134. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Gromyko Prep Session, Thursday, January 21, 1982 at 5:30 pm in the Secretary’s Conference Room


  • Stoessel, Bremer, McManaway, Rosenblatt, Fischer, Burt, Combs, Simons, Scanlan, Palmer, Wayne, Schuette

The meeting opened with a light-hearted discussion of “Charlie Wick Day,” referring to the upcoming extravaganza on Poland.2 The Secretary then proceeded through his talking points page by page.3

The first point raised by the Secretary was that any mention of a second meeting for later in the year be excised from the talking points.

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The Secretary explained to the group that he had discussed linkage with the President earlier in the day and that he thinks the President understood that in the current context linkage means that we cannot proceed on the START talks nor can we proceed with the summit. INF, however, should be treated as a special case in that abandoning these talks would be more costly to us than to the Soviet. The Secretary also described with some levity the earlier NSC meeting4 and he noted that the Vice President nearly fell out of his chair when the Secretary suggested “sealing the Hemisphere” in relation to Cuba. The Secretary noted that if these people want to get tough he will show them what being tough is all about. The Secretary also noted in a joking manner that during his own presentation on Cuba Meese was already busy formulating his backgrounder.

Returning to the Gromyko meeting, the Secretary noted that the CIA’s analysis5 of prospects for the meeting had made him feel bad; that perhaps we had been too mean to the Soviets. The Secretary was obviously worried by the tone of the analysis, and suggested that it was perhaps written by Jimmy Carter. Rick Burt noted that the analysis was produced by Casey’s best Soviet minds, [1 line not declassified].

Referring to the section on Helsinki the Secretary felt certain that Gromyko would turn the issue of interventionism back on us, but that he was adequately prepared to defend our position.

On START, the Secretary noted that he will make some positive noises so that the Soviets cannot reap a propaganda windfall by saying that we have abandoned arms control. The Secretary called attention to his US News interview, which he referred to as being quite starchy. The group agreed that he had laid out a clear rationale for the prospects on START and INF.

Referring to a Boston Globe article of today, the Secretary asked who told Beecher that Henry6 is advising us. The Secretary recalled a recent conversation with Joe Kraft in which he told Kraft jokingly that the reason we were going to continue with the Geneva meeting was because Henry suggested we should not. The Secretary noted that we will be going to Geneva despite Henry’s admonitions, not because of them.

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Returning to Helsinki, the Secretary asked that relevant paragraphs from the Final Act be included in his briefing materials so that if the need arises he can quote.

The Secretary then discussed the general approach to the meeting, in which he wants to avoid dealing in rigidly ideological terms. Rather, he wants to talk as a superpower should, referring to balances of power as opposed to the suffering of the Polish people, for instance. He noted that in particular page 5 of the talking points was a bit too ideological, but it improved on page 6.

Turning to Cuba, Burt advised the Secretary to mention Nicaragua very early on, perhaps in the first sentence, noting the peculiar Soviet attachment to the order in which issues are raised. It should be clear to the Soviets that Nicaragua is a high priority item.

The Secretary, in reading through talking points on the Floggers, asked why they were designated as MiG–23/27. Burt noted that we were simply not sure which planes they were, but added that Dobrynin had told Stoessel they were 23’s. It was agreed, however, to refer to them in the generic term Floggers.

The Secretary asked that references to the 1962 understanding on pages 8 and 9 be deleted. Burt felt that the specter of abrogating the agreement as a result of Soviet actions should be raised, but not as the central focus. Combs agreed and felt that we should also raise the fact that the Soviets had done this previously in 1978. With Burt in agreement, the Secretary noted that we had lost our pants in 1978 and we did not want to remind the Soviets how easily they had gotten off.

On page 9 regarding the shipment of MiGs to Nicaragua, Burt suggested and the Secretary concurred that we add a sentence along the lines of: “If these deliveries proceed, we will be forced to respond.” Also on page 9, the Secretary noted that the last sentence (“It would be a great mistake to underestimate the depth of our concern”) sounded very Chinese, in that we had heard the same thing from the PRC on the Taiwan issue.

The Secretary observed that the whole Latin American section of the paper was very very tough, and all agreed. Scanlan said that Gromyko would come away from this section with a fat lip. The Secretary noted that in this phase of the discussion he would be “moving from the pragmatist to the ideologue.” Bremer suggested that remaining a pragmatist will have a more profound effect upon Gromyko, who will then know that we mean business.

The Secretary also requested that memcons from the first Gromyko meetings be included in his briefing materials, as well as a recent CIA summary on Soviet arms transfers to Cuba.

Turning to Afghanistan on page 10, Burt suggested that we remind Gromyko early on that we are aware that they have recently increased [Page 428] their presence in Afghanistan. Noting that the Soviets must be aware that we are supporting the Afghan freedom fighters, the Secretary asked if he should make clear to Gromyko that we have additional options in this regard. Stoessel interjected that Dobrynin had mentioned our support for the freedom fighters to him, so clearly the Soviets were aware. The Secretary said that he would like to hold this threat open, and he referred to it as the “Berlin riposte.”

At this point McFarlane stuck his head in and the Secretary teased him about new problems with the NSC now that Bud has moved to the White House. Bud noted sarcastically that there was “real support” for the Secretary’s position on an upcoming exercise in the Gulf of Sidra. The Secretary responded by telling Bud that he should have seen Cap’s reaction when the Secretary raised the issue of sealing the Hemisphere. The Secretary said that Cap jumped up and said: “Mr. President, this is a very serious matter which you should consider at length.”

Returning to the discussion, the Secretary asked for memcons from Kissinger’s 1970 and 1971 discussions with Gromyko on Soviet support for North Vietnam. He would like a few of the key paragraphs so that we might throw some of the Soviets’ own language back at them. The point of this exercise, apart from its rhetorical value, was to show the Soviets that we think historically and keep a long memory. They stuck it right in our eye back then and we should not miss an opportunity to return the favor.

On the question of raising support for the Afghan freedom fighters, Burt advised that a raising of that threat would probably lead the Soviets toward increased action against Pakistan and the Secretary agreed. The Secretary observed that we need another trip over there very soon to quiet the Paks and the Indians down. He noted that Zia is becoming increasingly apprehensive, and said that someone should think about sending Buckley or Walters to the region. Tom Simons, who was not aware of the Secretary’s heavy travel schedule, suggested that perhaps the Secretary should do it. The Secretary responded unbelievingly “Are you talking to me?” He noted that between now and June he would probably be in town for only one week, and that every time he returns he finds Jerry sitting behind his desk.

On Afghanistan, Burt suggested that the best way to hit the Soviets would be to tell them that we know exactly what they’re doing. We are aware of their increased troop strength as well as the fact that they are now teaching Russian to school children. It is clear, said Burt, that they are attempting to absorb the country.

The Secretary interrupted to note that Mac Baldrige was having some fun dabbling in foreign policy on his trade mission to Africa. He noted that King Hassan gave Mac a letter which he had written to [Page 429] the Algerians. The Secretary, who had apparently just spoken with Baldrige, told him to have his people prepare a memo, then to let our experts look at it, and then the Secretary and Baldrige could have a joint meeting with the President to deliver the letter. The Secretary also noted that Baldrige had played around with foreign policy with the President of Senegal as well.

Turning to a discussion of Southern Africa (page 12), the Secretary said that we would open by noting that the Soviet and Cuban presence in Angola had been increased. Palmer interjected that in fact in every area raised with the Soviets since January of last year the threats have gotten worse. The Secretary was very enamored with this approach and suggested that we use it at the very beginning of his discussions with Gromyko. He wanted to open by saying to Gromyko that all of our agenda items—Afghanistan, Southern Africa, Cuba, Central America, and Poland—have deteriorated since the New York discussions. The Secretary said that he would tell Gromyko that he was profoundly concerned with this trending, which will have a serious impact upon our relations. In addition, the Secretary noted that the Soviets had not done anything on human rights, with the exception of Sakharov’s daughter-in-law. Bremer interjected that Saturday7 would be a crunch point in terms of the Pentecostals, because they have announced that starting on Saturday they will no longer take even water. Returning to the overall theme, the Secretary noted that the Soviets have moved against us in every area of critical concern and that therefore the nature of this meeting with Gromyko has been profoundly affected.

Turning to INF (page 14), the Secretary asked for a detailed review of progress thus far. Where have we been, what has been the nature of the discussions, and what proposals have emerged since the Christmas recess? The Secretary asked for this review to be available to read on the flight to Europe. The Secretary was pleased with the explicit points raised on Poland.

On CBW, the Secretary was also pleased with the opening sentence that we have confirmed the use of chemical weapons in Afghanistan and Southeast Asia. He wanted added to that sentence that this casts a grim shadow on the prospect for progress on other arms control issues. The Secretary also wanted to tell Gromyko that this issue will take on increasing significance and that we will continue to draw increasing attention to it. The Secretary asked for a two-page summary of what we have on them and said “I want to let the bastard know what we have so I can hand it to him.”

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Stepping back from the details for a moment, the Secretary chuckled that this is “one big God damn round of joy, thinking back to the days of vodka and handshakes with Kissinger and now he’s telling us to be tough.”

Stoessel noted that he had recently come from a meeting with Ted Mann and that he was certain that public pressure would build rapidly for the Secretary to raise Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union. Simons pointed out that a rather lengthy Congressional letter with a number of signatures would be appearing in the next few days relating to the same issue.

Finishing the talking points, the Secretary observed that the last sentence of the paper was rather weak. He wanted the closing redone to include a brief summary of our agenda items, a mention of our good will, and the specific steps the Soviets could take to earn that good will, and then to close by hammering home the point that the key areas which control our overall relations are all getting worse. The Secretary did not want to say that we are headed on a collision course, but he did pause for a moment and say “It is getting eerie, very eerie.” Stoessel offered that it was perhaps time to fasten our seat belts.

The Secretary wanted to make sure that we made abundantly clear to the Soviets that there is room for progress in Poland, Southern Africa, and Cuba.

The Secretary then observed that from the Soviet perspective we probably have not done very much either. Palmer suggested that we take the approach of playing up the President’s November 18 speech,8 that we have offered them a 4-point program for arms control discussions and attempted to open up a whole new dialogue, and that what we got in return was Poland. The Secretary agreed with this approach and asked that it be incorporated. The Secretary commented that our “bitch list” is about overwhelming and “it makes me wonder if we are spending enough for defense.”

The Secretary also asked that in appropriate places in his papers efforts be made to personalize some of the issues. For instance he wanted to say that he himself had participated in the start of the Helsinki process under Nixon. He also asked that his past experiences in NATO as well as recent NATO meetings be referred to in understandable terms.

The Secretary then discussed some of the carrots that should be offered. In Southern Africa he would tell Gromyko that we have a breakthrough imminent which could occur any day with absolutely no cost to the Soviets. He added that we should raise the possibility [Page 431] of normalizing relations with Cuba in exchange for responsible behavior. He said that we should send Gromyko home with some carrots and not with a “plate full of shit.” However, the Secretary did not want the carrots to overshadow the possibility that the whole of post-war East-West relations was now hanging in the balance. We should raise the specter of Yalta and Potsdam to show how seriously we view Soviet irresponsibility, and to make them aware that continuation of present threats will lead to a dismantling of all that has existed between East and West. The Secretary noted that in our preparation we must be aware that this is not merely a dialogue between Gromyko and Haig, but it is a record which will be read by all Kremlin leaders now and in the future.

In summary, the Secretary wanted to close with reference to our historic relations; with a clear elucidation of the carrots and everything that is up for grabs if they take responsible steps; our obligations as superpowers; and a minimum of ideological negativism. The Secretary also asked that something emotional be put in along the lines of “our children’s children.” He noted that this would have an effect on Brezhnev, who is “an emotional old guy—the type who would cry after he threw you over the side.”

Keith Schuette9
  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Haig Papers, Department of State, Day File, Box 66, January 21, 1982. Secret; Sensitive. Prepared by Schuette. The meeting took place in Haig’s conference room.
  2. Reference is to January 30. In a diary entry that day, Reagan wrote: “Solidarity Day. Charles Wick has really created a great international telecast studded with celebrities & heads of state proclaiming solidarity with the Polish people.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, Vol. I, p. 105)
  3. Not found.
  4. Reference is to a meeting of the National Security Council, held January 21 from 3:44 to 4:25 p.m. at the Cabinet Room at the White House. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) The minutes are scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XLI, Global Issues II.
  5. Not further identified.
  6. Reference is to Henry Kissinger.
  7. January 23.
  8. See Document 137, footnote 3.
  9. Printed from a copy bearing this typed signature.