66. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Haig-Dobrynin Meeting, July 2, 1981

Ambassador Dobrynin said that he had participated in many important meetings between Gromyko and American leaders, but that the forthcoming meeting between the Secretary and Gromyko would be the most important which had occurred since he had been in Washington. There were many people in Moscow—and the number was growing—who had concluded that we were entering into a period of real hostility between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. The President had specifically attacked the Soviet leadership, as had the Secretary. There had been absolutely no progress in our relations in the five months since the new Administration took office. The Secretary’s meeting with Gromyko was thus looked upon in Moscow as a sort of benchmark for determining whether there was to be any future to the Soviet-American relationship.

Dobrynin said he needed a direct answer to a question: Is Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan an absolute condition for any relationship with the Soviet Union? The Secretary responded that Afghanistan was a profoundly important issue, as was Kampuchea. Any assurances which the Soviets could give us—for example, with regard to specific plans for a phased withdrawal from Afghanistan—would clearly have an effect on our attitude toward relations with the Soviet Union. At the same time, Dobrynin should take note of the fact that we had already broken TNF out of the complex of issues facing us and agreed to negotiations. In the same context, the Secretary noted that we would in due course have something to say about a future long term grains agreement.

It should be clear, the Secretary continued, that the pace of our dealings with the Soviet Union would be affected by Soviet conduct in these two areas (Afghanistan and Kampuchea), and also in two other areas—Iran and Poland. We wanted good relations with the Soviet Union but could not simply put Afghanistan behind us. We therefore hoped that there would be some evidence of Soviet movement on Afghanistan when he met with Gromyko in the fall.

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The Secretary noted that the EC proposal for a conference on Afghanistan2 was a serious one, non-polemical, and not an anti-Soviet gesture. The U.S. was prepared to help in any way it could—but one thing had to be clear, that we could not agree to the establishment of a puppet regime in Kabul that ignored the need for reestablishing a non-aligned Afghanistan. We felt the same way about Kampuchea. We had, for example, taken all the rhetoric out of the ASEAN resolution on Kampuchea,3 and we viewed the international conference4 as a serious initiative. The Soviets should either participate in the conference or come to the UN with a proposal of their own.

Dobrynin interrupted with a question as to whether the Secretary thought the Soviets were really in control of Vietnam, adding that the Vietnamese had not even informed the Soviets before going into Kampuchea. The Secretary responded that, whether that was true or not, it was clear that the Soviets were at least providing considerable support to Vietnam. He had seen the evidence of what the Soviets were doing at Cam Rahn Bay and of their growing presence elsewhere in Vietnam. This was a fundamentally destabilizing development.

Dobrynin raised the subject of U.S.-China relations and gave the Secretary a non-paper on the subject.5 The Secretary reminded Dobrynin that we had informed the Soviets, before he left for his trip to China, that we were changing the category in which we placed China to that of a friendly, non-allied country. In effect, we were henceforth treating China basically the same as Yugoslavia. We had previously told the Soviets also of our strong objections to the Soviet supply of arms to Central America, and yet that supply had not ceased. Recently the Soviets had provided Nicaragua—a country with 2.5 million people—with a full batallion of tanks. On a pro rata population basis, we would have to supply the Chinese with 5,000 to 6,000 tanks for any sort of equivalent action. We had warned the Soviets, but they paid no attention to our warning. Dobrynin expostulated that we could have discussed the matter, and the Secretary reminded him that we had discussed it on several occasions.

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Returning to subject of Kampuchea and Afghanistan, the Secretary said that what we needed from the Soviets were constructive approaches. We would be quite prepared to discuss such approaches, including transitional arrangements pending a full settlement. Poland, he said, was a critical case; if the Soviets were to go in, everything in Soviet-American relations would go by the board. As for Iran, we were disturbed by Soviet propaganda claims that we had responsibility for the recent bombing.6 Dobrynin claimed that Soviet radio was only repeating what was being reported from Teheran. The Secretary stated that that was not true and said he would send Dobrynin a couple of examples of particularly objectionable broadcasts. Non-intervention in Iran, the Secretary continued, was absolutely essential to any future relationship with the Soviet Union. Dobrynin asked what he thought would happen to the leftists in Iran, and the Secretary responded that it appeared they would be going into a meat grinder. Dobrynin commented that they already were. The Secretary stated that the United States was not involved in events in Iran and expected the same of the Soviet Union.

On the subject of East-West trade, the Secretary commented that the Soviets would find that we would be taking a reasonable position. Dobrynin said he had heard that we were making plans to try to isolate the Soviets economically, and the Secretary denied that that was true. There would in time be some movement, though much would of course depend on Soviet conduct in other matters.

Dobrynin said it was essential that the Secretary and Gromyko talk about the Persian Gulf when they met in September. The Secretary responded that there was no possibility of our taking any concerted action with the Soviets concerning the Persian Gulf or the Middle East so long as the Soviets remained in Afghanistan.

Asked what we planned to do about the TTBT and the PNET, the Secretary said the matters were under review.

On TNF, Dobrynin asked what our preference would be for a site for negotiations. The Secretary said that we did not yet have a definite position but probably would prefer Geneva. Asked about the relationship between TNF and SALT, the Secretary responded that these were clearly parallel issues and that at some point the tracks would have to be integrated. Dobrynin in that connection voiced a complaint about ACDA Director Rostow’s testimony.7

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC: Country File, USSR (06/26/1981–07/02/1981). Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by German on July 6; cleared by Eagleburger. Haig reported on this meeting in a July 7 memorandum to Reagan printed as Document 67.
  2. Reference to a plan by the ten nations of the European Community to hold an international conference to seek a formula for Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. See Paul Lewis, “West Europeans to Seek Soviet Pullout in Afghanistan,” New York Times, June 30, 1981, p. A3.
  3. A reference to the closing declaration at a June meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which called for a U.N. peacekeeping force, withdrawal of Vietnamese troops, and disarmament of rival Cambodian factions. See Henry Kamm, “Asian Parley Urges Cambodian Solution,” New York Times, June 19, 1981, p. A5.
  4. Haig’s July 13 speech at the July 13–17 U.N. International Conference on Kampuchea is printed in the Department of State Bulletin, August 1981, pp. 86–87.
  5. Attached but not printed.
  6. A reference to the June 29 bombing in Teheran of the headquarters of Iran’s Islamic Republic Party. See “33 High Iranian Officials Die in Bombing At Party Meeting; Chief Judge is Among Victims,” New York Times, June 29, 1981, p. A1.
  7. Rostow’s June 22 statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is printed in the Department of State Bulletin, August 1981, pp. 59–64.