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

16667. Subject: Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin’s Call on Under Secretary Stoessel, January 20, 1982.

1. (S—Entire text)

[Page 432]

2. Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin called on Under Secretary Stoessel at his request at 1630 local January 20 to deliver a non-paper containing the Soviet reply to our January 10 demarche on Cuba.2 EUR/SOV Director Simons also participated. Unofficial Embassy translation of Russian text is at last para of this message.

3. Dobrynin said he was delivering the paper on behalf of his government, and he thought it a clear reply.

4. After reading over text, Stoessel said he was not in a position to make a considered reply, but he could say that our concerns remain. One problem is that these systems can be converted quickly for nuclear delivery. Dobrynin commented that this is also true of MiG–21s; these are MiG–23s.

5. Stoessel continued that we are concerned with the whole Cuban arms buildup, the shipment of arms into Cuba, and Cuban capacity to project power. This is natural: Cuba is very close to the United States. But it also affects Central America. We cannot agree with what is said in the Soviet paper on Nicaragua and other parts of the area. We feel the thrust of the Cuban effort not only in Nicaragua but also in El Salvador is clear. He was sure the Secretary would discuss it with Gromyko.

6. Dobrynin said the Cubans also have great concerns, which they pass on to the Soviets. Belligerent U.S. statements are a major factor. They ask what you intend to do, and cannot but feel concerned. Current developments do not start from zero. That is why they ask the Soviets for defensive weapons. They are getting more than before, but that is because there is more concern.

7. On the understanding, Dobrynin drew attention to the language of the Soviet paper affirming that the USSR is fulfilling it and does not wish to violate it as long as the U.S. does not.

8. Stoessel replied that we continue to feel recent developments raise questions about the understanding, concluding he would leave it at that. Dobrynin asked whether the Secretary would be in a position to say something about the issue. Stoessel said he did not know. Dobrynin said he had mentioned the possibility to Moscow, and there are only a few days left.

9. Stoessel said we consider this a serious matter, and do not plan a propaganda campaign. Dobrynin said this was a welcome sign. We are not stirring it, Stoessel continued; it is the Cubans who are stirring things up.

10. Simons noted that the Soviet paper referred to MiG–23s, and asked if the Soviets made the distinction between MiG–23s and MiG–[Page 433]27s, and whether the paper therefore meant what it said. Dobrynin said it meant exactly what it said: the Soviets make the distinction, and what is involved is the same plane, but in the MiG–23 modification.

11. Noting he had read a Gwertzmann NYT article3 suggesting that a date for START could be announced after the Geneva meeting, Dobrynin asked whether the Secretary would be prepared for this. Stoessel replied that this is not likely under present circumstances; we would wish to continue in diplomatic channels. Dobrynin said this was fair enough.

12. After a brief exchange on the announcement of the Geneva meeting due January 21, Dobrynin asked about a post-meeting statement. Stoessel replied that this would be up to the principals; any statement would probably be very general, he anticipated.

13. Dobrynin said Gromyko would be meeting with the Swiss Foreign Minister in Geneva, but would not be lunching with him. Mrs. Gromyko would accompany him to Geneva.

14. On the way in, Dobrynin told Simons his information from Moscow mentioned only Korniyenko and himself as accompanying Gromyko for the talks, though he naturally assumed Sukhodrev would be there as interpreter.

15. Text of Soviet Embassy translation of non-paper follows. Begin text:

—We cannot but find it strange that the US side is raising such questions that entirely belong to the area of mutual relations between two sovereign states—the Soviet Union and Cuba—and cannot be subject of discussion with anyone else.

—Nor is there any foundation whatsoever, in this case, for making reference to the known Soviet-American understanding of 1962. The Soviet Union has done and is doing nothing of the kind in Cuba that would contradict the 1962 understanding. It fully adheres to its part of the understanding and intends to continue doing so, having in mind that the US side, as has been confirmed by it, will be strictly implementing its part of that understanding.

—Solely as an expression of good will, we can inform the US side that in the framework of ordinary and planned arms deliveries for the Cuban defense requirements a certain quantity of aircraft of the “MiG–23” type is being sent there. The US side, undoubtedly, knows that the [Page 434] aircraft of this type have been in Cuba for a fairly long time. None of the modifications of this plane being delivered to Cuba has the capability for use as a nuclear weapons carrier.

—Thus, the presence of the said aircraft in Cuba introduces no change in the existing situation and has nothing to do with the Soviet-American understanding of 1962.

—Therefore, the US side has no grounds for expressing any concern in this regard, let alone, for viewing this question as allegedly affecting the security interests of the USA. It is clearly artificial to pose this question in such a way. And, of course, no useful purpose can be served by a propaganda drive if it were launched now around this question in the USA.

—At the same time one cannot fail to see that the very attempt by the US side to somehow cast doubt upon the legitimate cooperation between the Soviet Union and Cuba, as well as the desire to involve in this case Nicaragua, do nothing but further exacerbate the situation in the Carribean region and step up tensions around Cuba and Nicaragua. On more than one occasion we have brought this point to the attention of the US Government.

—If one is to speak of the concern over what is going on in that region, it is precisely Cuba and Nicaragua who have more than ample grounds to have such a concern. It is exactly they who are being threatened by the USA with a direct use of force, it is against them that military demonstrations, manoeuvres, troop landings, and so on are being staged. The training of mercenary bands and incursion groups takes place on the territory of the United States. All this causes the peoples of these countries to feel genuinely alarmed and naturally desirous to strengthen their defense capacities.

—For that matter, the general policy of the United States in international affairs in no way makes people feel less threatened as far as their fate is concerned. Urging restraint, the United States does not itself exercise restraint in dispatching huge quantities of most advanced weapons to dozens of countries in the world, including to those areas where it can cause a legitimate concern on the part of the Soviet Union. How are we supposed to regard, for instance, the American-Israeli agreement on “strategic cooperation” which is clearly directed not only against the Arabs but also against the Soviet Union?

—Hence, as to the real causes of the existing tension in Soviet-American relations, the responsibility for that tension rests entirely with the United States. It would serve the interests of all peoples, including the American people, to take measures to ameliorate the situation and not to exacerbate it through raising non-existing questions and making propaganda around them. End text.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, N820001–0537. Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Stadis. Drafted by Simons; cleared by Scanlan and in S/S–O; approved by Stoessel.
  2. See Document 128.
  3. Reference is presumably to Gwertzman’s article of January 7, in which he wrote: “Mr. Haig has planned to meet with Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko of the Soviet Union in Geneva on Jan. 27 to set the time and place for the renewal of strategic arms reduction talks.” (Bernard Gwertzman, “U.S. is Relenting on NATO Sanctions Against Russians,” New York Times, January 7, 1982, p. A1)