276. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union1

284764. Special Encryption—Treat as Special Caption. Subject: 9/10 Secretary-Dubinin Meeting.

1. (S—Entire text)

2. Summary: Soviet Ambassador Dubinin conveyed to Secretary Shultz September 10 Soviet proposal for “first step” in resolving Daniloff/Zakharov cases. Without saying so directly, Dubinin sought to suggest that proposal responded to September 9 démarche by Asst. Sec. Ridgway on same subject.2 Secretary made clear he did not consider Dubinin’s proposal a response to Ridgway initiative and that USG awaited more considered Soviet views. See action requested para 14 below. End summary.

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3. Dubinin had sought a meeting with the Secretary throughout the previous day. He ultimately agreed to see Under Secretary Armacost late the evening of September 9, handing over a formal notice of Daniloff’s indictment and information on which the indictment was allegedly based (septel).3 Dubinin’s office sought morning of September 10 to renew his request for an appointment with the Secretary, claiming to have new instructions from Moscow. During his fifteen minute meeting with the Secretary, Dubinin was accompanied by Embassy Counselor Kuznetsov; the Secretary by Asst. Sec. Ridgway and EUR/SOV Director Parris.

4. Dubinin opened by indicating he had been instructed to convey to the Secretary a proposal on the Daniloff and Zakharov cases. He then proceeded to read (in English) and hand over non-paper, text of which follows:

Begin text.

—As we understand, both sides proceed from the necessity to take measures which would facilitate a mutually acceptable solution regarding G.F. Zakharov and N. Daniloff.

—Specifically, as a first step, we propose that the above persons be released into the custody of the respective Ambassadors on a parallel basis.

—It is in the interests of both sides that the measures we propose should be effected as soon as possible.

End text.

5. The Secretary noted in response that we had made a proposal to the Soviets the day before on the two cases covered in the Soviet paper. The difference between the two proposals was that the Soviet approach did not resolve the problem; it only postponed it. We hoped that we would soon have a reaction to the proposal we had made. We felt that this could best be done at the staff level.

6. Dubinin acknowledged that his Embassy had received a proposal from the U.S. the day before. It had been transmitted the same day. Dubinin was also aware that we had double-tracked our approach in Moscow. The message he had just conveyed had been received “today” (Wednesday). Dubinin “considered that significant.” He had had different instructions yesterday; he had new instructions today.

7. Dubinin emphasized that the proposal he had just made should be seen as a “first step.” Moscow believed that it should be taken as [Page 1112] soon as possible, both from a humanitarian standpoint and as a means of calming public opinion in both countries. The Soviets wanted a final solution to both cases and were looking for one, but that should not keep us from taking a first step.

8. The Secretary asked Dubinin to report to Moscow that we had received the Soviet proposal and that it would be conveyed to the President. At the same time, we wanted to resolve the problem, not simply put it off. Thus, while the Secretary would not respond directly to the proposal Dubinin had just made, the Ambassador could advise Moscow that we looked forward to a response to the proposal that Asst. Sec. Ridgway had presented to Sokolov. The Secretary explained that he would prefer that Asst. Sec. Ridgway work directly with the Soviets as the Secretary’s own schedule was extremely full. It was important that any developments in the cases at hand be dealt with promptly.

9. Dubinin expressed satisfaction that he had understood from the Secretary’s remarks that his was not a final reaction to the Soviet proposal. What the Secretary had said would be reported to Moscow. Dubinin speculated that Moscow had instructed him to deliver his proposal directly to the Secretary as an indication of the importance it attached to calming public opinion in the U.S. and U.S.S.R. The Embassy had nothing, Dubinin assured the Secretary, against working with Asst. Sec. Ridgway.

10. The Secretary again asked Dubinin to inform Moscow that we looked forward to a response to our proposal. We did not consider the message Dubinin had just delivered to be such a response. We considered it an additional point which does not interrupt discussion of a more general conclusion.

11. Dubinin asked that the Secretary nonetheless consider the Soviet proposal, taking especially into account the humanitarian aspects of the problem. Dubinin had, he stressed, received his instructions that morning. The Soviet proposal envisioned only a first—but an important—step. It need not interfere with other negotiations; both sides could maintain their positions in such negotiations. The Soviets were prepared to look for final settlements. But implementation of their proposal would be an important first step.

12. The Secretary thanked Dubinin for his presentation, and the meeting ended.

13. Action requested: Dubinin studiously avoided characterizing his proposal as a “response” to the September 9 Ridgway proposal. Especially in view of Bessmertnykh’s indication to Chargé that Dubinin would not, in fact, have such a response (Moscow 15633),4 we strongly [Page 1113] suspect Dubinin is exaggerating the currency of the pitch he made today. (We also note that he appears to have advised Moscow he had a firm September 10 appointment with the Secretary when none was in fact scheduled until well after Combs-Bessmertnykh discussion).5

14. Given Dubinin’s handling of this case so far, Chargé should seek appointment with Bessmertnykh for opening of business September 11 to reiterate points made by Secretary to Dubinin.6 You should stress that:

—We do not consider Dubinin’s approach of September 10 to be a reply to Asst. Sec. Ridgway’s proposal to Sokolov of September 9;

—We strongly believe it is in the interest of both sides that there be an early, definitive resolution of the Daniloff/Zakharov cases;

—The proposal outlined by Dubinin would simply prolong the problem, and ensure that it would continue to adversely affect our relationship during a particularly important period;

—We urge the Soviet side to accept our September 9 proposal, which would enable us to put this issue definitively behind us and create a positive climate for work in the weeks ahead.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Jack Matlock Files, USSR Subject File, 1981–1986, Daniloff (1). Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by Parris; cleared by Simons, Ridgway, Pascoe, and Boucher; approved by Shultz.
  2. The démarche was not found. In his memoir, however, Shultz explained that he received instructions from Reagan during the September 9 meeting: “I gave the president my recommendations: under the law, we had to try Zakharov, but we would ask the court to remand him to the Soviet embassy pending that trial; Daniloff would go to the American embassy residence; the Soviets would then expel Daniloff from the USSR; Zakharov would be tried quickly; if he was convicted, we would seek to trade him for Soviet refuseniks; if acquitted, we would expel him. The president seemed relieved to hear my proposal and was happy to authorize me to try to make it work.” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, p. 735) See also Document 274.
  3. Septel not found. Shultz forwarded a paper reporting the indictment to Reagan under a September 10 memorandum. (Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S, Top Secret/Secret Sensitive Memorandum, Lot 91D257, Daniloff Detention in the USSR September 1986 (Yogurt))
  4. Telegram not found.
  5. See footnote 2, Document 271. Telegram 15405 from Moscow, September 5, also reported on Combs’s September 5 meeting with Bessmertnykh on the Daniloff situation. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, N8600009–0017)
  6. In telegram 284982 to Moscow, September 11, the Department provided the text of an oral message for Combs to deliver to Bessmertnykh. (Reagan Library, Jack Matlock Files, USSR Subject File, 1981–1986, Daniloff (1))