44. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Secretary Haig’s Conversation with Amb. Dobrynin


  • The Secretary
  • Amb. Anatoliy Dobrynin

Middle East Trip: The Secretary began the meeting by giving Amb. Dobrynin a briefing on his recent trip to the Middle East and Europe.2 At the conclusion of his briefing the Secretary turned to Lebanon and noted that he thought the situation there was vitally important to the peace of the region. He told Dobrynin that we are urging restraint on the Israelis and suggested that the Soviets were obliged to do the same with respect to Syria. The situation was extremely volatile, and in our view if the Israelis were provoked they could take severe action. Dobrynin responded that the Syrians were prepared and would in that case react. The Secretary said that we had seen what happened in the past when the Syrians reacted.

TNF: The Secretary said he hoped that we would be prepared to move on discussions on TNF after the NATO Ministerial meeting. He thought we might perhaps be able to set up a firm schedule for talks in New York when the Secretary meets with Gromyko this fall. He noted that these were simply his ideas which had yet to be discussed with the President, but he knew they were generally in line with the President’s thinking.

[Page 111]

Brezhnev Letter: The Secretary told Amb. Dobrynin that Brezhnev would soon receive a reply to his March 6 letter to President Reagan.3 He noted that the delay in the response was due to the assassination attempt. The Secretary then referred to the brief exchange between the two Presidents on Poland and said that in light of the tone of the Soviet response, he felt it was best that the Soviet letter not be answered since it would only lead to escalated rhetoric.4

The Secretary stated that our Government remained somewhat encouraged but nonetheless wary about the Polish situation.


Based on that analysis and the President’s own long-standing opposition to the embargo, which he considered to be less than effective and counter to what he would do in the future if faced with a similar situation, the President had decided to announce that he would lift the embargo in the very near future. He wanted the Soviets to be aware of this. Also, we would be prepared to be responsive if the Soviets wished to purchase more than the 8 million tons allowed under the current long-term agreement. Amb. Dobrynin asked how much we had in mind, and the Secretary responded certainly 2 million tons, perhaps more.

The Secretary stated that once the embargo is lifted we would be prepared to negotiate a new long-term agreement to replace the one that expires in September. He told the Ambassador that it would be helpful to hear from him by noon on Friday, April 24, on the amount of additional grain the Soviets might want to buy this year, and he stated that although it was perhaps not realistic to expect an answer on the long-term agreement by Friday, it would also be helpful to know about that. Amb. Dobrynin asked if there were any conditions attached to this decision. The Secretary stated that we were making this decision on our own and there were no conditions.

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat S/S-I Records, Lot 96D262, Super Sensitive April 1981. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Bremer. The meeting was held in Haig’s office. In his memoir, Haig recalled being summoned to the White House at 6:50 p.m. and informed by Meese that Reagan wanted Haig to tell Dobrynin that evening that the grain embargo would be lifted on April 24. (Caveat, pp. 113–114)
  2. From April 4 to 12, Haig traveled to Cairo, Jerusalem, Amman, Riyadh, Rome, Madrid, London, Paris, and Bonn.
  3. See Document 26.
  4. See Documents 39 and 40.