76. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

10307. Subject: July 23 Meeting With Korniyenko.

1. (S—Entire text).

2. Summary: In tour d’horizon with Korniyenko July 23 Charge made points as instructed reftel 2 and Korniyenko replied:

—Soviets, too, await Secretary’s meetings with Gromyko, hope for accomplishment, but see the U.S. as insincere on arms control, and not wanting friendly relations.

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—Soviet written response to Carrington, rejecting the EC’s Afghanistan initiative should end speculation Moscow might consider it.

—U.S. is using Afghanistan as pretext for wrecking principle of equal security at basis of arms control. U.S. is not seriously reviewing SALT.

UN conference on Kampuchea is U.S.-engineered and cannot be constructive.

—U.S. has no right to call for increased Soviet economic aid to Poland and knows what the USSR is doing.

—Was the U.S., in raising arms supply to Central America, suggesting resumption of the conventional arms transfer talks?

—U.S. was going against prior assurances in arming China. What concerns the USSR is that U.S. considers China a friend and the USSR an enemy.

—He thanked the Charge for the (two hour, bruising) exchange and pronounced it “not unuseful.” End summary.

3. Charge began by noting that he had been in Moscow for six months and appreciated the opportunity to speak about some important questions before going to Washington for a week of consultations. He would be meeting with the Secretary and a number of others, and he expected that interest would be on the coming talks between the Secretary and Gromyko. The U.S. had made clear its determination to deal with the consequences of lack of Soviet and proxy restraint but was interested in a stable, durable and mutually satisfactory relationship. We hoped the coming meeting would lay a basis for that. The Charge said he would be happy to convey to the Secretary any thoughts the Soviets had regarding agenda and format of the September meetings.

Haig/Gromyko talks and TNF

4. Korniyenko said the Soviets, too, looked forward to the September talks and hoped for accomplishments in improving what could not be considered normal relations. Soviet desires, indeed, go further: they would like relations on the basis of friendship, and they note with regret that the U.S. never talks of friendship but treats the USSR as an enemy. As for agenda, both sides would be free in September to raise any questions they wanted. The possibility of a joint statement on the start of TNF negotiations was under discussion in the Eagleburger-Bessmertnykh channel and Bessmertnykh had been authorized to inform Eagleburger that the Soviets would be prepared to begin investigative negotiations November 17 and preferred Geneva as the site—mainly because facilities seemed more adequate there. He considered a November start desirable since the U.S. delegation would doubtless want a break for Christmas and it would be well to allow time for extensive discussions before the break.

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5. Charge responded that, in respect to basing our relations on friendship, the U.S. would also desire this in principle. However, we would be less than candid if we did not make clear that Soviet actions and policies stand in contradiction to the principle of friendship. Before we can think of friendship, we must resolve these serious issues and no one will be more pleased than we if we are able to do so.

6. As for preparations for TNF negotiations, Charge expressed pleasure that preparations were proceeding smoothly in the channel established for that purpose. He noted that, as the Secretary had made clear in his recent address, we are well along in our preparations for these talks and hope that the Soviets will be prepared for meaningful discussions. He noted, however, that persistent Soviet efforts to portray the U.S. attitude as less than serious serve only to complicate the process and prospects for progress, and added that he was particularly disturbed by the distorted reports in the Soviet media on the Secretary’s speech on arms control.

7. Korniyenko replied that the Soviets are indeed prepared for serious negotiations on TNF and have been prepared for a long time. As for Soviet accusations of U.S. procrastination, these were based on the facts: the administration had made it clear that it was in no hurry to discuss arms control with the Soviet Union, it proceeded to discuss TNF negotiations only under the pressure of its allies, and then it ostentatiously pictured exchanges on trivial questions as serious discussions.

8. Charge took strong issue with Korniyenko’s allegations of U.S. “procrastination,” pointing out that careful preparations are an indication of our seriousness of intent, and efforts to picture them in any other light are simply unfounded. He then turned to Afghanistan as one of the principal issues which required resolution if U.S.-Soviet relations are to improve substantially.


9. After Charge delivered talking points provided by Department, Korniyenko said he could reveal that the Soviets had the day before given an official written answer to Carrington, reiterating, as he had been told at the time, that the initiative was unrealistic and unacceptable. The written answer had been sent because there was continuing speculation that the USSR was reflecting on the matter. The answer would not surprise nor be hard to understand. The Soviets had proposed talks on the international aspects, but not to exclude the Afghans. The British proposal would have excluded them and also addressed Afghan internal affairs. The proposal was a camouflage and not made with any expectation it would be accepted. The U.S. is not really interested in a settlement, and proved this by its action in influencing the Pakistanis away from bilateral talks they had initially agreed upon.

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10. Charge said that he was distressed to hear that the Soviets considered their rejection of the EC–10 proposal as final, since this proposal offered a reasonable basis for negotiating a solution. The Soviet reaction was all the more deplorable since the EC–10 initiative flowed from the Brezhnev suggestion of an international conference. The Soviets often accuse the West of not taking Soviet proposals seriously, but when we do, the much-publicized proposals turn out to be meaningless. Furthermore, the Soviets must recognize that, in rejecting efforts by the international community to find a solution to this problem, they are choosing to perpetuate a serious disturbance to the international order and a grave impediment to improved US-Soviet relations. The problem will not go away. It is with us and must be addressed.

11. Korniyenko responded with an emotional outburst, accusing the U.S. and China of wishing only to perpetuate the fighting in Afghanistan in order to increase tension and justify an arms build-up. He reiterated, in great detail, accusations that the U.S. brought pressure to bear on Pakistan to change its position on direct talks.

12. Charge observed that he had attempted to make our points in a non-contentious fashion, assuming that Korniyenko thoroughly understood the details of our attitude and the reasons for it. However, in the face of Korniyenko’s unfounded accusations, he was compelled to point out that the basic problem in Afghanistan is the fact that the Soviet Union is attempting to impose a puppet regime on Afghanistan in opposition to the wishes of the population. A true national-liberation struggle is going on there, and the only way to solve it is to remove Soviet troops and let the Afghans settle their own affairs. Korniyenko’s accusations were not only unfounded; they are irrelevant since they do not address the real issue. If the Soviet Union continues to refuse to deal seriously with reasonable proposals to solve the problem, then Afghanistan will continue to burden our relationship and make agreements of all types much more difficult.

Arms Control

13. Korniyenko picked up on this reference to linkage by asserting that U.S. statements on the issue are contradictory. On the one hand we say the SALT process will be difficult if Afghanistan is not solved, while on the other, Secretary Haig has said publicly that SALT and Afghanistan are not connected. Charge inquired when the Secretary had made the alleged statement, and Korniyenko referred to an observation that the SALT–II Treaty would not have been ratified even in the absence of an Afghanistan problem. Charge pointed out that Korniyenko was taking the Secretary’s words out of context and distorting them. As he recalled the statement, it was that the SALT–II Treaty had sufficient defects that it would not have won ratification [Page 229] even if the Soviets had not invaded Afghanistan. This, of course, was not to say that Afghanistan had no effect on the Senate’s judgment of the utility of agreements with the Soviet Union, or that it does not affect the current prospects for U.S.-Soviet relations.

14. Korniyenko then launched into a disjointed, shotgun polemic, asserting that Afghanistan was just a cover for a U.S. policy decision to wreck the basic principle of SALT, which is equality and equal security. He asserted that statements by administration officials indicated such misunderstanding about the SALT agreements that it was clear the administration was not seriously studying and reviewing the subject. The Soviet Union was in complete compliance with SALT but the U.S. had violated provisions on non-circumvention by preparations to put into Europe weapons which could hit the USSR. The Soviets had not increased their capabilities but the U.S. was upsetting the balance. The Soviets had concluded SALT–I despite the fact that the U.S. was at the time waging aggression against Vietnam. Charge responded that he could not accept a thing Korniyenko was saying. The Soviets might consider it useful propaganda but he hoped the Soviet Government was realistic enough to know it was not true. Korniyenko was grasping at straws. The U.S. was in full compliance with all agreements and indeed is still waiting for satisfactory replies to questions on Soviet compliance with several agreements. Even if SALT–II were a formally ratified agreement, which of course it is not, plans for LRTNF deployments in Europe do not violate it, since the weapons are not strategic as defined by the treaty. The allegation that Pershing II deployment would upset a “balance” is absurd: it was the Soviet deployment of SS–20’s which upset the nuclear balance in Europe and planned NATO deployments are only a belated response to this. Finally, in respect to Korniyenko’s reference to the 1972 summit, Charge pointed out that while he could not accept that Vietnam and Afghanistan were comparable events, he would note that SALT–I was not concluded until the U.S. had already undertaken a phased withdrawal from Vietnam, and that throughout this process the Soviets backed the North Vietnamese to the hilt—and after the U.S. withdrew the Soviet Union supported North Vietnamese in breaking the agreements reached. These observations led to an introduction of the talking points on Kampuchea.


15. When Charge presented the talking points, Korniyenko complained that the U.S. had not condemned Chinese aggression against Vietnam and he labeled the UN Conference on Kampuchea a U.S. creation, called for, organized and structured in Washington. The conference was not in accord with the UN resolution, which called for participation by all parties involved. Charge responded that in no way [Page 230] was it a U.S. creation; it was an ASEAN initiative with wide support and participation of the UN as a whole. We regretted the USSR’s negative reaction and hoped it would urge Vietnam to cooperate. It was an effort to find a way out of a situation, like Afghanistan, which had been caused by the intervention of foreign military force. These situations were burdensome to international, regional and bilateral relations. If the Soviets wanted seriously to settle them, they would find a ready partner; otherwise we would draw the appropriate conclusion. However, in regard both to Afghanistan and Kampuchea, he hoped the Soviets would review their position carefully so that the discussions in New York could be more productive.


16. When the Charge introduced the talking points on Poland, Korniyenko adopted a frigid tone and said the most correct response he could give to the remarks was that it would be inappropriate to discuss internal Polish affairs, and that urging the Soviets to increase their economic aid to Poland was also out of order. The U.S. knew very well what the Soviets were doing in this regard. The U.S. had no moral or other right to raise this. Charge pointed out that he had not suggested a discussion of Polish internal affairs, but that the U.S., as a supplier of aid to Poland, had not only a right but indeed a duty to urge others to join in the effort to provide assistance.

Central America/Nicaragua’s Military Buildup

17. In response to Charge’s points on this subject, Korniyenko came back immediately by asking “Do I understand that you are proposing to renew the talks on conventional arms transfer?” Charge replied that his statement contained no such proposal, but stood on its own. Korniyenko then asked on what basis the question was raised. Is the U.S. reasserting the Monroe Doctrine? The Charge said that he was expressing U.S. concern with dangerous arms transfers in the region and with those countries which are ultimate sources of the arms. If we were discussing the Monroe Doctrine, he added, we would have to talk about a lot more than Nicaragua.


18. When the points on China were raised, Korniyenko objected that it seemed that the U.S. could be friends with China but not the Soviet Union, and he also heard talk about the coincidence of strategic interests. Three successive Presidents of the U.S. had given assurances about not supplying arms to China, but the Soviets must conclude that these are no longer valid. Charge pointed out that policies are made in the context of events; events had developed in recent years so that it was anomalous to classify China as a power hostile to U.S. interests. The decision not to deny in principle any supply of arms to China was a logical development of U.S.-Chinese relations. There is simply no [Page 231] reason for treating China in this respect differently from other friendly countries who are not allies. What concerns us, Korniyenko said, is that the U.S. considers the USSR an enemy and the Chinese as friends. Charge replied that Soviet actions themselves left us no choice but to consider the Soviet Union an adversary power; recent Chinese actions had given us no such cause. While we do not enjoy and do not seek adversarial relations with the Soviet Union, we cannot ignore Soviet actions which have created this situation.

19. Summing up, Charge said that he hoped that the Soviet leaders would give further thought to the various concerns we have been conveying over the past months, and that Gromyko would come to New York prepared to discuss them in a constructive spirit, rather than simply reiterating debating points. We knew that their professed suspicions that the U.S. does not desire an improvement of relations were groundless, but if the Soviet leaders proceed as if agreement is impossible and continue to pursue those policies which have created the tensions in the relationship, then of course there can indeed be no improvement. Therefore, the Soviets should resolve their doubts on this score by coming to the table with proposals designed to reduce rather than perpetuate these tensions.

20. As Charge was leaving the office, Korniyenko remarked—rather uncharacteristically—that while he and Charge have rarely agreed during their series of meetings, he found them “not unuseful” (nebezpoleznye), and hoped they would continue upon Charge’s return from Washington.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, N810006–0590. Secret; Immediate; Nodis.
  2. Not further identified.