153. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Ambassador Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, USSR
  • Eugene V. Rostow, Director, ACDA

The Director lunched with Ambassador Dobrynin on 1 April 1982, at a Washington restaurant. Rostow was returning Dobrynin’s hospitality on an earlier occasion. The tone was relaxed and cordial.

After the conversation had covered most of the topics mentioned in the enclosed list of talking points,2 Rostow gave Dobrynin a copy, which he read attentively and put in his pocket.

1. Dobrynin expressed a personal interest in the possibility of a joint Soviet American approach to the ICRC for some sort of study or enquiry into the charges of Soviet use of chemical and biological weapons in Asia. He thought Rostow should develop a more detailed plan, which Dobrynin would then discuss with Rostow and send on to Moscow. Dobrynin thought we should not mention the Cuban Missile Crisis precedent, which would be irritating in Moscow. Meanwhile, certain questions occurred to him. What would be the relation of such a group to the UN body? Would a Soviet and an American scientist be on the panel? How big would it be? Rostow undertook to prepare a more concrete proposal and come back with it shortly.

2. Dobrynin expressed a positive view of our suggestion that the next round of the INF talks would have to tackle the problem of data and the achievement of an agreed data base, as comprehensive as possible. He made no objections of principle, and seemed to indicate that Soviet thinking was along the same lines. He had pressed hard on the importance of the British and French systems to the “unsophisticated” Soviet members of the Politburo, who could not understand why those systems were not part of the NATO arsenal. Rostow countered by recalling Ambassador Nitze’s presentation at Geneva of the six Soviet errors on the subject of the British and French systems. Dobrynin said that while, as a chess player, he appreciated the elegance of Ambassador Nitze’s arguments, the plain, simple men of the Politburo were not impressed by such reasoning. If we could only solve this problem, he was sure many other problems could be solved. With all our wonder[Page 511]ful experts about Soviet life available to us, why weren’t we more sensitive to the nature of the Russian temperament? (He sounded this theme with variations a number of times during the lunch, evoking a touching picture of staunch, sturdy, rather angry Russian peasant-patriots.) Rostow replied that if we could reach agreement on the figures, so that we were not confronting a different method of calculation every time we turned around, it might be possible to see the British-French problem and many other issues in a more realistic perspective.

3. On START, Dobrynin seemed satisfied with the indications in the President’s statement3 and in the press about when START would start. Dobrynin was more interested in two other points: the unit of account and the linkage to the evolution of events in Poland. On the unit of account, he asked about the accuracy of the Newsweek story,4 and seemed comfortable with all its implications, as had been the case in their talk several months earlier. Rostow reported to him his conversation with Kvitsinskiy about the “Nitze” as a way of measuring the destructive power of nuclear weapons. Dobrynin wondered helpfully, “why not a Rostow?” On political linkage, he said that some people in Moscow bristled at the idea of linking the course of events in Poland to START. Poland was an internal problem. Rostow replied that this was not a matter for irritation or anger. In his speech before the CD in Geneva, Rostow had listed a number of factors making the course of events in Poland a matter of international concern. President Reagan had made a constructive proposal for initiating a peaceful resolution of the crisis in December—a proposal that fully respected the legitimate security interests of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe. Those ideas should be addressed soon seriously and without anger.

4. The conversation did not go far on verification, because of the passage of time, but Dobrynin did note that his assurances to Rostow at their previous lunch were not “private” but official.

Eugene V. Rostow
  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC: Agency File, Arms Control & Disarmament Agency (4/12/82–4/15/82). Secret.
  2. Not attached.
  3. On March 31, Reagan opened his news conference with a statement calling for “an agreement on strategic nuclear weapons that reduces the risk of war, lowers the level of armaments, and enhances global security.” (Public Papers: Reagan, 1982, vol. I, pp. 398–405)
  4. Reference is to David M. Alpern, et al., “A New Outcry Over Nukes,” Newsweek, March 29, 1982, p. 18.