271. Letter From President Reagan to Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev1

Dear Mr. General Secretary:

I am sure that you have been monitoring, as I have, developments relating to the detention by Soviet authorities of the U.S. News and World Report Moscow correspondent, Nicholas Daniloff. I would like you to have in mind two points as you consider how to handle this case.

First, I can give you my personal assurance that Mr. Daniloff has no connection whatever with the U.S. Government. If you have been informed otherwise, you have been misinformed.

Second, there are no grounds for Mr. Daniloff’s detention, nor for any attempt to link him to any other case. If he is not freed promptly, it can only have the most serious and far-reaching consequences for the relationship between our two countries. That would be an extremely [Page 1099] unfortunate outcome, and I therefore thought it important to emphasize personally the gravity with which this situation is viewed by the United States.

Therefore, I hope sincerely you will take the necessary actions to allow us to put this matter behind us in the nearest future.2


Ronald Reagan
  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Head of State Files, U.S.S.R.: General Secretary Gorbachev (8690616, 8690659). No classification marking. A typed notation in the bottom margin of the letter reads: “Memo for the Record: no original letter sent.” A handwritten note on a September 4 covering memorandum from Matlock to Poindexter, forwarding the letter for Reagan’s signature, reads: “dacom to mil aide to the President at the ranch, to be delivered immediately to the President for signature. Mil Aide should notify us upon signature. Copy to Rod McDaniel.” A handwritten note on a routing slip stated: “Dx’ed to the President last night. He signed copy & sent to State for transmission to Emb. Moscow.” Reagan was at his ranch in California August 29–September 8. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) On September 4, Reagan wrote in his diary: “Had our ride, but 1st I called Geo. S. re our man Daniloff in the Soviet U. I asked his opinion of my thought that perhaps I should communicate directly with Gorbachev & tell him Daniloff was not working for our gov’t. At about 5 P.M. I signed such a message.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, vol. II: November 1985–January 1989, p. 634)
  2. In telegram 15355 from Moscow, September 5, 1212Z, the Embassy reported that the “Chargé met again with Deputy Minister Bessmertnykh on September 5 to deliver Presidential letter to Gorbachev (Ref C). Bessmertnykh promised to pass the letter immediately to the General Secretary and said he was not in a position to offer any official comment. Unofficially and personally, however, he said the President’s letter appeared to take into account only one side of the story and, by asserting Daniloff’s innocence, to prejudge the Soviet legal process. Chargé responded that the USG was indeed convinced of Daniloff’s innocence of the charge of espionage and believe on the basis of past patterns, that he had been framed by the KGB in retaliation for Zakharov’s arrest.” (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, N860009–0009)