302. Memorandum of Conversation1

The Secretary’s Meeting with USSR Council of Ministers Chairman Tikhonov, November 3, 1984

The Secretary met with USSR Council of Ministers Chairman Tikhonov, November 3 (1900–1934). Participants were:

  • U.S. Side

    • Secretary Shultz
    • Senator Baker
    • Senator Moynihan
    • Assistant Secretary Burt
    • Executive Assistant Hill
    • Deputy Assistant Secretary Palmer
  • USSR Side

    • Chairman Tikhonov
    • Deputy ForMin Maltsev
    • Interpreter Sukhodrev

The Secretary began by saying that the funeral had been moving and different than anything he had experienced. Tikhonov replied that it was also the first time he had been to such a funeral. These were tragic circumstances, almost incredible that one of her own bodyguards had hit her with eight bullets. She was a wise, great woman, with a high degree of erudition. India took its right place in the world under her, almost like a great power. Of course, they have their problems. But she continued the cause of her father Nehru. Now Nehru’s grandson is the leader. The Soviet Union will do all it can to ensure that India remains stable, to help. India has many problems: housing, cultural level, educational level, and external problems. All these are big matters which must be resolved.

The Secretary said he agreed that the assassination seemed incredible. We were shocked in the United States by radio Moscow’s statements suggesting that somehow the United States was behind this [Page 1091] event.2 We believe it is important to develop constructive dialogue on regional problems involving instability and danger such as Pakistan and India, and Afghanistan and the Soviet forces there. So we were very upset at Soviet suggestions that the United States would have anything to do with such a shocking event.

Tikhonov replied that he was not in Moscow at the time (of these reports). But he had looked into it especially, and the Soviet media reference was to a source not in the Soviet Union, to a report of some agency. The Soviet Union has not made and does not intend to make a statement that the U.S. is connected to this tragic event. “It’s out of the question—it is excluded that the United States was related to this event in any way.” The region is dangerous, Tikhonov continued, and “ample fuel” has accumulated. Such things must be judged soberly and great powers need to do all they can to see that it develops in calm and tranquility and without aggravation.

Secretary Shultz thanked Tikhonov for his statement. Tikhonov interjected that even before he knew that he would be meeting the Secretary, he had looked into the matter and the reference was not to a Soviet source.

The Secretary said he had a report for Tikhonov, who said he would be happy to accept it if it was pleasant. The Secretary said he hoped it would be.

The Secretary said that last Wednesday he had spent an hour talking alone with President Reagan just before his last campaign swing.3 The President is superstitious, and does not believe in acting as though the election has been won—and in our country elections are never won until the votes are in and counted. But the President did talk to the Secretary at some length about the President’s plans. The President had reflected on his meetings with Mr. Gromyko and on our own thinking about relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. [Page 1092] And since Mr. Gromyko had been in Washington, the Secretary had met with Ambassador Dobrynin and Art Hartman had talked further with Mr. Gromyko.4 We had all the reports.

The Secretary continued that this discussion with President Reagan had not been in preparation for his coming to Delhi, but just a private chat in general about the outlook as we see it. The President had expressed his determination if elected to do everything he can to help bring about a relationship with the Soviet Union that would be a problem-solving relationship. So the Secretary was reporting to Tikhonov, as a statement, that the President Reagan you see before the election will be the same President Reagan you will see after the election. The efforts he has been making to improve our relationship will continue.

Tikhonov responded that if the President remains the same Ronald Reagan it would not be that good. But if he were to change course and really seek solutions to problems that would be good. Now the U.S. and the Soviet Union have very different points of view on practically all issues between us. The questions of armaments are not stabilizing, just growing. All other areas such as the economic field are in stagnation. “So is this talk not just a pre-election tactic?” Tikhonov continued by saying he had visited the United States twice during the Eisenhower presidency. He remembered walking streets absolutely freely, he had even been a guest in homes and had been pleased. But today probably no one would invite him to their home. He hoped that all this is temporary.

The Secretary said Tikhonov missed the point. Insofar as events in U.S.-Soviet relations could influence our election, the campaign is over. Nothing would happen now to affect an outcome only 2–3 days off. The Secretary’s point was that as the post-election period, he spoke privately to the Secretary—not in front of the TV cameras, and not as a public statement. He spoke of improved relations, if possible.

The United States, the Secretary said, sees strains in the relationship as principally due to positions the Soviet Union takes. If there is no give on the part of the Soviet Union, then there can be no improvement. “But I can assure you,” the Secretary said, “that President Reagan will be working towards constructive ends.”

[Page 1093]

The Secretary noted that Chairman Tikhonov might be interested in hearing the views of the two Senators in our bipartisan delegation—the Majority Leader and a leading democrat, Senator Moynihan.

Senator Baker said he wanted to underline what the Secretary had said. The President will be re-elected and is sincerely anxious to pursue a dialogue with the Soviet Union that will lead to better understanding and concrete results. Senator Baker said that he knew the mood of the Senate and it would welcome and would participate in improving relations. So he hoped that the Soviets would take at face value the statement that the Secretary had just made. The U.S. and the Soviet Union have an obligation to each other to try to accomplish peaceful objectives together.

Tikhonov said he could only say one thing. If President Reagan does indeed move not towards talks for the sake of talks, but towards solutions, the Soviets “will not be found wanting for reciprocity.” Then he could say without reservation that the U.S. may rest assured the Soviets would make their own contribution.

Senator Moynihan mentioned that when he had served as American Ambassador he had spent pleasant evenings in this house.5 He recalled that when Brezhnev visited Delhi in 1973 he had made the strongest statements about improvement in U.S.-Soviet relations.6 Senator Moynihan warmly recalled that the Soviet translator then, as today, was Mr. Sukhodrev. He made no mistakes then, and would not surely make any today in conveying the Secretary’s point. Certainly President Reagan will have the support of the Senate for what he proposes. But both sides in Congress fail to understand why the Soviets have been so unforthcoming in recent years when he believed progress was being made ten years ago. The Senate will support constructive measures to help progress and improve relations.

Tikhonov said he could only say he did not know anyone in his right mind in the Soviet Union who was against better U.S.-Soviet relations. Tikhonov did not want to get into a polemic about who is to blame for the past. Soviets have their opinion and the U.S. has its. But if President Reagan wants better relations, then he will find that all on Soviet side are prepared to return the favor. The Secretary concluded by saying the two should shake hands on that note.

[Page 1094]

(Comment on Tikhonov. Tikhonov entered the room with a show of energy, looking quite healthy and smiling. Throughout he was alert and making a clear effort to be pleasant, without giving an inch on substance. Given his extensive travel and work in the preceding few days—he had just come from a trip to Cuba and had been holding extensive talks in Delhi—he looked in remarkably good shape for a man of 79 fast approaching 80.)

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Jack Matlock Files, Meetings with USSR Officials, US-Soviet Diplomatic Contacts 8/8. Secret; Nodis. The Secretary was in New Delhi for the funeral of Indira Gandhi, who was assassinated on October 31. In telegram Secto 16040 to the White House, November 4, Shultz reported on the funeral and his various meetings in New Delhi. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, N840013–0071)
  2. In telegram 324156 to Moscow, November 1, the Department reported on Palmer’s telephone call to Isakov “to protest Radio Moscow statement that Mrs. Gandhi’s death was due to ‘world imperialism.’” The telegram continued to report: “Shortly after the Palmer-Isakov exchange, FBIS reported Radio Moscow commentary alleging that ‘ideological inspiration’ for the Gandhi assassination came from CIA. In addition, TASS report of Moscow press briefing on U.S. policy of ‘state terrorism’ quoted MFA spokesman Lomeyko as condemning the ‘criminals’ who had killed Gandhi and ‘their inspirers’—the implication being that the U.S. was responsible.” (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, N840012–0534)
  3. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Shultz and Reagan met in the Oval Office at 1:30 p.m., on Wednesday, October 31. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) No substantive record of this meeting was found.
  4. See Documents 296 and 300.
  5. Moynihan served as U.S. Ambassador to India from 1973 to 1975.
  6. Brezhnev visited India in November 1973.