22. Memorandum From Secretary of State Shultz to President Reagan1


  • My Meeting with Dobrynin, April 18

I spent 45 minutes with Dobrynin Thursday afternoon, to give him our thoughts on a number of issues on the eve of his return to Moscow for two weeks of consultations. He said he will probably be meeting with Gorbachev while there; the timing of his return is also keyed to the Central Committee Plenum, which he confirmed will take place on April 23.

I opened the meeting by noting that we have carefully reviewed Gorbachev’s March 24 letter to you, that you will be responding in short order, and that they will find your reply constructive. I emphasized our belief that a practical, businesslike approach, based on quiet diplomacy, is the way to achieve results. In this connection, I noted that Gorbachev’s Pravda interview was not especially helpful.2 I also stressed the need to avoid actions that threaten the prospects for constructive work, such as the murder of Major Nicholson. I said that, while the Soviets had handled this incident better than KAL, we continued to believe they owed us an apology and compensation for the Major’s family. Dobrynin said he had already conveyed Moscow’s position, and had nothing to add.

Turning to our agenda, I noted that we have many opportunities to move forward—the Geneva talks, the Stockholm Conference, banning chemical weapons, as well as a range of bilateral and economic issues. I emphasized the vital importance of human rights, noting that we had seen some positive actions on a couple of dual-national cases, and hoped this was a good sign for the future. I said I would want to talk about these sorts of issues at my meeting with Gromyko in Vienna.

On the question of a summit, I said I expected this was a subject that would come up in Vienna. I added that we assumed the Soviets [Page 63] would tell us when they were prepared to discuss the time and place for a meeting, and noted that our invitation to Washington was still on the table. Dobrynin asked whether your letter to Gorbachev would mention timing for a summit; I said no.

I next turned to regional issues, noting that we welcomed the Soviets’ constructive response to your UNGA proposal for regular meetings of experts.3 I told Dobrynin that we were prepared now to proceed with experts talks on southern Africa and Afghanistan. The Soviet proposals for talks in other areas (East Asia, Central America, Middle East) were interesting, but I would want to talk with Gromyko about these at Vienna before judging whether experts talks would be useful. Dobrynin said only that he would convey this to Moscow.

Shifting to the Geneva talks, I remarked that the first round has been largely a feeling-out process. The sides have argued a lot about linkage, but have not gotten down to business. I told Dobrynin that, while we assert the interrelationship of offense and defense, we believe that agreements in one area should not be held hostage to progress in the others. The Soviet insistence that nothing could happen until we agreed to ban “space-strike arms,” I said, had the appearance of their not allowing negotiations to proceed. In any case, I would want to discuss Geneva with Gromyko, after having consulted with our three negotiators.

Dobrynin agreed with my characterization of the initial exchanges, but repeated the charge we have heard in Geneva that our negotiators are trying to walk away from the January 8 agreement establishing the framework for the new talks. He said the Soviets insist on strict adherence to that agreement.4

I next queried Dobrynin on his recent public comments suggesting that US experts might inspect the Krasnoyarsk radar. I pointed out that our judgment about its inconsistency with the ABM Treaty did not depend on inspection, but that we would appreciate a clarification all the same.5 Dobrynin back-pedalled, saying that his comments had been in response to a question, and that he had only been speculating about the possibility of US scientists visiting the radar after its comple[Page 64]tion 2–3 years hence—in the context, he added, of better relations than we have now.6

Returning to the Nicholson shooting, I said that the Soviet assurance that their troops have been instructed not to use force against Allied military liaison missions was a very important undertaking, and that it was essential this pledge be carried out. Dobrynin, in a somewhat confused account of the meeting between Generals Otis and Zaytsev, said that Soviet troops had been instructed not to shoot at our personnel in restricted areas of the GDR.7 Rick Burt subsequently phoned Sokolov for a clarification, and the latter said the Soviet order applied not just to restricted areas, but to the entire territory of the GDR.

I touched briefly on VE-Day. I told Dobrynin, first, that we were prepared to agree to an exchange of messages between you and Gorbachev, but that we would want to look at their text before the actual publication of the messages. I added that our message would stress peace and reconciliation. I also informed Dobrynin that Ambassador Hartman will attend VE-Day ceremonies in Moscow, but he will not attend any military parade. We were not, I added, planning to send any delegations. Finally, I said we were not trying to keep veterans’ groups from attending Soviet ceremonies, but that we were not encouraging them either, particularly after the Nicholson affair. Dobrynin had no comment.8

The last major issue I raised was the continuing problems we and our Allies have been having with the Berlin air corridors. I said the situation was unacceptable, and posed a continuing safety hazard to Allied flights. Moreover, the Soviets’ persistent refusal to take account of Allied requirements and to respect our quadripartite rights creates [Page 65] a serious political problem. I emphasized the need for Moscow to instruct its representatives in Berlin to work cooperatively with their Allied counterparts to resolve this problem. I added that this was an issue of growing concern to the British and the French. Dobrynin undertook to report my démarche to Moscow.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Robert McFarlane Files, Subject File, Soviet Union—Sensitive File—1985 (01/12/1985–06/15/1985). Secret; Sensitive. Reagan initialed the memorandum, indicating that he saw it.
  2. In telegram 4473 from Moscow, April 8, the Embassy reported: “Rather than introducing a fresh style or new ideas, Gorbachev’s first ‘initiative’ simply repackages hoary ideas of his predecessors.” (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D850240–0387) For the text of Gorbachev’s interview, see Current Digest of the Soviet Press, vol. XXXVII, no. 14 (May 1, 1985), pp. 6–7.
  3. See Documents 18 and 21.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 4.
  5. On January 23, 1984, President Reagan transmitted to Congress a report and fact sheet on Soviet non-compliance with arms control agreements. The fact sheet included a section on the large phased-array radar being constructed in Krasnoyarsk, finding that it was in violation of the ABM Treaty. (Public Papers: Reagan, 1984, Book I, pp. 72–76)
  6. In an April 16 article, Pincus wrote on “Dobrynin’s remark Friday that American scientists would be invited to examine the installation when it becomes operational. ‘They would have to be able to examine the computers and the sensors,’ one expert said, ‘and the Soviets would never allow knowledgeable government scientists to see such equipment.’ State Department spokesman Bernard Kalb said yesterday that Dobrynin’s statements were ‘unclear,’ but that the United States would study any proposal on the subject.’” (Walter Pincus, “U.S., Soviets May Be Easing Dispute On Whether Radar Site Breaches Pact,” New York Times, April 16, 1985, p. A13)
  7. In an undated memorandum to Shultz, sent through Armacost, Kelly reported that on April 13, General Glenn Otis of the Seventh Army in Heidelberg and General Zaytsev of the Soviet Group of Forces in Germany met in Potsdam to discuss the issues surrounding the shooting and death of Major Nicholson. (Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, Executive Secretariat Sensitive (04/09/1985–04/11/1985); NLR–775–13–41–7–5)
  8. In an April 16 memorandum to McFarlane, Platt indicated three courses of action regarding cooperation in commemorating V-E Day and attached a paper entitled “US Policy on Soviet VE-Day Proposals.” Platt requested clearance on the paper’s language, noting that Shultz planned to respond to the proposals during the April 18 meeting. (Reagan Library, Jack Matlock Files, Chronological File, 1980–1986, Matlock Chron April 1985 (2/6))