52. Memorandum From Secretary of State Haig to President Reagan1

SUBJECT

  • Meeting with Soviet First Deputy Foreign Minister

Comments which Gromyko’s First Deputy, Korniyenko, made to our Charge d’Affaires in Moscow last week indicate that the Soviets are still interested in a dialogue with us, but that they have little or nothing of substance to say on the issues of primary concern to us. We [Page 135] had instructed Matlock to see Korniyenko to make certain that Dobrynin is reporting our views accurately to Moscow, and also to probe for any additional indications of Soviet thinking.

On the subject of the U.S.-Soviet dialogue itself, Korniyenko acted as though our meeting with Gromyko at the UN in September should be considered firm regardless of what might happen between now and then. Matlock disabused him of that notion. As for a summit meeting, Korniyenko said only that Brezhnev’s response to your letter would address the matter. Given Brezhnev’s recent remarks to Waldheim,2 we assume the reply will reiterate his interest in meeting with you.

Dobrynin has been telling us that the Soviets might be prepared to set a time-table for withdrawal from Afghanistan, and we had instructed Matlock to probe for any elucidation of that point. What came through from Korniyenko was a hard-line reiteration of the long-standing Soviet position, leaving no room for us to expect any movement in the near future.

Korniyenko made it clear that the Soviets are still unwilling to discuss Poland with us. Despite what should be an obvious Soviet interest in having the West continue its economic assistance to Poland, Korniyenko refused to provide any information on what the Soviets are doing from their side, claiming that it was a bilateral matter and that the Poles had in any case fully informed us of the scope of Soviet assistance (which they have not done).

Similarly, Korniyenko continued the Soviet stance of refusing to indicate what, if anything, they might be doing to try to dampen the crisis in Lebanon. He admitted that the situation is “dangerous and even explosive,” but he sought to exonerate the Syrians of all blame. Matlock’s reiteration of our strong views was nevertheless timely, as the meeting came on the eve of Korniyenko’s departure for Damascus.

In the process of reiterating our position on Iran—something we had instructed Matlock to do because some Soviets have been questioning whether our recent silence on the point indicated a change in U.S. policy—Matlock did elicit a reaffirmation that the Soviet Union is “of course” against interference in the affairs of other countries, including Iran. Nevertheless, Korniyenko acknowledged that the Soviets have not responded to the unilateral Iranian abrogation of the articles of the 1921 Soviet-Iranian treaty which give the Soviet Union a right to intervene.

Korniyenko expressed awareness of your personal interest in resolving the problem of the Soviet Pentecostalists residing in our Embassy in Moscow—the only bilateral issue on which this Administra[Page 136]tion at a high level has sought Soviet cooperation. Nevertheless, he had absolutely nothing to offer.

Our impression is that, while we have gotten the Soviets’ attention on a range of troublesome issues, we have not yet persuaded them of the necessity of movement toward a more conciliatory attitude.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC: Country File, USSR (05/20/1981–05/20/1981). Secret. In telegram 6096 from Moscow, May 4, the Embassy reported on Matlock’s conversation with Korniyenko. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number])
  2. Reference is to Waldheim’s trip to Moscow in May 1981.