209. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Eagleburger) to Secretary of State Shultz1


  • Haig-Gromyko Conversations

Attached are the final edited versions of the three sets of talks which Al Haig held with Gromyko. They cover talks in:

—New York on September 23 and 28, 1981 (Tab 1);2

—Geneva on January 26, 1982 (Tab 2);3

—New York on June 18 and 19, 1982 (Tab 3).4

By far the largest portion of these conversations were one-on-one plus interpreters. While there are advantages to this arrangement, there are also disadvantages which you should consider before the format is set for your first round with Gromyko at the upcoming UNGA. (Incidentally, you will be the ninth US Secretary of State with whom Gromyko has dealt in his 25 years as Soviet Foreign Minister.)

Editing of the Record

We also have unedited versions of these conversations, and you should be aware of the differences. First, the raw versions contain numerous minor flaws in grammar and syntax (not surprisingly!) [Page 682] which we fixed in the final versions. Secondly, the conversations sometimes drifted into trivial or contentious by-play which did not add anything to the substance of the exchange and which could be condensed without loss of meaning. For example, in the January meeting there was an extended exchange on details of alleged Soviet involvement with SWAPO, including weapons and advisers, and on alleged US involvement with Savimbi and South Africa. This exchange was singularly uninformative and acerbic and parts of it were dropped. Similarly, some parts of Gromyko’s litany on US attitudes toward Cuba and Nicaragua and of our replies, which were uninformative and repetitive were condensed.

Thirdly, a few passages were edited out because of the sensitivity of the subject matter, or the manner in which issues were addressed. For example, cuts were made in several references to Carter, Nixon, the “detente” period of the early 70s, and earlier arms control “understandings” (although as you will see, a great amount of time in all three sets of talks was spent on arms control). A portion of one talk, where Haig referred to “spheres of influence” in a manner which implied understanding for Soviet concerns about Poland and Afghanistan, was modified to refer to “sensitive areas,” not “spheres.” Along the same line, Haig expressed a bit too much understanding for Soviet “restraint” in Poland on one occasion. And in one of the discussions of Afghanistan, he assured Gromyko that we would take steps to reduce or eliminate “outside interference” from Pakistan as part of a larger settlement. In that connection, by the way, Haig and Gromyko went considerably farther than either side did in the recent “experts” talks in Moscow, as even the edited record shows.

On China, which Gromyko raised each time with warnings about the dangers of US–PRC military cooperation, Haig assured him (probably more than necessary) that we would not act in a way which threatened Soviet interests and that there was not much going on with the Chinese anyway. He also slightly misstated the results of Harold Brown’s 1980 China trip. Haig’s reassurances and reference to Brown were cut.

Finally, on human rights cases, Haig frankly was not much interested and his presentations showed it. He did not press and he was too willing to accept the grounds for Gromyko’s rebuffs. The record was altered to imply a tougher posture.

In the context of the discussions, none of these issues (except perhaps human rights) was more than a tactical or verbal ploy to keep the conversation aimed toward the objectives Haig was trying to reach. [Page 683] But the context could easily have been distorted and the words used to Haig’s disadvantage. The sum total of the revisions and deletions amounts to perhaps 2% of the many pages of record. The record is not verbatim in any case, but is reconstructed by the interpreters from their notes. It is very long and detailed, as you will see, and it conveys an accurate picture of what was said and how each issue was covered by both sides.


Each set of talks followed a similar pattern: broad principles, arms control (in general and in detail), geopolitical issues (Poland, Afghanistan, Southern Africa, Cuba, China, Kampuchea, Middle East), and bilateral irritants. The tone varied from occasional humor and even cordiality to business-like problem solving to strong statements of differing positions to occasional wrangling.

Gromyko is truly a master of his craft. He can be earnest, articulate and highly persuasive. He knows his brief inside out and almost never refers to notes. He can also be relentless and even rude, especially if he feels that his counterpart is on the defensive. He covers a weak case (e.g., on Afghanistan, or Cuban troops in Africa, or Soviet INF deployments) by trying to shift the focus of the argument (e.g. to Pakistan, or the US boycott of Cuba, or US/NATO weapons plans). He can be polemical, but not in an ideological sense. He argues that US policies are consciously designed to damage Soviet interests (e.g., increased defense spending, cooperation with China) and that the US unfairly charges that Moscow is responsible for every unpleasant development in the world. He claims, in contrast, that Soviet policies are not intended to hurt the US or its real interest, but that we hurt ourselves and blame them. He argues that better US-Soviet relations—even cooperation—would serve the interests of both sides, but without promising concrete steps which Moscow would be prepared to take to help it happen. The best (or worst) example of Gromyko’s negotiating style is the short meeting of September 28, 1981 (in which I participated) where we spent one whole hour haggling over a short joint statement announcing the beginning of the INF talks in Geneva in November, 1981.

A suggestion on preparations: if you read these conversations in sequence, you will see that Haig was much better in the third set than in the first. You could shorten that learning curve somewhat by meeting with him and getting his advice/comments/suggestions sometime between now and the end of this month. You could do the same with Kissinger, but his direct experience with Gromyko is less fresh. And you should definitely schedule a dry-run several days ahead of time [Page 684] with a few of us to try to anticipate both the content and the style of Gromyko’s presentation.

Lawrence S. Eagleburger5
  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S–I Records: Lawrence Eagleburger Files, Lot 84D204, Chron—September 4, 1982. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Attached but not printed. See Documents 8891.
  3. Attached but not printed. See Documents 137 and 138.
  4. Attached but not printed. See Documents 186 and 187.
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.