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


  • Establishing Contact outside Gromyko’s Staff

You asked for my thoughts on how we might go about establishing a contact outside Gromyko’s staff. Several possibilities come to mind, which are not mutually exclusive. Tactically, I believe we should not show too much eagerness, but simply let it be known that we would have something to say if they wish to listen.

Our principal target, in my opinion, should be the CC CPSU Secretariat staff. These are the people who work directly for Chernenko and presumably Gorbachev, since the latter seems to be acting as Chernenko’s number two in running the Secretariat. He may actually be the more active of the two; if he aims for the top spot—as he doubtless does—he is probably eager to get his finger in the foreign affairs field, where he has little prior experience. The most valuable interlocutor here is probably Zagladin. He runs the International Department (although Ponomarev is the titular head), is a Central Committee member in [Page 870] his own right, and clearly has a vested interest in building up his organization’s influence, as compared with Gromyko’s MFA.

In the past, however, this channel has not been used (except for my two meetings this year, the second with Stanislav Menshikov, Zagladin’s “desk officer” for the U.S.).2 In the past, private channels have either been through Dobrynin (who seems to have had a direct line to Brezhnev’s office, but this may not exist any more), or through KGB contacts who acted merely as message bearers. There are dangers in using Dobrynin, since we don’t know how direct his own lines of communication are, and since we should not subject our messages to whatever spin he chooses to put on them. The use of KGB contacts would be feasible—and should be done if that is the Soviet preference—but has the disadvantage of dealing with a person who is only a message bearer and who plays no personal role in the policy making process. For some types of subjects, this is preferable—for example in arranging a prisoner exchange, or some other limited, concrete deal which the Soviets want off the record. It has its limitations, however, if our objective is a broader discussion of how disparate issues might be put together to form a package.

The following specific possibilities come to mind:

1. We could have Hartman pass a message to Zagladin that another meeting might be useful to review informally what might be possible for the balance of this year and next year. If he agrees, we could offer to meet quietly in Washington, Moscow or a third country, as he suggests. If we decide to follow this course, the best way to get the message to Hartman would be to call him on the secure line. Nothing should be done in telegraphic traffic, because it is too difficult to control distribution.

2. Ty Cobb has an outstanding invitation from the USA Institute to visit Moscow in connection with a research project initiated before he came on the NSC staff. It has been renewed verbally since he became a staff member, but he of course has done nothing about it. We could have him pick up the invitation (if the Soviets are still willing). When he was there in 1981 he was given excellent access to a variety of senior officials, including Zagladin. Ty would not have to go with any particular message (and probably should not), but his Soviet interlocutors would know that they could get messages back to us by him if they desired.

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3. Robert O. Anderson’s suggestion (TAB I)3 could provide an avenue to Academician Velikhov (who has gone out of his way to express an interest in it). I am not sure just how influential Velikhov is (aside from his prominent role in Soviet space, SDI, and ASAT programs), or on whose behalf he may be speaking. He is not himself a member of the Central Committee, which would indicate that his personal status in the Party is not very high. On the other hand, he may be a channel to someone else, and the matter might be worth exploring.

There are several ways this might be done:

(1) Hartman or his Deputy might ask for an appointment with Velikhov, in the course of which inquiries could be made about the Soviet view of Anderson’s proposal.

(2) A USG official from Washington could do the same, and perhaps with greater success than the Embassy can. For example, Alvin Trivelpiece of DOE4 has an invitation from Velikhov which he is willing to accept if we want him to. He could be briefed to raise the Anderson proposal and attempt to smoke out just what the Soviets find appealing about it.

(3) Finally, we could ask a reliable private citizen with ties to Velikhov to raise the matter. Anderson and his assistant Hirsch,5 for example, could be encouraged to follow up on our behalf. There are dangers here, however, because, as I mentioned before, I don’t find the idea attractive as it stands, and its main utility would be as a vehicle for smoking out possible Soviet interest in establishing a special channel. Therefore, I believe it would be better to use a USG official to inquire, if we decide to do so.6

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Jack Matlock Files, Chronological File, 1980–1986, Matlock Chron July 1984 (07/01/1984–07/14/1984). Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Sent for information. On an attached routing slip, Poindexter wrote: “Bud, I opt for Jack trying to meet with Zagladin.” McFarlane replied in the margin: “I think we should seek to arrive at option 1 outcome (ie Matlock Zagladin) by pursuing option 2. Ty [Cobb] could see Zagladin & make clear our interest.”
  2. See Documents 180 and 195.
  3. Robert O. Anderson, Chairman and CEO of Atlantic-Richfield Company (ARCO), visited the Soviet Union and apparently met with Velikhov, discussing issues regarding access to the Bering Straits. Attached at Tab I, but not printed, is a memorandum that Anderson gave to Velikhov on the Bering Straits, dated May 24. Matlock explained in a handwritten note: “This is the proposal Anderson gave Velikhov during his trip in late May/early June. It was the third point that Velikhov asked about specifically in two subsequent telephone calls to Hirsch, Anderson’s assistant.” Point three of the memorandum proposed forming a joint commission to “pursue any and all other matters of any nature whatsoever that may be of importance to the long term interest of both countries. The commission shall consist of 14 members, equally divided between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.” Matlock’s note continued: “As I mentioned in my earlier oral briefing, I don’t think we need a private commission meeting with Soviet officials. But we might think about a “commission” from within the USG (and perhaps with a few reliable ‘outsiders’) as a vehicle to maintain contact with Soviet officials outside MFA. It is the latter aspect which may explain Velikhov’s interest.” McFarlane clearly preferred Matlock’s options 1 and 2 over using Anderson as a contact (see footnote 1, above).
  4. Alvin Trivelpiece, Director of the Office of Energy Research, Department of Energy.
  5. Robert L. Hirsch, ARCO Vice President.
  6. In a follow-up memorandum to McFarlane on July 24, Matlock wrote: “All of Anderson’s proposals have serious defects in my view. Nevertheless, we must decide what we will tell Anderson. In doing so, it would be well to look at his ideas to see if they might be adapted to serve any of our purposes.” (Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Country File, Europe and Soviet Union, USSR (07/09/84–07/11/84))