14. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • SecDef Meeting with Ambassador Hartman (U)


  • DoD

    • Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger
    • Deputy Assistant Secretary for European & NATO Policy, Ronald Lauder
    • Major General Smith
    • Mr. Douglas Garthoff
  • Visitor

    • Arthur A. Hartman, US Ambassador to the USSR
    • Alexander Vershbow, Office of Soviet Union Affairs, Department of State

FRG Elections.

(C) SecDef Weinberger expressed satisfaction with the results of the recent elections in West Germany.2 Ambassador Hartman agreed but pointed out that problems would persist with respect to implementation of NATO’s LRINF modernization program.


(C) SecDef asked the Ambassador for his views on how the new General Secretary was doing. Was he not in a kind of probationary [Page 51] period? The Ambassador noted that Andropov’s image-makers had done quite well in projecting the General Secretary as an urbane and sophisticated man. He pointed out that Andropov has not been shown on Soviet TV recently, however, apparently as a result of health problems. Ambassador Hartman said that he had not met Andropov personally since the Brezhnev funeral. He felt that Andropov was the most intellectual Soviet leader since Lenin. In response to Ambassador Hartman’s statement that he thought Andropov would want to concentrate on internal problems first, SecDef asked how he thought such efforts would impact on the Soviet military and the Soviet defense program. Ambassador Hartman replied that it was clear to him Andropov depended on the military to maintain his political position. If, for example, he undertook broad economic reforms that impacted adversely on military programs, the military would certainly object, and probably would do so effectively. The Ambassador said it is not clear yet how strong Andropov will become. While he may act strongly with respect to issues like discipline and corruption, we will be able to assess the depth of his strength only when he undertakes more important decisions.


(C) SecDef inquired whether there had been any recent talk of summitry in Moscow. The Ambassador replied that he thought the Soviet position was similar to ours. They do not want a summit unless it has been well prepared. Several members of the Central Committee have recently said that it is necessary to get issues treated at the top level if any progress is to be made. The Ambassador also said he had heard some grumbling about Foreign Minister Gromyko’s attitudes on this subject. In response to SecDef’s question about the status of Ambassador Dobrynin, the Ambassador stated that he had no firm information but felt the rumors Dobrynin might return to Moscow originated with Dobrynin himself.

US-Soviet Relations.

(C) In response to SecDef’s question about how the bilateral relationship looked from Moscow, the Ambassador replied that it was not good on the propaganda level. But on the personal level, he felt the Soviets still wanted a dialogue. He mentioned the periodic meetings on incidents at sea as an example of a form of dialogue that they wish to see continued. He did not feel, however, that there would be any gesture of accommodation from the Soviet side with the possible exception of a symbolic act in the human rights arena, regarding Sharansky for example.

(C) The Ambassador recommended that now was a good time to test the new Soviet leadership to see where progress might be made [Page 52] in bilateral relations. This could be done, he argued, while of course continuing to strengthen our defense to adequate levels. SecDef asked if the Ambassador felt that emphasis on confidence-building measures—an area of interest to both the President and SecDef personally—would be a good place to undertake actions. The Ambassador replied that this was a good idea, but cautioned that the Soviets are suspicious that we would view such measures as a substitute for START and INF agreements.


(C) Ambassador Hartman stated that he felt the Soviets wanted a START agreement but would not be willing to reduce as drastically as we have proposed. He felt that the Soviets regard the US START position as one-sided in favor of the US. He believed the greatest US leverage derived from our cruise missile programs, and he also felt that we should be concerned about potential Soviet cruise missiles as well. In response to SecDef’s question about how he viewed the possibility for an INF agreement, the Ambassador replied that the Soviets had little incentive to sign any agreement that allowed new US LRINF deployments in Europe unless it was part of a larger pattern of progress on strategic arms limitations. He said he did not feel they would ever accept the true zero option, even if we were the first to make an accommodating move in the negotiations.

(S) The Ambassador said he was gratified by the staunchness of support from the Allies in the Catholic southern part of Western Europe (France and Italy), but felt that the problems we had in the northern European countries already reflected accommodations made to the LRINF imbalance the Soviets have created with new SS–20 deployments. Ambassador Hartman asked how many SS–20s were currently operational. SecDef replied that there were now 351 SS–20s in service. Ambassador Hartman offered the opinion that Andropov’s December 1982 LRINF proposal was a mistake when measured against Soviet interests.3 He felt that by equating the Soviet SS–20s to the strategic deterrent forces of the UK and France, the Soviets are opening the door for the West to focus attention on how best to deter attack on the non-nuclear Allies in Western Europe.

Middle East.

(C) SecDef asked whether the Ambassador felt that the deployment of SA–5s to Syria was an effort by the Soviets to force their way back into the negotiating arena. The Ambassador replied that the war last [Page 53] year had put them on the spot, and they now felt they had to run new risks in order to regain their position in the region. Their only way to do so was to intensify relationships with their few remaining friends there.


(C) SecDef expressed the opinion that the Soviets probably would like to get out of the current Afghanistan stalemate, but he did not see how they could do so. The Ambassador agreed that they seemed basically to be stuck. They probably could not obtain sizable Afghan support for a political solution acceptable to Moscow.

Support of the Moscow Embassy.

(U) Replying to SecDef’s offer to help the Ambassador in any way DoD could do so, the Ambassador asked if he could have some copies of the new booklet, “Soviet Military Power, 1983”, before he departed for Moscow on 12 March. The Secretary replied affirmatively. (Note: a dozen copies were delivered to the Soviet desk at State for the Ambassador on 10 March.)

Douglas F. Garthoff4 Policy Assistant for Soviet Affairs
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–85–0023, USSR 091.112 (Jan–) 1983. Secret. Drafted by Garthoff on March 11. The meeting took place in Room 3E880 at the Pentagon.
  2. West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s “conservative coalition won a decisive mandate” in the March 6 election. An important issue in the election campaign was whether to accept deployment of U.S. missiles in West Germany in December. Kohl’s Christian Democrats won 244 seats and their coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party, took 34 seats, “guaranteeing the coalition a solid majority.” (James M. Markham, “A Bigger Majority: Socialists Suffer Worst Defeat Since 1961—Missiles Were Issue,” New York Times, March 7, 1983, p. A1)
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. III, Soviet Union, January 1981–January 1983, Document 254.
  4. Garthoff signed “DF Garthoff” above his typed signature.