233. Editorial Note

In a diary entry for November 11, 1982, President Ronald Reagan wrote that his day started at 3:30 a.m., when President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs William “Clark called with word that Brezhnev died.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, Volume I, page 171) At 10:01 a.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House, Reagan delivered remarks presenting the Presidential Citizens Medal to Raymond Weeks at a Veterans Day Ceremony. At the close of these remarks, the President read the letter he had just sent to Vasiliy Kuznetsov, First Deputy Chairman of the Presidium in Moscow. “Please accept my condolences on the death of President Leonid Il’ich Brezhnev. President Brezhnev was one of the world’s most important figures for nearly two decades. May I ask you to convey our sympathies to the President’s family. I would also like to convey through you to the Soviet Government and people the strong desire of the United States to work toward an improved relationship with the Soviet Union. I look forward to conducting relations with the new leadership in the Soviet Union with the aim of expanding the areas where our two nations can cooperate to mutual advantage.” After reading this letter, Reagan added: “Now, I’ve said for many years there are fundamental differences between the Soviet system and our own system here in the United States. But I believe our peoples, for all our differences, share a desire and a dedication to peace.” (Public Papers: Reagan , 1982, volume II, pages 1445–1447)

Reagan wrote in a diary entry on November 12: “The Soviets have told us our funeral delegation should only be 3 people. So it will be the V.P., Secretary of State & our Ambassador. Incidentally our allies have followed my lead—no heads of state will attend.” (Brinkley, ed., [Page 784] The Reagan Diaries, Volume I, page 171) That day, following a brief hospital visit after he choked on a fish bone at lunch, Secretary of State George Shultz departed from Andrews Air Force Base for Moscow, to meet Vice President George Bush, who had been traveling in Africa. (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, pages 124–125)

On November 13, Reagan visited the Soviet Embassy in Washington and wrote in the condolence book: “My condolences to the family of President Brezhnev and the peoples of the Soviet Union. May our two peoples live in peace in the world together. Ronald Reagan.” (“Reagan Visits the Soviet Embassy,” New York Times, November 14, 1982, page 24) The President wrote in his diary later that day: “To the Soviet Embassy to sign the Condolence book for Pres. Brezhnev. There’s a strange feeling in that place—no one smiles. Well that is except Amb. Dobrynin.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, Volume I, page 172)