125. Minutes of an Interagency Coordinating Committee for U.S.-Soviet Affairs Meeting1


Deputy Assistant Secretary Scanlan observed that it was particularly useful for ICCUSA representatives to meet at this time to discuss the sanctions recently announced by President Reagan after the imposition of martial law in Poland.2 He stressed that it was important not to be either behind or in front of the President on these sanctions.

Poland: Scanlan said the situation in Poland is difficult to predict and is unlikely to be clarified in the near term. Despite reports of general calm in the country, passive resistance and low worker productivity prevail. Some Solidarity members remain free while Polish authorities have acknowledged five thousand Poles have been detained; Lech Walesa remains in custody near Warsaw. Contrary to Polish claims, reliable sources indicate that no negotiations with Solidarity are underway nor does the Church feel that its talks with Polish authorities amount to negotiations. Polish authorities will try to put a better face on the situation perhaps by releasing more detainees and easing up on the more onerous aspects of martial law, but it could remain in effect for several more months, and the basic elements of the situation may well remain unchanged.

Soviet Union: There is no question of the role played by the Soviets who had long been pressuring the Poles to crack down. It was the second best and second worst solution for them: while the optimum for the Soviets would have been for the Poles to crush Solidarity politically without recourse to military force, the option selected was preferable to direct Soviet military intervention. The President’s decision to impose sanctions against the USSR was based on the clear evidence of Soviet involvement in the repression in Poland. The sanctions announced December 29 include:

1. The suspension of Aeroflot services in the US.

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2. The closure of the Soviet (formerly known as Kama) Purchasing Commission. Its staff has been told to leave the country by January 20. In response to a query from the FBI representative, Scanlan said that those staff members would not be allowed to adjust their status.

3. Suspension of issuance or renewal of licenses to export electronic equipment, computers and high technology to the USSR.

4. Postponement of a start to negotiations on a new Long Term Agreement (LTA) on grain sales to the USSR. The current one year extension of the previous LTA remains in effect until September 30, 1982.

5. Suspension of negotiations on a new Maritime Agreement. The old Maritime Agreement expired December 31 and a more restrictive regime of Soviet access to US ports went into effect at that time. Scanlan noted that we are taking into consideration undue hardships to American firms caused by the imposition of tighter notification requirements and we will seek to minimize damage to American commercial interests during this transitional period.

6. Suspension of licenses required for export to the USSR of an expanded list of oil and gas equipment (including pipelayers).

7. Non-renewal of US–USSR exchange agreements which are coming up for renewal in the near future.

There had been a long list of proposed measures which had been carefully scrutinized by the President before he made his final decision on sanctions.3 The President’s language (“suspend”, “postpone”) deliberately implied the reversibility of the sanctions should events in Poland warrant it. Scanlan noted the President’s commitment to maintaining the US-Soviet dialogue including the arms control process (INF, START). Preparations are now underway for Secretary Haig’s January 26–27 meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko in which Poland will obviously figure prominently.

Allied position: Scanlan acknowledged that differences exist among the Allies about how to deal with Soviet involvement, but he felt the press had probably exaggerated them. The US was encouraged by the EC Ministers’ agreement not to undercut our sanctions as well by the [Page 405] stronger position taken by Chancellor Schmidt after his meeting with the President. The U.S. is working on a common Alliance position towards the Soviets which Scanlan expected would be adopted by the NATO Foreign Ministers when they meet in Brussels on January 11.

Exchanges: Turning to exchanges, Scanlan reiterated that it is essential for all agencies to be neither behind nor ahead of the exchange related steps selected by the White House. The sanctions were carefully calibrated to put a measured degree of pressure on the Soviets and to keep some punitive measures in reserve. Activities should be examined on a case-by-case basis. We would be prepared to cut out some activities which appear contrary to the spirit of the sanctions, such as the computer-related exchanges under the Science and Technology agreement. Scanlan informed representatives that they would shortly receive guidelines for a new review of exchange agreements. This is a useful exercise in its own right; we might want to cut those areas where the balance of benefits is unfavorable whether or not international concerns so dictated. On the other side of the coin, such a review could yield convincing arguments to continue an agreement or activities. In this connection, Scanlan confirmed that this review would include those agreements which are not to be renewed under the Dec. 29 sanctions. There is no general policy obstacle to continuation of activities under those agreements until they actually lapse next summer.

Various agencies expressed appreciation for Scanlan’s clarification. The DOE representative noted that his agency would now reconsider an earlier DOE memo which had mandated immediate cessation of all activities with the Soviets. Several representatives said that a State Department memo to agency heads embodying Scanlan’s clarification on exchanges policy would be very useful, particularly in view of intense budget pressures. The OSTP representative felt that such a memo might be viewed as undercutting the President’s sanctions; the NSF representative pointed out that any possible further steps to reduce exchanges could be carried out by simply reprogramming allocated funds whereas it would be difficult to restore funds which might be slashed merely in anticipation of hypothetical moves. Scanlan promised that we would follow up on the possibility of a State memo.

Hurwitz (State, EUR/SOV) urged all representatives to use caution with their Soviet contacts on the question of exchanges; the best tack is simply to refer them to the President’s statement.

The USDA representative asked whether the USG would attempt to curtail privately-sponsored US exchanges with the USSR. Scanlan replied that while officially the US could neither encourage nor discourage such exchanges, depending on the circumstances, we could jawbone private sponsors.

The Interior representative raised the longstanding agreement the US Bureau of Mines had with its Polish counterpart and asked whether [Page 406] this cooperation could continue. Noting that he was not familiar with the details of this arrangement, Scanlan asked that Interior discuss the case later with State officials. He noted, however, that the US had no desire to sever the contacts and relationships the US had developed with Polish institutions and individuals.

Contacts: Scanlan reiterated guidance on USG officials’ contacts with Soviet officials: No purely social contacts, working level officials may continue contacts as necessary, officials should report prior to planned meetings to the State Department’s Office of Soviet Affairs (Bilateral Section). Adherence to this procedure is necessary so that the USG can monitor reciprocal access.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC: Country File, USSR (01/18/1982–01/19/1982). Confidential.
  2. See “Statement on U.S. Measures Taken Against the Soviet Union Concerning its Involvement in Poland,” December 29, 1981, Public Papers: Reagan , 1981, p. 1209. Reagan and his advisers discussed further sanctions in a meeting of the National Security Council in the Cabinet Room of the White House on January 5; the minutes are scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. IX, Poland, 1982–1987.
  3. Meese outlined the list of proposed sanctions to Reagan in a memorandum of December 28, 1981. (Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC: Country File, USSR (12/28/1981)). Bush, Meese, and Nance went over the sanctions in a telephone call with Reagan, December 28. “The call commenced at 1605 EST with the President at the ranch,” Poindexter wrote in a December 28 memorandum for the record. “The President approved all recommendations in subject memo. Oil and gas equipment will be on the foreign policy control list for the time being. The President is still considering the action to be taken with respect to the International Harvester combine contract.” (National Security Council, Box SR 118, SSG 0005 RWR 12/28/81 Poland)