147. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

2615. Subject: Alkhimov on US/Soviet Relations. Ref: Moscow 2320.2

1. (C—Entire text.)

2. At dinner on March 3, Gosbank Chairman Alkhimov expanded on themes he had discussed with Ambassador Hartman on Feb. 24 (reftel). In long conversation with Econ Couns Alkhimov said that US and USSR were acting like children, letting themselves be led around by the nose by small countries. When Econ Couns cited Afghanistan and Poland as reasons why the American public had become disillusioned with Soviet intentions, Alkhimov said that as far as he was concerned “Afghanistan is a mistake, and we are paying for it.” As for Poland, the Poles do what they want for better or for worse and the USSR cannot control them. Alkhimov again expressed concern that while President Reagan probably understands the real issues of peace [Page 497] and disarmament, he may be surrounded by advisers who give him bad advice. Again and again, he returned to his main idea which is that Presidents Brezhnev and Reagan should get together to discuss the issues, and they may well find it possible to make real progress. When Econ Couns suggested that there would need to be careful preparation for such a summit, and at least the prospect of achievement during it, Alkhimov seemed to dismiss both points as of secondary importance: the important thing was for the two leaders to talk to each other. Asked whether he sometimes broached this idea with his colleagues in the Council of Ministers, Alkhimov said he did and then everyone disagreed with each other. “Probably the same thing happens in Washington,” he added.

3. During the evening both Alkhimov and one of his Deputy Chairmen, Pekshev, separately raised the visit of Under Secretary Buckley, with Econ Couns. They both seemed rather anxious about it. Econ Couns, interrupted both times by other guests, said that he did not know the precise dates of the visit but understood that Under Secretary Buckley was going to listen to the views of Europeans.

4. Efforts to obtain information about the Soviet hard currency shortage from Alkhimov, Pekshev or Foreign Trade Bank Deputy Chairman Nikitkin proved fruitless. Alkhimov changed the subject, Pekshev, despite his position at Gosbank, disclaimed any knowledge of the subject, and Nikitkin said there was no problem, and promptly launched into a story about three girls on a raft who thought they had a problem. Comment: It is clear that availability of hard currency is not a favorite subject of conversation among Moscow bankers.

5. Alkhimov also had kind words about Ambassador Hartman whom he described as an intelligent, experienced diplomat. He suggested jocularly that Ambassadors Dobrynin and Hartman should be kept in each other’s capitals and not allowed to return to their homes until relations between the two countries improve.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D820116–0868. Confidential. Sent for information to Belgrade, Berlin, Bucharest, Budapest, Warsaw, Leningrad, Prague, Sofia, and the U.S. Mission to NATO.
  2. See Document 144.