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

143520. Subject: Soviet Charge’s May 25 Call on Deputy Secretary Stoessel.

1. (S—Entire text.)

2. Begin summary. Calling on instructions May 25, Soviet Charge Bessmertnykh registered Soviet non-acceptance of U.S. conceptual approach as sole basis for beginning START negotiations and then proposed that negotiations begin in Geneva June 29, with announcement June 1. (We are staffing further discussion of modalities and this info is FYI only.) Bessmertnykh made further instructed comments, keyed to Secretary’s May 7 talk with Dobrynin,2 on Poland, the South Atlantic, Afghanistan, Southern Africa and the summit prospect, and there was an additional instructed comment on the Middle East. Stoessel read and gave Bessmertnykh text of nonpaper warning against Soviet and Cuban involvement in the Falklands crisis. EUR Assistant Secretary-designate Burt asked about Haig-Gromyko meeting at SSOD; Bessmertnykh said he expected to be back in touch soon. End summary.

3. Soviet Charge Aleksandr Bessmertnykh called at his request at 1000 hrs May 25 on Deputy Secretary Stoessel to make instructed comments on START, geopolitical issues discussed by Secretary and Dobrynin May 7, and Middle East. EUR AS designate Burt participated; EUR/SOV Director Simons was notetaker.

4. START substance. Bessmertnykh said he was instructed to provide additional considerations on the essence of the Soviet approach. Reading from notes, he said Brezhnev’s May 20 letter to the President3 sets forth the Soviet position of principle re negotiations on limitation and reduction of strategic arms. As should be clear from that letter, the Soviet side cannot agree that U.S. proposals on the substance of the problem, as formulated in the President’s May 9 speech, are of a realistic nature and that they are feasible and suitable as a subject of negotiations.

5. The Soviets have the definite impression, as do others, that the administration is approaching the negotiations with a clearly unacceptable, one-sided position, Bessmertnykh continued. It must be under[Page 566]stood that to declare a slogan of radical reductions is not enough, and that what is required is a basis for negotiations that would ensure achieving lower levels of opposing nuclear forces—and the Soviet side is for this—but without upsetting the existing balance or disrupting strategic stability. In other words we must be strictly guided by the principle of equality and equal security and must take each other’s interests into account.

6. The Soviets are convinced, he went on, that the interests of both sides would be served if negotiations were set on the right track from the very beginning, if they opened a realistic way to reach mutually acceptable agreement. It would be a mistake to believe that one side is more interested than the other in reaching such an agreement. The issues involved are too great and sensitive for that. Their resolution will determine not only the state of U.S.-Soviet relations in the future but also the prospects for preserving peace throughout the world. The Soviets believe negotiations should be conducted in a serious manner and not serve as a cover for a continued arms race.

7. START substance—U.S. response. Stoessel said we would study the Soviet comments carefully. As he had said before, we believe the U.S. proposals set forth in general terms by the President are reasonable and form a good basis for talks leading to reductions. The President also promised we would study all Soviet proposals. Burt noted the President had also stated nothing is excluded from the negotiation. Our focus is on the most destabilizing systems, but we are willing to look at other approaches too.

8. Stoessel asked if the Soviet statement concerning the basis for negotiation meant the Soviet side rejects the U.S. approach. Bessmertnykh specified that it meant the U.S. approach cannot be considered the sole conceptual basis for talks. It is not, however, a precondition for talks; he also had instructions concerning modalities. The Soviet statement means that each side has now made clear what it thinks the basic approach to talks should be. The Soviets do not accept that the U.S. line set forth by the President and elaborated by the Secretary is a feasible approach to negotiations; it is too one-sided.

9. START modalities. Proceeding to his instructions on “organizational aspects,” Bessmertnykh said:

—On venue, the Soviets find Geneva acceptable, and think it can be considered agreed.

—On time, the Soviets propose June 29, Tuesday.

—On “personalities,” the Soviet delegation will be led by Ambassador Karpov, known to the U.S. side from SALT, and he assumed the U.S. delegation would be led by General Rowny.

—On characterization, the Soviets propose “negotiations on limitation and reduction of strategic arms.” This reflects the subject more [Page 567] completely and more accurately, Bessmertnykh argued, since there are qualitative as well as quantitative limitations involved.

—On announcements, the Soviets propose a joint announcement June 1. Bessmertnykh commented he hoped the U.S. side would be back soon on this question, since the practice had been to inform the Swiss through instructions to our two Ambassadors in Switzerland beforehand.

10. START modalities: U.S. response. Stoessel said we welcome the specific Soviet ideas and will respond quickly. Burt would be in touch soon concerning the announcement. (FYI, we are staffing the next steps concerning the announcement, and this report on discussion of modalities is for your information only. End FYI.)

11. Bessmertnykh then proceeded to make instructed comments on the regional issues raised in the Secretary’s May 7 meeting with Ambassador Dobrynin.

12. Poland. Bessmertnykh said the Soviets would like to call our attention to the fact that the Polish leadership has taken a number of steps to normalize the situation. To turn a blind eye to this fact would be to ignore the actual situation in Poland deliberately. There is also evidence that there are forces which would like to complicate the normalization process artificially and to aggravate the situation both in and around Poland. The Polish authorities have facts concerning the involvement of the United States in this regard. If the U.S. side really wishes to see the situation in Poland calm down, it will have to renounce efforts to interfere in Polish affairs completely.

13. Poland—U.S. response. Stoessel replied that we reject the assertions about U.S. involvement in the type of activity mentioned, and continue to hope for progress toward stabilization and reconciliation. We had noted the steps taken, but our hopes had been dashed by the brutal repression of the demonstrations of May 13. This had caused great concern here. It was not a mark of progress. But we still continue to hope that Poland will return to the objectives Jaruzelski had identified after December 13: Release of the prisoners and resumption of dialogue with the church and the labor union.

14. Bessmertnykh rejoined that normalization is going on, in industry, in the flow of money back to Western banks and last, in transport. The situation is difficult, but normalization is on track. Stoessel concluded that too many Poles, including Walesa, are still locked up.

15. Afghanistan. Bessmertnykh said that re a political settlement of the situation around Afghanistan, the Soviets understand that the U.S. expressed interest in an appropriate exchange of views between the two countries at the level of experts. The Soviets have agreed to that, and the Secretary noted he would be addressing the issue concretely. The Soviets believe the matter is now up to the U.S. side.

[Page 568]

16. Afghanistan—U.S. response. Stoessel said we have the topic under active consideration.

17. South Atlantic. Bessmertnykh affirmed that the Soviet Union is not involved in developments in the South Atlantic, but this does not mean it is indifferent to what is going on in the region. The conflict around the Falklands/Malvinas is becoming increasingly dangerous due to British actions, he said, and creates a threat to peace and international security. The Soviet Union will determine its policy on this issue accordingly, including its policy in the United Nations. It believes that attempts to draw the issue into the context of East-West relations serve no useful purpose either for Soviet-American relations or for settlement of the conflict.

18. South Atlantic—U.S. response. In reply Stoessel read and presented Bessmertnykh with the text of a non-paper (text at conclusion of this message).

19. South Atlantic—discussion of Cuban role. With regard to the Cuban aspect mentioned in the U.S. non-paper, Bessmertnykh said he had two comments:

—If the U.S. is concerned with or has problems with Cuban activities, this should be the subject of discussions with the Cubans. (Stoessel interjected that they are well aware of our views.)

—Did the U.S. have facts, evidence, indications concerning Cuban involvement? These would be useful in clarification. Burt replied that we have clear indications the Cubans would like to become involved. Bessmertnykh said he would transmit the U.S. demarche to Moscow but concluded by urging the U.S. again to talk to the Cubans directly if it had problems.

20. Southern Africa. Bessmertnykh affirmed that from what the Secretary had said concerning a settlement it follows that the U.S. side sees a resolution of the Namibia problem to be gained by imposed conditions unacceptable to SWAPO—the only legitimate representative of the Namibian people—through the contact group (CG). There is no ground whatsoever, in the Soviet view, for the CG to determine precisely what serves the interests of the Namibian people, as is the case with the proposed electoral system. SWAPO has presented clear and unambiguous reasons why such a system cannot be accepted, and they are fully supported by the Front-Line states. The Soviet Union shares the SWAPO position, but it resolutely rejects the charge that the SWAPO position resulted from Soviet influence.

21. If the U.S. efforts are reduced to safeguarding the interests of only one side in a settlement, Bessmertnykh continued, that approach has no promise. And the Soviets cannot be expected to contribute. The Soviets have given the U.S. their views on how to achieve a just [Page 569] settlement in Namibia, and also to assure the security of Angola. They have not yet received an answer, although one was promised after AS Crocker’s trip to Africa. The question therefore arises as to whether Washington is still interested in a dialogue with the Soviets once favored by the U.S. side too.

22. Speaking personally, Bessmertnykh said the basic issue is that the Haig-Dobrynin talk made clear the U.S. blames the Soviet Union for SWAPO’s rejection of the electoral proposal, and this is simply not true.

23. Southern Africa—U.S. response. Stoessel said that in general we are interested in continuing our contacts and discussions on Southern Africa; we want to stay in dialogue. Neither the U.S. nor the contact group has any idea of imposing a system in Namibia. We had made some proposals. SWAPO had not accepted them, and this was regrettable because they were reasonable proposals. We are now considering next steps with regard to procedures. But our intention is to agree with SWAPO, and not to impose anything. We are also working within the context of the UN resolution. We have made progress in bringing the SAG along; our approach is not one-sided. We want a solution, and we hope the Soviets also have a favorable attitude toward one.

24. Bessmertnykh said the Soviets had seen reports of Crocker’s discussion with South African officials in Geneva and the CG meeting in Paris, and reports that we were proceeding with “stage II” even though “stage I” is not completed. Stoessel replied that these issues were still under consideration, and that more information could be made available by Crocker or by Burt; we would be glad to be in touch.

25. Middle East. Bessmertnykh said he wished to discuss one issue not treated in the May 7 Haig-Dobrynin meeting, and draw the Secretary’s attention to the “aggravating” situation in the Middle East, especially in Lebanon. The danger of an explosion there is growing, and it still has the same source: Israel. If urgent measures are not taken the situation could get out of control with unpredictable consequences. The U.S. and USSR acting together could do a lot to prevent it.

26. Middle East—discussion. Stoessel asked if the Soviets had anything specific in mind. Bessmertnykh said they do not; rather the whole area is cause for concern, and we could do important things together. Stoessel said the U.S. is also concerned and sees the situation as dangerous. We do not accept the statement that Israel is the source; the situation is much more complicated. We are communicating with all parties and urging restraint and respect for the ceasefire. In general it is being observed. We agree the situation is dangerous, and all parties should work to emphasize to the parties involved that restraint is necessary. Bessmertnykh noted that one reason why the ceasefire is holding, however precariously, is PLO restraint in face of Israeli raids.

27. U.S.-Soviet summit. Bessmertnykh said the Soviet side had noted the Secretary’s explanations, on the President’s instruction, con[Page 570]cerning a summit. They understand the President also believes it advisable to hold a thorough, full-scale meeting with careful prior preparation. The U.S. side is also aware of the Soviet suggestions on timing and venue for such a meeting. The Soviets consider it is up to the U.S. to say the next word. Stoessel said we are considering the question, and will be back in touch in due course.

28. Haig-Gromyko meeting at UN SSOD. Burt asked whether Bessmertnykh had anything to say concerning this possibility. Bessmertnykh said the Soviets had registered the Secretary’s remarks on television May 23 that the U.S. side welcomed the prospect. However, he had nothing at the moment concerning the composition of the Soviet SSOD delegation. He would pass on our comment to Gromyko and be back as soon as he had a reply. Stoessel confirmed that we would welcome such a meeting, and invited Bessmertnykh to be in touch when he had further information.

29. U.S. non-paper on the Falklands. Begin text:

Recent events in the South Atlantic crisis are of great concern to the United States Government and to all other governments which seek a peaceful resolution of the dispute. The intensification of military operations in the South Atlantic has already imposed a high human cost on both Argentina and the United Kingdom. We are also concerned that the conflict may widen, thus raising broader implications for peace and security in the region and globally.

As has been made clear in previous contacts with the Soviet side, our objective throughout the crisis has been to bring the conflict to a peaceful resolution at the earliest possible time with minimum loss of life and property. This was the basis of the mediation effort undertaken by Secretary Haig, and the U.S. support of UN Security Council Resolution 502. At the same time, our policy has been based on the principle that the first use of force is not a legitimate means of resolving international disputes. We continue to believe that this approach can serve as the basis of an international agreement to bring hostilities to a close and assist the parties in moving toward a negotiated resolution of their differences. The United States Government will continue to do everything in its power to achieve that objective.

In our view the South Atlantic crisis is not an East-West issue. At the same time, we have communicated with the Soviet side in order to ensure that there is no misunderstanding of our position. As we have previously made clear, involvement by the Soviet Union in the South Atlantic crisis would further inflame the situation and would have the most serious and far-reaching impact on the entire range of our bilateral relations.

We have discussed our concerns over Cuban activities in the hemisphere and beyond. The Soviet Union is aware that Cuban activities [Page 571] have serious implications for our bilateral relations. It should thus be clear that involvement by Cuba in the crisis would raise grave dangers and have a severe impact on efforts to achieve a more stable and productive bilateral relationship.

The Cuban Government should be made to understand that if it takes actions with regard to the Falklands dispute that are inimical to our interests, the United States will act as necessary to protect those interests. End text.

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S–I Records: Walter Stoessel Files, Lot 82D307, Memoranda of Conversation. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by Simons; cleared by Scanlan, Burt, Bremer, and in S/S–O; approved by Stoessel.
  2. See Document 168.
  3. See the attachment to Document 171.