152. Memorandum From Secretary of State Shultz to President Reagan1


  • My Meeting with Dobrynin, January 3, 1984

Dobrynin came in to see me on my first day in the office following his return from Moscow December 23. He had instructions responding to questions I had asked him before he left for Moscow,2 and he appeared to be in a businesslike mood.

My questions essentially asked whether the Soviets are ready for serious private dialogue with us. Dobrynin said he had been instructed [Page 517] by his government to say that they are ready for such a dialogue. He was authorized to conduct personally whatever such discussion we desire. However, he added, they also consider that Art Hartman in Moscow is an appropriate channel for this private dialogue.

Recognizing that Gromyko and I are to meet for some three hours later in the month,3 Dobrynin stressed that the Soviets are not interested in dialogue for the sake of dialogue; dialogue must have content. He asked me what I thought should be discussed in Stockholm.

I agreed that content would be the key to any constructive dialogue, and made the point that each side should be free to bring any issue to the table. On the Stockholm meeting, I said I thought we should review our relationship and how it should be conducted, including mechanisms. On substance, I thought we should discuss arms control (principally START, INF and compliance, but also CDE, MBFR and confidence-building measures) and regional issues (principally the Middle East, but southern Africa and Afghanistan as well). I told Dobrynin I would also want to discuss human rights. Characteristically he asked why; I replied because of the importance of human rights issues to you and to Americans generally. I said I saw no big bilateral problems on which Gromyko and I needed to spend much time in Stockholm, but added that there might be bilateral issues for others to discuss.

I told Dobrynin that if the Soviets want further discussion of the Stockholm agenda I am ready for it, but it could also be conducted by Rick Burt and his deputy Sokolov.

Dobrynin then referred to your letter to Andropov delivered December 24,4 and asked specifically what the language on START meant when it spoke of a common framework embodying a balance between the interests and advantages of both sides. I replied that we are prepared to look for a common framework that accommodates the different force structures of the two sides.

Dobrynin also asked about the language concerning “confidential exchanges of views at other levels” besides me and Gromyko. On this, I said that there might be certain issues on which we could designate others if this seemed appropriate.

In general, we agreed that the next step should be for both sides to begin setting out content for productive dialogue. At the same time, we also agreed that as that process moves along, it would be worthwhile to step back from time to time and have a more philosophical exchange [Page 518] on how different systems can relate to one another. I recalled talks I had had with then-Premier Kosygin about how free-market and centrally-planned economies can deal with each other.5 Dobrynin’s examples, such as the Kennedy-Khrushchev understandings on Cuba, had less to do with differences between systems than with the advantages of private channels like this one for handling sensitive issues between the two countries.

Dobrynin then asked how I saw U.S.-Soviet relations shaping up in 1984. I replied that I saw a question mark here: we want dialogue, but also recognize that things can get out of hand, particularly over differences concerning regional issues like the Middle East. I said I expected the world economy to improve this year, and also noted it would be an election year for us. In this respect, however, I said that although political pundits disagree on how this would affect U.S.-Soviet relations, I expect you will play it straight and determine your policy on the basis of what is good for the country, without reference to partisan politics.

Dobrynin responded that the Soviets would respond to anything constructive from Washington even though it is an election year. I could not tell whether he was expressing an official view or only speaking for himself, but this could mean that the Soviets will not intervene in U.S. domestic politics during the coming months.

Mention of our election gave me the opening to ask Dobrynin about what is going on in Moscow. I said we had some sense of a transitional atmosphere there and invited him to comment.

Dobrynin replied that while in Moscow he had visited Andropov at home, and Andropov had asked him questions about what is going on here. Andropov seems to be conducting business at home, and Politburo members see him regularly there. Dobrynin said he had tried to get Armand Hammer6 in to see Andropov at home, but the basic decision had been taken not to receive visitors other than insiders. When I asked about Andropov’s illness, Dobrynin replied that he did not know, and had not asked, noting that such matters are more sensitive in the Soviet Union than here. But he did say that during his own visit with Andropov, he (Dobrynin) reached for something Andropov wanted, implying that Andropov has some incapacity in arm movements at least. Politically, however, the agenda for the Politburo’s regular Thursday sessions was set by Andropov, and his decisions on issues are final. I am passing these observations to Bill Casey.

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Overall, Dobrynin’s comments left the impression that Andropov is operating the government from his residence, but is acting as a decisive leader at that distance. For my part I commented that as far as we are concerned there is a functioning Soviet government and we are prepared to deal with it.

In conclusion, Dobrynin said he had to raise one “unpleasant matter” and handed me the text of an “oral statement” protesting our declaration of areas of the Mediterranean as a “zone of dangerous activities of the U.S. Navy.”7 I said we would study the démarche and respond appropriately. The text of the démarche is being transmitted to the NSC staff by a Hill-McFarlane memorandum.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Country File, Europe and Soviet Union, USSR (01/03/84–01/04/84). Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Burt on January 3. Reagan initialed the memorandum, indicating he saw it. A handwritten note on a Department of State copy of this memorandum reads: “Original Sec/Pres hand carried by GPS to WH.” A telegram was drafted for Hartman in Moscow on January 4 reporting on this meeting. (Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, Box 2C, 1984—Soviet Union—January)
  2. The last meeting between Shultz and Dobrynin before the holiday break was on November 18. See Document 137.
  3. Shultz and Gromyko were scheduled to meet in Stockholm on January 18. See Document 159.
  4. See Document 149.
  5. During Shultz’s tenure as Secretary of the Treasury, he met with Soviet Premier Kosygin in October 1973. See Document 191, footnote 2 in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXXI, Foreign Economic Policy, 1973–1976.
  6. Armand Hammer, President of Occidental Petroleum
  7. The translated text of the Soviet oral statement reads: “The United States of America, in violation of generally recognized standards of international law and the principles of freedom of seafaring, has declared a vast area of the Mediterranean adjacent to the coast of Lebanon ‘a zone of dangerous activities of the U.S. Navy’ and established in that zone a special regime for international navigation.

    “Introducing these arbitrary restrictions, the American side, in fact, lays claim to having a part of the high seas under its sovereignty, which is in flagrant conflict with the provisions of the Geneva Convention of 1958 to which the U.S. is a party, too.

    “The Soviet side declares a resolute protest in connection with this arbitrary and unlawful act of the U.S., does not recognize the restrictions introduced by the United States, and warns that the entire responsibility for the consequences of that act will be borne by the American side.

    “At the same time, we call the attention of the U.S. Government to the fact that its actions near the coast of Lebanon cannot fail to aggravate even further the already extremely tense situation in the entire region. The American side should realize what such a dangerous policy can lead to in terms of developments in the Middle East and even beyond that region.” (Telegram 998 to Moscow, January 4; Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D840030–0732)