259. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

9589. Subject: Ambassador’s Meeting With Dobrynin, July 30.

1. (Confidential—Entire text.)

2. On Monday Dobrynin came to lunch and we had a general review of our relations. I took the occasion to question him closely on the current campaign against the outside world that seems to characterize the press and television of his country. He was in a relaxed, pre-holiday mood and, therefore, unwilling to admit that his propagandists might be filling the air waves with stories of war dangers. I said that apparently his colleagues in the Foreign Office took the same relaxed approach since we had been unable to find any senior officer on Satur[Page 902]day morning to deliver a Presidential letter to.2 He laughed and said, “the weather was too nice. They were all at their dachas.”

3. There was nothing particularly new in our review of bilateral issues. He did confirm that they were giving serious attention to the Montreal proposals on air navigation in the North Pacific.3 Otherwise, he seemed pleased with the general progress on bilateral matters.

4. Our main conversation centered on space. I said that Senator McGovern had come away with the impression from his talk with Gromyko that September talks were not in the cards.4 Dobrynin confirmed that that was the current assessment. He summed up the positions by saying that they were trying to make progress on the issue of space and that we were trying to use it to re-launch strategic and INF talks or just make propaganda points. I corrected him by saying that we had accepted unconditionally but had thought it only proper to point out to them that these issues were interconnected. We would be in Vienna and have serious things to say about space and proposals to make, for example, on ASAT. But when the discussion reaches the question of what either side puts in space to defend against missiles, we would naturally want to talk about the missile threat and the necessity to deal with that.

5. I also said that their general language was confused and misleading. Did they, for example, want to talk about eliminating all military activities in space, e.g., command and control, observation, etc.? He said of course not, but we were trying to confuse the issue. Were they, I said, just trying to put pressure on the administration to postpone our ASAT test? He said, “what is wrong with a moratorium? Your President, when he is re-elected, can say the negotiations have not made progress and go ahead with test.” I said that if all the President got was the doubtful benefit of negotiating in September, that seemed to ignore some political realities. He tried to make it sound as though they had done us a favor suggesting a major negotiation at this time. I said the President needs no favors. But if they want to be serious, they will find us prepared to treat the problems with all due seriousness.

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6. One theme running through Dobrynin’s comments was that space was a separate issue. We shouldn’t worry about getting back to talks on offensive arms. That would come in its own time, after the elections.

7. In sum, I got the impression that the Soviets are playing this out in public for the moment, but haven’t made a firm decision on what they will do come September.

8. In a more general vein, Dobrynin countered my comments about how they had not taken us up on changing the tone of our exchanges by repeating arguments he has used with the Secretary that we don’t prepare our approaches with enough care, i.e., we don’t consult him in private so that he can pave the way in Moscow. He was unabashed in yearning for the old days when Kissinger could call him and tell him not to pay too much attention to our Middle East alert, we would cancel it tomorrow. His conclusion, however, was interesting and perhaps more believable, that the present leaders don’t know each other and have no confidence in each other. Can the leadership here be sure what is said one day will hold the next? I said that the President’s record on doing and saying what he intends are pretty good and that should be noted here.

9. On the UN meetings, he seemed pretty firm on their taking place and made a plea that enough time be set aside that both sides could go beyond an exchange of known positions.

10. Dept pass as desired.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, N840009–0359. Confidential; Immediate; Nodis. A copy was sent for information to Shultz, who was on vacation in California. (Telegram 224320/Tosec 80009, July 31; Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, N840009–0362)
  2. See Document 256.
  3. Discussion in the ICAO in Montreal of the Pacific Air routes was directly related to the downing of the KAL 007 in August 1983. See footnote 8, Document 185.
  4. McGovern and Gromyko met on July 27. On July 29 McGovern had lunch with Hartman and reported on his meeting with Gromyko: “Gromyko outlined the dangers of putting weapons in space or pursuing ASAT and characterized the US administration as not serious about space arms control. He blamed the INF collapse almost entirely on the unfairness of our continuing to refuse responsibility for British and French forces.” (Telegram 9619 from Moscow, July 31; Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D840486–0442)