321. Note Prepared in the White House Situation Room1

Kremlin Desires Backchannel Link with Washington

[1 paragraph (8 lines) not declassified]

• According to Chetverikov, the request for a backchannel message had been made by representatives of Chernenko’s office. Chetverikov stated that messages relayed through unofficial channels were becoming increasingly important to the Soviet leadership.

Dobrynin said he viewed the present as the most crucial time in recent U.S.-Soviet relations, and suggested that all forms of communication be pursued to assure continuation of a warming of relations between the two nations.

Dobrynin suggested that improved U.S.-Soviet relations were largely due to Secretary Shultz’s effort to facilitate arms talks.

• The Soviet ambassador said Shultz’s work has brought about a marked change in attitudes by Soviet leaders toward the U.S. administration.

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• The source noted Dobrynin was considerably optimistic over the prospects for a second term for the President—in stark contrast to the ambassador’s dismal attitude prior to the President’s re-election.

Dobrynin also outlined the current protocol when calling on top leaders in the Politburo, i.e., call on Chernenko first and ask him about the advisability of meeting with Gorbachev et al.

Dobrynin stated there was considerable animosity between Chernenko and Gorbachev due to worldwide speculation about the Soviet succession issue.

Dobrynin speculated that Chernenko might be offended if any invitation to visit the U.S. were extended to any ranking Kremlin leaders without first inviting Chernenko—who will decline but suggest officials who would be willing to travel to Washington. (C)

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Country File, Europe and Soviet Union, USSR (11/27/84–12/04/84); NLR–748–25A–42–3–0. Confidential. This note is based on reporting from the CIA on November 27. Poindexter wrote in the margin: “Bud, You probably saw this last night. One of the dangers we face in not taking them up on this is that the Soviets may begin to think we are not serious. JP.”