38. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • U.S.

    • The Secretary
    • SecDef Weinberger
    • Deputy Secretary Dam
    • Under Secretary Eagleburger
    • Assistant Secretary Burt
  • U.S.S.R.

    • Ambassador Dobrynin
    • Minister-Counselor Sokolov

The Secretary began by noting that he and Dobrynin had discussed a variety of things in their meetings, and he would have more to say about these matters today and in later meetings. He had asked Secretary of Defense Weinberger to join them today because the President had decided to propose a new set of confidence-building measures. Secretary Weinberger would present the outlines of these proposals to Dobrynin, and we would have more to say about them in other channels later.

Secretary Weinberger said that we had developed these proposals in order to clear up ambiguities and prevent misunderstandings, particularly in a period of crisis. There were new technologies, such as high-speed data transmission and facsimile transmission, which we should make use of to upgrade the capabilities of the existing U.S.-Soviet hotline. We would also be proposing the establishment of a new military-to-military communications link.

Dobrynin asked how such a military-to-military link would be helpful. Secretary Weinberger replied that we could use it to provide notifications about military maneuvers, missile test launches, and military movements which might cause misunderstandings. Dobrynin asked who would be in charge of such a link on the U.S. side, the Chiefs of Staff? Weinberger replied that the Secretary of Defense would exercise control on the U.S. side, since we have a history of civilian control of the military.

Weinberger said that we would also be proposing an upgrade in the quality of communications between the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and the Soviet Foreign Ministry and its Embassy in Washington. Finally, we would be proposing that the U.S. [Page 123] and the Soviet Union hold discussions on the handling of nuclear events involving terrorism. Dobrynin asked whether such consultations should take place when such an event happens or beforehand. Weinberger replied that we see such discussions as most useful beforehand—as contingency planning for response to such a crisis.

In summing up the new CBM’s proposals, Weinberger noted that we see them as a means of clarifying intentions on each side, eliminating accidents and misunderstandings, and improving communication in a crisis. We are particularly interested in building greater redundancy into the existing hotline. Dobrynin asked whether our proposals involved only technical improvements. Should U.S. and Soviet delegations meet to work these out? Weinberger responded affirmatively, and Secretary Shultz told Dobrynin that we would provide the Soviet Embassy with more information in writing about our CBM’s proposals as soon as possible.

Dobrynin said that the idea of a military to military link is new. He personally would favor it, but we must recognize that it is a new departure. Weinberger said that there are two questions involved in such a link. First, there is the question of new technologies which are available, and then there is the question of how they should be used. Dobrynin said that we would need to do some preliminary thinking about these questions, possibly even develop a charter for the use of such a channel. Weinberger stressed that we see it as a potentially convenient and useful means for exchanging information in a fastbreaking situation.

Dobrynin asked what was meant by our proposal to upgrade communications between our respective foreign ministries and embassies. He recalled that a special telephone link had been established between his Embassy and Moscow in 1974 at the time of Brezhnev’s visit to the U.S.2 This link had proven so troublesome because of the time difference between Moscow and Washington that he had had it removed as soon as the Brezhnev visit was completed. Weinberger recalled that, when he had been Secretary of HEW in the 1970’s,3 a direct Telex link with Moscow had proven useful in conveying urgent information under U.S.-Soviet cooperative agreements on medical research.

Returning to the suggestion of U.S.-Soviet exchanges on events involving nuclear terrorism, Weinberger noted that U.S.-Soviet discussions could ultimately be expanded to involve many nations. Secretary [Page 124] Shultz added that such discussions could build nicely upon U.S.-Soviet bilateral talks on non-proliferation which are already taking place.

Secretary Shultz noted that the Administration is scheduled to send a report on our new CBM’s proposals to Congress on April 11. Indeed these proposals were, in part, a response to Congressional interest in the idea of confidence-building measures. Dobrynin said it would be better to have Soviet agreement before the proposals were sent to Congress; otherwise it would look as if we were more interested in the public impact of the proposals than in reaching an agreement on them with the Soviet Union. Dobrynin thought he could obtain at least a preliminary response from Moscow by Monday or Tuesday.4 Weinberger asked whether Dobrynin had in mind a joint announcement. Dobrynin replied that this was not needed, but that it would be useful to have a general Soviet response before we made our proposals public.

Without making any commitment, Weinberger offered to see what could be done about delaying the report to Congress for a short period. Secretary Shultz emphasized that the report could not be held up for long and urged that Dobrynin obtain the earliest possible response from his government. Dobrynin asked when he would receive the written material on the U.S. proposals, and Weinberger replied that we would transmit it to the Soviet Embassy on Friday April 8.

Turning to the START and INF negotiations, Secretary Shultz said that we continue to look for areas where progress might be made. In this connection, he thought it might be useful if he and Dobrynin met with Nitze and Rowny, and possibly MBFR negotiator Abramowitz, during the current recess between rounds of the respective negotiations. These meetings would not be for the purpose of negotiation, but would seek to elaborate upon and facilitate greater understanding of our respective positions on an informal basis. Dobrynin asked what would be the real nature of such meetings. They would only be useful if they did not become simply a sterile defense of existing positions. If they were to be useful such meetings should focus on one or two points and see whether progress might be made. Secretary Shultz agreed.

With regard to START, Dobrynin asserted that all the Soviet side had heard in the last round was Rowny repeating the same unacceptable statements that he had made in previous rounds. Secretary Shultz replied that, in our view, there had been a retrogression in the Soviet position in the last round of START. At this point, Dobrynin agreed to the Secretary’s suggestion of further meetings on arms control to which the U.S. negotiators would be invited.

[Page 125]

Turning to TTBT, the Secretary reminded Dobrynin that we had made a positive suggestion for improving the verification provisions of the treaty, but the Soviets had responded negatively. Dobrynin said that the Soviet response had made three points: (1) that we should first ratify the TTBT and PNET and then decide whether additional verification measures might be needed;5 (2) that the U.S. should agree to resume tri-lateral negotiations on a CTB; (3) did the U.S. intend to restrict its tests to the 150 ktn threshold provided for in the TTBT.

Secretary Shultz noted that the TTBT, as currently drafted, does provide for additional verification measures. However, in our view, even these measures would not be sufficient to provide adequate verification of compliance with the treaty provisions. It is clear that verification is a critical consideration, since both sides have raised questions about the yield of a number of tests. With regard to a CTB, Secretary Shultz said that the Soviet position seemed to indicate a desire to run before we had learned to walk in the area of nuclear testing limitations. Dobrynin asked whether it would not be possible to pursue discussions on a CTB in tandem with discussions about improving the verification provisions of the TTBT. Secretary Shultz replied that we saw no utility in pursuing CTB talks at this time. He and Secretary Weinberger told Dobrynin that we had no present plans to test above the 150 kt. threshold of the TTBT.

Dobrynin said that our position on the TTBT was another example of a growing U.S. habit of not following through with treaties which it had signed. Secretary Shultz replied that we had no intention of ratifying a treaty if we could not verify compliance with its provisions. Dobrynin replied that the treaties as drafted contained a mechanism for verification. Secretary Weinberger replied that, in our view, this mechanism is not adequate. Secretary Shultz said that he would ask Assistant Secretary Burt to call in the Soviet Embassy for further discussion of our TTBT proposal and urged that the Soviet side take another look at it. Dobrynin said that the Soviet side would, of course, consider whatever material Burt might provide about our proposal.

On bilateral relations, Secretary Shultz told Dobrynin that the President had decided on a one-year extension of the U.S.-Soviet Bilateral Fisheries Agreement.6 Secretary Shultz said that he also had some [Page 126] new information for Dobrynin about the U.S.-Soviet Long-term Grains Agreement. The President had decided in principle that it was time to begin negotiations for a new agreement. As Dobrynin knew, this was a matter of considerable political sensitivity in the U.S., and the decision had not been an easy one for the President. We would begin the process of internal preparation for the negotiations, and we hoped for an early Soviet response to our proposal. The Secretary recalled that Dobrynin had, in previous meetings, indicated that the Soviet response to such a decision on our part would be positive. Dobrynin replied that we would have to see.

The Secretary said that we were considering an announcement of our decision to negotiate a new LTA on Saturday.7 Would it be possible to have a Soviet response by that time? Dobrynin said that he doubted it but that he would try to obtain an answer from Moscow as quickly as possible.

Turning to human rights, Secretary Shultz noted that Lidia Vashchenko had left the Soviet Union and that we viewed this as a positive development. He wanted to inform Dobrynin of the President’s personal appreciation for this positive Soviet action. As Dobrynin knew, human rights issues, such as the Pentecostalist situation and the level of Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union, are very important to us. In the Pentecostalist case, as in other such matters, we have focused on results, not on making a public noise. The President has written a letter to the Pentecostalists in the Embassy and Dr. Olin Robison will be meeting with them in an effort to sustain momentum toward a solution of this problem.8

With regard to regional issues, Secretary Shultz noted that these problems have proven very difficult for us. Much of the tension in U.S.-Soviet relations at present is due to Soviet conduct on these issues. We would like to see progress toward a negotiated solution in Afghanistan. In this connection, we have little information about Secretary General Perez de Cuellar’s visit to Moscow,9 but we have instructed Ambassador Hartman to see Gromyko or Korniyenko on Afghanistan and on the Middle East. We may also have more to say later on southern Africa. The Secretary said that he hoped that Ambassador Hartman would have access in Moscow comparable to that enjoyed by Ambassador Dobrynin here. Dobrynin replied that, when Hartman has some[Page 127]thing to say or specific proposals to make, he is afforded access to the Soviet leadership.

In conclusion, the Secretary noted that he and Dobrynin had established an agenda on which progress might be made. However, unless the Soviet side took concrete steps to address our concerns on regional issues, it would be very difficult to bring about an overall improvement in U.S.-Soviet relations. Dobrynin suggested that he and the Secretary identify three or four regional issues for discussion; then questions of time and venue could be worked out. Secretary Shultz noted that we had tried to establish such a dialogue on regional issues but, in our view, these discussions had been more academic than operational. Dobrynin replied that it is nonetheless useful for us to discuss these issues as a means of clarifying our respective positions.

Before concluding the meeting, the Secretary and Dobrynin agreed to meet the next week on arms control, with the subject matter of the meeting to be established.

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S–I Records, Deputy Secretary Dam’s Official Files: Lot 85D308, Memoranda of Conversation 1983. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Burt; cleared by Eagleburger, McManaway, and Farrell. The meeting took place in the Secretary’s office.
  2. Brezhnev came to the United States in June 1973, not 1974, for the Washington Summit. For documents on this summit, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XV, Soviet Union, June 1972–August 1974, Documents 119133.
  3. Weinberger was Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare from February 1973 to August 1975.
  4. April 11 or 12.
  5. See footnote 6, Document 31.
  6. In telegram 97341 to Moscow, April 9, the Department reported: “On April 8, Sov Deputy Director Yalowitz handed note to Soviet Embassy Economic Counselor Shershnev proposing extension of the Governing International Fisheries Agreement (GIFA) for one year. We planned following the same procedure as last year, that is to effect the extension through the exchange of diplomatic notes.” (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D830197–0906)
  7. April 9. See Documents 32 and 35. The announcement was made on April 22. See Document 47.
  8. See Document 34.
  9. United Nations Secretary General Pérez de Cuéllar visited Moscow in March 1983. Before taking the post of Secretary General, Pérez de Cuéllar served as UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on the Situation in Afghanistan.