43. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • U.S.-Soviet Relations: CBM’s and Pending Bilateral Issues


  • The Acting Secretary
  • Assistant Secretary Burt
  • Ambassador Dobrynin
  • Minister-Counselor Sokolov

Ambassador Dobrynin asked to see Acting Secretary Dam in order to deliver Moscow’s reply to the President’s CBM proposals, put forward by Secretaries Shultz and Weinberger on April 7, 1983.2 The meeting lasted about 15 minutes.

Dobrynin handed the Acting Secretary the attached text (in English) of his instructed demarche. Dobrynin said that the Soviet side found certain measures regarding communications worthwhile. The Direct Communications link (Hotline) was an example, and Moscow therefore had no objection to upgrading the Hotline. This could be done through discussions at the technical level, with the time and place to be determined through diplomatic channels.

Since the Soviet side felt that existing channels were adequate, it did not consider establishment of new, military-to-military channels as “expedient.” The Soviet attitude was the same regarding the U.S. proposal to upgrade communications between our two capitals and respective embassies. Any new communications channels could be incorporated into the Hotline.

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The Soviet side was prepared to listen to further U.S. ideas regarding its proposal to undertake multilateral consultations on nuclear terrorism. Dobrynin wondered if the U.S. had approached anyone else on this matter; Burt responded that we had not.

The Acting Secretary welcomed the Soviet response on the Hotline and nuclear terrorism, but regretted the negative Soviet attitude on the other two proposals. Dobrynin said that if the U.S. had further information on these two proposals, the Soviet side would listen. The Acting Secretary took due note of that, pointing out that we felt the military-to-military link was particularly desirable.3

The Acting Secretary asked if Dobrynin had any word on other pending issues. We could understand that the START issues were complex, and that Moscow might not have prepared responses to the Secretary’s questions. We were concerned over the lack of a Soviet response on the LTA issue, which, as Secretary Shultz had indicated, could become public knowledge at any moment. Dobrynin said he would get back to the Department on the LTA question as soon as he heard from Moscow, adding that the issue “was not as simple as it looked.”

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Soviet Oral Statement4

The U.S. Government, of course, is fully aware of the consistent position of the USSR favoring the adoption of effective measures aimed at enhancing stability and preventing the risk of outbreak of nuclear war. In the present circumstances this would be best of all facilitated by reaching at the current Soviet-American negotiations mutually acceptable agreements on the limitation and reduction of nuclear arms. In the context of such agreements an important place could be assigned also to confidence building measures in order to prevent the emergence of crisis situations, including the ones arising from all kind of accidents or miscalculations. Of course, such measures must be substantive, and they should really restrict certain types of military activities of the sides and not just be confined to a mere recording of facts.

We also believe that certain specific measures which were agreed and adopted by our countries in the past are worthwhile and serve a useful purpose. This applies, in particular, to the Direct Communication Link between Moscow and Washington. As is known, the existing bilateral agreements in force on this matter provide for the possibility of making arrangements for upgrading and improving the quality of the Direct Communication Link. We have no objections to having a discussion on this subject. This could be done, as was the case in the past, at the level of technical experts with the venue and time of such consultations to be agreed through diplomatic channels. We also understand that the U.S. side intends to present additional clarification on this question.

Since the Direct Communication Link meets the existing requirements, has demonstrated that it is secure and efficient, the setting up of some other parallel channels, for instance, between defense ministries, would not be expedient. It is our view too, that our embassies, considering the functions assigned to them, have sufficient capabilities to maintain efficient communications with their respective capitals.

We would be prepared to listen to additional considerations that the U.S. side said it would present with regard to multilateral consultations on crises resulting from the seizure of nuclear weapons or nuclear materials. It would also be useful to know if the U.S. side has approached anybody else on this matter or whether it intends to do so.

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Generally speaking, we would like to emphasize again that, on our part, we maintain a fully serious attitude to the elaboration and implementation of measures designed to strengthen confidence and to prevent the danger of a nuclear confrontation. But we are, of course, against having the question of confidence building measures used primarily for propaganda purposes and as a substitute for real steps in curtailing the arms race and in lowering the military levels of the opposing sides, first of all nuclear levels. The specific initiatives in this area advanced in the statements of the Soviet leaders, including their recent statements, as well as our detailed proposals made at the negotiations in Geneva, Vienna and Madrid open up a realistic prospect for reaching agreements on these pressing issues. Regretfully, we have to note that so far the U.S. has been avoiding their businesslike consideration.

If the U.S. side is genuinely seeking to restore confidence and to uphold it, to clear the atmosphere of mutual suspicions, it is necessary to abandon the preaching of animosity and hatred, the propaganda of nuclear war and the attempts to break the existing military balance to its own advantage. It is necessary to start to exert resolute efforts toward curbing the arms race, and not increasing it, toward restoring the normal and correct relations between our countries. And, of course, the real nature of the approach of the U.S. to confidence building measures may be determined by whether the U.S. side will be willing to reconsider its unobjective and lop-sided stand at the negotiations on the limitation and reduction of weapons, above all, nuclear weapons.

  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 Dam and Hill. An unknown hand initialed for Dam and Hill. The meeting took place in the Deputy Secretary’s office. Dam was acting for Shultz, who was in Mexico City to attend the meeting of the U.S.-Mexico Binational Commission. On April 18, Dam sent the President a memorandum summarizing the meeting with Dobrynin. He noted that the State Department would “initiate the appropriate inter-agency action to follow up on the Soviet response.” (Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S, Special Handling Restrictions Memos, 1979–1983, Lot 96D262, ES Sensitive, April 9–20 1983) Telegram 106831/Tosec 30036, to Secretary Shultz in Mexico City and for information to Moscow, April 19, contained a summary of the meeting and the text of the Soviet oral statement. (Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S–I Records, Deputy Secretary Dam’s Official Files: Lot 85D308, Memoranda of Conversation 1983)
  2. See Document 38.
  3. Dam wrote in his personal notes, April 18, that the Soviets “have been unwilling to agree to several other CBMs, including the joint military-to-military link. I am sure that this will upset Cap Weinberger, who had been very strongly advocating such a link. People in the State Department have been concerned about it because of the possibility of losing control in a crisis. On the other hand, there are technical reasons for thinking that in a time of near war, such communication might be useful. But there is a strong fear that it will be abused, and moreover, there are great dangers of too many channels of communication at a time of a crisis. Different messages, including conflicting messages, can be sent on different channels, and such a proliferation of message channels could actually deepen the crisis.” (Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S–I Records, Deputy Secretary Dam’s Official Files: Lot 85D308, Personal Notes of Deputy Secretary—Kenneth W. Dam—Oct. 1982–Sept. 1983)
  4. No classification marking.