22. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • U.S.

    • The Secretary
    • Amb. Eagleburger
    • Mr. Mark Palmer
  • USSR

    • Amb. Dobrynin

The Secretary opened the meeting by noting that Dobrynin had indicated he had something to raise.

Dobrynin stated that Andropov had instructed him to convey an oral message in reply to our oral message on MBFR.2

The Secretary read the reply and described it as forthcoming. He said we would send the message to Ambassador Abramowitz. He stressed that the key to MBFR is verification. The so-called data issue is really a verification issue. If we can find methods which are mutually satisfactory on verification, we can move ahead. It is not the starting numbers but the ending numbers which matter.

Dobrynin noted that the Soviets had made their suggestions several weeks ago and they are awaiting our substantive move.

The Secretary then stated he wanted to note that our Embassy in Moscow had reported that Lidia (the Pentecostalist outside the Embassy) had telephoned to our Embassy. In her hometown, she has been called in and told to submit forms for departure. She intended to do so tomorrow. We were very pleased to learn of this movement. We give the Soviets the credit. The family members had called London and it would get into the press. Our Embassy will confirm this.

Dobrynin recommended that there be no special statement. The less talk, the better. There would be a chain reaction of why, where, etc.

The Secretary stated that he agreed we should keep a lower profile, but noted that a refusal to say anything at all would simply make matters worse. The Secretary then asked whether Dobrynin had anything more to say on this subject.

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Dobrynin said that he had nothing more. He recommended that we wait until it is final.

The Secretary agreed that we would wait until Lidia had left the country and then go to work to approach the other family members.

The Secretary then said he wished to give the Soviet Union an advance copy of the President’s speech to be delivered that night. He noted that the defense position of the speech is couched basically in descriptive language. What he wanted to call Dobrynin’s particular attention to was the section entitled “Call for a Bold Defense”. This section puts forward the notion that given the sophistication of technology, it may in the future be possible to provide defense against ballistic missiles.3

The Secretary continued that the President is saying here that the U.S. is pursuing an R&D effort. This is consistent with the ABM Treaty, and we presume that the Soviet Union also has a similar effort underway.

This effort is being undertaken in the context of our seeking methods for further stabilization, the Secretary said. It is therefore not intended to destabilize the situation.

The President points out in his speech that we are pursuing arms control. The Secretary said the President will have something further to say on arms control in a speech he will be giving a week from tomorrow (Thursday, March 31).4 The Secretary noted that we would be in touch with the Soviets before that speech at the negotiating table, and that he would see Dobrynin here in Washington beforehand too.

Dobrynin responded that he was disturbed to see the U.S. pursuing a new area in the arms race. This Administration seems to be piling one area on top of another, and there is nothing moving in the negotiations. If the U.S. produces something, the Soviets will do so as well.

The Secretary responded that this is not a new area, and that what is involved is only a research effort consistent with the ABM Treaty.

The Secretary then noted that he also has in mind the other things (on our agenda). He pointed out that Dobrynin’s meeting with the [Page 81] President had been kept quiet except for a mention in “Time” magazine. We have prepared low-key press guidance in case it does get more attention. The Secretary concluded by noting that he has mentioned the progress on Lidia to the President, and the President is appreciative of the effort under way.

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S, Special Handling Restrictions Memos, 1979–1983, Lot 96D262, ES Sensitive, March 16–23 1983. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Palmer; cleared by Eagleburger, Seitz, and Hill. Eagleburger initialed for Seitz and Palmer initialed for Hill. The meeting took place in the Secretary’s office.
  2. The Soviet oral message is not attached to this document. A copy was found in the Reagan Library, Jack Matlock Files, US-USSR Summits, E.4, President/Andropov Correspondence.
  3. Shultz provided Dobrynin with an advance copy of the President’s speech on “Defense and National Security,” given on March 23 at 8 p.m. in the Oval Office. Reagan’s speech is in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. I, Foundations of Foreign Policy, Document 145.
  4. On March 30, Reagan gave brief remarks announcing a “Proposed Interim Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Reduction Agreement.” For the text, see Public Papers: Reagan, 1983, Book I, pp. 473–474. On March 31, he also gave a speech in Los Angeles at the World Affairs Council luncheon, in which he discussed INF reductions and other U.S.-Soviet issues. See Public Papers: Reagan, 1983, Book I, pp. 479–486. See also Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. I, Foundations of Foreign Policy, Document 146.