144. Memorandum From Jack Matlock of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (McFarlane)1


  • American Academic on Soviet Policy

The telegram from Moscow I mentioned this morning is attached at Tab I.2 It reports on the observations of an experienced American academic who spent about ten days in discussions with senior Soviet officials, including Boris Ponomarev, candidate member of the Politburo and head of the Central Committee’s International Department, and several other Party and Institute officials not often seen by Americans.

Among the source’s conclusions were:

—Fear of war seemed to affect the elite as well as the man on the street.

—A degree of paranoia seemed rampant among high officials, and the danger of irrational elements in Soviet decision making seems higher.

—The election next year seems to have become a key determinant in Soviet foreign policy making, with the aim not to permit the President to assume the role of peacemaker.

—There seems to be a growing climate of neo-Stalinism and outright chauvinism on the lower levels of the bureaucracy.

The scholar also was told that Andropov had directed a more activist role in the Middle East, and that Andropov is increasingly seeking to take control over foreign policy and to undermine Gromyko.

Paragraphs 2–11 are the most relevant ones in the long cable.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Country File, Europe and Soviet Union, USSR (12/13/83); NLR–748–24–43–1–3. Confidential. Sent for information. A handwritten note at the top of the page by McFarlane reads: “This just doesn’t seem plausible to me (i.e. severe anxiety & fear of war). M.”
  2. Attached but not printed is telegram 15409 from Moscow, December 10. See footnote 4, Document 143.