62. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • US-Soviet Relations


  • The President, Vice President Bush, Counselor Meese, Chief of Staff to the President Baker, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Clark, Secretary of State Shultz, Secretary of Defense Weinberger, Deputy Director of Intelligence McMahon, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs McFarlane

BACKGROUND: The purpose of the meeting was for the attendees to receive a status report on the state of US-Soviet relations as expressed in the dialogue undertaken at the President’s instruction by the Secretary of State in February 1983. There have been approximately ten meetings between the Secretary and Ambassador Dobrynin which have been focussed upon four generic areas: Human Rights; Regional Issues; Arms Control; and Bilateral Issues.

The Secretary of State opened with a summation of the President’s thinking for why the initiative had been authorized originally. He referred to the President’s success in establishing a solid beginning toward the restoration of our military strength. More recently, Williamsburg had presented solid evidence of greatly improved allied cohesion which would contribute significantly to Soviet perceptions of Western strength in any negotiation we might undertake.

The Secretary stated that the President’s instructions had been to explore Soviet responsiveness to our interests in each of the four general areas. These discussions were to take place at the Ambassadorial level and based upon the results a decision could be taken as to whether or not the dialogue should be elevated to the Foreign Minister level with a view ultimately toward a meeting between the Heads of State.

STATUS REPORT: The Secretary of State then went into the results thus far achieved in each of the four generic areas.

Human Rights. There appears to be some promise of progress in the human rights area as exemplified by the release of Lydia Vaschenko. The other members of her family have applied for their visas. The [Page 199] other family (Chymkhalov) has experienced difficulty in making their application. In short, while the process seems to be in motion all except Lydia remain in the Soviet Union.2

The Secretary noted the possible promise of a channel established by Ambassador Kampelman with his KGB counterpart in the Soviet delegation at the CSCE-Madrid. While a solid agenda had been discussed no tangible results have thus far been achieved however. Time will tell.

Regional Issues. The Secretary of State said that with regard to discussions on Afghanistan, Poland and Central America, essentially nothing had been achieved. He noted that the Soviets had expressed an interest in discussing the Middle East. He had intentionally restricted references to the Middle East to only the most summary comments.

Arms Control. The Secretary noted that we have had mixed results in discussions on arms control. Today he had heard that the Soviets had made a somewhat encouraging statement in response to the President’s recent START announcement. With regard to INF, we have thus far not been able to make progress. Concerning MBFR, we have had an apparent “nibble.” Finally, concerning confidence building measures (CBMs) the Soviets appear to have some interest in two of the four proposals we had made.

Bilateral Issues. In this area the Secretary said the only initiative proposed by either side had been our offer for negotiation of a new long-term grain agreement (LTA).3 He noted that the Soviets viewed this proposal as serving our interests and not theirs. As a consequence it had a rather ambiguous standing.

The Secretary then went on to describe the format for the sessions with Dobrynin. These normally included two phases: the first in which staff specialists contributed to particular issues on the agenda, (e.g., Ambassador Nitze on INF); followed by a private one-on-one session between the Secretary and Ambassador Dobrynin.

Before going on to propose an agenda for the forthcoming meeting on Saturday, June 18,4 he asked if anyone had any comments.

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Deputy Director McMahon noted that Chernenko’s speech at the CPSU Central Committee Meeting in support of Andropov was an indicator of the latter’s strength.5

The next meeting. The Secretary then proposed that the forthcoming meeting follow the same format as before with the agenda this time to include a discussion of our recent initiative at MBFR (Ambassador Abramowitz to attend) and the President’s recent proposal for START (Ambassador Rowny to attend for this item). The Secretary of State said he would also describe the Williamsburg Conference—the point to be made, that of Allied solidarity. In addition to these subjects, the Secretary proposed going once more into each of the four generic areas. With regard to bilateral relations, the Secretary proposed that he be authorized to express US willingness to open talks toward the establishment of a Soviet Consulate in New York City and a US Consulate in Kiev.6 In addition, he proposed that he be authorized to express our willingness to open talks devoted to the negotiation of a new cultural agreement. The Secretary went on to explain that the net benefit from any such agreements would accrue to the United States. Specifically, with respect to the proposed consulates the Secretary noted that the improved intelligence accruing to the Soviets from a New York City consulate would not add that much to the capability they already enjoy through the United Nations presence. On the other hand, a window for the United States in Kiev would provide us a substantial improvement in our collection capability.

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With regard to the cultural agreement, the Secretary noted at the moment the Soviets were free to send as many cultural representatives to this country as they wished since these are arranged through private sources and the government now has no real control over them. He noted that a treaty would give us an instrument for seeking greater reciprocity in this area and would also legitimize a higher flow of cultural visits from West to East.

The Secretary then noted that with regard to regional issues the situation had worsened in Central America and that this might be an outgrowth of a flaw in the marker we had earlier laid down to the Russians. Specifically, our statement that we would find the introduction of high-performance aircraft or Cuban combat units “unacceptable” may have implied that all actions other than these would be tolerated. The Secretary stated that we should clarify this.

Judge Clark noted that in the early 70’s when the Soviets commenced submarine operations out of Cienfuegos, Cuba, the Administration had characterized this as “an unfriendly act.” Ultimately this had led to the termination of these operations. He recommended that the Secretary treat current Soviet activities in Central America in the same fashion—that is, that their activities which contribute to unrest generally (not just the introduction of modern weapons and combat units) will be unacceptable. The President approved this proposal.

The Secretary then raised the matter of how any mention of a summit ought to be treated. He reiterated existing Administration policy with regard to summits: that is, that we are not opposed in principle however they would need to be well prepared in advance and hold the promise of significant accomplishment.

Secretary Weinberger noted the inconsistency which would be represented by our conducting discussions of the possibility of a summit while the Soviets remained in Afghanistan, Poland and Central America.

This subject was not conclusively resolved.

At this point the meeting evolved into round-table remarks which were basically supportive of the Secretary proceeding according to the format he had proposed. The Vice President noted in particular the value of the private meeting after the larger set piece agenda had been disposed of. He believed that this private session held the most promise for getting results.

As the participants rose to leave, the Secretary of State asked whether he should bring Ambassador Rowny back to participate in Saturday’s meeting. The President agreed that he should.

The Secretary also asked, “what about the other items?” The President answered go ahead.

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Conclusions: After the meeting it was confirmed that the President approved:

• The convening of a meeting by the Secretary of State with Ambassador Dobrynin on Saturday, June 18.

• That this meeting should be conducted according to the same format as meetings of the past.

• That the Secretary should summarize important issues and proposals put forth by our side since the last meeting (e.g., START proposal and the results of Williamsburg).

• He should discuss human rights, arms control, regional issues and bilateral issues.

• That in discussing the situation in Central America, the Secretary should protest the recent Soviet escalation of military deliveries to Nicaragua and state that we consider these actions and other Soviet measures of support to Nicaragua for the export of revolution to neighboring countries to be unfriendly actions which must cease.

• That Ambassador Rowny and Ambassador Abramowitz should return to participate in the arms control portion.

• With regard to bilateral issues the Secretary was authorized to propose that the U.S. and the Soviet Union open talks devoted to the conclusion of agreements for the establishment of consulates in New York City and Kiev; and for the conduct of cultural exchanges between the two countries.

There were no conclusions reached with regard to:

• Any future possibilities of a summit meeting, or

• Travel by the Secretary of State to Moscow for meetings with Soviet officials.7

  1. Source: Reagan Library, William Clark Files, US-Soviet Relations Papers, Working File: Contains Originals (14). Secret; Sensitive. There is no drafting information on the memorandum. The meeting took place in the Treaty Room in the Residence of the White House.
  2. See Documents 34 and 46.
  3. See Documents 32, 35, and 47.
  4. See Document 64.
  5. Chernenko gave the keynote address at the June 14–15 session of the Central Committee Plenum. For the full text of his June 14 speech, see the Current Digest of the Soviet Press, vol. XXXV, No. 24 (July 13, 1983), pp. 1–10. On June 16, McMahon prepared a Memorandum for the Record and noted: “The next thing that surprised me was in regard to a discussion on Andropov. In response to a question from Ed Meese, I noted that Andropov seemed to be gaining in strength in light of Chernenko’s speech at the Plenum which was very much in deference to Andropov. Clark dismissed this completely and said that it was only propaganda given out to the newspapers; that a struggle was still continuing in the Soviet Union and further it really didn’t matter because we were dealing with a system, not a person. I countered by noting that since Andropov has come to power evidence suggests that he is very much calling the tune and decisions that have been made in the Soviet Union were pro-Andropov decisions. I further noted the rise in priority of the agriculture and home economic issues—which are very much the priorities of Andropov. I commented how rolled steel and aluminum were diverted from the military to the agricultural sector. This was news to Shultz who was quite surprised by that.” (Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, Job 86M00885R: Subject Files, Box 6, Folder 94: 1983 DDCI Meetings with NSC/State/Defense)
  6. McMahon’s Memorandum for the Record above also noted: “I was somewhat stunned by Clark’s eagerness for the Kiev consulate until I learned later in the discussion that State was feeling a great deal of pressure from the Jewish community because of the number of Ukrainian Jews who center and focus around the Kiev area.” (Ibid.)
  7. In his personal notes, Dam wrote after this meeting: “The Secretary gave us a readout this afternoon of his meeting with the President earlier in the afternoon in which the President basically signed onto the Secretary’s program on negotiations with the Soviet Union. The President agreed, in the presence of Weinberger and Clark, to allow us to negotiate on a cultural agreement (which will be placed in broader terms than pure culture to include industrial expositions and the like) as well as new consulates in New York and Kiev. The meeting with Dobrynin will be held on Saturday.” (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)