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

5828. Subject: April 3 Meeting With Foreign Minister Shevardnadze. Ref: State 98024.2

1. Confidential—Entire text.

2. Summary: Ambassador conveyed to Shevardnadze President’s and Secretary’s concern over Soviet side’s failure to maintain progress in U.S.-Soviet relations following Geneva. Ambassador noted that U.S. side wished to keep process going but had difficulty understanding such facts as total lack of Soviet response to our December 1985 proposals for Ministerial meeting and timing of next summit. Shevardnadze [Page 892] claimed Soviet side had since Geneva made many significant moves in U.S. direction that had been rejected by USG. He nonetheless agreed with Ambassador that a Shevardnadze-Shultz meeting was necessary; he thought Dobrynin would be able to work out the timing directly with the Secretary. Dobrynin would also be prepared to discuss the next summit. Ambassador pointed out that current unsatisfactory state of our relationship demonstrated how fragile the process was, and underscored the utility of more frequent high-level meetings.

3. At 7:00 p.m., April 3, MFA USA Department Chief Bessmertnykh telephoned DCM to say Shevardnadze could receive Ambassador between 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. that evening for about 20 minutes. Informed that Ambassador would be unavailable until later that evening, Bessmertnykh said Shevardnadze would be working late and could see Ambassador any time evening of April 4 (Embassy had earlier informed MFA Ambassador wished to see Foreign Minister prior to Dobrynin’s April 4 departure for Washington).

4. Meeting took place in Shevardnadze’s office from 9:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. April 3. Shevardnadze was accompanied by Bessmertnykh; Ambassador by DCM.

5. Ambassador opened meeting by explaining he had been asked by the President and the Secretary of State to convey their view of current developments in U.S.-Soviet relations prior to Dobrynin’s departure for Washington and his official farewell calls there. In particular, the President wished the Soviet side to know of his personal disappointment at the way the process he and Mr. Gorbachev had agreed upon in Geneva had subsequently been neglected by the Soviet side. The President understood that the Soviet leadership had been occupied with the 27th Party Congress but felt that could not account for Moscow’s failure to set dates for important future meetings. This would have enabled the bureaucracies on both sides to make progress on substantive issues.

6. Our Geneva, Stockholm and Vienna negotiators had given the President discouraging reports about Soviet unwillingness to negotiate seriously. We thought we had agreed in Geneva to focus on INF and cuts in strategic systems, yet no serious discussion of these issues had subsequently taken place at the Geneva arms talks. Indeed, in some cases the Soviet side had moved back from earlier positions, (at this point Ambassador drew upon points made in reftel on CDE and MBFR and later handed over a non-paper based upon para. two of reftel).3

7. The President wanted the Soviet leadership to understand, the Ambassador continued, that he found these delays disappointing and [Page 893] unacceptable. He had many demands on his time and was beginning to wonder how much more effort he should expend attempting to move the process along. If there were no desire on the Soviet side, he would be disappointed, but so be it. The President and the Secretary felt the process itself was worthwhile as a means of keeping pressure on our bureaucracies to resolve important problems. We have seen that without momentum, the relationship quickly decays. We, therefore, hope the Soviet side has not lost interest in the process we had begun at Geneva last November.

8. Shevardnadze responded that the Soviet side had often underscored publicly the importance of the Geneva summit. Moscow favored further step-by-step cooperation on security issues and was ready to meet at any level, under any circumstances, to move ahead. But the Soviet side awaited the prospect of specific, concrete results, above all in the security area. The USSR had made numerous serious proposals—i.e., test moratorium, Gorbachev’s January 15 proposals—to this end. It had, in particular, proposed negotiations on all aspects of verification and delinked the issue of European INF from the problem of space weapons. Speaking frankly, some of these decisions had an adverse impact on Soviet national security. This was also true for Soviet positions in Stockholm. Indeed, Soviet delegations at Stockholm, Vienna and Geneva were no less disappointed, to put it mildly, than their American counterparts. Shevardnadze added that he personally followed arms control negotiations very closely, and knew what had transpired.

9. Why had not dates for high-level meetings been set, Shevardnadze asked? The Soviet leadership had been busy with the Party Congress, but this was not the problem. The Soviet leadership had discussed the situation in Vienna, Stockholm and Geneva and had tried to imagine what the General Secretary and the President could, on the basis of those negotiations, discuss at a summit. There was no topic for serious high-level negotiations. So the Soviet side was disappointed and seriously concerned.

10. So what next, Shevardnadze continued. The Soviet side favored continuation of the dialogue. We should seek paths for bilateral cooperation; “we all understood this” and the Soviet side was prepared for this. At the current juncture, it made sense to arrange a Shultz-Shevardnadze meeting to clarify what each side sought and to discuss the reasons for the current situation. Probably, Dobrynin would be able to fix dates when he saw the Secretary. They could also discuss the next summit, which was “the main concern” of both sides.

11. The Ambassador said we were concerned not only with the summit question but with the fact that instead of a willingness for serious negotiation we saw little more from the Soviet side than a series [Page 894] of public statements. We thought we had agreed to something more at the Geneva meeting. One could only hope that a Ministerial-level meeting would result in real negotiations as opposed to public exchanges that lead nowhere.

12. Shevardnadze, becoming a bit testy, said the Ambassador was now “speaking a different sort of language.” It was clear to the Soviet side that its record in negotiations, as opposed to that of the U.S., was entirely defensible. Shevardnadze would be prepared to discuss this in detail with the Secretary, although there was insufficient time now for such a conversation. While he had not intended to get into such matters, he could mention another aspect of U.S. behavior. If Washington really favored serious negotiations, it should avoid hostile actions such as the reduction of Soviet U.N. Missions4 and the provocation in the Black Sea.5 Such actions did not facilitate the atmosphere needed for a successful summit.

13. Shevardnadze added that he had worked well with the Secretary before the Geneva meeting. It had been a difficult but useful process. So let us eliminate all disturbing, negative elements and focus on positive, constructive elements. For his part, Shevardnadze concluded, he had no desire to discuss negative topics with the Secretary.

14. The Ambassador commented that Shevardnadze’s remarks demonstrated that it would have been useful for the two sides to have met earlier, following the Geneva summit. We needed to discuss our concerns very frankly and openly. Nothing of importance should be excluded from our agenda. The process was indeed fragile; we should not unduly delay the high-level meetings necessary to sustain it.

15. Shevardnadze said he agreed that the process was both fragile and complicated. Yet it remained true that the Soviet side had done nothing to complicate the situation, while the U.S. had done such things as restrict the Soviet Missions in New York. Moscow had not responded to this. But it was up to both sides to act with restraint. Shevardnadze also agreed on the need to meet with the Secretary and to include tough questions on the agenda. Dobrynin would be appropriately instructed to these ends during his upcoming Washington visit.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, N860004–0191. Confidential; Immediate; Nodis.
  2. In telegram 98024 to Moscow, March 29, the Department reported that “the just concluded MBFR and CDE rounds were disappointing, with progress minimal in CDE and non-existent in MBFR. Soviet stonewalling has come despite NATO’s forthcoming MBFR position and a clear commitment to draft substantively in CDE. Ambassador should thus raise USG concern over lack of a positive Soviet attitude in both.” (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, N860004–0108)
  3. Not found.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 191.
  5. In telegram 3029 from Ankara, March 19, the Embassy reported that “the Soviet protest alleging territorial waters violation [into the Black Sea] by USS Yorktown and USS Caron was front-page news in Ankara on March 19.” The report continued that a spokesman for the Turkish MFA stated: “the cruiser USS Yorktown and destroyer USS Caron received permission to transit the Turkish Straits 15 days in advance in accordance with the Montreux Convention.” (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D860212–0078)