35. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union1

79809. Subject: Briefing Allies on Haig/Dobrynin Meeting.

1. (S—Entire text.)

2. The Secretary met with Dobrynin on March 24. This cable provides a summary of the meeting for addressees’ information and talking points for permreps’ lunch on Tuesday.2 Embassy Moscow may also draw upon talking points in briefing Quad Ambassadors in Moscow, but not before Tuesday.

3. Summary of discussion: Dobrynin asserted that some of the Soviet leaders are nervous and unhappy over recent US rhetoric. He tried to portray Brezhnev as good and experienced leader who has urged his colleagues to remain calm and has thus-far prevented a harsh Soviet response. Dobrynin emphasized the importance of maintaining a dialogue and asked whether the Secretary intended to hold the customary meeting with Gromyko at the UNGA in September. The Secretary said that he did not know why the bilateral should not take place but made no firm commitment. The Secretary suggested that he and Dobrynin continue the dialogue possibly through another meeting as [Page 92] early as next week. These meetings should be seen as regular, recurring diplomatic contacts.

4. Dobrynin tried to place the Brezhnev “concession” on extension of the geographic scope of European CBMS to the Urals in the context of seeking ways to reach understanding with the US.3 The Secretary suggested that the Brezhnev statement could be judged positively if it was meant to apply to the continent of Europe. Dobrynin replied that it also must pertain in some way to the US and hinted that the Soviets would seek some way to cover US reinforcements to Europe as the quid pro quo for their Atlantic to the Urals “concession.”

5. During a discussion of Afghanistan, Dobrynin indicated in very vague terms that the Soviets were ready to commit themselves to withdrawing their forces from Afghanistan but offered no time frame. (There was nothing in Dobrynin’s comments on Afghanistan to indicate a shift in the Soviet position that their troops will be withdrawn when the reasons for their presence have been resolved, e.g. cessation of “external interference,” and there has been normalization of relations between DRA and its neighbors in Iran and Pakistan, and international guarantees that “interference” will not be resumed.

6. Dobrynin indicated that the Soviets are eager to get back into the Middle East negotiation process, citing proximity of the area to the USSR’s Southern border. He stressed that USSR must be involved but had no specific recommendations for an appropriate Soviet role. Dobrynin referred to reports that the Secretary would seek to promote a Middle East/Southwest Asia security consensus during his upcoming trip to the area. Dobrynin took issue with this alleged US objective on the ground that it put regional events into an East/West focus and seemed to involve exclusion of the USSR from a role in the area.

7. The Secretary stressed our concern about the continuing Cuban military presence in Africa and the Libyan intervention in Chad. Dobrynin replied that the Cubans remain in Africa because their African hosts continue to want them. He acknowledged that the USSR sells arms to Libya, but he claimed that Moscow has no control over Libyan use of the hardware. In response to the Secretary’s expression of concern about signs of Soviet support for the Libyan effort in Chad, Dobrynin denied any Soviet involvement.

8. The Secretary gave Dobrynin our views on the Polish debt situation, emphasizing that the Soviets must do their fair share in helping Poland meet its debt burden and other economic problems. Dobrynin had no reaction.

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9. Dobrynin asked the Secretary for his opinion of the Soviet proposal for a moratorium on LRTNF deployments in Europe. The Secretary replied that he thought the idea was “outrageous”.

10. The Secretary told Dobrynin that the US is consulting with its allies and we expected to be able to send a reply to Brezhnev/Reagan letter soon.4 In this connection, the Secretary told Dobrynin that we intend to keep talking, but that Soviet actions will speak louder than words. Dobrynin said that the Soviets were not pressing for an early summit and agreed that such a meeting should be carefully prepared.

11. Talking points

—The Secretary met with Dobrynin March 24 for a discussion on a number of matters. We expect that such meetings will continue in the future as a means of maintaining the US–USSR dialogue to which we are committed.

—Because there will be regular, recurring diplomatic contacts it may not be productive or necessary to provide a formal read-out of each meeting. This in no way diminishes our commitment to close consultations with our allies on East/West matters.

—The Secretary and Dobrynin discussed the possibility of a Haig/Gromyko bilateral at the UNGA. Dobrynin did not press for a summit and agreed that such a meeting should be carefully prepared.

—The Secretary rejected Soviet proposal for a moratorium on LRTNF deployments and told Dobrynin that the Brezhnev statement on CBMS was positive development if it was meant to apply to the continent of Europe. Dobrynin implied that Soviets expected extension of geographic scope to apply in some way to the US. (With Quad allies only, addressees may explain that Dobrynin referred to coverage of US reinforcement of Europe in context of CBMS discussion.

Dobrynin referred to Soviet willingness to withdraw from Afghanistan but offered no time frame and indicated no flexibility in Soviet position on conditions that would make withdrawal possible.

Dobrynin indicated that Soviets are anxious to become involved in Middle East peace process but had no specific recommendation for a Soviet negotiating role.

—The Secretary made clear our concern over continuing Cuban military role in Africa and Libyan intervention in Chad. Dobrynin claimed that African hosts continue to desire Cuban presence and claimed that Moscow has no control over Libyan use of Soviet arms. He denied that Soviets are supporting Libyan effort in Chad.

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—The Secretary raised our concerns about current situation in Poland and need for Soviets to do their fair share to help Poland with its economic and debt problems. Dobrynin did not respond.

Dobrynin expressed interest in reply to Brezhnev’s letter to President Reagan, and the Secretary responded that reply would be sent after we concluded consultations with our allies. He told Dobrynin that the US wanted dialogue to continue, and progress in US-Soviet relations, but reminded him that we intend to judge Soviet intentions by their actions, not just words.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number]. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Also sent Immediate to the U.S. Mission to NATO, Bonn, London, and Paris. Drafted by Hopper and Napper; cleared by Stoessel, Seitz, and Eagleburger; approved by Haig. A memorandum of conversation of Haig’s meeting with Dobrynin has not been found.
  2. March 31.
  3. A reference to Brezhnev’s proposal to extend confidence-building measures to include all of the Soviet Union west of the Urals.
  4. See Document 26.