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

17758. Department Please Pass Secretary, Admiral Poindexter NSC; and Clarence Brown Dept. of Commerce Only. Subject: Secretary Baldrige’s December 10, 1985 Meeting With General Secretary Gorbachev.

1. Secret—Entire text.

2. Introduction: The following is a memorandum of the December 10 conversation between Secretary Baldrige and General Secretary Gorbachev. The meeting took place in the usual Kremlin meeting room. It commenced at 5:30 p.m. and concluded at 7:05 p.m. The General Secretary was accompanied by his foreign policy assistant, Ambassador Aleksandrov-Agentov. Foreign Trade Minister Aristov joined the Soviet side some ten minutes after the meeting began. Secretary Baldrige was accompanied by Under Secretary Smart, Ambassador Hart[Page 746]man and DCM Combs (notetaker). Gorbachev’s overall approach was moderate and relaxed throughout the 95 minute meeting. End introduction.

3. The meeting opened with a five-minute photo opportunity. Gorbachev jokingly noted that Mr. Baldrige had arrived with a large team, a large landing force, but this was all right. The Secretary said that some 400 U.S. businessmen were in town for the USTEC meeting and this was the largest number ever to have taken part.2 Gorbachev quipped that if this is a sign something good would take place after the Geneva Summit, that would be fine with him. The Secretary said he was here without question because of the progress the President and the General Secretary had made at Geneva. I’ll take the blame, Baldrige added, for whatever trouble we have in our discussions here. Gorbachev said that the Secretary’s blame was less than that of his and of President Reagan’s but he would talk of that later once the newsmen left the room.

4. As the newsmen prepared to leave, Baldrige said he was sorry to hear that former Minister of Trade Patolichev was ill. Gorbachev acknowledged that Patolichev was seriously ill and could not work as before. But Patolichev was a man with a deservedly solid reputation; he had written one book and was now putting together his memoirs. Baldrige recalled that Patolichev had told him interesting stories about his wartime experiences constructing Soviet tanks. Gorbachev agreed that Patolichev had gone through a great deal in his life.

5. Gorbachev said he knew this was Secretary Baldrige’s second visit within one year.3 This should have some meaning and Gorbachev hoped it was a good omen. If the U.S. side is prepared to take positive, practical steps this will be welcomed and met with understanding by the Soviet side. We look forward to hearing Secretary Baldrige’s assessment of the current situation. Perhaps we will go no further than during the Secretary’s May visit when there was considerable talk about trade, but trade did not grow. Directing his attention to Ambassador Hartman, Gorbachev said with a smile that the U.S. Embassy tended to monopolize the relationship but this amounted to little other than political dialogue. So we hope the Secretary’s second visit will bring some concrete progress.

6. Ambassador Hartman can confirm, Gorbachev continued, that in Geneva Gorbachev and the President agreed an atmosphere of trust and confidence was needed in our relationship. If we adopted a practical approach, we could make progress in our bilateral trade. This indeed [Page 747] would contribute to an improved atmosphere and increased mutual trust as we got to know each other more fully. The arrival of Secretary Baldrige and the large group of U.S. businessmen fit quite well into this scheme.

7. Referring to typewritten talking points, Gorbachev said that before discussing trade questions he would like to say several words about the Geneva Summit. You certainly know our general evaluation of that meeting. In short, I would say that while we took only initial steps in Geneva, an important start was made there, despite differences on many issues particularly in the field of national security. This was also President Reagan’s view. We in Moscow assess the meeting as generally positive on the whole. Most important, I think, Geneva showed that we can discuss and seek solutions to the most difficult questions. It is my view, and I think that of the President as well, that this by itself is important in guiding our relations now and in their subsequent stages of development. Of course, I did not expect the President to become a Communist comrade and I’m sure he had no illusions about changing my convictions. But we showed in Geneva that we could exchange views frankly and without preconditions.

8. I mentioned this, Gorbachev continued, because our relationship should be free of delusions. We need realistic evaluations of each other’s policies and positions. We need to seek paths to wider cooperation and mutual efforts wherever possible in our bilateral relations and in the international arena generally, no matter how difficult this may be. Any other approach would be fraught with unpredictable consequences. In short, the main result of the Geneva meeting was that it showed how we could go forward in a mutual search for improved relations.

9. But this approach needs to be validated by practical deeds, Gorbachev said. It was not easy to reach Geneva: A great deal of debate—some public, some behind closed doors—preceded that meeting. More than six and one-half years had elapsed since the last U.S.-Soviet summit and so we were faced at Geneva with a review of all aspects of our relations. The next step, building upon the Geneva experience with practical measures, will be even more difficult. We need to move in various directions including not only our bilateral relations but such world developments as regional hot spots and north-south relations. I would therefore repeat that we are now beginning a period in which the results of Geneva are put to the practical test.

10. Gorbachev noted that Ambassador Hartman had conveyed the President’s letter of November 28, 1985 and that Gorbachev would consider it most seriously and would provide a reply.4 Gorbachev said [Page 748] he would like to conclude this part of the discussion, regarding Geneva, with a request that the Secretary convey to the President that the achievements of Geneva are regarded very seriously in Moscow. We will try to improve the atmosphere of U.S.-Soviet relations as well as the substantive content of this relationship. As I told the President, this is not only our sincere desire; the objective character of our relations as well as the overall situation in the world make this necessary. This is an objective process and we cannot escape the responsibility we both bear because of the very nature of our two countries. I will repeat what I said in Geneva. We must proceed on the basis of equality and mutual advantage. We have no desire to damage the interests of the United States. It is excluded that we could reach an agreement whereby one side would capitulate and the other claim victory. This is impossible. We must proceed together on the basis of mutual advantage. We must share the bruises and bright spots equally. There must be no discrimination and we must be candid with each other. This holds true for our trading relationship. The U.S. administration must clearly understand that the Soviet Union will not succumb to pressure. We cannot build a political relationship upon such false premises. But in a healthy atmosphere all aspects of our relations—in cultural exchanges and other areas—can improve.

11. Gorbachev said he wished to emphasize a particularly important question concerning the arms race and the militarization of space. He had noted Secretary of Defense Weinberger’s comments in London accusing the Soviet Union of evil designs and deployment of new rockets against the United States.5 These were not the words of an ordinary person or a journalist, but those of a senior representative of the U.S. administration. This was a serious matter (Gorbachev here began to warm to his subject). If Mr. Weinberger needs to make such charges against us in order to obtain more money from Congress, that is one thing. Does he really think that there are such politicians, such irresponsible gamblers, in the Kremlin? Such allegations are irresponsible and inadmissible. The element of responsibility in our relationship [Page 749] needs to be strengthened, particularly after Geneva. If it is present, the results of Geneva will be enhanced.

12. Gorbachev concluded that he would now appreciate hearing Secretary Baldrige’s assessment of the U.S. political scene after Geneva. We in Moscow see the current situation as far from simple. Certain people are dissatisfied with the modest results achieved in Geneva. I do not think it an exaggeration to say that some circles are seeking revenge for what was accomplished in Geneva. I make this evaluation knowing how the U.S. political system works. I see that Ambassador Hartman does not agree with me, but I think attempts have been made to strike blows at Geneva. At least this is food for thought and discussion. I return to what I said at the outset. Geneva was a first step; we now must make the entire journey to reach better relations. We have agreed to further meetings with the President and at other levels. We must ensure that these meetings are fruitful and bring about further normalization. So for the first time after Geneva I wanted to share my views with the U.S. side. I am most interested to hear your report of the evaluation in Washington.

13. Secretary Baldrige said he would let Ambassador Hartman handle Secretary Weinberger’s statement (Gorbachev smiled and said that’s right, that’s right). The Secretary said he had given ten or twelve speeches in various parts of the United States since the Geneva meeting. These had dealt mostly with economic and trade matters but everywhere he had appeared his audiences had shown very great interest in Geneva. The common reaction was that Geneva marked a good beginning, as the General Secretary had himself noted. The American people did not expect all problems to disappear overnight, but their overall attitude regarding Geneva was very good. It was not surprising that some in the United States, particularly some journalists, downplayed Geneva’s significance. But this was very much a minority view. Most press commentary was similar to the popular response that Baldrige had described. It was indeed typical that over 400 U.S. businessmen had decided to come to Moscow for the USTEC meeting. Above all, Baldrige could tell the General Secretary that President Reagan was very satisfied with the spirit of Geneva, with the frank talks held there. The President considers that we can move forward, and, most importantly, he has a genuine desire to do so.

14. The Secretary said there was no question that the President very much appreciated the opportunity to discuss all aspects of U.S.-Soviet relations with the General Secretary in Geneva. We were prepared for a fresh start and some bold steps, and this was the reason Baldrige had come to Moscow for a second time. We wanted to discuss the potential for improving our trade relations, Baldrige continued. We recognize very well the truth of your opening statement to the [Page 750] effect that talk alone was insufficient. There was a time for talk and there was a time for action, particularly regarding trade.

15. The United States had taken some steps in this area. Perhaps the General Secretary did not think them important; perhaps he was not aware of them. For example, the recently enacted Export Administration Act contained considerably stronger provisions regarding contract sanctity than had the earlier act. Regulations had been eased regarding the sale of various types of equipment including imbedded microprocessors. We were issuing more licenses and working hard on trade promotion. So we had done more than just talk about improving mutual trade (Gorbachev interjected that this was a good development because nobody wanted equipment without microprocessors). The Secretary said he had been pleased to meet Foreign Trade Minister Aristov, with whom he could do business since he was an engineer who knew something more than just theory (Gorbachev commented that Aristov was an old industrialist from Leningrad who had perhaps been inflicted by a bit of diplomatic fog but would probably recover from that experience. Noting a reaction to these words by the two diplomats on the American side of the table, Gorbachev laughed that diplomats tended to protect each other without regard to conflicting ideologies.).

16. Gorbachev interrupted at this point to note that to a certain degree the Soviet Union had to thank the United States for its hard line on technology transfers. This had stimulated Soviet thinking and had led to basic decisions regarding the development of Soviet computers. Prompted by Aleksandrov, Gorbachev said this was like Peter the Great’s initial defeat at the hands of the Swedes. He learned from that experience, defeated Sweden at Poltava and thanked the Swedes for teaching him how to win. Or take the example of grain. You wanted to teach us a lesson, but following your grain embargo we found new suppliers which we will not abandon. The U.S. lost from that episode, both economically and politically. He said with a smile that he was giving free advice on how to conduct U.S.-Soviet relations, while Henry Kissinger charged a fortune for doing the same thing.

17. Secretary Baldrige said he had never paid Kissinger and was glad to have free advice.

18. Gorbachev continued that even more important than trade and economics was the need to live together in peace. In this sense the various elements of the relationship that bring us together act as constraints against temporary emotions. This is important because we cannot base policy on reactions to one or another development. All perspective would be lost if policy is built on reaction rather than long-term goals. The result would be an absence of policy. Even when the atmosphere is tense we need to meet and discuss. We can deal with hot-spots in this way. This is not duplicity. This is reality. This is a [Page 751] political conclusion we have made on the basis of a careful analysis of the world situation. There is no other way to go. We are two different societies; let us try to justify our respective systems and ways of life. But the long term political line of the Soviet Union which is based on political realities is to seek ways to resolve the unnecessary complications that exist between us.

19. Secretary Baldrige said the President had asked him to present a matter for the General Secretary’s consideration in an area where our views differ. There are possibilities for improving bilateral trade in the field of equipment and technologies to assist exploitation of oil and gas. The United States leads the world in some aspects of this field. We think that would make sense for the Soviet side particularly regarding oil drilling and oil recovery. But our ability to conduct trade in this area was limited in 1978 because of concern over human rights, as I am sure you know. I am aware of your one-on-one discussion of human rights with President Reagan. As he made clear, we do not ask for public statements in which you state that you are changing your human rights policies. I am sure you know, however, the great importance of this issue for the President personally as well as for the Congress and the American people.

20. The President suggests that as a first step we remove unilateral controls on oil and gas equipment and technology. In most cases this would eliminate the licensing requirement. The President feels we can do this commensurate with progress in the human rights area, particularly given a substantial increase in emigration. We regard this as a practical, businesslike step which would be taken privately, not publicly, on both sides. The President is prepared to approach this in a cooperative spirit. We would like to see quiet progress without politics and with no public claims regarding linkage. It is in this spirit that the President asked me to deliver a letter to you on the topic of human rights that you discussed with him in Geneva. We look forward to hearing from you on this once you have had a chance to think over the matter.

21. Gorbachev said that indeed he and the President had discussed human rights. President Reagan thought his system was better, and the Soviet side was convinced of the opposite. Gorbachev could not agree with the President when the President said his job was complicated by political pressure from various groups such as the Jews, Poles, and Ukrainians. I told the President, Gorbachev said, this was his problem, that the Soviet Union had its constitution, its laws and its regulations regarding its internal affairs.

22. At the same time, Gorbachev continued, the Soviet side is prepared to take practical steps to resolve human rights problems. The Soviet side will not refrain from this if due respect is given to its [Page 752] sovereignty. Our laws must be adhered to, but if a truly humanitarian matter arises, we will consider it. It is in this spirit that we accept the letter from President Reagan and will consider the practical questions it raises. You say you do not proceed on the basis of linkage, but there is a certain degree of linkage in what you have just said. You seem to be trying to force your views on us. You must understand that we do not try to dictate changes in your internal affairs, but I can assure you we have many things to say about human rights in the United States. I did not go into this in Geneva and I do not propose to do so now. Your government has great power; it can for example install listening devices. Millions of blacks and other non-whites enjoy only semi-rights. But I will not pursue this path. We have our own political process which we consider to be democratic and I know that both of us use such words as democracy, although the respective meanings are not the same. Let us respect each other. Your people have taken their decision about their way of life. We took ours in 1917, we lost 20 million lives defending it during World War II, and we are not going to renounce it today. So it is hard for us to accept any U.S. pressure regarding our internal order. But with respect to the practical matters raised in the President’s letter, we will give these due consideration.

23. Why do you raise this question of emigration, said Gorbachev with emotion. You imply that vast numbers of Soviet citizens wish to leave. This is nonsense. We are not going to force people to leave when they do not wish to do so. When we check the lists you give us people are indignant at the suggestion that they want to leave this country. You have your laws regarding emigration and immigration; we have ours. So our systems are different and we should show respect for these differences.

24. Gorbachev said it was now time to join the others for dinner although the conversation could be continued during the meal. He was glad to receive Secretary Baldrige and to participate in a good discussion with him. The Secretary was recognized as a realistic leader interested in improving U.S.-Soviet relations in a wise fashion. Secretary Baldrige was welcome to come to the Soviet Union again, particularly if more barriers to U.S.-Soviet trade could be removed. Meanwhile, said Gorbachev with a smile, Ambassador Hartman needed to do more here in Moscow. But the Ambassador was within geographic reach and perhaps we would be able to influence him while he is here. Gorbachev said he would save the rest of his remarks for his dinner speech.

25. Gorbachev said he would sum up by noting that the Soviet Union favored development of trade with the United States and indeed had a great interest in doing so. We have large plans as you know, we are now considering and comparing various offers in the field of [Page 753] international trade so the time is right, it is possible to move off dead center and we therefore welcome Secretary Baldrige’s visit. But one thing must be clear, the U.S. must not think that trade with the Soviet Union is a reward that can be given or taken away, that can be used to force behavior that the United States desires. This would be a serious misconception. The Soviet Union can live without the United States and of course the United States does not require economic relations with the Soviet Union. From a political viewpoint, however, the situation is quite different. Our overall policies must develop further. Improved political relations should make possible enhanced trade relations. Please convey my warm regards to President Reagan and his wife Nancy. We, said Gorbachev, with a smile, hope for the best.

26. Secretary Baldrige thanked Gorbachev for his positive statements and said he only wished to emphasize that the President wished to remove the sensitive issue that Secretary Baldrige had raised from the public arena. Gorbachev said he took note of that.

27. As the meeting concluded, Secretary Baldrige presented Gorbachev with a book of photographs of the United States capital, noting that since Soviet briefing books probably did not have pictures he hoped the General Secretary would find the book of interest in connection with his coming visit to Washington. Gorbachev accepted the gift with thanks.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, [no N number]. Secret; Niact Immediate; Nodis. In his diary on December 23, Reagan wrote: “Mac Baldrige came by with his report on the meeting with Gorbachev. It was somewhat similar to mine. G. on human rights gave him the same pitch I got that basic human right was everyones right to a job & in the Soviet U. everyone is given a job. Of course he doesn’t also add that they cant choose a job—they take the one the govt. tells them to.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, vol. II: November 1985–January 1989, p. 555)
  2. The U.S.-USSR Trade and Economic Council met in Moscow December 9–11.
  3. See Document 32.
  4. See Document 163.
  5. According to the Washington Post:Weinberger said today [December 6] that the Soviet Union has deployed 27 mobile, intercontinental SS25 ballistic missiles in what is a ‘clear violation of the SALT II agreement.’ Weinberger’s statement, made in a speech to U.S. and British reporters, marked the first time that the Reagan administration has made public a specific number on Soviet deployments of a new missile system it has charged violates existing arms control agreements.” (“Weinberger Says Soviets Deploy 27 SS25 Missiles,” Washington Post, December 7, 1985, p. A19) in telegram 17801 from Moscow, December 11, the Embassy reported on a Pravda article that accused “Defense Secretary Weinberger of trying to sabotage the achievements of Geneva.” The article also maintained the deployment of the SS–25 missiles was a “permissible modernization of the SS–13.” (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D850888–0107)