13. Memorandum From Secretary of State Shultz to President Reagan1


  • My Meeting with Dobrynin March 30

Dobrynin came in for a little over an hour this morning. He was accompanied by his No. 2 Oleg Sokolov, I by EUR Deputy Assistant Secretary Mark Palmer. The meeting focussed on two kinds of topics: the killing of Major Nicholson in East Germany,2 and what our two countries should be doing to make your meeting with Gorbachev as productive as possible.

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On the Nicholson tragedy, he began the meeting by giving me their response to the proposal we made Wednesday that our two commanders meet to review what took place and what we should do to prevent recurrences.3 Essentially they accept our proposal, with the additional suggestion that working-level discussions precede the meeting of the commanders.

I told Dobrynin that I thought this was basically a good response, since agreement to try to prevent a further occurrence of this sort is important. He had to understand the outrage here not just that our man had been shot but that no first aid had been permitted. I told Dobrynin we would be giving the appropriate instructions to General Otis, and he replied that General Zaytsev already had his instructions. At the end of the meeting we talked about how to handle the media waiting for Dobrynin outside the Department, and we agreed that he would announce the basic accord and that Mark Palmer would confirm on my behalf that I was pleased we had reached agreement to discuss the incident and consider ways to prevent such incidents in the future.

Turning to broader issues in the relationship, I told Dobrynin I thought the Soviet response fit well in a larger discussion, because it should now be our job to see if we can help create an environment that will make a meeting between you and Gorbachev worthwhile. We are studying Gorbachev’s letter to you carefully, and it is straightforward and good in tone.4 Dobrynin said it was meant to be. I said we can talk about time and place later. We should focus now on what we can do to make a meeting constructive, and I thought we need to accomplish two things.

First, we should try to avoid things that throw us off course. The main point of my RAND speech in October was that it is important to learn how to avoid negative developments and handle things that do blow up.5 I said we are worried about their keeping control over their military. It seemed to me that their response on the Nicholson tragedy was a constructive contrast to the way KAL had just careened ahead, and that someone had gotten hold of it in time.

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In that connection I made some points about the Berlin air corridors problem. I noted there had been some improvements after we talked about it in October,6 but now things seem to be moving backward. The issue is not in satisfactory shape, and our commanders should perhaps pay more attention to it. I told him I would be back to him later in a more formal way on this issue.

Second, I said, we should be looking for constructive things to do. We were pleased with the statement in Gorbachev’s letter that although we might not be able to sign major agreements at a summit meeting, we should at least try to get some worthwhile things recorded. I then turned to various possibilities in our four-part agenda.

On arms control, I started with Geneva. I recalled that in his meeting with the Vice President and me Gorbachev had expressed some concern about statements from us on how difficult it was going to be to reach agreements. I then reiterated that while we are going to explain our thinking to the public, we have not broken the confidentiality agreement in Geneva, and we are prepared to work as rapidly as possible for agreements. Recalling that Gromyko had told me in Geneva that if something could be agreed we could evaluate it,7 I suggested that if some element could be agreed on early it would be a big plus.

Dobrynin said he understood I was talking about a “prelude to the future,” preparations for a meeting of “our bosses.” He then ticked off the kinds of issues Gromyko has previously suggested as things that could be agreed on without reference to Geneva: ratification of the Threshold Test Ban and Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaties,8 renewal of Comprehensive Test Ban negotiations, non-use-of-force, and the like. I responded in two ways. First, I referred to proposals we already have on the table on such issues—your proposal about improving calibration techniques on testing and your offer to discuss non-use-of-force commitments in Stockholm if they are willing to negotiate our confidence-building measures. Second, I mentioned a few other areas that I consider potentially promising—Dick Kennedy’s bilateral [Page 44] talks with the Soviets on non-proliferation9 and bilateral talks that could help us get a handle on chemical weapons proliferation.

Turning to human rights, I said we had seen both pluses and minuses recently and noted that Gromyko had told Art Hartman he would look into our old proposal that Art meet with a senior Soviet from time to time on issues like divided spouses. I then asked about Gorbachev’s suggestion to the Vice President and me that the two countries designate “rapporteurs” to meet and discuss human rights issues. Dobrynin said that was an item that had not been included in his report on the meeting. I said I was not sure Gorbachev was being serious or dismissive, and we had not fixed ideas, but it seemed to me that some quiet exchanges between rapporteurs could be useful if Gorbachev wanted them. Dobrynin said that as far as he was aware the Soviet position on human rights has not changed, but I had the sense he would check back with Moscow.

On bilateral topics, I said it would be a plus if we could identify areas for increasing non-strategic trade in the Joint Commission meeting Mac Baldrige would be attending in May. I then touched on four issues that we ought to be able to break loose in short order if the political will is there, since the problems are difficult but not ideological or matters of principle: Pacific air safety measures, normalizing our civil aviation relationship, getting a new exchanges agreement and opening new consulates in Kiev and New York.

On regional topics, I told Dobrynin I did not think the meetings we have had have been very fruitful, but I had been impressed with Gorbachev’s broad-gauge approach to the problems of a changing world, and by his comment that we both have a lot to think about. Regional tensions have been the most difficult issue for us to handle in the relationship, and if Gorbachev’s comments suggest a different pattern of dealing with each other than simply exchange of information, this could be an interesting development. Dobrynin commented only that the Soviets think the exchanges up to now have already been useful, albeit modestly so.

Dobrynin summed up by saying that in his view our task was to try to make a meeting between you and Gorbachev, on which we have already agreed, a successful one. He saw my presentation today as designed to figure out how to make your meeting with Gorbachev successful. We will not be able to do everything, but we should move wherever we can.

Dobrynin then asked about my plans for going to Vienna. He said he had just checked with Moscow, and no decision had yet been taken [Page 45] on Gromyko’s attendance. I said I was planning to arrive May 15 and leave immediately after the ceremonies, but I could make time available May 14 if Gromyko is going to be in Vienna and would be prepared for a meeting. Dobrynin asked if I would spend April in Washington, and I replied that he and I and Gromyko and Hartman in Moscow should do what we can to move things forward. Dobrynin concluded that to him this meant we should work through the landscape to prepare for “the meeting.”

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Jack Matlock Files, Meetings with USSR Officials, Meetings: Shultz-Gromyko-Dobrynin-Hartman-Gromyko 1985 (1). Secret; Sensitive. According to another copy, Simons drafted and Palmer and Kelly cleared the memorandum. (Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers,—1985 Soviet Union File)
  2. See Document 12. In his memoir, Shultz commented: “As in the shooting down of the Korean airliner, the Soviets did something egregious and then blamed us for it. After expressing their ‘regret’ over Major Nicholson’s death, they accused him of ‘espionage activities’ and failure to heed a warning from the sentry. We pushed strenuously to get the facts and see justice done. It was cold-blooded murder, and I said so.” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, pp. 533–534)
  3. March 27. In telegram 97024 to all European diplomatic posts and Bonn, March 30, the Department of State, in press guidance released following Shultz’s meeting with Dobrynin, announced: “We are pleased that agreement was reached that our two commanders-in-chief in Europe, General Glenn Otis of the 7th Army in Heidelberg and General Zaytsev of the Soviet Group of Forces in Germany, will get together to discuss issues related to the incident and to consider ways to prevent such incidents in the future.” (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D850220–0390) See footnote 7, Document 22.
  4. See Document 10.
  5. See footnote 2, Document 2.
  6. See Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. IV, Soviet Union, January 1983–March 1985, Document 296.
  7. See footnote 2, Document 4.
  8. The Threshold Test Ban Treaty was signed in Moscow on July 3, 1974. The Treaty on Peaceful Nuclear Explosions was signed in Washington and Moscow on May 28, 1976. “The TTB Treaty and the PNE Treaty are closely interrelated and complement one another. The TTB Treaty places a limitation of 150 kilotons on all underground nuclear weapon tests carried out by the Parties. The PNE Treaty similarly provides for a limitation of 150 kilotons on all individual underground nuclear explosions for peaceful purposes.” (Department of State Bulletin, August 23, 1976, p. 269)
  9. Kennedy and Petrosyants headed the delegations at the non-proliferation talks.