer picture of the situation, so that there would be no mis-steps. The Under [Page 386] Secretary replied that this was also the U.S. approach. The Secretary had urged that the situation not be overcharged with emotion.

5. Bessmertnykh said that nothing in the present picture would warrant any U.S. concern about the Soviet Union. The USSR was not part of the situation. Moscow was watching developments but it was for the Poles to decide. The Under Secretary said that the U.S. was also watching the situation. We had seen the initial reaction from Solidarity headquarters, including the call for a general strike. We hoped violence could be avoided, and a peaceful solution found.

6. Bessmertnykh said this was up to the Polish authorities. If they decided that it was necessary to use force, that was their own business. Outside parties could not dictate to a major sovereign power what to do and what not to do. Any legal government, including the USG, had the means to impose its will on certain elements if they acted against the laws of the country. He added that he did not like the part of the Secretary’s statement calling for compromise and negotiation. This could be interpreted as interference in Poland’s internal affairs.

7. The Under Secretary noted that thus far the Polish authorities had been seeking a compromise solution. There were great risks in a turn to violence. Bessmertnykh replied that no one was in favor of violence. But others could not tell the Poles what to do. This was their own business. Bessmertnykh recalled the period of “critical weekends” last spring, when the U.S. had overreacted, and said he hoped the USG would view the present situation more calmly and coolly. It would be an overreaction for a big power to become an element of the situation, one way or the other. The Under Secretary reiterated that all concerned should exercise moderation and restraint.

8. Bessmertnykh used the occasion to hand over non-paper on Soviet position on Law of the Sea consultations, which Dobrynin was to have delivered December 14 (to be cabled septel). Before concluding the meeting, the sides agreed that, in commenting on the meeting before the press, both sides would take the line that several subjects were discussed, Poland among them, and decline further comment.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number]. Secret; Niact; Immediate; Exdis. Sent Immediate for information to NATO capitals, Moscow, and Warsaw. Drafted by Vershbow; cleared by Scanlan; approved by Stoessel.
  2. Haig’s statement was transmitted in telegram 329838 to all Diplomatic and Consular Posts, December 13. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D810593–0279)