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

50595. Eyes Only for the Ambassador. Subject: Secretary’s Luncheon with Dobrynin February 23.

1. (S—Entire text)

2. The following report on the highlights of the Secretary’s luncheon with Dobrynin February 23 is made available for your information and on an eyes only basis. You will be aware of its exceptional sensitivity.

3. Report follows.

4. Begin text.

Dobrynin said that the Soviets had been thinking back on the Secretary’s meetings with Gromyko in Geneva.2 He said the Soviets had been prepared to announce the beginning of the START talks in those meetings. Gromyko had spent a lot of time getting ready for the Southern African issue and had made a clear offer. They have talked privately to the Cubans who are ready to withdraw. There has been no response from the U.S. side.

—On Afghanistan Dobrynin said he was surprised that despite what the Secretary had said in September and what was in the President’s letter to Brezhnev, nothing since has happened to get talks started at the expert level.

[Page 487]

—The Soviets, Dobrynin said, had drawn the conclusion that the U.S. doesn’t want the START talks. He said the Soviets have therefore decided they had to be prepared to wait this administration out—whether that was 3 years or 7 years. They were obviously dealing with an unfriendly administration in Washington. He said everything the U.S. had done was an insult to them. They would simply have to hunker down and live with it.

—The Secretary told Dobrynin not to attack the President or this administration. It was Soviet actions which had created this administration and the national mood—their actions in Afghanistan, Africa, the Middle East and now on top of it Poland. Dobrynin asked what it was that we wanted in Poland—what was our objective? The Secretary responded that there were two schools of thought. One was that we must seek a lifting of repression on the basis of our three conditions. That after all was the Soviets’ obligation from signing the Helsinki agreements.

—Another school of thought wants to change the face of the earth and roll back all of the injustices since Yalta. The Soviets should not draw conclusions based on rumors about that point of view.

Dobrynin noted that Poland was a vital security interest to the Soviets and we must understand that. The Secretary responded that we too have vital interests in the Western Hemisphere. Dobrynin said that the Soviet’s concern was that if Jaruzelski eases up the pressure, the situation will go back to where it was before and the Soviets will then have to repress even harder. The Secretary said our assessment is unless repression is lifted the Soviets will be faced with a situation in Poland that will blow up. Dobrynin replied that the Soviets differ on this assessment but nobody knows for sure. Haig agreed that nobody knows for sure but that everything tells us that it will blow.

—South Africa: Dobrynin asked what the U.S. expects of the Soviets in South Africa. The Secretary said we don’t want what you are now doing. Dobrynin denied the Soviets were up to anything and said the problem was that the Front Line states do not agree with the parliamentary system we have pulled together in the contact group. The Soviet Ambassador also said the French agree with the Soviets and were seriously considering pulling out of the Contact Group.

Dobrynin then pulled out a TASS report of statements by the Nicaraguans and Cubans and noted that the Cubans are ready to negotiate on our hemispheric problems. The Nicaraguans are also anxious to sit down with the U.S. He told the Secretary that these two statements reported today mean what they say and probably even more. He urged us to try them and see what happened. End of text.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, N820002–0406. Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Stadis. Drafted by Simons; cleared by Scanlan, Holmes, Eagleburger, and in S/S, S/S–O, and S; approved by Bremer.
  2. See Documents 137 and 138.