187. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Private Meeting Between Secretary Haig and Minister Gromyko


  • US

    • Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig
    • Cyril Muromcew, Interpreter
  • USSR

    • Foreign Minister Andrey A. Gromyko
    • Victor Sukhodrev, MFA, USSR

Foreign Minister Gromyko suggested to Secretary Haig that they continue where they had left off the previous day.2 Gromyko would briefly answer Haig’s questions, concentrating on the topic of US-Soviet relations, strategic arms, medium-range missiles in Europe and on the Soviet position of non-first-use of nuclear arms.

Gromyko said that the last topic logically related to Haig’s last statement. Gromyko wished to stress first of all that the Soviet Union has not violated any obligations assumed under bilateral arrangements with the US or other international obligations. There were no violations of any kind. Gromyko added that the document mentioned by Haig previously dealing with US-Soviet relations, and the obligation undertaken not to take any step to harm the other side or take advantage of it, was still valid. Gromyko emphasized that his side did not, does not [Page 606] and will not do any harm to the US side and he categorically rejected any reproaches made by the US side.

However, the Soviet Union had solid grounds to reproach the US because even now as Gromyko and Haig are conducting their talks, the US side has undertaken political steps designed to harm the Soviet Union.3 At first glance this issue as announced in Washington may seem to be of an economic nature only. But only at first glance. As Haig should know, international economic affairs are so closely interwoven with politics that they cannot be separated. Gromyko did not think it necessary to be specific as to the steps taken by the US side. It sufficed to say that statements in Washington referred to the Soviet Union and to certain economic problems. There are, Gromyko continued, certain diplomatic niceties that are usually observed. What happened in Washington was a gross, tactless act, not acceptable in international relations where tact is needed. Gromyko saw in this a violation of elementary diplomatic norms. Within hours of the meeting between Gromyko and Haig this announcement was made in Washington while the two Ministers were discussing issues of war and peace. He accused Haig of ignoring all norms of international behavior, adding that these were trampled underfoot just to harm the Soviet Union.

To continue the same line of thought, Gromyko wanted to make it clear that the Soviet Union has never undertaken any action in the international arena to implant revolutions in other countries. Revolutions in other countries, when a new social regime follows an old one, happen due to internal developments in those countries and cannot be imported from without. To insist that this is so amounts to hysterical illiteracy. The Russian revolution of 1917 was not implanted, was not brought to Russia from without, it was not imported. The Russian people did it all themselves. If one tries to implant a revolution then it is an episode of very short duration. Serious changes, so-called social revolutions, are due to internal causes of a given country. Gromyko had to categorically refute the notion that the reason for social changes in Cuba, in Vietnam, in Afghanistan, in Kampuchea and other countries was due to Soviet policy. In some countries where the changes took place, there were no Soviet diplomats, no representatives and no diplomatic representation. It would be superficial to think that the export of revolutions was a part of the arsenal of the Soviet Union.

As for situations in other regions of the world, Gromyko and Haig have previously agreed to discuss them and Gromyko would not evade it now. During their previous talks, Gromyko and Haig referred to [Page 607] these topics as geographical questions, so he proposed to address now the situations in various parts of the world and proposed to move in an organized fashion from topic to topic. He added that each side had the right to raise any question it wanted to discuss.

As for nuclear arms, he felt that everything had been said before and Gromyko had nothing to add to that score now. However, he wished to note with all clarity that no one should miscalculate the grave consequences of a nuclear war. What consequences there would be for the US and the Soviet Union was well known. Therefore, no one, especially those who hold the tiller and steer the policy of a country, should make such a miscalculation. No one has the right to make such a fatal mistake. The Soviet Union knows that only a madman who has lost touch with reality cannot comprehend the consequences of a nuclear war. He asked Haig to bear in mind that in the Soviet Union the people regard this problem with utmost seriousness and gravity and are aware of the dangers of a nuclear conflict. There was no greater problem facing mankind today than the avoidance of a nuclear war. For this was a matter of life and death. In international politics there is now a duel going on, that is to say those who value the concept of life and those who are against it. This encounter may end in a catastrophe.

Gromyko felt that he had answered all the questions pertaining to a nuclear conflict and would hope that Haig would regard them with a great deal of attention. Gromyko wanted to add that his side always weighs Haig’s words and all statements of the US President. He asked Haig again to do the same and to weigh Gromyko’s words and to try to understand his thoughts, the development of his thoughts and his analysis of the situation.

Haig expressed his gratitude to Gromyko for the response and the exchange of views. Haig felt that the question of a nuclear conflict was very clear to the US side, and the President of the US fully recognizes the problem and also the growing danger of a miscalculation. However, as the nuclear inventory increases, the other side feels free and compelled to do the same to match the first side. Haig felt no need to point a finger at the side that was the first to start the nuclear arms race. He knew that the Soviet Union might hold a different point of view on the situation. He wished to emphasize again that the President was fully committed to the goal of a verifiable decrease in nuclear arms. The details of this will be further discussed in Geneva during the START talks.

About revolutions, Haig continued, there were different ways to subscribe to these concepts because there were just revolutions aimed at improving social conditions and introducing a new, just system. There were also revolutions which were transplanted from other coun[Page 608]tries. He did not want to challenge the Russian theory on revolutions, but history has been transformed by revolutions which contained seeds of social justice. However, looking back, he cannot fail to notice that now the Soviet Union is using force to preserve the status quo. As an example, Afghanistan wanted to introduce political reforms and changes. Force was used to stop them. Such changes take place in other parts of the world too. In Poland, for instance, there was a complete change of the situation where an attempt for reform led to the use of force by the present regime. Therefore, there is a new phase in history, and there is a certain reversal in the way countries react to revolutions. The powerful forces which desire a change may be greater threats to peace than just nuclear arms, because the latter are only tools in the hands of man. The two countries, Haig continued, cannot ignore the tensions existing between East and West. Therefore, if the two powers are serious in preventing a danger of a nuclear encounter, they must deal with other aspects of the East-West confrontation.

Haig then addressed Gromyko’s statement about a certain announcement made in Washington the previous day. Haig assured Gromyko that this move was not preconceived to coincide with the present meeting. It was an unrelated event, and Haig had to reiterate that the US does not believe in waging economic war against the Soviet Union. The decision which was previously taken related to events in Poland alone. Haig would return to this topic shortly.

In previous exchanges between the two countries, the Soviet Union has stated it has the right to support wars of liberation. The US side could do this too, but such actions could lead to increased tensions in the future and have a pervasive effect on the relations between the two powers. He felt that cooperation was necessary and that the two powers should use their influence to improve the atmosphere. Having made this general historical review, Haig wanted to conclude that it was not for the US to exploit certain situations to aggravate them and to jeopardize interests of the Soviet Union. But the US side reserved the right to take measures if the Soviet Union does not join in an improvement of East-West relations. Such a move would benefit both sides. The US was ready to cooperate fully and was equally prepared to join in any meaningful cooperative venture to improve the situation. It was clear to Haig that there were hot spots in the world, and he called upon Gromyko for cooperation in these areas on a basis of reciprocity and equality. If an overall understanding cannot be reached, it is likely that difficulties may arise in many different areas of US-Soviet relations. Haig would ask Gromyko to inform his leadership that in the US all doors are open, all opportunities are there and President Reagan is fully prepared to work across the whole spectrum to improve East-West relations.

[Page 609]

Gromyko replied that he, too, shared Haig’s concerns but wished to continue with a review of the world situation and concentrate on some countries mentioned by Haig. But mainly he wanted to evaluate the situation in regions where tension does exist. He then wanted to evaluate US policy in certain parts of the world and finally what can be done to solve certain problems and relax tensions in these areas.

In previous discussions, he and Haig mentioned Cuba. In Gromyko’s view, Cuba is an independent, sovereign country and the social system in that country is up to the Cuban people. The US is trying to pressure Cuba because Cuba has chosen the road to socialism. The US holds a part of that country, namely the Guantanamo Base, which is a military base, and can only be regarded as such. Leave Cuba in peace, Gromyko pleaded, for Cuba was not a threat to the United States, absolutely not. Is Cuba a threat to any Latin American country or Latin American people or to the US?, he asked. If you ask this question of any Latin American, he will only smile. Leave Cuba alone because otherwise the situation there will never become normal; the US blockade was not justified. Cuba should conduct its own domestic and social affairs the way it wishes. Please establish normal relations with Cuba. Gromyko asked that the US refrain from sending emissaries to Cuba, some in civilian clothes who talk softly, then again those with military shoulder boards who irritate the Cubans. By normalizing relations with Cuba, the US will gain a two-fold advantage: relations with that country would be normal and an irritating element in US-Soviet relations would also disappear.

In Nicaragua, Gromyko continued, the situation is similar to that in Cuba, that is, the situation is not normal. You pressure Nicaragua; you know it better than we do. You tell Nicaragua which is a small and weak country, what government to have, what social order to install and how to live, and we have to condemn your attitude. Furthermore, neither Cuba or Nicaragua, together or separately, can do anything to other countries and certainly cannot harm the US. You said that Cuba and Nicaragua are doing something to turn other South American countries against the United States. This is a distorted view because they do not do it. If you have such information, it is unrelated to the true state of affairs and would be another case of suspicion and disinformation that is rampant and excessive in your capital.

Previously you also mentioned El Salvador and I cannot ignore this issue. It will take a long time to remove that blot from the page of your history because this is a blood bath. People are getting killed. There is no justice. You know better than we how many people have perished, but even what we know makes us shudder. You replace one puppet with another puppet. You use methods which cannot be justified, and you will be held responsible for it. Let the El Salvador [Page 610] people determine their own social and economic relations. Let them improve relations with other countries without any interference from Washington. The people in El Salvador are not against you. They want peace with their neighbors, with the US which is a big country, and they want to be left alone.

Gromyko continued that although much time had been devoted to the Angolan question both in Geneva and in New York, much remains to be done to improve the situation and to find ways to normalize the situation in Angola, Namibia and South Africa which carried out aggression against Angola and Namibia. In that context, there could also be a discussion of the question of Cuban troops in Angola. Gromyko felt that he and Haig were at one time not far apart on some issues regarding the above and expected the US to act in a certain way. However, he felt that now Washington has bypassed certain arrangements and he was puzzled by it. There was a joint Angolan and Cuban statement in which it was stated that Cuban troops will leave Angola when South African aggression has stopped, when Namibia has gained independence and the security of Angola had been assured. If this was solved, there would be no obstacle to the departure of Cuban troops. Nor would there be if the Angolan government asks the Cuban troops to leave. Therefore, as Gromyko saw it, it was an either/or situation. The Soviet Union expected Washington to welcome this declaration and to use its influence in South Africa to bring this about. But instead, Washington did nothing about it. Perhaps Washington took this issue too lightly. So, to repeat, Cuban troops will leave Angola when there is no aggression from South Africa, when there is an independent Namibia, and he felt that these issues could be solved and would be good for US-Soviet relations. But instead the US remained indifferent—yes, yes, Gromyko knew that the US maintained certain contacts there, but there was no direction to that policy and no progress is visible. Gromyko would like to clarify this policy with Haig; was there a change in US policy, or is it simply inertia on the part of the US?

Gromyko wished to leave the Middle East aside for a moment and move on to the Afghanistan problem. He reminded Haig of the discussion about meetings between Soviet and US experts on the Afghanistan question. Points of contact were established but then US interest seemed to have cooled. To sum up the Soviet position: the Soviet Union would like to see an independent, nonaligned, repeat nonaligned, Afghanistan. Withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan would be at the request of the Afghanistan government which originally invited Soviet troops to come in, and if outside intervention ceased, by which Gromyko meant no gangs infiltrating from Pakistan and, to some degree, from Iran. If such intervention would stop, then Soviet troops could be pulled out of Afghanistan. If not, it is clear that [Page 611] Soviet troops will stay there and do their duty. Then let the foreign gangs invade that country for they will be ground up and massacred by the defending forces. This would not be in the US interest. Furthermore, a settlement in Afghanistan would remove tensions in that part of Asia. This would be one less irritant in US-Soviet relations. Such were Gromyko’s views on Afghanistan.

Next Gromyko wished to move on to Kampuchea. First of all, Gromyko wished to stress an anomaly at the UN, where this country was represented by the Pol Pot henchmen. He did not know whether this suited US policy or whether it was simply a case of inertia. The time will come, Gromyko was sure, when real representatives of the Kampuchean people will sit in the UN. Gromyko wanted to stress that Pol Pot was a politically dead entity and it was an ugly act to impose this puppet regime from without. It would be good if the US would adopt a more realistic policy in Kampuchea, and the sooner the better. By doing so, this would also lessen tensions in that part of the world.

The situation in Vietnam and in Laos was viewed in a positive spirit by the Soviet Union. If the US would establish relations, based on international norms and on the UN Charter, the Soviet Union would only be glad to see such a development.

Gromyko would also hope that the US will stop driving wedges between certain nations and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was against such a policy and it never applied such measures itself. As an example, Gromyko could name several countries in Latin America. Everytime the Soviet Union speaks to these nations it makes it very clear that it does not want to harm the relations between Latin American countries and the US. The Soviet Union has no wedges to drive between countries. In fact, it has no specialists to make wedges and would have to ask for US assistance to make wedges and then the US would impose sanctions on wedges.

As for Poland, Gromyko continued, he was not about to discuss it with the US or any other country. The Polish question was an internal Polish question and again no representative of the Soviet government will discuss this problem with any other country of the world. The Poles and only the Poles are competent to resolve their own affairs. Washington is making a mistake by undertaking gross steps against Poland or the Soviet Union and artifically linking these two countries together. It may give the US some momentary political capital, but no long-range advantage.

In your Administration today, Gromyko continued, those who believe in short-range advantages have gained the upper hand and try to pressure Poland. Gromyko was sure that Washington had levers numbered one, two, three, four and perhaps many more that they could pull at will to pressure Poland and at the same time not miss [Page 612] the occasion to step on the Soviet Union’s toes. Gromyko believed that it would be more realistic to take the long-range view and not think that what the Polish government does is due to pressure from the Soviet Union. This is a fatal and erroneous concept and the Soviet Union rejects this categorically. What can be more authoritative than the declarations made by the Soviet leadership and by the Polish leadership concerning the situation in Poland? Gromyko would like to hope that the US Administration will adopt a more realistic policy towards Poland and stop pressure, sanctions, and similar actions often not of a very clean nature. It would be best to maintain normal relations and to draw proper conclusions and not blame the Soviet government for it.

Gromyko concluded that he had now covered all areas and questions raised by Haig and would hope that the US Administration will devote some attention to it. But before closing he wanted to say a few words about China. The Soviet Union knew the nature of US relations with China and there were no well-kept secrets there. He would like to repeat what he had already told Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter that, it would be best in US-China relations not to look at momentary advantages but to look at the long-range prospect and not to forget interests and perspectives of US-Soviet relations and not to ignore the general situation of the world because this was the key to permanent peace. Gromyko wanted to stress that aid to China which included armaments could be against the interests of the Soviet Union and its security. Gromyko wished to assure Haig that his government kept these developments clearly in their field of vision. That completed Gromyko’s main coverage.

Haig replied that he felt less than satisfied with the progress made since their last meeting and attributed it to a number of factors.

As for the Cuban situation, Haig said that the US had no interest in interfering in the internal affairs of Cuba. However, the US was concerned by the export of arms, revolution and terrorism from Cuba to other countries. This was an unsatisfactory state of affairs. The US has talked with Cuban leaders such as Mr. Rodriguez, and General Walters talked to Mr. Castro about normalization of relations and US willingness to do so. But deeds and acts show otherwise. However, progress could be reported in such areas as the elections in El Salvador, although there was an increase in arms shipments from Cuba to terrorist bands in El Salvador. But the people of El Salvador showed clearly their choice. While the Soviet Union was concerned about US arms to China, the US was concerned about arms from Cuba to Nicaragua and Haig wanted this to be clearly understood. Haig repeated that the US would welcome a normalization of relations with Cuba, but Cuban intervention in friendly countries and in Nicaragua spoke against it. It was clear what the Nicaraguan people wanted and they were against [Page 613] the Sandinista policy. The US offered an eight-point proposal4 and will explore the possibilities in the weeks ahead. However, the US will not accept interference in El Salvador, will not tolerate terrorism and will not tolerate interference in Honduras. There is no doubt that South American countries are appalled by the situation in Nicaragua. It is up to the Nicaraguan people to make the choice and, as for El Salvador, what Gromyko called a blot is a manifestation of the strength of the free spirit of the Salvadoran people, as could be seen in the number of votes cast in the elections. The people of El Salvador want to be free of external interference and internal subversion. The social reform program as a result of the elections in El Salvador is a success.

On the subject of Angola and Namibia, Haig wanted to assure Gromyko that the US was active and was able to make South Africa respond to the UN Resolution 435, which was an unprecedented success. Haig also referred to his communication with Ambassador Dobrynin regarding this problem. Haig felt that the presence of Cuban soldiers in Angola during the last six years was unacceptable and the time for them to leave has come. The Angolan government and the Angolan people suffer from internal conflicts and foreign insurgents in the southern part of the country. The South African government is concerned about raids across the border into Namibia. There was a three-phase proposal concerning SWAPO, South Africa and the Front-Line States but the Soviet Union advised SWAPO to reject it, although the plan was reluctantly accepted by South Africa.

South Africa proposed a plan for Namibian independence by next year. This was endorsed by the Front-Line States and SWAPO and now a trigger was needed to set it in motion, namely the withdrawal of Cuban soldiers from Angola. Haig felt that the Soviet Union could help with this problem by confirming that Cuban soldiers will indeed leave. This in turn would influence South African withdrawal from Namibia. There would be no public linkage of these events, but they would have to occur simultaneously. The US would support such a development. Haig felt that this opportunity should not be missed, otherwise the Front-Line States and other African countries would lay blame where it belongs. Haig stressed that the US was seeking no advantage for itself in that part of the world other than the pullout of superpowers, which would leave these countries to decide their own fate. He mentioned that Assistant Secretary Crocker discussed these issues with Soviet Deputy Minister Korniyenko the previous day. Haig repeated that US and Soviet interests were very similar, and the two powers could cooperate to obtain desired results, namely independent [Page 614] Namibia which South Africa was ready to recognize. But if the opportunity is missed, South Africa will take matters into her own hands and a long conflict would ensue which would be a tragedy to the whole region. Haig would welcome Gromyko’s comments on the above.

Gromyko replied that as for Cuban troops in Angola, he saw an organic connection between the cessation of South African aggression against Angola, South African pullout from Namibia, a free Namibia as a nonaligned state and the pullout of Cuban troops from Angola. Gromyko wondered what would happen if Cuban troops would leave but aggression against Angola (air raids) does not stop, if Namibia does not become a state and if South Africa remains in Namibia. The Soviet Union was not seeking a subterfuge there, but then again there are voices in Washington which claim that Cubans will remain in Angola forever and ever. No credence should be given to such voices.

Haig replied that the critical point in the settlement of the problem was near. He felt that contacts should be kept up and indicated that he would be in touch with Ambassador Dobrynin within a week or two.

Concerning Afghanistan, Haig was well aware of the difficulties involved in self-determination of that country and would be willing to have experts of the two sides meet in Moscow in July to discuss the Afghanistan issue. Haig was sure that Gromyko was aware of the US basic attitudes. The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General held informal discussions with the Government of Pakistan. Bilateral discussions should look at the existing gaps which were known to Gromyko. The US side was interested in normalizing the situation in Afghanistan, in a truly nonaligned government in Kabul, a program for national reconstruction and reconciliation, provisions for the return of refugees and the total pullout of Soviet forces. All this was not an easy task, but the US was prepared to have its experts examine the differences. However, Haig did not wish to imply that he agreed with all of Gromyko’s observations, but, Haig continued, he was here to communicate and not to discuss history.

Haig then turned to Kampuchea. He felt that memory was short concerning the invasion of that country and the installation of a certain regime. It was not US inertia but the willingness on the part of the US to let the people of the region determine their fate and solve their problems. Hanoi has isolated itself from the international community by illegally occupying Kampuchea. Pol Pot was not a US choice and the US rejected him as a tyrant. At the same time, the present regime there was also tyrannical. Washington and Moscow would benefit if North Vietnam would pull out its troops, if a referendum could be held about self-determination in that region. In addition, Moscow would not have to bear the substantial costs of that operation. The US is willing to work with Hanoi only if Hanoi pulls out of Kampuchea and allows the people self-determination.

[Page 615]

The situation in Laos is ambiguous, there are conflicting forces and influences but a normalization there would be desirable. Nations of that region should take the lead and the US would be willing to cooperate but so far has met with intransigence.

Haig then turned to the Polish question, which he regarded as difficult and an obstacle to East-West relations. He felt that no expert or student of the situation would exclude a collapse in Poland during the summer or fall. This in turn could lead to total anarchy. He felt that the relaxation of present measures would involve a certain risk, but to improve relations it would be necessary to introduce a reform along the lines proposed by US and West European countries. This would consist of the following: a dialogue with Solidarity, a release of prisoners, but most importantly, release of Lech Walesa who would conduct the dialogue with the regime. It was clear that resentment was deep-seated in Poland and that there may be difficulties. However, the continuation of the status quo will unleash difficulties not only of an economic but also of a political nature. Polish leaders should attempt a normalization of conditions and not preserve the status quo. The US side was not rigid in its view and would respond to any meaningful move. But the release of Walesa, who is a symbol to the Polish people, was essential, as was a role for the Polish church, since it is an element of moderation. Some prisoners would have to be released, and martial law would have to be removed because it represented a state of oppression. Haig also wished to make an observation that the US is deeply concerned about the situation in Poland and that there might be more trouble on the horizon. Western powers could bring no relief unless certain steps were first taken by the Polish regime. The weeks and months ahead could be very difficult and the US side could see the dilemma that the Polish regime was facing.

As for China, Haig assured Gromyko that the US did not believe its relations with that country should affect its relations with the Soviet Union. This policy goes back to the early 70’s. The US was interested in maintaining good relations with one billion Chinese, but Haig assured Gromyko that President Reagan will never play the China card nor will the US do anything in relations with China that would undermine its relations with the Soviet Union. Haig repeated that the China card is not in the US lexicon. Returning to a statement by Gromyko, in which he accused the US of trying to veto the relations between the Soviet Union and Cuba, Haig now felt that Gromyko should not veto US relations with China.

As for Cuba, Haig felt that the statement by Cuban Vice President Rodriguez in the United Nations was an outrage to the US and to world opinion. That the source of Cuban arms was in Moscow was well known. The statement by Rodriguez that the shipments occurred [Page 616] before the increased tension in the area is a manifestation of Cuban offensive activity in that area.

In summing up the discussion of regional issues, Haig felt that the review was useful but the level of actual progress had declined. Haig would hope to narrow the differences of opinion on South Africa, on Afghanistan and other issues that were still to be solved. He felt that it would be a tragedy for the American and the Soviet people to squander valuable resources in difficult times.

Haig said he wanted to move now to several bilateral issues, such as the consulates in New York and Kiev and human rights, which were sensitive to the Soviet Union but presented a political problem in the United States. Haig could give details not as an irritant but as examples of a burden and an obstacle to better relations. The President was receiving daily letters and appeals concerning Jewish emigration and on behalf of such individuals as Shcharanskiy. Then there are the START talks to think about. As for tensions in Afghanistan, in Poland and human rights—the new Administration does not display a rigid mentality but it reflects the attitude of the American people. Many people react to small things; they react positively to positive gestures.

Haig started to ask Gromyko about his press conference on Monday, but Gromyko asked to speak on the Middle East first. Gromyko did not wish to trade accusations about Cuba but asked again that the U.S. not pressure Cuba and start building normal relations with that country on the basis of the UN Charter and international legal norms. “Do not throw stones into our garden—as the Russian proverb goes,” he added. As for China, there was of course no veto on any relations between any countries, but he felt that US-Chinese relations might be developing at the expense of Soviet security, which was a concern to the Soviet Union. Gromyko would hope that the present US Administration would understand this Soviet position. He assured Haig that the Soviet Union will follow US-Chinese relations with great interest and adjust its policy accordingly.

Gromyko then turned to the situation in the Middle East. Gromyko wanted Haig to know that the Soviet Union was highly indignant at the Israeli aggression against Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and in Syria and he regarded it as a highly gross aggression and a gross provocation. The responsibility for it was not only Israel’s; the US was also responsible for it to a high degree. Looking at it realistically, Gromyko continued, no one can fail to note that the US is mainly responsible for that aggression. Although the US may look at it in a different way, this action did not decrease but in fact heightened the tension in the Middle East and will lead to potential complications on a higher level. The region of the Middle East was not distant from the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union was interested in it in general and [Page 617] also from the point of view of Soviet security. The Soviet Union does not believe that the Israeli gain of additional territory will help Israel’s security. To hold this view indicates a narrow, even a primitive approach, to that whole question. Those who do it do not understand the full picture and the potential danger in it.

The Soviet Union believes that there is more explosive material in the Middle East now than there was before. It would be prudent for the US to influence the Israelis to pull out from Lebanon and not to seize any new territory. After all, Israel did annex the Golan Heights. Neither the Palestinians nor the Lebanese claim any legitimate Israeli territory. He would hope that US will exert pressure on Israel and should know the Soviet point of view.

Secondly, Gromyko felt that since the more dangerous and more complicated situation in the Middle East was due to Israeli aggression, a Middle East conference should be convened with the states and forces participating in it—Gromyko will not name a list of the participants since that was an old Soviet proposal elucidated by Leonid Brezhnev during the Party Congress. He asked Haig not to be distracted by momentary considerations but to look at the long-range possibilities because there were other unresolved issues of that region regardless of Egypt, and possible solutions to unresolved questions could possibly be found in such a conference. Gromyko was sure that the US could be helpful in such an arrangement.

As a separate issue, Gromyko wanted Haig to know how the USSR regarded US thinking that giving more arms to Israel would be helpful. Gromyko knew that Israel was saturated with arms, and he knew that if all the arms were to be put into a big pile, the diameter of that pile would be larger than Israeli territory. As a separate issue, Arabs in some respect cannot compete with Israel today but who would know about tomorrow? Gromyko knew that these fateful events of the last few weeks were causing much headache to Haig. Haig immediately retorted that, yes, he had been swallowing aspirins lately.

Gromyko continued that the sides may disagree on many Middle Eastern issues, but a long-range settlement was essential and would benefit not only the people of that area but also improve US-Soviet relations. He repeated that his side was full of indignation but he was now ready to listen to Haig’s views.

Haig replied that it was wrong to blame the US for the tragedy in the Middle East. He wanted Gromyko to know that for the last eleven months his government struggled to prevent the tragedy; that the US was working with the Saudis on this question; and that the ceasefire held for eleven months. He referred Gromyko to his Chicago speech [Page 618] in May5 outlining three points. Haig felt that the Soviet Union contributed to the problem by shipping arms to the PLO and thus increasing Israeli paranoia. The US tried to deal with the problem until the situation broke down. The US supported Resolutions 508 and 509.6 The US side took steps to moderate the attitude of the Israeli government. At the same time, there was no help from the Soviet government, which vetoed the proposal for a peace force in the Sinai and at no time did the US condone Israeli action. Haig suggested that one should not rush to conclusions as to what brought about the current state of affairs. The US is for a prompt Israeli pullback and a return of Lebanese territory to the Lebanese government. The government within a government by the PLO has now ceased to exist, and the Palestinian movement should be responsible to the Lebanese government.

As for the situation in Iran and Iraq, the US remained impartial in that region and supplied no arms, while the Soviet Union does supply arms to both sides and is creating an even greater danger.

Gromyko immediately replied that US information was wrong, that the Soviet Union only supplied a small quantity of spare parts, due to inertia. However, rumors were being circulated by each side claiming that the other side is receiving arms from the Soviet Union.

Gromyko continued that Haig’s accusation that the Soviet Union was responsible for Israeli action was unacceptable. He felt that it was US attitude that allowed Israel to act with impunity. He then warned Haig to be aware that Israel may try to colonize the United States. Gromyko then concluded that it was his position and the position of the Soviet leadership that the US should take effective measures to make Israel pull out of Lebanon. The Soviet Union will try to maintain peace in the Middle East, but the Soviet Union does not agree to Israeli capture of Arab territory and it therefore proposes a conference to find a political solution to the problems in that area. Among other things, the Soviet Union felt that the Palestinian desire for statehood was justified.

Gromyko still had two issues to discuss. With respect to SALT II, could the Soviet Union expect the US to observe the provisions of SALT II, although the agreement was never ratified? If so, the Soviet Union would abide by these provisions, except for those which have become obsolete because of the passage of time and because of the Protocol.

Haig replied in the affirmative and assured that the US will maintain this position. Gromyko intervened by saying that in the past Haig’s [Page 619] answers were so careful that they did plant some seeds of doubt in his mind. Haig said that his reply is still the same, namely that the SALT II arrangements will be important for the Geneva talks and will be addressed in detail in START. The President has stated publicly that the US will abide by existing agreements as long as the Soviet Union does the same.7

Gromyko then asked about an answer to a Brezhnev/Reagan summit. He felt that a clear answer was needed.

Haig replied that first of all the US side was disappointed that Brezhnev could not attend the Disarmament Conference.8 Had he done so, the US side would have invited him to visit with President Reagan, as the President had made clear. Secondly, as for the summit, this issue was pushed forward by newspaper articles. In principle, the President is looking forward to meeting Mr. Brezhnev, and Soviet official statements about a summit, its purpose and significance were well known. Summits need preparatory work so that the outcome of a summit meeting could be perceived before the event. Otherwise, such meetings could be disappointing. Therefore, in principle the US is in favor of a summit before the end of the year but much will depend on a joint assessment of the situation, the possible benefits, the timeliness and the results leading to an improvement of relations. In the past, there were summits for the sake of having a summit. Haig felt that his view was close to Gromyko’s attitude. Gromyko replied that he would be ready for an American reply as to the time and place of a possible summit. As for the preparatory work, Gromyko’s views were the same as Haig’s.

Haig then referred to Gromyko’s press conference on Monday9 and was confident that Gromyko will do a brilliant job. Haig himself had to face the press this very afternoon. He thought it useful to exchange views on what is to be said at the press conference.

Gromyko replied that he would limit himself to describing the meetings as useful without going into any content of these talks. Once contents were disclosed there would be no end to questions from the press. Haig replied that he would not cross this line, and would describe the exchange as dealing with bilateral, global and areas of mutual [Page 620] concern. Gromyko proposed that the talks be only described as useful. However, as for other issues, such as disarmament, each side would be free to state its position.

To put the lid on this meeting, Gromyko said, he felt that all issues were discussed on the level of main principles. He then pointed out that he, Gromyko, Brezhnev and other Soviet officials when negotiating with the US side never bring ideological views into the field of foreign policy. He never mentioned ideology to Haig or tried to convert him to Marxism. In this connection, he wanted to point out that any brave talk against other ideologies, even cursing the ideology of the other side, even trying to bury socialism with or without honor, or saying who would or would not attend this funeral, was a waste of time. His side never indulged in it, and he did not believe in mixing ideology with foreign policy. Having said that, he considered the meeting closed and was ready to put his eyeglasses away.

Before closing, Haig wished to make an observation. He felt sure that both sides adhered to the above principles but Haig wanted to make clear that attacks on personalities should be excluded from political polemics. He stressed that the US side felt strongly about it, perhaps the Soviet side less so. Gromyko hastened to assure Haig that his side, too, was against such attacks but that things did happen in the press, especially in the US press, and the press tended to sin in this respect. US press 99 percent, the Soviet press one percent.

Meeting was adjourned at 1:40 p.m.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Clark Files, Haig/Gromyko Meetings 06/18/1982–06/19/1982. Secret; Nodis. The meeting took place at the Soviet Mission to the United Nations. Bremer sent the memorandum of conversation to Clark under cover of an undated memorandum. A stamped notation indicates that the White House Situation room received it on July 14. (Ibid.)
  2. See Document 186.
  3. On June 18, the Reagan administration extended sanctions on the sale of equipment for use on the Siberian pipeline to also apply to licenses obtained by Western European firms from U.S. corporations. (Public Papers: Reagan, 1982, vol. I, p. 798)
  4. See Bernard Gwertzman, “Nicaragua is Given New U.S. Proposal to Mend Relations,” New York Times, April 10, 1982, p. 1.
  5. For the text of Haig’s speech before the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, May 26, see Department of State Bulletin, July 1982, pp. 44–47.
  6. See footnote 2, Document 179.
  7. Reference is to the President’s remarks at Arlington National Cemetery at Memorial Day Ceremonies on May 31: “As for existing strategic arms agreements, we will refrain from actions which undercut them so long as the Soviet Union shows equal restraint.” (Public Papers: Reagan, 1982, vol. I, pp. 708–709)
  8. On June 6, the United Nations convened a five-week conference on disarmament in New York. Brezhnev did not attend. (“Disarmament Parley Opens Today at the U.N.,” New York Times, June 7, 1982, p. A15)
  9. June 21.