272. Note From the Deputy Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Pascoe) to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Armacost)1

An Alternative to the Huff-Puff Strategy on Daniloff


I know you will be distracted today by the Pan Am hijacking today but wanted to give you alternative views on how to handle Daniloff to what you seemed to hear yesterday.2

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State’s major accomplishment in the KAL shootdown aftermath was to ensure that the Soviets got the public pasting they deserved for that heinous action without destroying the basis for a productive US-Soviet relationship. People everywhere were crying “sanctions” but the Secretary and President held firm against them. (We avoided major economic sanctions by only a few votes in the Senate.) That was obviously a far more serious incident, with 269 innocent dead. The Daniloff case is basically an argument over who broke the arcane rules of spying. No one has been hurt or is likely to be if we are half smart.

The “huff and puff sanction” strategy Matlock apparently advocated yesterday is a bad approach. Jack is naturally confrontational with the Soviets (he spent his chargeship in 1981 debating Korniyenko, resulting in amusing cables and an NSC job but little else). Peter tried throughout his time in S/P to scuttle our approach toward the Soviets of working for a gradual improvement in ties. He would undoubtedly like to see the Afghanistan sanctions re-established that we worked patiently for four years to get out from under. Others tend to be CI purists or look for any handle to do in State’s “soft” policy toward the Soviets.

Let me suggest as an alternative a “traditional, but front-loaded” approach.3 We should wait for the Soviets to respond to the President’s letter. If they do not buy our “unbalanced” deal, we could then offer the next step that foreshadows Zakharov’s eventual release. We would tell the Soviets that they must release Daniloff immediately and allow him to leave the USSR without a trial. We would then remand Zakharov to Dubinin’s custody and promise a trial within three months. If Zakharov is found guilty, we would expel him to the Soviet Union as part of a traditional “spies for dissidents” trade. We would name our (reasonable) price up-front (probably Orlov and Begun, but SOV might have better ideas) as part of the deal.

This approach has the virtue of pointing to where we will probably end up anyway. It avoids a downward spiral that seems headed toward scuttling any hope of progress in the relationship and the high-level meetings. It gets Daniloff out immediately. We save face and the Soviets [Page 1101] get their man back. We can still huff and puff a bit, but it will be in a controlled environment. Our overall policy would be spared and we would show once again that we know how to handle our peculiar relationship with the Soviet Union.

  1. Source: Department of State Executive Secretariat, S/S, Top Secret/Secret Sensitive Memorandum, Lot 91D257, Daniloff Detention in the USSR September 1986 (Yogurt). Secret; Sensitive. Although the note is undated, a handwritten notation under Pascoe’s signature reads: “9/5/86 (0730).”
  2. In telegram 18820 from Islamabad, September 5, the Embassy reported: “Pan Am Boeing 747 Flight 73 (Bombay/Karachi/Frankfurt) was seized on ground at Karachi International Airport at 0610 local (2110 Sept 4 Washington time) on September 5, when four men fired weapons outside the aircraft and charged up boarding stairs to take over plane.” The hijackers demanded to be taken to Cyprus. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D860674–0421)
  3. In a September 5 memorandum to Poindexter, forwarding a “draft demarche to Soviet Embassy” and “Statement by the President,” Platt outlined the Department’s recommendations. (Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S, Top Secret/Secret Sensitive Memorandum, Lot 91D257, Daniloff Detention in the USSR September 1986 (Yogurt)) In an undated, unsigned memorandum to Reagan, likely prepared on September 6, Poindexter explained the fundamental difference in the Department and NSC proposals in dealing with Daniloff’s arrest: the NSC option “would set in motion a series of automatic escalating pressures as long as Daniloff remains in jail or is prevented from leaving the Soviet Union;” the State proposal would “give the Soviets a few more days to respond to our demarches, including your message to Gorbachev, before even threatening specific steps.” (Ibid.)