16. Memorandum From Secretary of State Haig to President Reagan 1

1. Discussion With Ambassador Dobrynin: As I mentioned during Friday’s NSC meeting,2 I attended a small dinner party hosted by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Percy. Ambassador Dobrynin and our wives also attended. During the dinner, Senator Percy attempted to elicit from me Executive Branch commitments on future talks with the Soviet Union. Ambassador Dobrynin noted that his government was very concerned that your Administration would enter office with invective rather than pursuing quiet talks to explore and correct differences. Dobrynin made a strong pitch for SALT II and [Page 42] the desirability of saving resources on both sides for more urgent social needs. He stated that our logic was flawed in that SALT II would provide a cap on numbers of weapons and would enable us at the end of the five-year period to do whatever was necessary. I told Dobrynin that we had not entered with a predisposition towards invective but merely with a clear recognition of the character of Soviet international activity.

Your view was emphasized that the first order of business between us was the clear need to reach an understanding on standards of international conduct citing Afghanistan, Cambodia, the Yemens, Africa, and most recently stepped-up Cuban activity in this hemisphere. Dobrynin’s response was uncharacteristically reasonable. He insisted that the Soviet Union was ready to discuss a phased withdrawal of Russian forces from Afghanistan in perhaps a year or two and a future non-aligned status for that country. Dobrynin was clearly pressing for a commitment to begin talks on almost any subject. He was rather defensive on Poland when I raised the grave consequences of Soviet intervention there. Dobrynin speculated that the situation was worse and stated solemnly that the Soviets would do whatever was necessary in Poland.

In sum, I informed Dobrynin that we were not seeking a return to the cold war per se, but that I personally felt it would be necessary for us to witness some evidence of restraint and with this in hand, the first order of business would be the need to establish criteria for standards of international conduct. Only then would functionally oriented dialogues such as arms control, trade credits, and technology be possible.3 (S)

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the Soviet Union.]

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Meese Files, Box CFOA 28, Secretary of State February 1981–July 1981 (1). Secret.
  2. See Document 15.
  3. On February 9, Stoessel met with Dobrynin, who was about to leave for Moscow, and reported back to Haig. “Dobrynin repeated the litany of Soviet complaints and probed for US attitudes and policies that he could convey to the Soviet leadership,” Haig wrote Reagan the next day, “Stoessel pressed Dobrynin hard on Soviet support of terrorism, our view of their lack of restraint, and Cuban subversive activities. On Poland, Stoessel stressed the serious consequences of Soviet intervention and our hope that the Poles could solve their problems themselves. On Afghanistan, he made clear to Dobrynin that the Soviet occupation there was totally incompatible with Brezhnev’s proposals of last December about guarantees of security in the Persian Gulf area. Throughout the conversation, Dobrynin suggested that some form of US-Soviet contact would soon be desirable, although he understood there would be a pause before formal discussions of particular problems could be undertaken. Stoessel took note but did not comment.” (Memorandum from Haig to Reagan, February 10; Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S–I Records, The Executive Secretariat’s Special Caption Documents, Lot 92D630, “Evening Reading: Jan–June 1981”)