95. Memorandum for the Record1


Ambassador Dobrynin delivered to the Secretary the attached letter to the President from President Brezhnev.2 He said that the letter made [Page 330] the point that the Soviets felt the Haig/Gromyko talks in New York had been useful. Actually Dobrynin said Gromyko was personally more positive in his assessment of the talks than the letter was.

Afghanistan: Secretary Haig asked Dobrynin why it was that the Japanese had gotten a different picture of the Soviet position on Afghanistan than he had gotten from Gromyko. Haig said this was especially true in the use of the term self-determination. Gromyko had told Haig that what was happening in Afghanistan was essentially irreversible whereas in talking to the Japanese Gromyko told the Japanese that self-determination could happen. Haig asked which was the Soviet position. Dobrynin responded that the position was as described by the Japanese, that self-determination could happen. He explained that Gromyko had felt Haig used the term in the context of negotiations over Afghanistan whereas in his talks with the Japanese the term was used in the context of guarantees and the withdrawal of Soviet troops. After that withdrawal, self-determination was possible.

Dobrynin said that Gromyko had gotten the impression that Haig referred to the possibility of expert level talks on Afghanistan. Haig said this was incorrect. What he said was that he would have our experts look at Afghanistan and then perhaps later we could talk some more about it. In any case Haig told him we would be prepared to discuss Afghanistan further in February.

Haig then asked Dobrynin if he had any comments on the Angola issue (the chicken and egg and omelet issue as Dobrynin said). Dobrynin asked how we intended to handle Savimbi whom we were supporting. The Secretary said we were not supporting Savimbi. His support came from other sources. Dobrynin asked how in any case we intended to handle him and the Secretary replied he thought we would just let the Afghans [Angolans] decide that. Dobrynin then asked if it was true that there was talk of having an outside guarantee force as part of the settlement and Haig said there had perhaps been talk in the OAU about that. Dobrynin asked why the U.S. was so fixated with the Cubans in Angola and Haig replied it was the only way in which there would be independence for Namibia. Dobrynin wondered what we had in mind about simultaneous withdrawal—would one date be set for one side to withdraw and another date for the other side to withdraw? Haig stated that this was not accurate. The withdrawals would have to be concluded at the same time. Dobrynin wondered how this would be achieved. The Secretary said that we would complete our talks with the South Africans at which time we would get a date certain from them on Namibia and then we would use another framework to get the same date in respect to Angola. Dobrynin thought this might be possible.

Dobrynin stated that the Soviets also would like to have a settlement in the Persian Gulf area, perhaps in the context of an Afghan [Page 331] settlement. The Soviets might give some guarantees to some of the countries the U.S. is interested in in the area.

Dobrynin stated that Brezhnev was concerned by the belief of President Reagan that the Soviets think the Soviets could win a nuclear war. This led Brezhnev to think that perhaps Reagan thought he could win a nuclear war and it worried the Soviet leadership. Turning to SALT Dobrynin encouraged an early move on one or more narrower aspects of SALT to get momentum back to the arms control talks. (He did not mention any specific aspect of SALT.) The Ambassador stated the U.S. arms buildup and recent strategic decisions were matters of great concern to the Soviet leadership.

Dobrynin thought it would be useful to examine some specific areas where progress might be made. He thought that he and the Secretary later in the fall might begin to talk about the agenda for the next round of talks between the Secretary and Gromyko. He said if he had some ideas he would bring them to the Secretary. The Secretary said he thought this was a good idea and we would do the same.

In conclusion Dobrynin asked how we had handled the records of the Haig/Gromyko meeting. Haig told Dobrynin that we had done nothing with them and that they had been very closely held. Dobrynin said this was good and it was also what they had done, but pointed out that the Politburo had read the memcons carefully.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Haig Papers, Department of State, Day File, Box 56, October 16, 1981. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Bremer. An unknown hand circled the date and wrote next to it: “Day & Gromyko meet file.”
  2. Not found attached; printed as Document 93.