30. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Weinberger to the Counselor to the President (Meese)1

I attended the 60th birthday party dinner of Don Kendall near Greenwich, Connecticut last night, having accepted the invitation at the last meeting of the PepsiCo Board that I attended as a Director, prior to the Inauguration.

At the dinner, it turned out that one of the guests was Anatoly Dobrynin, the USSR Ambassador. During the pre-dinner reception, Dobrynin asked if he could have a word with me and I replied noncommittally and continued talking with a number of other guests. Eventually, Kendall brought me over to Dobrynin and the following conversation ensued:

Dobrynin: In what direction do you see our two countries moving? Why is there so much rhetoric in the air now?

CWW: I think that part of it is because people in Washington feel it important that the Soviets and the world know that the U.S. has changed, and that we have, and will acquire, much greater strength as well as firmness and resolve during this Administration, and that there is also great concern about the Soviet actions in Afghanistan and around Poland.

Dobrynin: I assure you that my country knows very well how much the U.S. has changed. I tell them. I am a good reporter. But don’t you think it important that our two countries talk to each other and not just exchange statements?

CWW: Yes, if the atmosphere and circumstances are such that there is some prospect of effective talks, and some possibility of a successful conclusion to such talks. If the Soviets went into Poland, it would be a clear signal that such talks would be useless.

Dobrynin: Poland! It is essential in Poland that we not have aggressive actions on our own border. You would not allow it.

CWW: But many of our allies do things we do not like, but we do not manuever on their borders or threaten their independence.

Dobrynin: But the Warsaw Pact is different. We cannot have hostile governments on our borders. In any event, we should talk.

At this point, various other people drifted by and I did not encourage continuance of any further one-on-one discussion.

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Also guests at the dinner were Henry Kissinger, who expressed to me strong support for use of the neutron missiles as a means of strengthening theatre nuclear forces, and former President Nixon, who did not say anything substantive to me.

The principal conclusion I drew from the conversation with Dobrynin is that he and the Soviets urgently want talks to begin, and are really quite concerned at the perceived strength of anti-Soviet position.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Meese Files, Department of Defense—Sec. Caspar Weinberger (2). Secret. Copied to Haig, Allen, and Carlucci.