11. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • U.S.-Soviet Relations


  • United States

    • George P. Shultz, Secretary of State
    • Lawrence S. Eagleburger, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
    • Thomas W. Simons, Jr., Director, EUR/SOV, Department of State
  • U.S.S.R.

    • Anatoliy F. DOBRYNIN, Soviet Ambassador
    • Oleg M. SOKOLOV, Minister-Counselor, Soviet Embassy, Washington
    • Viktor F. ISAKOV, Minister-Counselor, Soviet Embassy, Washington

The Secretary said he would briefly summarize the meeting with the President and invited Ambassador Dobrynin to comment if he differed with what the Secretary said.

The President knew of the series of meetings between the Secretary and Dobrynin, and had decided it would be useful were he to meet directly with the Ambassador to discuss U.S.-Soviet relations. The President has very definite views, as Dobrynin had discovered; they were not always the views ascribed to him. He had spent longer than the Secretary thought he would; of course Dobrynin had spoken too. The net result was that Dobrynin, for Andropov, and the President for himself had agreed that both countries should make a genuine effort to solve problems so that the bilateral relationship could progress. We could not say how far this would go, but we want to improve it. The discussion with the President had covered a four-point agenda.

(1) Arms control has many aspects: START, INF, MBFR, and related CBMs. It is an area of great importance, and we should try to identify aspects where progress may be possible. We should be ambitious where we can, for instance on START and INF.

(2) There are a number of regional issues. Dobrynin had mentioned the Middle East, and the President had mentioned Poland, Afghanistan, and Central America. Southern Africa, while perhaps somewhat different in character, is also important. We are unlikely to be able to resolve our differences; but on some we might do something. We should try [Page 34] to make progress. We had tried on Afghanistan, but without results. Our talks on southern Africa had not been wholly unproductive, but not much had been accomplished. They were more in the nature of informational meetings.

(3) Economic topics perhaps fit best in the framework of bilateral relations, but they also could be looked at on the basis of individual issues.

(4) The President had put great emphasis on human rights. Dobrynin had seen how important these questions were to the President and how important they were to the relationship between the two countries. The President had made very clear that his approach was a quiet one; he wishes to talk, not to have newspaper stories or claims of “victory.”

This represents a sweep of the issues discussed; we should try for progress in all areas, recognizing that we cannot do everything at once, but seeing if we can get something done on the agenda across the board. The closing note of both the President and the Ambassador had been that both parties are interested in a genuine effort to improve conditions; Dobrynin, in fact, had expressed optimism that this could happen.

Dobrynin said that, with the addition of working more closely in this channel, the Secretary had given a fair summary.

The meeting was the President’s idea, the Secretary added, and was not on his calendar. We have no intention of making a statement on it, but knowing how Washington works a question is conceivable. We plan to answer that the meeting took place; that Dobrynin had called on the President with the Secretary, in connection with his series of talks with the Secretary; that the President had suggested the meeting; and that we would have no further comment. Dobrynin said that it is not the Soviet practice to comment on such matters, but what the Secretary had said about the U.S. approach was acceptable.

The Secretary said that with the President, and then together in the car on the return to the Department, he and Dobrynin had talked about a meeting of the Secretary with Gromyko, and then of a meeting of Gromyko with the President at the time of the UNGA. Dobrynin noted that the latter would restore normal practice. Moreover, the Secretary continued, they had talked about the Secretary’s meeting Andropov if the Secretary were to travel to Moscow. They had also discussed Ambassador Hartman’s access to people in Moscow, a topic they had talked about before.

The Secretary then turned to matters at hand, saying time was too short for him to discuss with Ambassador Dobrynin his Far East trip at length. But, to summarize, he had found Afghanistan and Kampuchea much on people’s minds; further, arms control is not just a U.S. and [Page 35] European issue, but is much on minds in Asia as well. Dobrynin asked if this meant the Asians were prepared to take part in arms control, not now perhaps, but in some other forum at some time in the future. He realized the Secretary could not speak for them—for the Japanese and Chinese—but wondered whether they would be willing to negotiate in the future. The Secretary replied that he did not get to that point with them. However, he had been impressed in Korea, China and Japan with the interest in what the Soviets are doing. In side meetings his people had with subordinate officials, they were impressed with how much the hosts knew about arms control negotiations underway, and how well informed they were.

The Secretary suggested that they go through the work of their staffs on the bilateral lists (attached).2

He began with a brief review of the four pages of agreements still in force, saying that he was glad to note the 1973 taxation convention, since it had been his responsibility in the Nixon Administration.

Dobrynin turned to page 5, which lists agreements up for renewal in 1983/1984 (transportation, atomic energy, fisheries, grains, housing, world ocean, economic-industrial-technical cooperation). The Soviets favor continuing these agreements. We could look at them later, or, if the Secretary had comments on all or any of them, he was prepared to discuss them. In any event the Soviets are in favor of renewing them. The U.S. side had added grains to this list; the Soviets had reminded us of the others. On grains, he asked if the U.S. was proposing renewal. The Soviets did not want to force themselves on us; if the U.S. dropped it, they would let it go. The rest they thought worthwhile to renew. If the U.S. thought one or another should be dropped, we should say so. The rest can be sent to the working level for further work.

The Secretary commented that we find the seven agreements generally constructive. Given Dobrynin’s statement, we would begin to review them through our interagency process. We would develop positions—presumably positive—on each and as this work proceeds we will get back to the Soviets. Dobrynin asked if this meant the basic U.S. intention was positive. The Secretary replied that it did.

Dobrynin said that the third category listed (agreements in force, but where more active implementation would be useful) really had no substance now (agriculture, environment, health, artificial heart). The Soviets would like to invite us to give more life to these agreements. We should consider renewal of working groups, for example. If the Secretary agreed in principle, and after the U.S. had completed its internal process, then we could proceed to meetings between small [Page 36] delegations or work with the Soviet Embassy to put life back into the agreements. There were four of these agreements. If the U.S. was not negative, we could go ahead.

The Secretary said this was a worthwhile field on which to exchange ideas, but there is the question of how far and how fast to proceed, and the question of whether to engage higher level officials in these exchanges. Dobrynin said level is not really a question. It is not a matter for Gromyko and the Secretary. It is a question of letting people who know each other, who are old friends, get together to find out what can be achieved. Agriculture is an example; let our working people find out what can be done—draw on their experience—and then report to their superiors.

Dobrynin continued that the Soviets are proposing working groups from Moscow or from here, for an active exchange. This is not a new avenue; it is a matter of restoring substance to agreements now in disuse. No publicity is necessary. Delegations can be sent by the Secretary of Agriculture, for instance, or there can be experts on the environment that sit down together. This is only renewal of what went on before.

The Secretary said it is not a question of who goes where, but there is an issue of level of representation. We will consider the matter and get back to the Soviets at the working level. Dobrynin suggested that the embassies might be the appropriate channel.

Dobrynin turned to the fourth category (agreements expired or in suspense). The Secretary commented that we need to examine further what might be worked on in this category. Dobrynin noted that civil air, maritime, science and technology, and energy agreements had been proposed by the Soviets; the rest (space, trade, culture, Kama and consulates) by the U.S. The Soviets are prepared to look at all of them. He asked how the Secretary proposed to proceed. The Secretary commented that all were worth reviewing, but without commitment at this point.

Dobrynin said commercial flights under the civil air agreement had been stopped; with regard to the maritime agreement, it is a question of implementation; the U.S. had added the references to the trade, culture, Kama and consulate agreements. What did the Secretary have in mind?

Eagleburger commented that where we added items to the list of agreements from which we are working, it was solely for the purpose of making the list complete. Dobrynin said the intention was to add items to make things more active; what did adding the Trade Agreement mean? Eagleburger said our only purpose was to assure that we had before us a complete list of all agreements—nothing more than that.

[Page 37]

The Secretary commented that all these items have merit; we need to pick and choose among them, and assign priorities. Once this has been done, Dobrynin said, you can instruct the Soviet desk on next steps and we can then talk further.

Dobrynin then turned to the fifth category (regular consultations), which includes Foreign Ministers at the UNGA, pre-UNGA working level, delegations at IAEA meetings, incidents at sea, grains, Nazi war crimes. He suggested that meetings of Foreign Ministers between UNGA sessions should be added. The Secretary commented meetings only once a year is insufficient, and agreed to Dobrynin’s suggestion.

On pre-UNGA consultations, Dobrynin noted that these take place between the MFA and State, and asked if we had anything else in mind. Simons noted that our intention was to record what exists; Dobrynin responded that we should also try to move forward.

We are discussing non-proliferation, Dobrynin pointed out. The Secretary said this was a useful step, and we are looking toward another meeting. Simons noted we seem close to agreement on another separate bilateral session in June.

Dobrynin said that the incidents at sea consultations are useful. On the grains consultations, the Soviets agree to them if the LTA is agreed, but they would drop it if not.

Dobrynin then turned to the sixth category (recent consultations) which lists Afghanistan, southern Africa, CSCE, and nuclear non-proliferation. He said the Soviet side agreed to continue all of them.

The Secretary noted we had had consultations on Afghanistan that went nowhere. The UN process is now going on. If it works, fine; we do not need to be involved in everything.

Dobrynin replied that there is no need for a meeting each month, but if we need a meeting we should agree to have one. The matter is now going through the UN. There is no big movement, but things are positive. Still, there is a possibility to continue bilaterally as well. He understood that this was Ambassador Hartman’s field. When and how is up to the U.S. to decide.

The Secretary said that on so-called regional issues, we should work to see where emphasis might prove productive. Leaving Afghanistan aside, southern Africa is somewhat different. Afghanistan is snuggled close to the Soviet Union. Southern Africa is a long way from both of us: we both have an interest, we are both involved, and the world is interested. It could be an example of effective collaboration, and would be to everyone’s benefit. This may also be true of other issues nearer or farther away. On southern Africa, though, he had to say he was disappointed that our talks have not produced more. They have been informational, but not operational.

[Page 38]

Dobrynin said he would pass the Secretary’s comments to Moscow.

The Secretary continued that on CSCE we understand each other. When he and the Vice President had been in Moscow, Andropov had lectured them that this was none of our g.d. business. The President had just told Dobrynin our views. The Soviets might not agree with them, but they are our views.

Dobrynin said our CSCE delegations are in touch, and that is not the problem; the Secretary agreed. These contacts could be improved, however, Dobrynin said. The big question is that in previous administrations, as Eagleburger well knew, the Secretary and Gromyko might decide that an additional push could be useful at some point, and would then act to break deadlocks.

The Secretary noted that on issues where we had recently consulted, the last three (southern Africa, CSCE and non-proliferation) had resulted from his New York meetings with Gromyko,3 whereas the first (Afghanistan) had been agreed to before his time.

Dobrynin said he had mentioned the Middle East to the President, and previously discussed it with the Secretary. He asked why we should not add it to the list. He was not speaking here on behalf of Gromyko, but there had been a meeting between Hartman and Korniyenko, and even though it was inconclusive, why not add it to the list?

The Secretary said he and Gromyko had discussed the issue in New York, and agreed to be back in touch if there were anything further worth reporting. Dobrynin suggested again that it be added. The Secretary agreed.

Dobrynin then turned to the seventh category of consultations under discussion (deep seabed mining aspects of LOS, nuclear non-proliferation, Pacific maritime boundary, bilateral consular matters).

Deep seabed mining talks had taken place, Dobrynin said, and were good, though outside the Law of the Sea Treaty context. Non-proliferation talks were okay too. We need to find a solution on the Pacific maritime boundary. The Secretary said this would be a tough one, but needs to be resolved. Dobrynin agreed.

Dobrynin said that on consular talks we have gone back and forth on the issue of an agenda, thus far without results. The Secretary said he had a possible solution, and proposed that we schedule a preliminary informal session in Moscow and a formal opening in Washington one month later. We need to confront the officials involved with two scheduled meetings, thus forcing them to use the first to get ready for the [Page 39] second. Dobrynin said this sounded good if the first meeting was for discussion of substance and not just the agenda, and was to be continued in Washington. The Secretary noted that it is hard to begin discussions without an agenda. Dobrynin said he would support the Secretary’s proposal with Moscow. Eagleburger said that when we had a response, we could schedule the meetings.

Dobrynin then turned to the Soviet-proposed category on arms control talks (conventional arms transfers, CTB, CW, Indian Ocean, ASAT, RW, non-proliferation). All except No. 7 (non-proliferation) had been stopped, and the Soviets would like to resume. He asked if the Secretary had any comment on the first six.

The Secretary said he had two comments:

—On TTBT, which is not included, the U.S. owes the Soviet side a proposal, and is about to make one. Rick Burt has been designated to be in touch.

—On the others, returning to what had been discussed with the President, we had identified arms control, regional issues and human rights (as a kind of special category) as areas for discussion. We ought to list these categories separately, and see where things can progress. We should look at what is most promising, but also most worthwhile. We should not confine ourselves just to the easiest issues, but include also the most important questions, even where we know they will be difficult. We need to develop a sense of priorities, of places where we need a political impulse to make something happen. We need to get back to each other on things we have identified, to construct an agenda. Dobrynin had told the President, and Gromyko told the Secretary that arms control is at the top of the Soviet priority list. There is no question that it is an important category, but there are other important categories as well.

Dobrynin said there is no question of the importance of the three negotiations (INF, START, MBFR) now underway, but he invited comment as to whether the U.S. was ready to talk on any of the others. The Soviet side was prepared to talk on all seven listed in this category. His government was prepared to talk, but he did not know if the U.S. government was. If not it was all right, but the Soviets want answers. Perhaps not today, but the matter is important. Non-proliferation was being discussed, but some of the other issues were also ready to be discussed. He was not pressing, but wished to report to his government which issues we should continue on. He and the President had agreed that the three negotiations must be included, but success on the others is also important.

The Secretary replied “maybe.” We would get to the Soviets on TTBT. On the seven others, we would get back to them. He noted that the Soviets never mention MBFR. Dobrynin said the Soviets agreed it is important.

The Secretary said that on INF we feel the Soviets believe we will not deploy the missiles. But we will, in the absence of a negotiated [Page 40] agreement. Dobrynin replied that the Soviets also think we will. The Secretary said that our position is that we are prepared to make a reasonable agreement, but equality does not mean the Soviet Union being equal to everyone combined. We think the U.S. and the USSR are the relevant standard, with SS–20’s, Pershing II’s, and GLCMs the main items. We do not think the proposal Dobrynin described to the President is responsive or acceptable.

The Secretary said he did not want to repeat the argument, but wondered whether it was worthwhile to push on INF given the Soviet analysis. Nitze is ready to listen to any suggestions, or to discuss principles. Dobrynin said principles had been discussed more than enough. The Secretary said perhaps they should be discussed some more. But we also need to look at whether START is more significant, or whether it is time to turn to MBFR. Certainly there is a relationship between nuclear weapons under discussion in INF and the conventional weapons we are talking about in MBFR, and perhaps this relationship cannot really be handled by the individual negotiators. Perhaps in trying to respond to the President, Dobrynin, with his experience, and without our going around the negotiators, could suggest ways to move forward. The Secretary concluded that he was looking for a way of sorting out issues on a broad agenda to see how to get someplace, to see what political impulse is needed.

Dobrynin said not just the Soviets, but also the U.S., needed to suggest, through our channels. If the Secretary had some ideas, he should not hesitate to put them forward. On INF the Soviets have made three proposals, and the U.S. has stuck to the zero option. He did not know what to think when the U.S. said it was open to serious suggestions. The Soviets thought the U.S. would deploy the missiles, because it is sticking to a zero option that is totally unacceptable to the Soviets. If the U.S. stood on it, it will put the missiles in, he said, and the Soviets and the U.S. and your generals and at least some U.S. Allies know it. But if the U.S. wants some way out of the impasse, compromise will be required.

The Secretary noted that our position was not take-it-or-leave-it, as the Vice President had made clear. Dobrynin said we should use back channels. The Secretary replied that the Soviets and the U.S. should evaluate what would be the most fruitful arena for a political impulse, whether in INF or somewhere else.

Dobrynin said that in the three negotiations, including INF where we are working under an artificial deadline imposed by the U.S., we should try for a breakthrough, but this did not mean the others are hopeless. The Secretary reminded him that we are negotiating in good faith, as we are sure the Soviets are.

But, Dobrynin replied, the U.S. Ambassador had made clear that the U.S. did not like the three Soviet proposals, and the Secretary had [Page 41] said they were not acceptable. The Vice President and the Secretary could say the U.S. position was not take-it-or-leave-it, but the Soviets had made proposals to reopen the talks, in an attempt to find a way out. They proposed going from what they have to 162, almost half.

The Secretary said it was not clear to him whether systems reduced were to be destroyed or removed. Dobrynin said this could be discussed if the cards were on the table. The Secretary specified he had not meant to say the offer was acceptable, but our friends in China and Japan had made clear they are worried that an agreement would only move the missiles which would then be pointed at them. Dobrynin said the Asians could discuss this with the Soviets.

The Secretary suggested that further staff contacts take place on the lists. Dobrynin responded that this would not solve the basic issues. The Secretary continued that they had had a broad, penetrating discussion between 5:00 and 8:15 p.m., which covered a lot of ground. We agreed on some things; on others we compared notes; on others we need further work. We should let our staffs work with some urgency, and hope to meet again, perhaps next week, if not early in March after the Queen’s visit.4 He would give Dobrynin feedback, and would expect feedback from Dobrynin on what the President had said.

Dobrynin said the President had raised one question (i.e., Pentecostalists) which he would try to clarify to Andropov. The President had raised it as a good will step; he took this to mean the President did not mean the whole field of emigration, though he had mentioned that too. The Secretary said he would try to interpret the President’s remarks. We have many human rights concerns, including Jewish emigration; the President’s specific reference is an example of those concerns. The President had also mentioned Jackson-Vanik, making clear he did not like that approach.

Dobrynin concluded that it was, however, for each separate side to determine according to its own law how to deal with its citizens.

Dobrynin said our colleagues should work hard, looking toward a meeting next week. The Secretary said he would try to get back in touch next week; he was to leave again March 2.5

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Robert McFarlane Files, Subject File, Soviet Union–Sensitive File–1983 (02/15/1983–07/14/1983). Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Simons on February 17; cleared by Eagleburger. The meeting took place in the Secretary’s office after Shultz and Dobrynin returned from meeting with Reagan in the White House. See Document 10.
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. III, Soviet Union, January 1981–January 1983, Documents 221 and 222.
  4. Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom visited the west coast of the United States from February 26 to March 7.
  5. Shultz traveled to California from March 2 to 7 in conjunction with the Queen’s visit.