235. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

13793. Pass Secretary’s party only from Hartman. Subject: Meeting With Andropov.

1. (Secret—Entire text.)

2. Following is a fairly full account (to be compared with Krimer’s notes) of the half-hour meeting with Andropov held between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. on November 15, 1982. Those present on the Soviet side were: General Secretary Andropov, Foreign Minister Gromyko, Foreign Policy Politburo Aide Alexandrov and Interpreter Viktor Sukhodrov. On the U.S. side were: Vice President Bush, Secretary of State Shultz, Ambassador Hartman, Interpreter Bill Krimer. The meeting took place in one of the state reception rooms of the old Kremlin Palace. After an exchange of handshakes, greetings and some photography, each group sat on the opposite side of a long table.

3. Andropov read from a prepared text with some extemporaneous interpolations to amplify his own thinking. He began by expressing the appreciation of himself and his colleagues and the Soviet people for the expressions of condolences from the American people and particularly for the mark of respect by the American people in sending such a distinguished delegation. He said that it had not gone unnoticed that President Reagan had said that it was our policy to work toward improved relations. He said, “We have taken note of this statement and can say to you that our intentions are analogous.” Andropov continued that he had already had the occasion to state in the Central Committee meeting and at today’s ceremonies that the new leadership’s line will be the same as under President Brezhnev. The Soviet Union has had a consistent and principled policy and they are following the line of equality, non-interference and the seeking of peaceful relations. But, he went on, “sin will out.” It is fair to say that our U.S.-Soviet relations are in a complex condition. It was not the Soviets, he said, who took the initiative to worsen relations. In fact, the Soviets displayed great restraint in the face of what has appeared at times to be provocation. We have exercised this restraint not because we are unsure of ourselves or weak, but because we believe confrontation is senseless and won’t get anywhere.

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4. Andropov went on to say that he would like to draw the attention of his American guests to the fact that it was due to U.S. actions that “We have almost fully squandered agreements that insured us against surprises.” He said that if this erosion of the productive layer of our relations should continue, he was sure it would lead to catastrophe and it was, therefore, necessary to rebuild our relations.

5. Andropov went on to say that he understood we could not just pledge in words, but instead we must find ways to show by deeds how we can stop the arms race and reach agreements on strategic weapons and intermediate missiles in Europe that will be mutually acceptable and based on the principles of equality and equal security. He then interpolated and said that there is no other way; “If we continue, you will continue the arms build up, and we will, and where will it all end? We all have sufficient experience and sophistication. Gromyko and Shultz understand these things well. It would be a mistake on both sides if either one comes in with a position which is so different that negotiation becomes impossible.” He then added to the text that we can always debate and quarrel with each other in the press, but in the end we must talk to each other in a sober-minded and normal way. He said, “There is a true lack, and we must admit this, of mutual trust. Confidence has been undermined primarily because acceptable standards have not been followed. You have been interfering in the internal affairs, and teaching others to do so, of other states. No one has the right to impose his standards or to dictate his policy view of the world.” He then went on to point out that Soviet leaders were dedicated to a broad, active dialogue between us and, indeed, between all countries. He made an appeal for business-like discussions that would broaden the range of contacts between us. He called for exchanges, negotiation and consultation. He said it was important to give practical content to our relationship and that he hoped this would lead to good and stable relations. He said the result would heal this bad climate.

6. He then added at the end of his statement that he trusted we would excuse his raising these frank points on perhaps not the most auspicious occasion, “when you have shown such good will by coming to express sympathy with us. But,” he said, “I felt it was important that I should take this occasion to express to you directly so that you could pass on this expression to your President, which is the feeling for the mood of our leaders and people. We want good relations. We want the best relations, but these always must be based on real rights and interests.” With his only spark of humor in the conversation, he said that Shultz and Gromyko were probably steeled to exchanging harsh words, but looking at Vice President Bush, he said, “we are men of peace and, therefore, it is important that we express our thoughts [Page 791] frankly to one another.” He said he felt it was important that he should express his thoughts and hoped that his “little speech” would have a good effect.

7. He again extended the wishes of the leadership for the success and health of President Reagan and, once again, expressed his thanks for the condolences and, most particularly, for the President’s personal visit to the Soviet Embassy.

8. The Vice President once again expressed his condolences and those of the President and said that he and the Secretary very much appreciated the courtesies that had been extended both here and in Washington. He said, with a smile, that he felt he really knew Mr. Andropov quite well since in the past they had shared some of the same tasks. He said, “Hopefully, this gives a basis on which to have a discussion.” The Vice President said that when Bill Clark took over his new functions, he had invited Ambassador Dobrynin to his house for dinner. In the conversation that evening, the Vice President asked Dobrynin to be frank in saying what disturbed him about American policy and that he would be equally frank in telling Dobrynin what was wrong from the U.S. point of view with Soviet policy. He said he recognized that there was not time to go into great detail on these matters today, but that he had listed for Ambassador Dobrynin Afghanistan, Poland, the treatment of human rights issues according to international norms and several other important issues. He said we had no intent to interfere in the internal affairs of others, but we feel very strongly about these issues. “We are committed to maintaining our military strength at a level adequate for our security, but we are not interested in an arms race. We believe we share a commitment for the need for fruitful talks, but we believe these must be, in the arms control field, based on verifiable agreements which provide for real reductions in arms. The Vice President said that the President is deadly serious on this issue. “We have cited some areas where we think change is possible and we will respond positively to any positive change. We believe in the objective of discussions and peace through negotiations. You have said that you have acted with restraint in the face of what you think have been hostile actions. Time doesn’t allow me to develop these points or to rebut your contentions, and I suppose we could add our own list, but we feel it’s possible to make progress.”

9. The Vice President ended by saying that no one could help but be moved by the sight of those young men on Red Square today. He said he had four sons and these thoughts stress for him the need for the Geneva negotiations to bear fruit. The Vice President ended by thanking the General Secretary and expressing once again our readiness to do our part.

10. Andropov ended by thanking the Vice President once again, saying that he hoped ways would be found to continue discussions [Page 792] and get into details. He said, “You have your perspective and we have ours. It’s necessary to sit down and talk. We can’t do it now, but we should find ways to do this.” He asked to have his greetings sent once again to President Reagan and his assurance that the whole Soviet leadership wished to strengthen our relations.

11. Comment: Andropov appeared to me to be more fit, although quite stooped, than he had at the November 7 reception, and this despite all his strenuous activities of the past few days. Andropov is clearly in charge. With no title except General Secretary and perhaps chairman of the funeral committee, he received the most senior delegation heads. There were a number of signs of special gesture toward the United States and although his words had a tough ring, they were said with an openness and directness that had a certain appeal. For the first time in years, the Soviet Union appears to have firm, dynamic, but tough leadership. Andropov did not appear to me to sound or act as though the mantle of power had just descended on his shoulders. He talked as though he has been exercising power for some time and that he has reached some understanding with his colleagues so that they accept his position as leader. One interesting footnote was the presence of Alexandrov, who was Brezhnev’s foreign policy advisor. I had seen him the other day at the reception and found him weighed down with the cares of office and perhaps worries about his boss’s health. Today he was almost glowing as he carefully noted any additions which his new leader made to the statement which he had obviously prepared. Gromyko too appeared at ease with Andropov, although he wore his serious face with his mouth very carefully tilted downward, which always indicates that the news being given is not all pleasant tidings.

12. It will be interesting to compare notes with the Germans, for example, who saw him just after us, to see if there are any special messages for Europe as distinct from the U.S.

13. When you have Secretary-approved text, Vice President asked to have copy sent to his party.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, N820009–0209. Secret; Flash; Nodis; Stadis.