49. Telegram From the Department of State to Secretary of State Haig’s Delegation1

Tosec 030096. Following repeat sent action SecState May 4. Quote: Secret Moscow 06096. Subject: Meeting With Korniyenko. Refs: (A) State 112406,2 (B) State 114116.3

1. (S—Entire text).

2. Summary

During Charge’s call on Korniyenko May 4 latter:

—Confirmed Soviet interest in the U.S.-Soviet dialogue, took exception to our point that a Haig-Gromyko meeting at the fall UNGA will depend on international events, and said response to President Reagan’s letter to Brezhnev, including reference to summitry, will be forthcoming.

—Repeated the standard Soviet position on Afghanistan, reiterated the charge that USG pressured Pakistan not to engage in discussions with the Afghan authorities, and rejected the UNGA resolution on Afghanistan as the basis for UNSYG efforts to find an acceptable solution.

—Said Soviet economic assistance to Poland was a bilateral matter and the scale of that assistance was well known to USG; took exception to our statement that the Soviet Union “must” bear a much larger [Page 124] scale of the burden in helping Poland and to our reference to Soviet intervention in Poland and its consequences.

—Gave no assurances that the Soviet Union would urge restraint on Syria in Lebanon and would not admit any Syrian responsibility for the present crisis.

—Emphasized Soviet interest in nuclear non-proliferation and asked what Indian response was to our approach on Indian preparation for an underground nuclear test explosion.

—Had nothing to add to Soviet position on the Pentecostalists.

—Said (disingenuously) that Charge’s appearance on Soviet TV would depend on whether Soviet media are interested in extending an invitation. End summary.

3. Charge called on First Deputy Foreign Minister Korniyenko morning of May 4 for discussion in accord with reftel. Discussion of talking points supplied by Department is summarized below.

U.S.-Soviet Dialogue

4. Korniyenko commented that the Soviet Union’s views on a dialogue do not need any special comment in that there can be no doubt that the Soviet Union is “for a dialogue” which would be effective and deal with concrete questions. The Soviet Union, he said, is not for a dialogue merely for the sake of a dialogue, but is interested in one which will take both sides forward on the questions under discussion. Concerning our statement that a meeting between Secretary Haig and Foreign Minister Gromyko might take place in the UNGA in the fall, Korniyenko said that such meetings have become traditional. However, he took exception to the “reservation” that such a meeting would depend upon events between now and the UNGA and the international atmosphere which prevails at that time. This was not a constructive approach, in his view, for such a meeting. Charge observed that U.S. interest in a dialogue is serious and that our statement simply reflects the fact that any meeting at that level is obviously subject to international developments.

5. Concerning a summit meeting, Korniyenko said that a Soviet response to President Reagan’s letter will be forthcoming in due course, and will deal with that part of the letter which addresses a summit meeting. He added that it would be inappropriate for him to anticipate the Soviet reaction at this time.


6. Korniyenko commented that our statement on Afghanistan was “not very understandable.” He reiterated the standard Soviet position that Soviet troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan when the Government of Afghanistan requests the Soviet Union to do so and when armed attacks against Afghan territory cease. “Until that happens it is [Page 125] not possible to withdraw Soviet troops.” He said that of course Dobrynin had not excluded the possibility of a Soviet withdrawal, since the Soviet position had long been that it would withdraw when “foreign intervention” in Afghanistan ceased and sufficient guarantees were in place to preclude a resumption. The U.S., he said, can facilitate this but is evidently doing the opposite. He then referred to what he characterized as the President’s statement that the U.S. “will arm and continue to arm Afghan counter revolutionaries.”

7. Charge pointed out that Korniyenko had misquoted the President, since he had actually said that if Afghan patriots asked us for assistance we would consider such a request. Charge added that he felt the Soviets had no grounds for objecting to the President’s statement since Soviet leaders make clear that they reserve the right to aid “liberation movements” of their definition and choosing. Our approach to the Soviet Union on this question, however, is not aimed at winning debating points. The Soviet Union must understand that the situation in Afghanistan plays a key role in U.S. public opinion and is a major factor in our current difficulties. A solution must be found which addresses the root issues—the presence of Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Without progress on this issue it will be very difficult to make substantial progress in resolving other difficult issues on the U.S.-Soviet agenda.4

8. Picking up on this, Korniyenko asked why the U.S. was obstructing any step which can effectively settle the problem “around Afghanistan.” Pakistan, he said, had been ready to approach negotiations with Afghanistan in the presence of UNSYG or his representative, and Soviets know very well that the U.S. put pressure on Pakistan not to enter into talks which could lead to closing the Pakistan border to anti-Afghan activities. Charge made clear that we are not opposed to negotiations directed at solving the root problem and which are based on the UNGA resolution of November 1980. The problem is that the Soviet Union has shown no readiness to take this course, which has the approval of a majority of UN members.

9. Korniyenko said that UN resolutions are not always appropriate bases for negotiations, and the U.S. implicitly recognized this when it refused to implement the UNGA resolution on the recognition of the PLO as the exclusive representative of the Palestinian people. He then reiterated his contention that the U.S. had obstructed bilateral talks between Islamabad and Kabul, and observed that the Soviets had con[Page 126]cluded from this that the U.S. has no interest in solving the problem, but wishes to drag it out.5

10. Charge pointed out that this conclusion was utterly false, since U.S. has absolutely no interest in a perpetuation of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan—which is the real issue. The U.S. clearly will support steps designed to resolve this problem, but they obviously must center on the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.


11. Korniyenko commented as follows on our talking points:

—Soviet economic assistance to Poland will be decided on a bilateral basis. These decisions will be made much more expeditiously than they have been by the West. Soviet assistance and the scale of Soviet assistance concerns only the Polish leadership. Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jagielski informed the U.S. officials during his trip to Washington of the scope of Soviet assistance, therefore U.S. is aware of the volume of Soviet aid and knows that it is substantial.6

—Concerning the U.S. reference that the Soviet Union “must bear a much larger share of the burden in helping Poland,” Soviets cannot accept the implications and tone of this reference. This applies equally to the U.S. reference to “Soviet intervention in Poland.” The Soviets have made their position clear on this matter. If U.S. is talking about outside intervention in Poland’s affairs, it is evident that it comes from the Western powers, especially the U.S. The U.S. is trying to dictate to the Polish Government what to do and not to do and to use economic assistance in a threatening way. This is intervention.

12. Charge pointed out that it is not unreasonable to expect the Soviet Union, as an ally of Poland, to carry its share of the burden of economic assistance. Also, in no way can Western aid to Poland be construed as interference. We are not forcing Poland to accept our aid. On the contrary. The U.S. has a sovereign right to determine the conditions under which it will extend aid, but wishes to make clear to all concerned the considerations which will enter into our decisions.


13. Charge referred to the non-paper given Dobrynin by the Secretary on April 1 concerning the Indian underground nuclear explosion and added the additional points per reftel A. Korniyenko stated that the Soviet Union’s basic position on nonproliferation was well known [Page 127] and commented that it has been a subject upon which both the U.S. and the Soviet Union have been in substantial agreement. He asked what the Indian response was when we raised this matter with them, and Charge said he had no information on this point. Korniyenko repeated that this is an area in which we have a coincidence of views, and added, “we will return to this question.”


14. Regarding Lebanon, Korniyenko referred to Dobrynin’s response to Undersecretary Stoessel and added that what bothers the Soviet Union is the U.S. action in trying to “dictate” to Syria how it should deploy its forces when it is acting under a mandate by the Arab states. He then asked pointedly what right the U.S. has to issue ultimatums in such a situation.

15. Charge replied that he was surprised by Korniyenko’s questioning of U.S. right to convey its views to the parties involved and by his characterization of this as an ultimatum. It is clear that the U.S. is trying to defuse a dangerous situation, and using its influence to this end in those quarters where it has influence. Speaking personally, he found Korniyenko’s question quite incomprehensible in view of the provisions of the U.S.–U.S.S.R. 1973 Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War. The Soviet Union must recognize that the situation in Lebanon remains dangerous and could spiral out of control if the Syrians do not restore the status quo ante April 25.

16. Korniyenko acknowledged that the situation in Lebanon is dangerous and even explosive and then went into a lengthy monologue accusing the phalange, Haddad’s militia forces in the south and Israeli aggressive acts into Lebanese territory as the major causes for the sharpening crisis. Syrian acts in Lebanon, he concluded, are in reaction to the acts of these other forces. Charge responded that U.S. cannot accept the assertion that most of the responsibility rests with Israel and the Christian forces in Lebanon and emphasized that what is important now is not arguing over who is to blame but undertaking steps to prevent a deterioration of the current situation.


17. On Iran, Korniyenko adopted a quizzical posture, saying that he did not understand why we were bringing the subject up in this way. He added that the Soviet Union, “of course,” is against interference in the affairs of other countries and that this applies to Iran as much as Mexico.7 But they do not find it necessary to point this out without [Page 128] cause. Charge pointed out that, given the turmoil in Iran and the strained relations the U.S. now has with Iran, it is quite appropriate to restate our position in this matter, lest there be any misunderstanding. He then took the opportunity to ask, for the Embassy’s information, what the Soviet position is on the Iranian abrogation of Articles 5 and 6 of the 1921 Soviet-Iranian Treaty. Korniyenko replied that there had been no Soviet response to the Iranian “declaration” on this subject.


18. Korniyenko said that the Soviets had noted the President’s interest in this matter, but could add nothing to what Dobrynin had already provided on the subject.8

Access to Soviet Media by Charge

19. In conclusion, Charge mentioned that we continue to hope that Soviets will arrange for a TV appearance to answer questions regarding U.S. policy. He pointed out that the frequent appearances of Soviet representatives on U.S. media and failure to arrange for a single U.S. appearance here left the unfortunate impression that Soviets desired a monologue rather than a dialogue. Korniyenko replied that Soviet diplomats in U.S. merely responded to invitations from the media, and if Soviet media desired to invite the Charge for a similar appearance, MFA would not object. Charge observed that he was sure that MFA could encourage such an invitation if it wished.

Matlock.9 Unquote.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Haig Papers, Department of State, Box CL 38, Day File, May 5, 1981. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. The telegram repeated telegram 6096, sent from Moscow to Haig on May 4. Haig’s stamped initials indicate he saw the telegram. Haig wrote at the top of the telegram: “5/4/81 file.” On May 5, Haig traveled from Rome, where he had attended a NATO Ministerial meeting, to Brussels.
  2. In telegram 112406 to Moscow, May 1, the Department requested that Matlock seek an early appointment with Korniyenko to enumerate the instances of U.S. dialogue since the start of the Reagan administration. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, N810004–0247)
  3. In telegram 114116 to Moscow, May 3, the Department reiterated Stoessel’s May 1 discussion with Dobrynin regarding Israel’s strong concerns over Syrian troops on Mt. Sannin. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number])
  4. Haig underlined much of this paragraph, drew a checkmark at the end, and wrote in the right-hand margin: “Brilliant! this fellow I like!!”
  5. Haig wrote in the right-hand margin next to paragraph 9: “Clearly a weak response to a strong U.S. stance!”
  6. Haig drew three vertical lines to the right of this sentence and wrote: “not really!! their man didn’t perform.
  7. Haig underlined “as much as Mexico” and wrote in the right-hand margin: “Tom Enders—See me—we are making headway at last!”
  8. Haig drew a line from the end of this sentence to the right-hand margin and wrote: “nothing at all!”
  9. Haig circled Matlock’s name, drew a line to the right-hand margin, and wrote: “Superb job here & there!”