32. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State-Designate for European Affairs (Eagleburger) and the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs (Dyess) to Secretary of State Haig 1


  • Whether to Prevent Soviet Spokesmen from Appearing on T.V. Show

SUMMARY: Georgiy Arbatov, Moscow’s leading expert on the U.S., and two Soviet colleagues are scheduled to appear on the “Bill Moyers’ Journal” PBS television show on April 10. The show will be a debate on U.S.-Soviet relations, with Senator Sam Nunn, Bill Hyland, and either McGeorge Bundy or Mac Toon representing the U.S. side. We recommend that we permit the other two Soviets to enter the U.S. to appear on the show, but do not extend Arbatov’s current stay in the U.S. for this purpose.


“Bill Moyers’ Journal” will be running a four-part series on U.S.-Soviet relations beginning on March 27. The third part is to take the form of a debate, with Arbatov, Vitaly Kobysh of the Central Committee staff and Mikhail Milshteyn of the USA Institute representing the Soviet side. The show is to be presented live in a hall at UN headquarters.

Arbatov is currently in the U.S. to address a conference of the International Physicians to Prevent Nuclear War to be held at Airlie House March 21–25. He has a 16-day visa which expires on April 2. He is certain to apply for an extension to appear on the April 10 show and to make appearances elsewhere. (We understand he is scheduled to speak to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council on April 2, and has tentative plans to speak at Harvard, Berkeley, and Minnesota.) The other two Soviets have not yet applied for their visas, but we expect them to do so soon.

The T.V. appearance and Arbatov’s other activities are a part of the continuing Soviet media blitz in the U.S. Americans, meanwhile, continue to be deprived of any access to Soviet media. In view of this total lack of reciprocity, we should consider whether to take any steps to interfere with the Soviets’ April 10 T.V. show.

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Whatever decision we make on this issue, we should begin now to examine how we might change the visa laws or their current interpretation so as to enable us more easily to deny entry to Soviet visitors.2 At present, the McGovern Amendment to the Immigration and Naturalization Act puts difficult obstacles in the way of such denials. (We are preparing a separate memorandum on this issue.)3


1. Extend Arbatov’s visa and issue visas to the other Soviets for their appearance on the April 10 show. This would be consistent with our tradition of not interfering with the media. Given the solid credentials of the U.S. panel, it also might be in our interest to have the Soviets subjected to their questioning.4

Permitting Soviet participation, however, would run counter to our efforts to introduce greater reciprocity into our relationship with Moscow. We might also draw some criticism for seeming to give Arbatov and other Soviets free rein here. (We understand that the NSC has already expressed interest in preventing Arbatov from getting a visa extension.)5

2. Refuse to extend Arbatov’s visa and prevent the entry of the other two Soviets. (Normally the McGovern Amendment would make it difficult to deny visas to such visitors, but given the short lead time in this case, the visas could be denied through a “pocket veto.”) This would underline for the Soviets our concern for reciprocity and put them on notice that they cannot count on playing our system for their own purposes. It will, however, undoubtedly cause an outcry from PBS 6 and possibly other segments of the public. Moreover, we note that even without visas Arbatov and other Soviets can continue to appear on U.S. T.V., via satellite from Moscow, while in this instance, PBS could substitute Soviet newsmen or officials already here for Arbatov and company.7

3. Refuse to extend Arbatov’s visa, but permit the entry of the other two. We could suggest to Bill Moyers that we would not interfere with any taping of the show prior to Arbatov’s April 2 visa expiration date should he prefer this, and not prevent earlier arrival of the other Soviets for this [Page 88] purpose. We could point out to Arbatov that we were rejecting his extension request because of the lack of reciprocal U.S. access to Soviet audiences.

This step would restrict Arbatov’s plans for a coast-to-coast media tour and underline our concern for greater reciprocity without necessarily scuttling the Bill Moyers show.8

This move would probably generate criticism from PBS and other organizations which Arbatov is scheduled to address.9


We recommend that we refuse to extend Arbatov’s visa but not interfere with the entry of the other two Soviets to appear on the T.V. show. (Option 3)10

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Haig Papers, Day File, Box CL 31, March 20, 1981. Confidential. Drafted by Hurwitz (EUR/SOV); cleared by German and Barry. Sent through Stoessel. A stamped notation at the top of the memorandum indicates Haig saw it.
  2. Haig wrote to the right of this sentence: “do so!!”
  3. Haig wrote to the right of this sentence: “Move quickly on this. Nothing done in the past on this subject should be accepted. AH”
  4. Haig wrote at the end of this sentence: “Sure But!!”
  5. Haig wrote at the end of this sentence: “RIGHT—But they are correct & “Right” on this—explain nicely to USSR!!!”
  6. Haig placed a checkmark beside “PBS” and wrote: “Sorry about that!!”
  7. Haig drew a line from this sentence and wrote: “there are plenty who would volunteer.”
  8. Haig placed a checkmark beside this paragraph and wrote: “Absolutely.”
  9. Haig underlined the word “address” and wrote at the of this sentence: “Sure—”
  10. Haig initialed his approval of option 3 on March 30 and wrote below it: “Superb memo. Well done; concise in language & analytical in substance. AMH.”