241. Action Memorandum From the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs (Woessner) to Secretary of State Shultz1


  • Treatment Of New Soviet Ambassador


How to introduce a greater measure of reciprocity into the access we give the new Soviet ambassador.


The arrival of the new Soviet ambassador, Yuriy Dubinin, gives us a unique opportunity to redress a long-standing imbalance between the access granted the Soviet ambassador in Washington and that given our ambassador in Moscow.2 We believe we can do so without sending [Page 990] the wrong signals to the Soviet leadership about our desire to return to the Geneva agenda and to continue our dialogue on issues of concern.

For decades, US ambassadors have had difficulties in obtaining appointments with the Soviet leadership, even in circumstances which make it clear the appointment request is urgent. Prior to 1980, Dobrynin had extensive access in official Washington, including the White House and the NSC. The situation has been better under this Administration, with your serving as Dobrynin’s only authoritative interlocutor. Art Hartman’s access in Moscow, however, has remained severely restricted. In five years, Art has never once had an appointment in the Central Committee. The Soviets have sought to conduct as much business as possible through their ambassador here, which enables them to put their unscrutinized views directly to senior USG decision-makers.

Our tolerance of such an arrangement has denied us opportunities and influence in Moscow. The problem has intensified since Shevardnadze became Foreign Minister, with Art sometimes waiting a week or more for an appointment. Dobrynin’s presence in Moscow and his apparent determination to play a central role in US-Soviet relations should help shift the balance in access back to Moscow. But there are steps we can take at this end to encourage greater reciprocity.

Specifically, I recommend that:

—We change the way we handle requests by the Soviet Embassy for appointments with you and other Seventh Floor principals to give us better control over the problem. Soviet Embassy requests for appointments with you or any other Department principal should first be referred to EUR/SOV, just as in Moscow all requests by Art for any appointment go through the USA Desk. SOV would review these requests on the basis of reciprocity and the type of business Dubinin wanted to conduct, and then recommend whom he should see and how soon. On some occasions, we might want to alert Art to the Soviet request and recommend that he make a request for a similar appointment.

—To ensure that the progress we have made since 1981 in keeping State as the sole communications channel with the Soviet Ambassador does not unravel, you may wish to remind John Poindexter of the need to continue to refuse to meet with Dubinin. You could cover this point in briefing John and the President on your initial meeting with Dubinin.

—We be a bit more audacious in using Art. We might, for example, instruct him to deliver letters from the President directly to Gorbachev. While there have been efforts to keep Art out of meetings with the top Soviet leaders, on those occasions when Art has accompanied high-level US visitors Gorbachev has gone out of his way to recognize Art’s role. He might be prepared to permit a relationship which could be a [Page 991] major asset as we seek to deepen our dialogue in the months ahead. As such a channel would inevitably involve Dobrynin, he might well encourage Gorbachev to receive Art.


1. That Seventh Floor offices refer requests for appointments with Dubinin to SOV.

2. That you speak to Poindexter about keeping State as the Soviet Embassy’s only official channel to the Executive Branch.

3. That we seek to use Art more imaginatively to develop channels to the Soviet leadership outside the MFA.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, Executive Secretariat Sensitive (06/10/1986); NLR–775–16–4–3–7. Secret; Sensitive. The memorandum was sent through Armacost. Drafted by Murphy on June 2; cleared by Sell, Parris, and Palmer.
  2. In an April 3 memorandum to Shultz, Ridgway had previously raised the reciprocity issue regarding Soviet requests for appointments, related to Dobrynin’s retirement as Ambassador to the United States. Ridgway explained: “Art has come in with a strongly worded cable about this problem and recommends that we use the Dobrynin visit as an entrée to redress the imbalance in access and requests that Dobrynin not be permitted to call upon you, other Cabinet-level officials, or the President until he has been received by Shevardnadze.” (Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, 1986 Soviet Union April) Hartman met with Shevardnadze on April 3; see Document 210.
  3. Shultz did not indicate his approval or disapproval of the recommendations.