270. Telegram From the Department of State to Secretary of State Shultz 1

Tosec 170274/275834. Subject: Information Memorandum (S/S 8626930) Update on Daniloff Case.2

1. (C Entire text)

2. Information Memorandum

To: The Secretary

Through: P—Michael H. Armacost

From: EUR: Rozanne L. Ridgway

SUBJECT: Update on Daniloff Case

We have reached interagency agreement on a game plan for handling the Daniloff case over the next few days. At a Tuesday morning meeting chaired by Peter Rodman and attended by Mike Armacost,3 State was given authority to approach the Soviets in an attempt to work out an agreement on the following basis:

—that we continue to reject any overt linkage between the cases of Daniloff and Soviet U.N. Secretariat staffer Zakharov;

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—that we nonetheless have no objection in principle to considering the Soviet Embassy’s petition that Zakharov be released into Ambassador Dubinin’s custody, pending his trial for espionage;

—that, ultimately, the determination of such a matter is in the hands of a judge, but the arrangement is consistent with practice in the U.S. system of justice.

—that, however, we will not consider or endorse the Soviet petition unless the Soviets drop their investigation of Daniloff and allow him to leave the country.

We conveyed this message Tuesday afternoon to a Soviet Embassy official, who listened carefully and was non-committal, but undertook to report our position to Moscow.4 While by no means certain, we think there is a chance the Soviets will accept our package. They are taking a beating in the press for framing Daniloff at a time when they had hoped to have the propaganda high ground in the run-up to your meeting. They have not as yet formally pressed charges against Daniloff, and have said they do not intend to do so until mid next week. This suggests they are leaving themselves an exit if they can secure Zakharov’s release from jail. While their long-term objective may be to secure Zakharov’s return to the U.S.S.R., thus far all they have asked for is that he be released pending trial.

As we expected, there was strong sentiment at the meeting for taking punitive steps to show our displeasure with the Soviet’s seizure of an innocent American to gain leverage on the Zakharov case. We were able to convince other agencies that front-loading our approach with overt countermeasures would kill chances for Daniloff’s quick release. There is still strong interest in striking back at the Soviets in some way even if we can get Daniloff out, however, and State has been tasked with producing a list of options. All carry serious risk either of precipitating a PNG war or otherwise destroying the atmosphere for constructive discussions this fall. We will insist that no decision be made to act without full vetting at the highest levels.

The most serious problem we are facing in interagency consultations is a perception that agreeing to consider the Soviet petition that Zakharov be remanded to Dubinin’s custody is a concession wrung from us by their seizure of Daniloff. We have made clear that we would have considered and perhaps supported the Soviet proposal on its merits had we known about it in advance of the initial magistrate’s decision against. We are insisting that our primary objective be to get [Page 1098] Daniloff out of the Soviet Union, and that if we can do so without calling into question the necessity of Zakharov’s standing trial we will have achieved our objective. If the Soviets prove unwilling to take up our suggestions for a way out, however, we will have to consider more dramatic steps, recognizing that ultimately some sort of deal may be necessary to spring Daniloff once the Soviets have made a decision to tough it out.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, [no film number]. Confidential; Immediate; Nodis. Sent for information to Moscow. Drafted by Parris; cleared by Thomas, Sofaer, S. Coffey, Pascoe, and Boucher; approved by Armacost. Reagan wrote in his September 3 diary entry: “The Soviets are holding American journalist (U.S. News & World Report) charging him with being a spy. It is of course a frame up & the 4th time they’ve done it. Each time we have arrested one of their K.G.B. agents they have done this. The last time before was in ‘78. Each time before they grabbed an American businessman. Then they try to arrange a prisoner exchange.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, vol. II: November 1985–January 1989, p. 634)
  2. The information memorandum was drafted by Parris and cleared by Sofaer and Coffey.
  3. September 2. No record of this meeting has been found.
  4. In telegram 276791 to Moscow, September 3, the Department reported that Parris met with Kuznetsov on the afternoon of September 2 and provided the text of Parris’ talking points on Daniloff. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, N860008–0471)