29. Minutes of an Interagency Coordinating Committee for U.S.-Soviet Affairs Meeting1

Ambassador Eagleburger said Secretary Haig had asked him to raise several points with the group. This Administration’s approach to the Soviets will not be business as usual; there will be changes. Both the President and Secretary were particularly concerned with the matter of reciprocity which was now being studied to determine where we have leverage which can be employed to achieve a more balanced treatment. He noted that a one-for-one basis is not possible. In some areas the Soviets have more flexibility than we do. In some cases, we are already in a more advantageous position (i.e., parking). The Ambassador stressed the importance of coordinating contacts with the Soviets. Referring to the new requirement that all U.S.G. officials notify the Office of Soviet Affairs prior to any contact with Soviet officials, Eagleburger noted that the intent of the policy is to establish a data base on the scope and frequency of Soviet access. We may later decide to cut back on Soviet access.

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Eagleburger noted that the notification requirement doesn’t hold for contacts with Soviets in the context of multilateral meetings.

Eagleburger noted that if other agencies wished to propose new initiatives vis-a-vis the Soviets, we might need to engage the Secretary.

In any event, we need to know in advance of anything involving new areas. Coordination is essential to make sure we all sing from the same sheet of music.

Turning to exchanges, Eagleburger stated he didn’t know in the fullness of time what the Administration’s view would be. While the review was being conducted, however, we should avoid foreclosing our options. Agencies should seek to prevent budget cuts from killing off the administrative machinery of the various exchanges.

Pillsbury (ACDA) raised issues of private U.S. citizen contacts with Soviet officials. He suggested that we might wish to monitor such contacts. Private individuals having frequent contacts could form (on a voluntary basis) an association analagous to Arbatov’s USA Institute, whose reciprocal access the USG could attempt to ensure.

Eagleburger responded that although we would consider the idea we would be treading on dangerous ground here and that there didn’t appear to be a legal possibility of exercising such control.

Turning to the Foreign Missions Act, Eagleburger noted that it would grant us more authority in dealing with the Soviets on the whole range of reciprocity concerns. The Ambassador then excused himself and turned the meeting over to Deputy Assistant Secretary Barry.

Barry stated that a review was now in progress of the whole range of East-West relations. The review could consume several months. However, certain elements were clear. The codewords current during the Carter Administration, cooperation and competition, had given way to the Reagan formulation of restraint and reciprocity.

The key element in ensuring Soviet restraint was to restore a worldwide military balance. We will also strive to achieve stability in key areas which the Soviets would be otherwise tempted to exploit. Our relations will be conducted on the basis of linkage. We will make sure the Soviets understand that no aspect of our relations will be carried out in a vacuum.

We do not plan to negotiate a new code of conduct to replace that embodied in the 1972 Agreement of Principles, but we do intend to gain implicit adherence by the Soviets to its provisions; e.g., not to exacerbate tensions. We are not prepared to tolerate Soviet-supported efforts by the Cubans to undermine the stability of El Salvador. On Afghanistan, the Reagan Administration took a no more relaxed attitude than the previous Administration. A political settlement including Soviet withdrawal is an essential element of a more positive climate [Page 79] in U.S.-Soviet relations. Our sanctions should stay in place, leaving aside the grain embargo which was still under review. The situation in Poland remains uncertain and unstable with a continuing tug of war between Solidarity, the Government, the Party and the Church. While we do not regard Soviet intervention in Poland as inevitable, we have closely consulted with our Allies on our response which would be far more unified and cut far deeper than was the case after Afghanistan.

We are now in the midst of a Soviet peace offensive designed to separate us from our Allies. The new impetus provided by Brezhnev’s speech to the Party Congress was more tactical than substantive. We are working with our Allies, however, to turn the Soviets’ new stand on CBM’s into a meaningful step in CSCE.

The U.S. is now comparing notes with other recipients of Brezhnev letters.2 Luns’ statement today on behalf of the Alliance will make clear that the Soviets haven’t succeeded in derailing NATO arms modernization.

Barry concluded by noting that Soviet actions are more important than words. A Summit Meeting would not be useful without a demonstration of Soviet restraint. Summits must be carefully prepared with the expectation of concrete results. A dialogue with the Soviets is being carried on.

Bader (DOD) asked what was the vehicle for this dialogue. Barry responded it was normal diplomatic channels in Moscow and in Washington. Bader then noted that no one had reaffirmed since January 20 that our goal in Afghanistan was Soviet withdrawal. Barry responded that while there was obviously no near term prospect, Soviet withdrawal and deterrence remained the goals of our sanctions policy.

A great deal more emphasis was now placed on reciprocity. While there was no intent to focus ICCUSA solely on reciprocity concerns, it provided a good vehicle for exchange of information and coordination since all agencies with regular Soviet contacts were represented.

Barry reiterated Eagleburger’s comments on the contacts policy set out in Secretary Haig’s interagency memo.3 In response to a question from Baldyga (ICA), Barry noted that a separate exercise was being conducted with regard to Eastern Europe. He added that purely social contacts with Soviets were still out in line with our post-Afghanistan policy.

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Starbird (EPA) asked whether each agency should set up a parallel body to coordinate this policy. Barry said it was up to each agency; the important factor was that we be notified. German (EUR/SOV) noted that Secretary Haig’s interagency memo had asked agencies to designate an official to coordinate such contacts with the Office of Soviet Affairs.

After noting that the State Department was instituting a more strictly enforced escort policy for visiting Soviets, Barry urged other agencies to tighten their policies in a similar fashion. Several representatives noted that their agencies lacked the security necessary to enforce such a policy and that Soviets routinely showed up unannounced. Linn (HHS) suggested that the State Department was the appropriate body to notify the Soviet Embassy that their staff must call in advance to any office they wished to visit. It was decided to study further this issue.

German then referred to a range of other areas which we would be reviewing, stressing that this list was illustrative rather than comprehensive. Working groups might be established for some issues whereas no immediate action might be required for others (e.g., staffing levels). The Soviets are now at their ceiling and we might face retaliation if we denied visas for any officials over the limit. He also noted that we might consider cutting our staff in response to Soviet intervention in Poland.

German noted that we have tightened up on our travel controls which apply to diplomats, correspondents and businessmen. Closed area exceptions are granted only on a one-for-one basis. Several recent cases of denials were mentioned. Barry mentioned that Haig had approved a recent memo which informed him that we would get complaints on travel turndowns and expected support for our position. We’re prepared to take the heat.

German noted that the McGovern amendment4 constrained our ability to deny visas solely on reciprocity grounds. There has been a rash of Soviet turndowns of U.S. visa requests for governesses and personal guests for which there is no Soviet equivalent to retaliate against.

German concluded by referring to the issue of Soviet attendance at U.S. scientific and commercial conferences and exhibits. He noted the difficulty of urging hosts not to invite Soviets. COMEX is also involved in this area. Export control regulations could be invoked in some cases.

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Hal Burman (State–L) described the intent of the proposed Foreign Missions Act to ensure reciprocity in all our respective bilateral relationships by controlling foreign diplomats’ access to U.S. goods and services if necessary. The legislation is expected to be introduced by the House and possibly the Senate as well in 2 to 3 weeks. A draft bill may be available in a week and State may contact representatives to check whether their agencies had any conflicting regulations and to solicit their support. Last year’s bill had enjoyed substantial foreign affairs community support.

Barry noted again that social contacts with Soviets were still strongly discouraged. Obviously, this may touch on gray areas. There should be no reason to attend a reception for a visiting Soviet if it did not involve official business.

Herspring (DOD) reported that DOD’s foreign military liaison had extensive routine contacts with the Soviets and asked whether each contact had to be reported individually. Barry replied that some form of blanket notification might be able to be worked out.

Linn (HHS) asked for a written expression of support for exchanges, given the severe budgetary threat. Barry stated that Eagleburger was sending such a letter to all the U.S. Co-Chairmen and Executive Secretaries of the bilateral agreements asking for continued exchange funding so as not to foreclose options while broad review was in progress.

Britton (HUD) reported that his agency’s budget authorization excluded funding for contacts with Soviets.

Bradley (DOE) reported that his agency’s MHD program would not be continued for technical reasons. The recovery of the program’s super-conducting magnet was not yet determined. A delegation scheduled to visit the USSR in mid-April would formally notify them of the program’s termination.

Barry concluded the meeting by reminding representatives to coordinate new contacts policy with all constituent parts of their respective agencies.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Pipes Files, CHRON 04/03/1981–04/05/1981. Confidential. Eagleburger chaired the meeting. Bremer forwarded the minutes to Allen on March 28. (Ibid.)
  2. On March 13, Allen wrote Reagan that Brezhnev had sent “almost identical letters to all heads of state in the NATO Alliance.” (Reagan Library, Office of the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, 1981 System I Case Files, 8100286–8100299)
  3. See Document 25.
  4. A reference to the McGovern amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act, which provided an automatic waiver recommendation for Soviets who were inadmissible to the United States solely because of Communist Party membership.