17. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State-Designate for Political Affairs (Stoessel) to Secretary of State Haig 1


  • Discussion with Senator Kassebaum on Grain Embargo

Senator Kassebaum called this evening from Kansas and wished to talk with you about the various factors involved in the grain embargo problem. In your absence, I talked with her.

She said she understood many of the foreign policy aspects militating against lifting the embargo but said she is obviously getting many questions from farmers in her state about this subject, with many of them underlining the point about the unfairness of the grain embargo since it applies only to one sector of the economy. She also said that the market has been depressed for two weeks and that the continuing uncertainty about a decision on the embargo may be contributing to this.

She said she was tending herself to think that it might be preferable to continue the grain embargo but accompany this with a total embargo on all trade with the USSR. I told her that such a step probably would not be supported by our allies and would not be effective in cutting off Soviet imports from the West; moreover, it might be seen as a move which would further inflame tensions at a time when they are already high. The Senator said she understood these points and that she would hold off making a public recommendation for a total embargo.

Another alternative, she felt, would be to lift the embargo with the understanding that we would then enter into negotiations with the Soviets for a long term agreement and would make clear that we would be tough in our negotiating stance. I told her I thought lifting the embargo and agreeing to go into negotiations—no matter how tough we would be—risked giving the wrong signal to the Soviets and to the allies, particularly in view of Soviet pressures on Poland.

We also discussed the possibility of simply delaying a decision for a certain period. The Senator felt that this might be feasible, although she said the farmers—while not “up in arms”—will be pressing for a decision one way or the other before too long.

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The Senator noted that she would be meeting with the President February 17 together with other Senators on the embargo. She said many of her contacts expect a decision to come from this meeting, but she will advise them that this may not be the case.2

I gathered from our talk that the Senator is understanding of all of the complications involving the embargo and desires to be as helpful as possible. She has not made up her own mind as to the best course of action and indicated that she might be back in touch with you or with me to discuss the situation further.

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretary, S/S–I Records: Walter Stoessel Files, Lot 82D307, P—Stoessel Classified Chron 1981 Jan–June. Confidential. A stamped notation indicates Haig saw the memorandum. Haig wrote in the upper right-hand corner: “Item to discuss w/Pres,” and initialed the memorandum.
  2. An unknown hand drew a vertical line to the right of this paragraph. Reagan met with a bipartisan group of members of Congress on February 17 from 2 to 2:45 p.m. in the Indian Treaty Room in the Old Executive Office Building to discuss the grain embargo. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) No memorandum of conversation for the meeting was found. “Those from farm states want it lifted,” he wrote in his diary. “I explained we’d made no decision but while I was against the embargo we had to worry about making a concession to the Soviets without some Quid Pro Quo. It might send a wrong message.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, Vol. I, p. 20)