181. Memorandum From Secretary of State Shultz to President Reagan 1


  • Further Soviet Response to Your Human Rights Letter

When Dobrynin delivered Gorbachev’s response to your letter on human rights Monday, he told me we could take up specific cases with the Soviet Embassy here.2 To follow up, Mark Palmer asked Soviet Embassy Counselor Isakov to meet with him today.

Isakov came in with a list of individuals who will be allowed to leave the Soviet Union and stated that this gesture was specifically connected to your letter to Gorbachev.3 We knew of most of the cases, but a number were new, including two cases that you had mentioned in your letter.

In your letter you raised the case of a 77-year-old U.S. citizen who had traveled to the Soviet Union during a school break in 1932 and had not been permitted to leave since that time; Isakov told us he [Page 788] would be given exit permission. You also raised the case of a 16-year-old boy whose father was killed in a car accident last fall, leaving him alone in Leningrad; we were told he will be permitted to join his mother in the U.S.

In addition, the Soviets told us they would resolve a longstanding U.S. citizen case I had raised in a letter to Shevardnadze, as well as four other cases we had raised earlier.

On the negative side, Isakov stated that the Soviets could not resolve two cases you raised: a blind Soviet woman in her sixties who has been separated from her husband for almost thirty years; and the Soviet husband of an American wife and father of two small children in the U.S. The first they could not resolve because her husband had “violated Soviet law” (he defected in 1956); the second, because of “state security”.

In addition, they made no response on the Soviet Jewish pianist Vladimir Feltsman; on the general question of increased emigration; or on Sakharov, Shcharansky, and Orlov, all of whom you raised in your letter.

It is encouraging that the Soviets have been prepared to respond to your interest. Isakov left the door open for the resolution of more such cases, but stressed that any overt attempts to “pressure” Moscow would abort the process. His remarks underscore the importance of proceeding with sensitivity as we seek to encourage further progress.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Head of State File, U.S.S.R.: General Secretary Gorbachev (8960024, 8690124). Secret; Sensitive. Reagan initialed the memorandum, indicating he saw it.
  2. January 13. See Document 175. Reagan’s letter is Document 168.
  3. In telegram 16061 to Moscow, January 17, the Department reported that in the meeting, Isakov “handed over a list of Soviet citizens on our representation lists who had received exit permission (complete list in paragraph 11). There were seven newly resolved cases on the list, including those of two longstanding American citizen cases.” The telegram continued: “Palmer told Isakov we were encouraged by the Soviet response in these cases, which he saw as part of an ongoing process of improvement in our relations.” (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D860043–0786)