8. Briefing Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Political and Military Affairs (Burt) and the Director-Designate of Policy Planning (Wolfowitz) to Secretary of State Haig1


  • Relations with Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin

Your 1730 meeting today with Ambassador Dobrynin raises the more general point of how this Administration will conduct relations with the Soviet Union. We would like to share some brief thoughts with you:

—As you know, their man in Washington has become a, if not the, key conduit for our communications with Moscow.

—Not only does it tend to undermine the position of our embassy and officials stationed in Moscow, but it allows the USSR to control the circuit.

—This tends as well to give them more access to us than vice-versa, a pattern which only exacerbates an imbalance already there owing to the fact that our society is so much more open than theirs.

Given this background, we would suggest that you make it clear from the outset that under your tenure US-Soviet relations will be conducted on the basis of strict reciprocity in form as well as substance. The Soviets should be made to understand not only that Dobrynin will no longer enjoy special status, but also that whatever status he does enjoy will depend upon equal treatment for his opposite number in Moscow. Such a point could be underlined by your declining any future meetings [Page 18] with Dobrynin until our Ambassador has had his first session of comparable duration and seriousness.2

There is another consideration as well. We question whether, over the long-term, it is wise to have Dobrynin remain in Washington. His position as dean of the diplomatic corps affords him a status which is unfortunate from our perspective. His contacts are all too broad and well-established.

In short, it is difficult to see how we benefit from having this often devious and always dangerous diplomat accredited to Washington. Getting him replaced in the next year or two should be a serious goal for us. By demonstrating to his masters that he no longer will enjoy special treatment or status, we may be taking an important first step to bring about his removal.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, Lot 89D149, S/SP Records: Memoranda and Correspondence From the Director of the Policy Planning Staff to the Secretary, PW Jan. 21–31, ’81. Confidential; Sensitive. Drafted by Haass.
  2. NOTE: It should be made clear to Dobrynin that we do not expect reciprocity until we have an Ambassador of our own in Moscow. The caveat on future meetings with Dobrynin might therefore not arise for a little while. But this is the right occasion to make the point. [Footnote is in the original.]
  3. In telegram 602 from Moscow, January 15, Matlock reported that a source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Diplomatic Academy, based on conversations with senior Soviet officials, had informed a U.S. Embassy officer that Dobrynin intended to retire that month. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D810024–0330) Dobrynin remained Soviet Ambassador to the United States until his recall in April 1986.