84. Memorandum From Secretary of State Haig to President Reagan 1


  • My Forthcoming Meetings with Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko

As you know, I will be meeting with Gromyko in New York September 23 and 28, during his visit for the fall session of the U.N. General Assembly.

Objectives and Basic Approach

I see those talks as a potential contribution to your objective of putting the US-Soviet relationship on a sounder footing by linking improved bilateral relations with increased Soviet restraint. I will put this right up front in an initial one-on-one session before the Delegations convene: I would like in that session to convey on your behalf that we want to work within a long-term perspective based on respect for each other’s vital interests, but that this will frankly require new Soviet realism, together with a recognition that the world power balance cannot be changed by violence and force without calling forth a response in kind.

Gromyko will of course resist, and any results will be neither large nor immediate, but we may be able to start a process headed in the right direction. My main purpose will be to drive home to him that our whole approach to East-West policy has fundamentally and durably changed: from now on, the Soviet military build-up and lack of international restraint will be met with an appropriate U.S. military and political response. But I also want to convey to Gromyko that there is something for the Soviets in a more moderate course.

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Gromyko is an accurate reporter, and I will be making a sober presentation intended to show the Politburo that we have adopted our new course deliberately and will pursue it deliberately; that there are positive benefits if they adjust to it responsibly; and that the process of serious dialogue we are ready for can produce an altogether more solid and durable basis for conducting business and living together than the two superpowers have ever had before.

Focus on Interventionism

I plan to deliver this message by hitting hard on Soviet and proxy interventionism in crisis and potential crisis areas: Southeast Asia, Afghanistan, Southern Africa and Central American/the Caribbean. I will also highlight Poland and Iran as two countries where future Soviet intervention would have disastrous effects. In this private meeting, the main accent will be on the Cuban military build-up and Cuban activities abroad. I intend to make clear to Gromyko that we are prepared for improvement in US-Soviet relations, but that progress depends on Soviet willingness to take our concerns into account. To reinforce this argument, I plan to raise the possibility of another round of talks with him some months hence, implicitly conditional on Moscow’s responsiveness to our calls for restraint.

TNF Negotiations

The second main purpose of the meetings is to reach formal agreement on the time and place for beginning TNF negotiations later this year, in keeping with your commitment, and to initiate substantive dialogue on TNF issues. I will be making a strong pitch for Soviet cooperation in international efforts to follow up on our evidence of toxin use in Southeast Asia, and warn him of the impact on arms control prospects. But getting TNF negotiations started is vital to us, and it is an objective for the first meeting. The Soviets have been sticky in discussions of the joint statement, and the topic may spill over into the second. We should get the public statement we want that talks will begin on November 30 in Geneva, but we will also be in a position to explain to our friends that it is the Soviets, rather than us, who have been holding back.

Possible Outcomes

I expect stiff rebuttals rather than explicit concessions on geopolitical issues from Gromyko. But it is important to make our points again at the first Ministerial-level meeting with the Soviets since you were elected, and to test Soviet responsiveness at that level. The evidence will probably come back to us only over the next several months.

It is also important to keep our dialogue before the public. This is the main purpose of my suggesting another meeting with Gromyko, [Page 252] and I plan to add one or two bilateral elements to the same end. I will raise a number of outstanding human rights cases and have Ambassador-designate Art Hartman turn over another full list of such cases. I will also raise the possibility of opening consulates in Kiev, the heart of the Ukraine, and in New York. Again, results are less important than making the point to the public that we are in fact communicating.

In addition, I am trying to reach interagency agreement on two economic issues: approval of the $300 million International Harvester deal; and closing of the Soviets’ Kama Purchasing Commission in the U.S. Informing Gromyko of these two steps—one positive, one negative—will demonstrate that we have control over the economic relationship.

Gromyko may hold to a total hard line in these meetings, and we may well emerge with nothing more than agreement to begin TNF and meet again at the foreign minister level. Accordingly, we are keeping public and Allied expectations low. Such a result, however, would not be a disaster: on the contrary, it would keep the onus for delay and lack of good will on the Soviets, where it belongs.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC: Head of State File: USSR, General Secretary Brezhnev (8105567, 8105658). Secret.