96. Briefing Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Burt) to Secretary of State Shultz1


  • Your Presentation to Gromyko at Madrid

Attached is a revised version of the presentation I am suggesting that:

—incorporates the points you wanted made on our direct military-to-military links proposal;

—reflects the more forthcoming tone and specific requests the Soviets have been making about our search operations near the crash site;

—tells Gromyko formally that it is not now possible to proceed with extension of the Transportation Agreement or further discussion of consulates and a new exchanges agreement; and

—puts U.S. markers on Central America and the Middle East on a contingency basis only, since taking the initiative on regional issues is too likely to invite a broad-ranging diatribe designed to divert attention from the issues you wish to raise.

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The NSC has asked for a new Memorandum to the President on the Gromyko meeting to help prepare for your pre-departure meeting tomorrow, and we have sent it to you separately.2

The presentation I am suggesting focusses on three set of issues: the airliner (and the President’s proposal for military-to-military communications links), arms control treaty compliance (missile testing and especially the radar), and human rights (Shcharanskiy plus Jewish emigration/anti-Semitism).

All three issues fall basically into the same category of Soviet behavior that constitutes a threat to international order. On all three we are justly accusing the Soviets of irresponsible conduct that makes it difficult to move forward in any field, and demanding corrective action at Gromyko’s level. All three fit well within the conceptual framework suggested by Jack Matlock for the meeting as originally planned: we cannot solve all problems, but we need to deal seriously with the three interrelated problem areas of use of force to settle disputes, the high and rising level of armaments, and the shortage of trust and confidence in the relationship.

At the same time, there is a basic tension between the airliner tragedy, arms control compliance and the Middle East/Central America—where we wish basically to warn the Soviets at Gromyko’s level—and Shcharanskiy—where we want the Soviets to release him. The tougher we are on the first three, the less forthcoming Gromyko is likely to be on Shcharanskiy.

There is no way to eliminate this tension, but we can perhaps reduce it by shaping the tone, order and format of your presentation. Our suggestions are embodied in the attached text. They are:

—Use Jack’s conceptual framework in setting the scene, and key each issue you raise to it: the airliner illustrates use of force, but also the Soviet arms buildup, and it damages trust and confidence; arms control compliance is a trust and confidence issue first, then an arms buildup issue; Shcharanskiy is pre-eminently a matter of trust and confidence; we wish to move forward if the Soviets are willing, but they are making things immensely difficult by their actions and unwillingness to explain on all these issues.

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—Break the meeting into a session with advisors dealing with the airliner and arms control compliance, and a more private session on Shcharanskiy and Jewish emigration/anti-Semitism.

—Conclude the session with advisors by a summation that ticks off the small steps we have managed to take in recent months, before asking for the private meeting, and finish on a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger note, in order to set a more positive tone for an exchange on Shcharanskiy.

—Frame your remarks on Shcharanskiy in terms of the Soviet leadership’s commitment to release him but also the opportunity for them to gain credit for a compassionate gesture at this time, and the danger of further damage if they do not follow through, and of catastrophe if he dies in prison.

An oblique mention of our offer to trade for Shcharanskiy is included in your points. We have discussed whether this mention should be more explicit, and you may wish to consider this point further. Our tentative conclusion, however, is that the mention should remain oblique for two reasons:

—If the Soviets decide to release Shcharanskiy as a humanitarian gesture, we would be better off without a trade;

—The Foreign Ministry is not always informed about discussion of trades, and if Gromyko weighs in in Moscow following a heated conversation with you the option could be eliminated.

Gromyko will have his own agenda, and at least two options for deflecting your stress on Soviet international misbehavior. One is to launch into a complaint along the lines of the egregious TASS statements of recent days that the Soviets were defending their territory against U.S. intelligence penetration.3 The other is a long and bitter monologue about alleged U.S. lack of interest in making the world a safer place, which raises a whole series of topics, probably including the Middle East. I suspect he may try to use both.

Contingency responses in case he specifically raises the RC–135 and intelligence charges are included in your book, and we will also have for you specific material to counter a Gromyko diatribe on U.S. intelligence activities by citing confirmed facts about the airliner shootdown.

The best antidote to a diversionary monologue is firmly but calmly to seize and keep the initiative, and stick to your three topics. I have revised my earlier view that you should raise Central America and the Middle East in this meeting. To do so would be too much of an invita[Page 332]tion to Gromyko to declaim. But if he raises regional issues (and only in that case), you should take the opportunity to lay down the appropriate markers on both the Middle East and Central America. Contingency talking points are at the end of the attached presentation. Otherwise, I think you should tell him that the meeting is short and that you would like to defer extended discussion of other topics to New York.


Paper Prepared in the Department of State4



At the end of our meeting in New York last year, we agreed that it would be a good thing for us to meet before another year had gone by, if progress on the various issues in our relations justified it.5

I wish I could say that was the reason we are meeting now. It would be an encouraging sign not just in our relations but in international relations generally if we were able to say that we had gotten together in Madrid because we had succeeded in making enough progress in resolving differences between our two countries to warrant meeting earlier this year.

I regret that this is not the case. But we must frankly face the fact that it is not the case. And I would be less than candid and less than realistic if I told you that we think the progress that has been made so far makes us optimistic about the larger prospect in our relationship.


Your brutal attack on an unarmed civilian airliner has shocked all Americans profoundly. The explanation offered by TASS is preposterous. Your attempt to turn a tragedy where very many lives from many nationalities were lost into a problem in U.S.-Soviet relations is repugnant. The act itself, and your reaction, point up for us the many and profound differences between our two countries.

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I do not intend to discuss this aspect here. But I would like to explain to you how this terrible event looks to us in the total context of our relations, so that you will understand at the outset how the United States is approaching this meeting and the meetings we will have later in the month in New York.

This tragedy and your reaction to it have made us more aware than ever that the central issue between our two countries is how to improve world security and make our appropriate contribution to establishing a basis for peaceful resolution of international disputes. This is a grave responsibility. We take our portion of it very seriously. It is impossible for us to have confidence that you take your share of responsibility with equal seriousness. In general, we face three interrelated types of problems, and last week’s destruction of the Korean airliner by Soviet military forces in the Far Eastern area brought these problems together for us with almost overwhelming vividness.

The first problem is the high and increasing level of armaments. I will not dwell on our concerns about the level of Soviet armaments in this area: our negotiations in Geneva touch on certain aspects of the problem, and our concerns and those of the East Asian countries are well known to you. President Andropov’s statement to Pravda that the Soviet Union would be willing to destroy missiles withdrawn from Europe under an agreement with us seemed to us a step in the right direction.6 But it still did not address our underlying concern about unlimited increases in Soviet military capacity in the area—a concern we share with all your other neighbors and other countries in the region as well.

The second problem is the shortage of trust and confidence in our relationship. I do not know if the lack of confidence which your pilot’s action showed was as shocking to you as it was to me and to the President. I would be happy to hear from you that it was. What I can tell you is that our confidence in the ability of our two countries to conduct necessary business together has received another blow. We know that our two countries are fated to live together on a dangerous planet, and that we have a common responsibility of historic magnitude to control the dangers we face together, and to reduce them. But your unprovoked and unjustifiable action has shown once again that we have a limited fund of trust and confidence with which to work, and that the base for progress we have managed to build is terribly narrow, and the road ahead terribly hard.

The third problem is the use and encouragement of force to settle international disputes. For us, your action last week was an outrageous [Page 334] example of your country’s willingness to use force in situations where my country—and the rest of the world—believe and earnestly desire that peaceful solutions can be found.

This is not a new concern of ours. It is one that President Reagan and I share with all our predecessors since the war. Over the past two years, you have heard Secretary Haig and me discuss it with respect to Afghanistan, with respect to Kampuchea, with respect to the Middle East, with respect to southern Africa, with respect to Central America and the Caribbean. It lies at the heart of our approach to your military buildup, to our discussions on arms control.

I know that you and your colleagues in the leadership do not accept this analysis of the problems between us. That is part of the problem too. But I must tell you that the airliner tragedy convinces us more than ever that if we are to put our relations on a more constructive course, you and your colleagues must recognize that the United States and the rest of the world community are convinced that you will use your vast military forces with restraint and with responsibility. That is precisely what you did not do last week.

These are the fundamental questions that were raised by your action. But they are not more fundamental than our anguish about the very many American lives that have been lost. For these reasons I ask you formally, once again, for a full and reasonable explanation of how this tragedy took place; for all the information that is available to you about the fate of the plane and its passengers; for permission for our forces to participate with yours in the search now going on off Sakhalin Island; and for prompt access if the plane and any bodies are recovered. I would like to be encouraged by our recent exchanges concerning coordinates and other data about our search operations in the area.


In the wake of this tragedy, ensuring the safety of peaceful international air travel is an issue on which the whole world must cooperate. We must take every feasible step to make sure that this sort of thing cannot happen again.

The Soviet Union must give the assurances the world needs and take specific steps to ensure the safety of international civil aviation.

But I would also like to remind you that even before this tragedy we proposed to you a number of measures we could take to improve communications between us.

Our discussions on adding a facsimile transmission capability to our hotline communications have made the most progress, but we had also proposed direct links between our military authorities. In fact, our delegation to Moscow described our concept to you at some length early last month.

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Had such links been in place last week, it is conceivable that this tragedy could have been averted. They would have provided one way for you to seek additional information and clarify the identity of the plane your interceptors were pursuing.

I would urge you most seriously to consider our proposal for direct communications links between our military authorities once again, and I would appreciate a considered reply at the earliest possible opportunity.


I wish I could tell you that the airliner tragedy is the only instance that has reinforced these concerns in recent weeks and months. Unfortunately, we also find ourselves with increasing evidence of actions that raise questions about the Soviet Union’s compliance with its obligations under existing arms control agreements.

I cannot emphasize too much how such actions erode the trust and confidence we must have that you will punctiliously carry out your treaty commitments to us, and how important it is to any progress in arms control that you address our concerns seriously and specifically. If we cannot be sure that treaties signed in the past are being carried out, then we will not be able to move forward with you to sign new agreements.

These are not new concerns. Secretary Haig already raised with you the troubling situation we see with regard to use of chemical and biological weapons. Today, I would like to stress two areas of concern that have arisen more recently.

For six months we have been discussing with you the questions we have about the ICBM first flight-tested on February 8, 1983. Despite the assertions your government has made, we remain unconvinced that this missile qualifies as a permitted modernization of an existing type of ICBM under the terms of SALT II. Moreover, the denial of telemetric information vital to verifying compliance—also inconsistent with the terms of SALT II—has simply reinforced our suspicions. We think the importance of the problem warrants a more forthcoming response in future discussions in the SCC and through diplomatic channels.

Even more serious questions have arisen in connection with the new large phased-array radar that you are constructing near Krasnoyarsk. Your claim that this radar is for space-tracking purposes is thoroughly implausible, since the radar is of the same type as ones you have specifically identified as being for ballistic missile early warning. Thus we demand a more convincing explanation for this radar in view of its apparent inconsistency with the ABM Treaty.

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It is precisely because fundamental problems in our relations are involved that we seek adequate and responsible Soviet explanations and actions on issues like these.

We are not seeking to destroy anything of what we have managed so painfully to achieve in the way of trust, confidence and mutually beneficial structure in our relations. It is your actions or refusal to take actions that pose a threat to the narrow base we have established. Our policy is unchanged. It will be based, as before, on strength, on realism, and on willingness to explore with you those areas where our two countries can work together to mutual benefit.

We do not underestimate the significance of the small steps we have managed to take together in recent weeks and months. The conclusion of the CSCE review conference here in Madrid is one of them: it is not a perfect outcome, and because of Malta it has been a difficult outcome, but it is a beneficial outcome.

The grains agreement we signed two weeks ago in Moscow was a similar beneficial step. The President and I appreciate the release of the Pentecostalists who were in our Embassy and their families. We have agreed to renew the atomic energy agreement that expired in June. Even in the difficult arms control area, we have had useful discussions on confidence-building measures and on nuclear non-proliferation. And, although we have not yet gotten to the essential differences in our major negotiations, both sides have shown encouraging flexibility in START, in INF and in MBFR.

At the same time, it must be perfectly clear to you that such steps cannot be taken in isolation from other elements in the relationship. This last week has provided two fresh examples. As a result of your action in the Pacific, it is not possible for us to proceed with extension of the Transportation Agreement that expired in June, and it is not possible at this time for us to follow up on your agreement in principle to renew discussions on opening consulates and on a new exchanges agreement.

Speaking for the United States, however, I can say that the President and I intend to continue the effort to develop a more stable and constructive relationship with the Soviet Union if the Soviet Union is willing to work with us to do so. The steps our two countries have taken perhaps show that we can do some serious business even in difficult times. I will want in New York to go over the whole range of issues between us.

For our part, we know we cannot hope to solve all problems at once. But our two countries must face the fact that the larger problems cannot be resolved in isolation from the others. And, in a spirit of [Page 337] realism and candor, I must also say that the Soviet actions and inactions I have described earlier make it immensely more difficult to move forward.

NOTE: We continue to believe that you should discuss human rights issues one-on-one with Gromyko. After summing up, therefore, we suggest that you ask for a private session following the general meeting.


The airliner tragedy is a human rights issue for us too, but I wanted to meet with you privately to discuss the more familiar problems of human rights in our relationship.

I cannot exaggerate to you the importance of these issues for both the present and the future. It remains true that no other area of the relationship has such potential for improving or damaging American trust and confidence in the possibility of our countries doing serious business.

The President and I continue to believe that the best way to deal with these issues in our relations is quietly and privately. That is why I asked for this private session.

The case of Anatoliy Shcharanskiy is of very great concern to us, precisely because it so clearly involves the issue of trust and confidence.

As I noted in the general meeting, the President and I appreciated the way you dealt with the Pentecostalist matter after the President’s meeting with Ambassador Dobrynin in February. We have been trying to deal with the Shcharanskiy case in the same quiet way.

That is why we were encouraged by President Andropov’s letter to Marchais, and why we authorized Ambassador Kampelman to enter into confidential discussions with Mr. Kondrashev.

I must say we were initially encouraged by those discussions. They seemed to us to hold out some hope of progress without damage to the positions of principle on either side.

In particular, we were encouraged by Mr. Kondrashev’s clear and solemn statement on behalf of the highest authorities in his government that Shcharanskiy could be released by February 1984.

We therefore made clear both to Mr. Kondrashev and to other authorized interlocutors that we on our side would be prepared to take steps of interest to the Soviet side if this commitment were in fact honored.

Our position remains the same, and we are interested in substance rather than in form. However, it is our impression that the Soviet side is no longer interested in moving forward to resolve the Shcharanskiy case, and is in fact departing from what we understood was a commitment.

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I would like to hear from you urgently on what the official Soviet position on this matter is, and what the Soviet Union expects from the United States if it is to be resolved.

We have other serious concerns in the human rights field, and I will want to discuss some of them in New York. We are, for example, worried not only about the radical decline in Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union but also about what appears to us to be growing official encouragement of anti-semitic activities in the Soviet Union. In particular, the establishment of the so-called “Anti-Zionist Committee” can only be called a step that confirms this impression. You should be aware that we will have nothing to do with it, and will encourage private citizens to treat it with the contempt it deserves.

At the same time, the Shcharanskiy case is critical. Our relations will benefit if it can be resolved soon: there is no better time for this compassionate step. But our relations will inevitably be damaged even further if Shcharanskiy is made to serve his full term. We have conflicting reports on his state of health, and I would not want to make a judgment. But if he were to die in prison, it would be a catastrophe.


We have a limited amount of time, and I would propose that we defer extended discussion of these kinds of issues to New York. I have only two points to make:

—We have had a number of exchanges on the Lebanon situation in recent days, and I merely wish to reiterate a number of points to you.

The situation is dangerous for all the area parties and for both our countries, and the root of that danger is the continued presence of foreign troops in Lebanon. Our objective is the elimination of the foreign troop presence in that country, so that the Lebanese government can establish full sovereignty on its own territory. With our encouragement, the Government of Israel has agreed to withdraw its forces in a situation where Syria does the same, and in fact took a first step in this direction last weekend even without Syrian agreement to follow this course. The unwillingness of Syria to remove its forces from Lebanon is an obstacle to progress with consequences that are dangerously serious to all of us. I would urge you once again to use your influence with Syria to encourage a more constructive approach.

—With regard to Central America, I would like to reiterate with utmost seriousness what I told you when we first met last year: that your military shipments to Cuba far exceed what Cuba needs for self-defense and are being used by Cuba to fuel dangerous tensions in the region; that you cannot escape responsibility for this effect of your [Page 339] actions; and that the arrival of Cuban combat troops and jet combat aircraft in Nicaragua would be unacceptable to the United States. We have no motive to make Central America an issue in our relations, but you may be sure that we will defend our interests.

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S, Special Handling Restrictions Memos, 1979–1983, Lot 96D262, ES Sensitive, September 1–8 1983. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Simons; cleared by J.H. Smith (L/LEI) and Palmer. Forwarded through Eagleburger. Simons initialed for all clearing officials.
  2. An unsigned memorandum from Shultz to Reagan is ibid. A note on the routing sheet reads: “Taken to Sec’s home by J. Howe 9/5 per CH.” However, there is no indication the memorandum was sent to Reagan. It covers most of the same points in Burt’s memorandum to Shultz regarding the upcoming meeting with Gromyko: the KAL incident, arms control compliance, and human rights. Before he departed for Madrid, Shultz and Reagan met in the Oval Office the next morning, September 6. See Document 97.
  3. See Document 92.
  4. Secret; Sensitive.
  5. See Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. III, Soviet Union, January 1981–January 1983, Document 221.
  6. See footnote 2, Document 82.