6. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • US-Soviet Relations


  • Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin
  • DCM Alexander Bessmertnykh
  • The Secretary
  • Under Secretary Eagleburger
  • Assistant Secretary Burt, Designate

Dobrynin joined the Secretary for lunch and an informal, wide-ranging discussion of US-Soviet relations. After a private meeting with Dobrynin the Secretary and Dobrynin joined others for lunch. Present on the American side were Lawrence Eagleburger and Richard Burt and on the Soviet side, Alexander Bessmertnykh. The Secretary briefly summarized the private meeting by saying that the two had agreed to meet regularly on US and Soviet questions, including arms control, regional issues and bilateral questions. They had surveyed the various exchanges now under way in Geneva, Madrid and Vienna, as well as the discussions that had been held earlier on non-proliferation and southern Africa.2 They had agreed that a Foreign Ministers’ meeting should probably be held sometime before the next UNGA, but that it was too early to suggest a specific date. They had also agreed on the general desirability of a U.S.-Soviet summit, but that it was the U.S. view that such a meeting achieve concrete results. The Secretary asked Dobrynin whether this was a fair summation of their private dialogue and Dobrynin agreed.

Dobrynin then went on at length about his conception of the best way to do business on arms control. He felt little progress in arms [Page 19] control negotiations had been made thus far. It was important to have a channel in which to resolve difficult problems; this could be the Shultz-Gromyko channel. The negotiators in Geneva did not have sufficient flexibility to resolve major problems. Nitze tried but did not succeed.3 The experience of the past ten years showed that when major problems arose, the Foreign Ministers were required to meet and resolve them. It was then left to the negotiators to put the results into treaty language.

The Secretary did not rule out the possibility of discussing INF and START in the Shultz-Gromyko channel, but noted the US preference for conducting the negotiations in Geneva and added that with new rounds beginning in both negotiations, that it made sense now to see what developed in the talks before deciding how to treat arms control in any future Shultz-Gromyko meeting.

Turning to the issue of bilateral relations, Dobrynin proposed that progress between the two sides might be made by expanding areas of bilateral cooperation. During recent consultations in Moscow, Dobrynin said, Andropov asked him what the Reagan Administration had done in a positive sense in US-Soviet relations. Had the Americans agreed to even one thing? Dobrynin said he had to answer no. Dobrynin pointed out that over the course of the past year a number of bilateral agreements had lapsed. He suggested that perhaps we should now consider making an inventory of bilateral agreements, with each side listing bilateral agreements and less formal undertakings under such categories as “cancelled,” “lapsed,” “ongoing,” and “close to agreement.” The Secretary agreed and suggested that such lists might be discussed at his next meeting with Dobrynin—perhaps in late February. Dobrynin agreed and said that he would be in touch with Eagleburger next week on this project.

Dobrynin said there were a number of other bilateral talks in the national security area that were also worth exploring, such as discussion of radiological weapons, chemical weapons, conventional arms transfers, and Indian Ocean naval deployments. The Secretary was noncommittal.

Dobrynin then listed a number of broader issues that in his opinion were topical, including the CSCE meeting in Madrid, South Africa, the Middle East, nonproliferation, and the Warsaw Pact’s recent Prague Declaration. Concerning Madrid, Dobrynin said only that he had recently met with US delegation chief Max Kampelman. Dobrynin [Page 20] characterized the several bilateral exchanges on South Africa as “not bad.” The Secretary noted that these exchanges so far had resulted in little, but agreed that they probably should be continued as circumstances warranted.

On the Middle East, which Dobrynin characterized as a “sacred area” for the United States, the two sides should consider bilateral talks that would be given little or no publicity. The Secretary said that he and Gromyko had already discussed the Middle East at length, as had Secretary Haig and Gromyko, and indicated that the United States was not prepared to go beyond those discussions.4

The Secretary agreed with Dobrynin that the Washington bilaterals on nonproliferation had been useful and should be continued. Dobrynin said he would like to talk about the Prague Declaration, which contained many good ideas.5 He complained that so far, Washington had ignored the proposals contained in the communique. The Secretary said he would be willing to listen if Dobrynin wished to discuss that matter at their next meeting.

The Secretary stressed there were other regional issues of importance to the United States that must remain on the agenda. These included Poland, Kampuchea, Afghanistan, and Central America. Dobrynin said that he would be willing to address these in future meetings.

In addition, the Secretary continued, human rights issues were in our view also central to the relationship. They were an “historic issue” for the United States. During the Vice President’s meeting with Andropov in Moscow last November,6 Andropov had underscored the importance of noninterference in internal affairs. We understood that concern. But for the United States, human rights was a question of major importance, and would remain so. These issues, such as the situation of Soviet Jewry, should be handled in a practical way, without publicity. Dobrynin commented that issues of this sort were most easily resolved in a climate of overall improvement in the relationship and noted the negative impact that the Jackson Amendment had had on Soviet emigration.7

[Page 21]

Summing up, Dobrynin characterized arms control negotiations as by far the most important area for progress, and indicated that in addition to surveying bilateral agreements, START and INF should be on the list of discussion topics for the next meeting.

The Secretary said that although the primary negotiations should remain in Geneva, he would not object if Dobrynin wished to discuss START and INF. While not as important, confidence-building measures comprised an area where relatively early accomplishments were possible. At the same time, human rights and regional issues must also remain on the agenda.

At the conclusion, Eagleburger reminded everyone that Bessmertnykh would soon be leaving for Moscow to head the U.S. department in the Soviet MFA. All Americans present wished him luck.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Country File, Europe and Soviet Union, USSR (02/11/83–02/20/83). Secret. Drafted by Burt on January 29; cleared by Eagleburger. The meeting took place in the Secretary’s office. Clark’s stamp appears on the memorandum, indicating he saw it. In a covering note attached to another copy, Eagleburger wrote: “Bill Clark—The Secretary asked that I make a specific effort to brief you on his talk with Dob. Here is the memcon; I’ll be glad to go into more detail if you wish. LSE.” (Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S, Lawrence Eagleburger Files, 1967–1984, Lot 84D204, Chron, January, 1983)
  2. In Geneva, U.S.-Soviet INF negotiations began on November 30, 1981. From November 11, 1980, to September 9, 1983, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) was holding a Second Review Conference in Madrid. In Vienna, Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction Talks (MBFR) had been ongoing since 1973.
  3. Reference is to the Nitze-Kvitsinskiy Geneva “Walk in the Woods” proposal in June/July 1982. Documentation on the proposal is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. V, European Security, 1977–1983.
  4. See Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. III, Soviet Union, January 1981–January 1983, Document 138.
  5. The Political Consultative Committee of the Warsaw Pact met in Prague from January 4 to 5.
  6. See Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. III, Soviet Union, January 1981–January 1983, Documents 234235 and 237.
  7. The Jackson–Vanik Amendment to the 1974 Trade Act denied Most-Favored-Nation status to countries with non-market economies (particularly those of the Soviet bloc) that restricted their citizens’ right to emigrate. President Ford signed the Trade Act with the amendment on January 3, 1975. Documentation is in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XVI, Soviet Union, August 1974–December 1976.