106. Editorial Note

Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and Secretary of State George Shultz endured two tense meetings in the wake of the KAL disaster on the afternoon of September 8, 1983, in conjunction with the CSCE meetings in Madrid. (See Documents 104 and 105.) Jack Matlock, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European and Soviet Affairs in the NSC Staff, who attended these meetings, later wrote that when the larger plenary meeting ended: “Shultz, who rarely showed emotion, was fuming. As soon as Gromyko left the room in [Page 374] Ambassador Hartman’s company, Shultz summoned Rick Burt, Mark Palmer, and me and said, ‘If you fellows ever advise me to see that so-and-so again, you’re fired!’ We knew he wasn’t serious, so we assured him, tongue in cheek, that such a thought would never cross our minds.” (Matlock, Reagan and Gorbachev, pages 68–69) As Gromyko recalled the meeting in his memoir: “That was virtually the end of my talk with Shultz. It was probably the sharpest exchange I ever had with an American Secretary of State, and I have had talks with fourteen of them.” (Gromyko, Memoirs, page 301)

According to the President’s Daily Diary, Shultz and President Ronald Reagan spoke via telephone on September 8 from 10:32 to 10:39 a.m. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) Shultz recalled in his memoir that when the meeting with Gromyko ended: “I called President Reagan and told him that Gromyko couldn’t bring himself to answer any of my questions. The meeting became so outrageous and pointless that we just ended it. But I told the president that the French and the other allies were hearing from their pilots’ unions and I believed that by the time the night was over, most of our allies would agree on significant actions: amendments on air traffic control through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO); prohibition of normal liaison operations with the Soviets by NATO military attachés; a call for better military and civilian coordination of flights; a move to take these matters to the UN Security Council; explicit support for the five South Korean demands of the Soviets; and support for a two-week moratorium in air traffic to and from the Soviet Union, starting on September 15.” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, page 370) In his diary entry for September 8, Reagan wrote: “Talked to Geo. S. in Madrid—he terminated the meeting with Gromyko who insisted on repeating the Soviet lies about the Korean Plane Massacre. George says our allies may be hanging with us on taking more action against the Soviets. We’ll know more tomorrow.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, volume I, January 1981–October 1985, page 261) Shultz also reported on the meetings to Reagan and the Department of State in a telegram; see Document 108.

Matlock concluded in his book: “The meeting was traumatic for both. In his otherwise bland and uninformative memoirs, Gromyko devotes three pages to his encounter with Shultz in Madrid, repeating in a tone of high dudgeon words he had used then. It made no sense to discuss human rights with Shultz, he said, ‘as it only concerns our internal affairs.’ And he included his accusation that the Korean airliner had been sent by the United States to spy.” [See Gromyko, Memoirs, pages 298–301.] Matlock continues: “When he was in Madrid it is possible that Gromyko did not have a full report on the KAL incident. But the Soviet navy managed to recover much of the wreckage and [Page 375] the plane’s black box. By the time Gromyko wrote his memoirs, he should have been informed that there was no evidence that the plane had been on a spy mission. Possibly he never asked and was never told. The Soviet cover story was for him the truth. He would have considered any attempt by Soviet officials to question that version an act of disloyalty.” (Matlock, Reagan and Gorbachev, page 69)