165. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

17327. Subject: December 3 Meeting With Shevardnadze. Ref: State 364561.2

1. S—Entire text.

2. Summary. I met with Foreign Minister Shevardnadze on December 3 to deliver the official invitation for Gorbachev to visit the United States. Shevardnadze said he would convey it to Gorbachev and then contact us about further steps.

3. Shevardnadze made these general comments:

—Geneva was the start of a long, difficult road.

—The experience of preparing for that meeting was “rather good,” and we should begin now to prepare further steps forward.

—The Soviet Union has “high expectations” for the nuclear and space talks.

—Recent Soviet messages to Egypt and Libya exemplify the type of efforts which should be made to prevent regional military conflicts.3

—The Soviet Union considers the upcoming visit of Secretary Baldrige and the meeting of the Trade and Economic Council important and is making suitable arrangements.4

Gorbachev has asked to be kept informed of implementation of the agreements reached in Geneva, and the MFA furnishes him with periodic status reports.

4. I raised the possibility of televised New Year messages from the President and General Secretary. Shevardnadze termed the idea “attractive,” but said he must consult with Gorbachev before giving a definitive reaction.

5. USA Department Chief Bessmertnykh called attention to the lack of a reply from State to a request from the Soviet Embassy for a list [Page 736] of institutional counterparts with which the Soviet Union should deal in connection with exchange agreements. See paragraph 18 for action request. End summary.

6. Shevardnadze was accompanied by Aleksandr Bessmertnykh, the Chief of the MFA USA Department. An officer in that department, Vassiliy Kochetkov, interpreted. Embassy Political Officer Martin McLean took notes.

7. I first conveyed the invitation to Shevardnadze. I also alerted him to the possibility that when Secretary of Commerce Baldrige is in Moscow next week he might deliver a letter from the President which refers to the invitation. I told Shevardnadze that our negotiators and everyone else were working seriously to implement the understandings reached in Geneva and asked for his assessment of the meeting. Noting that we share one common holiday, I also asked for his reaction to the idea of televised New Year’s messages from President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev to the people of our respective countries. I said this was a personal idea which I could pursue further, depending on the Soviet reaction.

Invitation to Gorbachev

8. Shevardnadze said that the US visit had already been “agreed in principle,” but he was still pleased to receive the formal invitation. He said he would convey it to the General Secretary and would then tell us what practical steps need to be taken.

Assessment of Geneva

9. He evaluated the Geneva meeting at some length. He first stressed that much advance work had been done to prepare the agenda and other documents. In the end, they had “come in handy.” Bessmertnykh interjected with a smile that they had only been partially useful. Also smiling, Shevardnadze replied that the negotiators of the joint statement had been able to sleep for two hours after agreeing on the text. Without the preparatory work, they would not have slept at all.5

10. Shevardnadze termed the Geneva meeting “useful and very necessary.” He referred me to Gorbachev’s Geneva press conference and his “more comprehensive and fundamental” report to the Supreme Soviet for the Soviet assessment of the results.6 “We realistically say what was achieved and what was not achieved, as well as the reasons why more was not accomplished.” Shevardnadze said he personally considered the meeting as the start of a “long and difficult road.” He [Page 737] said the Soviet Union is “far from having an oversimplified attitude to the next steps.”

11. On the other side of the ledger, he said that the experience of preparing for the meeting had been “rather good.” We should use that experience to begin without delay to prepare seriously for further steps. He underlined the importance of “mutual desire” to deal with all aspects of the Geneva document, such as the nuclear and space negotiations, security problems, bilateral relations and other issues. Recalling my remark that our negotiators in the nuclear and space talks were preparing seriously to achieve positive results, Shevardnadze said Soviet negotiators had taken that approach from the start. He doubted that “third parties” would interfere if both the U.S. and USSR shared this objective. He noted the Soviet Union’s “high expectations” for the nuclear and space talks.

Regional Issues: Egypt and Libya

12. Turning to regional issues, Shevardnadze said we should not wait for a “global solution.” We are now witnessing an event which exacerbates tensions. He observed that two days ago (December 1) the Soviet Union had sent messages to the leaders of Egypt and Libya urging restraint. The Secretary of State had been informed of this step and urged to help calm the situation. Shevardnadze said this was the kind of problem where, “without fanfare,” the U.S. and USSR should try to avoid a military clash in a flammable region. If a military conflict began, the problem would be harder to deal with.7

Baldrige Visit

13. Concerning bilateral matters, Shevardnadze said the Soviet Union considers the upcoming Baldrige visit and meeting of the Trade and Economic Council important. He assured me that the level at which they are received and the organization will be good.

Exchanges and Other Bilateral Issues

14. He then asked Bessmertnykh to review other bilateral matters. Bessmertnykh said that the Soviet side is active on all issues “which were discussed” in Geneva. Agreements had already been reached on ecological questions and cancer research. Both sides were working on the fusion reactor issue, and maritime negotiations had been renewed. Other negotiations, such as the maritime boundary talks, were suspended because of the U.S. desire to study Soviet proposals.

15. Bessmertnykh said he wanted to “call attention” to the lack of a reply from the State Department to a request from the Soviet Embassy [Page 738] for a list of the agencies and departments with which the Soviet Union should work concerning the issues discussed at Geneva. In response to my request for clarification, he said the request concerned counterparts for bilateral agreements and new exchanges under discussion. Summing up, Bessmertnykh said the Soviet side is ready to move ahead and it hopes the U.S. is also.

Gorbachev Monitoring Progress

16. Shevardnadze said Gorbachev had issued “categorical instructions” to monitor implementation of the understandings in Geneva. As a result, the MFA provides him with periodic progress reports. He said he expected that President Reagan had a similar attitude.

New Year Messages

17. Concerning the possible New Year messages, Shevardnadze said he would have to consult with Gorbachev. He said he personally found the idea “attractive.”

18. Action request: We would appreciate information about Soviet Embassy demarche regarding Egypt and Libya, as well as Soviet Embassy request for USG counterpart agencies to follow up Geneva issues. To date we have received nothing from Washington on either matter.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, [no N number]. Secret; Immediate; Nodis.
  2. In Tosec 270176/364561 to Shultz’s delegation, November 29, the Department repeated the text of telegram 364561 to Moscow, November 28, which provided instructions for Hartman to meet with Shevardnadze and present Gorbachev a formal invitation to visit the United States. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, N850012–0475)
  3. Documentation on this is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XLVIII, Libya; Chad.
  4. See Document 169.
  5. See footnote 2, Document 159.
  6. See Document 160. Excerpts of Gorbachev’s report to the Supreme Soviet on November 27 were printed in the New York Times, November 28, p. A4.
  7. See footnote 6, Document 167.