36. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Haig Breakfast, 26 March 1981


  • State

    • Secretary Haig
    • Deputy Secretary Clark
    • Bud McFarlane
    • Richard Burt
  • Defense

    • Secretary Weinberger
    • Deputy Secretary Carlucci
    • Fred Ikle
    • Jay Rixse
    • Carl Smith

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the Soviet Union.]

7. (S/NF) Secretary Haig then raised the issue of TNF. He said he had two major issues in this regard that he wanted to address: linkage of TNF with SALT; and the pace of any such talks with the Soviets.

Regarding the former point, he said that, especially in light of the upcoming SCG,2 if we were to give any indication that we were going [Page 95] to pull away from negotiations with the Soviets, we would lose any TNF modernization plans we had. In this regard he felt that it would be important to link SALT with TNF. Richard Burt commented that NATO long ago had agreed that TNF should be handled in the SALT context. Secretary Weinberger raised the question of whether we had to link SALT and TNF since we have told people that we have no objections to negotiations on both—it was just a matter of when and what the agenda was going to be. Ikle then commented that, in his discussions with Apel,3 he (Apel) had indicated that the Germans wanted a good TNF agreement within the SALT context and that this was part of the German theology regarding “decoupling.” Haig suggested that there was no reason to challenge TNF within the framework of SALT, especially if we are loose regarding the specific linkage. Secretary Weinberger indicated that we still have the problem of what to do in the event the Soviets invaded Poland. If we are talking about the linkage of SALT and TNF as just a formulation, fine; but he did not want to do anything that would delay deployment. Haig responded that what he saw as the problem was the need to manage and control TNF. There seemed to be general agreement that whereas TNF would not be taken up as part of a SALT discussion, TNF would be “linked” to SALT in that it would be handled in a bilateral forum between the United States and the Soviet Union, and we would purposely keep vague the relationship between the two.

Haig then mentioned the second issue, that of the pace of such talks with the Soviets. He said that there were essentially two schools of thought: one indicated we should hold back on pursuing such a dialogue until much more had been done in the modernization field; the other indicated we should move as rapidly as possible in order to engage the Soviets in a dialogue. Burt interjected that after the 31 March SCG we would need to tell the Allies whether and when we were going to be talking with the Soviets. Secretary Weinberger indicated that he had some confusion with regard to this; specifically, he was concerned about what the agenda would be in any dialogue with the Soviets. He restated his position that we should not really sit down to talk just for talk’s sake; we should not talk unless we had a clear idea of what it was we wanted to talk about and it was clear we were not going to be giving something up just to engage in a dialogue. Haig indicated his concern was that we might get too heroic in dealing with our Allies on this matter and we might lose them on the TNF modernization issue.

[Page 96]

8. (S/NF) Related to this TNF issue, Secretary Haig mentioned the results of some of his recent discussions with Ambassador Dobrynin.4 Dobrynin told him he felt they had made a major new constructive proposal on the TNF issue by offering to include the Urals in the area for discussion (noting that this would also be stretched all the way to the United States). Haig said he had replied that if they were talking about confidence-building measures for anything west of the shoreline of Europe, the Soviets could forget it. Haig then made reference to the draft letter of response to Brezhnev which was in the White House—Secretary Weinberger indicated that Defense was totally unaware of any draft response.5 Haig then said he would ensure that a copy was provided to us after the breakfast.

Secretary Weinberger then asked what more was learned from Haig’s meeting with Dobrynin. Haig responded that the Soviets were very paranoid regarding our policy in the Middle East, especially the President’s statement that we might consider helping the Afghan insurgents. Dobrynin had also reacted rather negatively toward our discussion about increasing the U.S. presence in the region (he even implied that the Soviets would be forced to react, making clear the reference to Iran). As additional indication of his concern, Dobrynin even suggested that the Soviets were interested in talking about these issues. Regarding this latter point Dobrynin made reference to Vance’s offer of 1977 that we should open up the Middle East talks to the Soviets in Geneva. Haig made a general comment that obviously the policy being stated by the President was causing them concern; therefore, we were making the right moves. Haig also indicated that Dobrynin was generally concerned with our own push for the TNF modernization. (At this point Haig suggested that Defense should undertake to provide a good analysis of all long-range theater nuclear force systems, comparing ours with the Soviets, etc.)

Secretary Weinberger then asked Haig if he planned to have continued discussions with Dobrynin. Haig said that he did, but that these were to be just talks, nothing more. He said that he had told Dobrynin that there was no prospect for a summit until the Soviets had demonstrated better behavior. He further said that he had advised Dobrynin that we had great concern with Qadhafi and with Castro. On Qadhafi, in response to Haig’s expressed concern and indication we were going to have to do something about it, Dobrynin did not blink at all. Haig took this as an indication that the Soviets would not attempt to interfere in anything that we felt was necessary to do. Haig did say, however, [Page 97] that Dobrynin seemed less comfortable with any suggestion that we might do something with regard to Cuba.

Secretary Weinberger asked if Haig and Dobrynin had talked about El Salvador. Haig responded that they had and that things were a little bit better for us since the recent Colombian actions with regard to Cuba (i.e., the withdrawal of the Ambassador).

9. (S/NF) Mr. Carlucci, referring to the remarks Haig had made on Libya, said that he had some worry regarding Sadat and what he was likely to do. He said that any action undertaken by Sadat against Qadhafi would face us with some rather major decisions. Haig agreed and said that if anything was undertaken, we will need a very firm U.S.-UK-French response that we would not let the Soviets intervene. Mr. Carlucci indicated this would be a major decision and something that would need addressing by the NSC.

Haig said that there still existed the problem of dealing with Dobrynin. He said that he would be meeting with Gromyko next fall and he suggested (to Dobrynin) that the U.S. would probably go ahead with this meeting, but it would be dependent on the international scene and Soviet behavior. Haig further indicated the Soviets are very concerned that such a meeting might not take place.

10. (C/NF) Haig indicated that there was also a problem related to the grain embargo. He said people at the White House were coming more into agreement with William Brock at Agriculture and that the people putting the pressure on the President to lift the grain embargo had no sense of foreign affairs. He indicated he believed what we are seeing is a case of politicians driving the people rather than the other way around, that there really was not much pressure within the body politic to lift the embargo. He said that he had suggested the President check with the Congressional leadership on this, especially Howard Baker. His sense was that the leadership would indicate we had much more to lose than to gain by lifting the grain embargo. Mr. Carlucci suggested that the IG on East-West trade really needed to get going in order to establish the policy and the importance of the grain embargo.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the Soviet Union.]

J.H. Rixse
The Special Assistant
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: 1981–1987, FRC 330–90–0033, Box 3, Meetings, Conversations, Foreign Trips, Visits. Secret; Sensitive; Noforn. Typed at the top of the memorandum is: “SecDef Eyes Only File.”
  2. A reference to NATO’s Special Consultative Group, chaired by Eagleburger, which met in Brussels in the spring of 1981 to discuss ways to implement NATO’s dual track decision of 1979. See John Vinocur, “U.S. Assures Allies It Seeks Arms Talks,” New York Times, April 1, 1981, p. A2.
  3. Reference is to West German Minister of Defense Hans Apel.
  4. See Document 35.
  5. See Document 37.