184. Memorandum From Jack Matlock of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Poindexter)1


  • Shultz-Dobrynin Meeting of January 22, 1986

Secretary Shultz has sent the Memorandum at Tab A to the President reporting on his meeting with Dobrynin on January 22.2 Dobrynin had no word from Moscow regarding the timing of Gorbachev’s trip to the United States or of when Shevardnadze would be prepared to arrange his next meeting with Shultz. The Secretary responded to the previous Soviet suggestion regarding times for meetings of regional experts, offering dates for all except the talks on the Middle East, which he said would have to be communicated later because of Murphy’s crowded calendar.


It is becoming increasingly clear that the Soviets may be playing games with the Summit date, holding off a reply in the hope that it will give us incentive to pay some substantive price. Otherwise, their behavior in failing to reply in any fashion to our suggestion, made over six weeks ago, is a breach of etiquette bordering on impertinence.

Larry Horowitz told me this afternoon that, during a luncheon meeting with Senator Kennedy today, Dobrynin asked more than a dozen times why a Summit in November would not be a good idea.3 He prefaced this by saying that no decision had been made in Moscow, but that they were disturbed by the lack of movement on substantive issues. When Kennedy asked if it was definite that a meeting would take place this year, Dobrynin said that depended on what could be accomplished. (Horowitz said Kennedy refused to be drawn out on the question of timing and simply observed that meetings should take place when it was in the national interest of both sides.)

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What strikes me about this is the not-so-subtle attempt by Dobrynin to suggest that we must be forthcoming substantively if a meeting is to be possible. I don’t believe for a minute that this is really Gorbachev’s position: it would be a major blow to his policy to pull out. Dobrynin’s antics are more likely a crude form of “testing the water” here to see how these various arguments go down. Though he doubtless has Moscow’s encouragement to do this, there could also be an element of free-lancing. There were many reports last fall (some more substantial than mere rumor) that Dobrynin would be transferred early this year. He probably got a reprieve until the Washington summit and may be trying to maneuver to postpone it as long as possible.

I attach a brief Memorandum to the President to transmit the Shultz Memorandum. You may prefer, however, just to cover the matter in an oral briefing.


That you sign the attached Memorandum to the President unless he has already been briefed on the Shultz Memorandum.4

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Jack Matlock Files, Meetings with USSR Officials, Meetings Shultz-Dobrynin 1986. Secret. Sent for action. The memorandum was erroneously dated 1985.
  2. Attached but not printed is the memorandum dated January 23.
  3. A congressional delegation, led by Kennedy, was scheduled to visit Moscow in February. (Telegram 30782 to Paris, Moscow, London, January 31; Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D860079–0790)
  4. Poindexter initialed the Disapprove option and wrote in the margin: “I’ll cover your points orally.”