283. Memorandum of Conversation1

EXTRACTS CONCERNING GORBACHEV’S PROPOSAL TO MEET WITH
THE PRESIDENT AND THE DANILOFF CASE

PARTICIPANTS

  • U.S. Side

    • Secretary Shultz
    • D. Zarechnak, Interpreter
  • Soviet Side

    • Foreign Minister Shevardnadze
    • P. Palazhchenko, Interpreter

TIME: 9:00–11:45

After a lengthy introductory discussion of the work being done in preparation for the Summit, Shevardnadze mentioned that he wished to say frankly that the current situation has led to difficult times in the US-USSR relationship.2 These events were not initiated through the fault of the Soviet side. The Soviet side considers that the present moment is one when consultations and meetings on the usual levels will not help to achieve significant progress in Soviet-American relations. A strong political impulse and a strong political will is needed to overcome the present difficulties and to move ahead. Shevardnadze indicated that the reason he had asked for a one-on-one meeting with the Secretary was that if a meeting with the President would take place, he had a very important letter to transmit to the President from Gorbachev.3 In that letter Gorbachev indicates that a meeting between [Page 1131] the President and the General Secretary is necessary in order to make progress in Soviet-American relations. If there is no strong push from the very top leadership of our countries, Shevardnadze did not exclude that relations between the two countries would deteriorate. At any rate, the latest events were a very bad sign.

The Secretary asked Shevardnadze if Gorbachev meant that a meeting should take place between the heads of state outside the US.

Shevardnadze replied that there was a corresponding proposal in the letter. He asked that if he were to meet with the President, it be a private meeting, without the rest of the group, in order that he could explain the contents of Gorbachev’s letter to The President.

The Secretary indicated that he thought the best place to have a Summit, as he had told Shevardnadze’s predecessor and Ambassador Dobrynin, was in the US and USSR, and not in third countries.

Turning to the issue of the present difficult situation, the Secretary wished to explain how the situation appeared to those in the US to see if a sense could be gotten of where we could go on this issue. Everything centered on the US perception of the way various individuals, human beings, are being treated. This causes the Secretary, the President and the American people anguish and dark clouds continue to hover over the US-USSR relationship. The Secretary mentioned the still unresolved situation of Major Nicholson, the very low level of Soviet Jewish immigration, religious persecution in the USSR, and Soviet citizens requiring special medical treatment. The Secretary listed the following names in the above categories: Sakharov and Bonner, Nudel, Orlov, Koryagin, Marchenko, Ratushinskaya, Validimir Brodskiy, Yu. and O. Medkov.

The Secretary then said that there was also the case of Daniloff, who was being held in the Soviet Union on charges of spying. The Secretary said that he did not know what materials the Soviet side had in hand, but he could say, as the President had indicated to the General Secretary, that Daniloff was not an employee of the US and was not operating on the instructions of the US.4 Therefore, he was not guilty of the charges brought against him. The Secretary stressed that this case, as well as the other humanitarian cases, increase the distrust between our countries, rather than increasing the trust between them, which was badly needed.

The Secretary continued that something needed to be done. He did not know if Shevardnadze had any thoughts about the Daniloff question or not. The US side had made a proposal to the Soviet side, which the Secretary would be glad to discuss further, but he was [Page 1132] interested in any reaction which Shevardnadze might have to what he had said.

Shevardnadze replied that since his arrival in the United States the day before yesterday he had been trying to assess the general atmosphere on the basis of the press and the normal information which they obtained. He felt that a great propaganda machine had been set in motion, which was working to the detriment of Soviet-American relations. He had no doubt that there were strong forces in the US which did not wish for an improvement of Soviet-American relations. If the cases of Daniloff and Zakharov did not exist, he was sure that other pretexts could be found to poison the atmosphere and undermine the basis for a Summit. Shevardnadze had become even more convinced of this yesterday and today because of the action of expelling 25 Soviet UN employees.5 This was an action which will not help to resolve the issue of Daniloff and Zakharov. On the contrary, it has created a new situation which would make it more difficult to resolve things.

Shevardnadze continued that the Secretary had not known what Shevardnadze was coming with. Perhaps he had an interesting proposal about Daniloff and Zakharov which would have been acceptable to both sides. He was greatly surprised that without knowing the history or the basis of the Daniloff case everyone in the US had become involved in the propaganda machine, which was now difficult to stop. This included the President, the Secretary of State, the Congress—no one was left out. But no one had asked whether Daniloff should be answerable to Soviet law. It was not important whether or not he was an agent of the CIA. The main thing was whether or not he should be answerable to Soviet law.

The Secretary interjected that there was no argument that any person in any other country must be subject to the laws of that country. But a charge of espionage carries the assertion that a person is connected in his actions with a foreign government—is employed by that government, paid by it, or acting on its instructions. The US knows that Daniloff was not acting in that capacity vis-a-vis the US government.

Shevardnadze asked if the US would believe the Soviet side when it said that Zakharov was also not working on the instructions of the Soviet government.

The Secretary replied that the US had definite evidence to the contrary.

Shevardnadze indicated that the Soviet side also had documents.

[Page 1133]

Shultz stated that it was not possible to have documented evidence about something that was not so. The Soviet side might think that this was so, but it was not.

Shevardnadze asked if the US could rule out the possibility of Daniloff’s working for English or French intelligence, or some other country if he were not employed by the CIA.

The Secretary replied that the US did not know what British and French intelligence might be doing, it only knew about what its people were doing. But on the basis of what he knew about Daniloff, he would be surprised if Daniloff had any connections with any intelligence agencies of other countries.

Shevardnadze asked if the Secretary believed that anyone could be charged in the Soviet Union with a criminal offense without sufficient probability of guilt. The Soviet Union would not risk doing this, since the fact that its allegations were unfounded would come out into the open at the trial. During the very first days, the Soviet side sent some materials to the US which were part of the evidence gathered. This was done in order to keep the situation from getting out of hand.

The Secretary replied that the US side did not consider this material to be very convincing.

Shevardnadze replied that there were doubts on the Soviet side about sending this material, since it was a part of the investigation, but Gorbachev himself said that this should be done in order that the President be informed that Daniloff should be answerable under Soviet law, and that there was a sufficient basis for this. Shevardnadze said that he was not saying that there was one hundred percent certainty, but that there were enough materials to know that the decision had a fair basis, and that Daniloff’s case had nothing in common with Zakharov’s.

The Secretary indicated that this was one proposition with which the US could agree.

Shevardnadze then discussed at length the detrimental effect which the action to expel 25 US diplomats would have if it were not resolved. This was a new stage of Soviet-US confrontation, and the USSR would have to reply in kind. If it had not been for this last action, Shevardnadze had thought that the best way out would be to make some fast decisions. Both Daniloff and Zakharov could be freed without a trial within a matter of days. Or if the US side thought that a trial was necessary, the Soviet side did not object. Both Daniloff and Zakharov could be tried, and the process could be accelerated to take one week or ten days—the earlier, the better. Subsequently, further similar actions could be taken between the governments. From the point of view of propaganda, these could appear to be separate issues, and would be such.

[Page 1134]

Shevardnadze stressed that a basic decision needed to be made. He said that it had been wise to free the people involved into the custody of the Ambassadors. Further actions should also be taken without unnecessary dramatization.

Shevardnadze indicated that if agreement could be reached in principle about a Summit meeting, this would resolve much, and would permit the adoption of action decisions on all issues which could otherwise hinder a Summit.

Shevardnadze again stressed the very detrimental effect of the action to expel the UN diplomats.

The Secretary then said that he would try to outline where he thought the two sides stood on the Daniloff case. Both sides had said that the Daniloff and Zakharov cases were different, and should be treated differently. The Secretary did not know what thoughts Shevardnadze had on this score, but the US had made a proposal he wished to repeat, since a similar situation had arisen before. The proposal was that certain individuals (a list of names had been given, but there could be others) would be allowed to leave the Soviet Union. The sequencing and description of these things would need to be discussed, but it would follow along the lines of past patterns. These would be people who the US felt should emigrate and they could be released as a humanitarian gesture.

Shevardnadze indicated that the question of emigration was a separate issue, and that the Secretary should not have brought it up at this meeting. There should be no connection between this issue and the Daniloff and Zakharov cases.

The Secretary continued that he wished to follow up on Shevardnadze’s remark that the Daniloff and Zakharov cases were not related. Suppose that Shevardnadze and the Secretary agreed that within a short time three unrelated events (as they would be described) would take place. The first would be that Daniloff would leave the USSR. The second would be that Zakharov would leave the US. The third would be (and this could take place simultaneously) that a group of people of the type that he had described (the Secretary said that Shevardnadze had mentioned Sakharov and Bonner, and Orlov) could leave the USSR. Shevardnadze replied that with regard to the first two cases, i.e. Daniloff and Zakharov, he had indicated that the sooner these were resolved, the better.

Shevardnadze continued that he considered the third question to be a separate one. There had been a certain practice in this area. Lists had been presented by the Secretary, Ambassador Hartman and The President. Shevardnadze did not exclude the continuation of this prac[Page 1135]tice. These lists would be carefully examined, as had been previously done. If Soviet law permitted, appropriate decisions would be taken.

The Secretary indicated that if progress were to be made in defusing the situation, an understanding would need to be reached about this before matters could proceed further.

Shevardnadze emphasized that letting Sakharov out of the country was out of the question. Sakharov understood this and did not insist on it. He understood that he knew many things, and American scientists were also aware of the things which he knew. This was a useless endeavor.

The Secretary interjected that Sakharov could be allowed to live in Moscow.

Shevardnadze replied that this was a question for the Soviet side to decide.

The Secretary gave some other names: Orlov, Nudel, the Meimans, Begun and Goldfarb, an acquaintance of Daniloff. The Secretary indicated that he was not trying to argue, but was trying to explore ways of getting a clear understanding of where the two sides were, which he could then report to the President, and which could help defuse the situation, but he did not yet understand if this third basket, which was not related to the other issues, could become a part of the private discussion.

Shevardnadze indicated that he did not know the names mentioned very well, but that was not the main thing. He could not give an immediate reply. Perhaps present practice would continue, whereby the Secretary would present a list, and the Soviet side would examine it to see if a solution were possible. As the President had said, these issues needed to be resolved confidentially, without a lot of noise.

The Secretary said that the President still respected this approach.

Shevardnadze indicated that the Soviet side took this into consideration in making many of its decisions.

The Secretary asked Shevardnadze if he would be prepared to work at this issue, thinking of three events which would be described as unrelated, but which would take place approximately at the same time in accordance with an agreement between the sides. The three events would be the release of Daniloff, the release of Zakharov, and the release of a group of Soviets of the type the Secretary had described. If that structure were agreed upon, there could be a decision on specific names, and an agreement could be reached on this as quickly as possible. But the Secretary did not know if this approach was acceptable to Shevardnadze.

[Page 1136]

Shevardnadze indicated that there was no connection between the first two issues and emigration. The two main issues to be resolved were Daniloff and Zakharov. He had made two proposals: The first was to free both of them immediately. The second was to have a quick trial, followed by an exchange in a relatively short time. With regard to the third question, after US-Soviet meetings in the past, the Soviet side had been given lists by the US side. The same could be done now, and the Soviet side would make appropriate decisions. Shevardnadze did not think that he could be any more specific, since these were unrelated areas.

The Secretary indicated that the US side could give the Soviet side a list this afternoon, and if the Soviet side could agree to specific names the following day, together with a time frame, this could be a basis for proceeding. But the Secretary considered that there would need to be agreement in private about this before anything else could happen, and he believed that this was the President’s view as well.

Shevardnadze said that the most he could do would be to have the US present such a list and that he would promise to examine it and resolve it on the basis of Soviet law. The US side could not present other preconditions.

The Secretary thought that the present situation could be described as follows: the Soviet side has proposed the release of two individuals, whose cases are not related. The US would study this proposal. The US would present a list of Soviet citizens for emigration from the Soviet union in accordance with Soviet law, and the Soviet side would study this list. Then perhaps the Soviet side would inform the US of its decision with regard to the list and the US would inform the Soviet side of its decision with regard to the Soviet side’s proposal.

Shevardnadze replied that on the first two issues there was no difference between the two sides’ approach. On the third one a list would be transmitted and the Soviet side would study it with the aim of possibly resolving these issues without an indication of a time frame, since these questions demand time for study, as the Secretary realized.

The Secretary then indicated that he would call the President to arrange a meeting.

MEETING WITH THE PRESIDENT12:15–1:00

In his meeting with the President, Shevardnadze described the contents of Gorbachev’s letter, and indicated that Gorbachev thought that a meeting of the leaders of the two countries was necessary in the [Page 1137] current crisis situation between them.6 It could be a brief, one-day meeting, perhaps in Iceland or London or some other place, of very limited composition, perhaps one-on-one or with a participation of the Foreign Ministers, in order to give instructions to the appropriate agencies to prepare agreements in the areas which Shevardnadze had mentioned, i.e. the ABM treaty, INF, etc.7 Dates could be set and a time-table laid out for working out agreements to be signed during a Summit in the US.

The President replied that he understood the importance of a meeting, but felt that there should be a normal Summit. He then spoke at length and very emotionally about the Daniloff case, indicating that he and all of the people of the US considered Daniloff to be a hostage, and that the situation had to be resolved before anything else could happen.8

[Page 1138]

SECRETARY SHULTZSHEVARDNADZE private meeting—5:30–6:00pm9

The Secretary used this occasion to pass the promised list to Shevardnadze.10 He repeated that he regarded the Soviet proposal in itself to be unsatisfactory, but that he would regard it as being on the table, and the US side would think about it, just as the Soviet side would think about the US proposal.

Shevardnadze said that he did not think that the approach should be thus divided. The division should be that the Soviet side would consider the fate of Daniloff and the US side would consider the fate of Zakharov. This would be an equal approach. The third issue was an independent one which he saw as a routine matter raised by the Secretary of State, which the Soviet side would examine with all seriousness.

Shevardnadze then repeated the significance of the issue of the expulsion of Soviet UN personnel, and that if it were not resolved, a reply might be coming from the Soviet side tomorrow or the day after. Then all of the efforts to resolve the above two issues would come to naught. A decision needed to be made before it was too late. If the Soviet side would also reply in kind, there would be no stopping.

The Secretary gave a detailed explanation of the decision to expel the diplomats.

[Page 1139]

Shevardnadze repeated that he would like to ask the Secretary to give a concrete reply about this the following day, since he needed to inform Moscow about this tomorrow. Actions might be taken whose consequences might be difficult to predict. As far as the Daniloff and Zakharov cases were concerned, the faster these were resolved, the better. The Soviet side would seriously examine the US list.

Shevardnadze continued that he did not doubt that it would be useful for the President and the General Secretary to meet (before the Summit in the US). Much could be done in one day. Solutions could be found to many issues on the basis of decisions taken by the leaders of the two countries.

The Secretary indicated that he was inclined to agree.

Shevardnadze said that Gorbachev had not taken this decision immediately, but had considered it in the light of internal affairs, international affairs, and the opinion of world leaders. He had also thought about how it would look domestically for the President, and had concluded that it would not be against his domestic interests. If such a meeting were to take place, then all other smaller issues would be resolved before the main Summit meeting.

The Secretary indicated that he would speak about the UN situation tomorrow. He did not have anything in mind, but he would consult with the President. The US would think about Zakharov and the Soviet side would think about Daniloff. He felt sure that we would not want to end our thinking until the Soviet side gave its reply to the US list (all of these issues being regarded as independent).

The Secretary told Shevardnadze that the President wished to ask him if Gorbachev had any specific dates in mind for the Summit.

Shevardnadze replied that Gorbachev felt that the sooner it would take place, the better, but this would depend on the possibilities of the President, and the Soviet side would consider dates proposed by the US side.

The Secretary repeated that the Soviet side had indicated that the sooner the Summit took place, the better, and that the Soviet side was asking the US side to make a proposal about the dates.

Shevardnadze replied that perhaps the US could at least indicate which dates would be convenient.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, Daniloff File (09/20/1986); NLR–775–22–33–2–9. Secret; Sensitive. There is no drafting information. This memorandum of conversation contains the records of three separate meetings on September 19: the meeting between Shultz and Shevardnadze in the Secretary’s office from 9 until 11:45 a.m.; a brief record of Shevardnadze’s meeting with Reagan in the Oval Office from 12:15 until 1 p.m.; and the private meeting between Shultz and Shevardnadze from 5:30 until 6 p.m.
  2. In his memoir, Shultz recalled: “I had long since learned in negotiations that personal confidence and a personal touch can be helpful. I decided to break with precedent. I went to the Treaty Room, near my office, to meet Shevardnadze as he arrived. I watched him get off the elevator and walk through the series of stately rooms on his way to the central area used for signing ceremonies and other special events. The last time we met, he had been pink cheeked and confident; now he seemed peaked, thin, and nervous. I peeled him off from his entourage and took him to my private office. “We have a lot of sensitive matters to talk about,” I said, “and we will just have to try to work our way through them as human beings. I want you to know that I value our personal relationship and that while you are here, you will be treated with courtesy and respect, whatever the strains of U.S.-Soviet relations.” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, p. 742)
  3. See Document 280.
  4. See Document 271.
  5. See footnote 3, Document 281.
  6. In his personal diary on September 19, Reagan wrote: “George S. brought F.M. Shevardnadze (Sov. U.) over to the Oval office to deliver Gorbachevs letter to me. Then he discovered he’d left the letter with his own team. But he had a good set of notes on what it contains so he did a 20 min. speech on it. The Gen. Sec. wants a meeting between him and me in London or Iceland—I opt for Iceland. This would be preparatory to a Summit. I’m agreeable to that but made it plain we want Daniloff returned to us before anything took place. I let the F.M. know I was angry & that I resented their charges that Daniloff was a spy after I had personally given my word that he wasn’t. I gave him a little run down on the difference between our 2 systems & told him they couldn’t understand the importance we place on the individual because they don’t have such a feeling. I enjoyed being angry.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, vol. II: November 1985–January 1989, p. 640)
  7. In his memoir, Shultz wrote: “Shevardnadze told me he had a letter from Gorbachev to the president. I had arranged with the president that I would call him to bring Shevardnadze over at the moment I thought was appropriate. I picked up the phone in Shevardnadze’s presence and asked the president whether we could come to the White House. I told the driver to take us in through the southeast gate to avoid the reporters and staff that hang around the West Wing. I walked Shevardnadze up behind the Rose Garden and into the Cabinet Room. The president was ready, but Shevardnadze now became agitated. He had not expected to see the president this morning, and he suddenly realized that he did not have with him the letter from Gorbachev. He dispatched an aide to fetch it. Shevardnadze met with President Reagan for an hour and could not conceivably have emerged without knowing that the president was truly angry. Ronald Reagan usually cannot help smiling, but he was not smiling that day. Near the end of the session, Gorbachev’s letter was brought in to Shevardnadze, who belatedly handed it to the president. The president did nothing to relieve the tension. He made it obvious to Shevardnadze that no progress could come in the U.S.-Soviet relationship without Daniloff’s release. I knew Ronald Reagan was an accomplished actor, but this was no act.” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, pp. 742–743)
  8. Soviet interpreter for these meetings, Pavel Palazhchenko, recalled in his memoir: “As we were riding in the Soviet ambassador’s car to the White House, Shevardnadze was silent. I had seen many of his silences, which can mean different things to the careful observer. This silence did not seem to bode well. The meeting with Reagan was a real one-on-one, with only the interpreters present. As we were driving back to the embassy about an hour later, the minister’s silence was the same as before. He went right to the second floor of the embassy building, where the ambassador’s office was located. Ambassador Yury Dubinin, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Bessmertnykh, Sergey Tarasenko, and Teimuraz Stepanov were waiting there. Shevardnadze indicated that I should enter too. For a couple of minutes everyone sat in silence waiting for someone to utter the first word. Then Dubinin said, ‘Eduard Amvrosiyevich, how does it look?’ ‘How does it look? Not very good,’ Shevardnadze answered. He then looked at me and said softly, ‘What would you say?’ I was surprised that he had asked my opinion. It was unusual. So, maybe out of surprise, I stood up and was silent for a moment. The natural and expected thing would be to echo the minister’s words. But I heard myself saying, ‘Well, Eduard Amvrosiyevich, it did not look that bad to me. Of course, Reagan repeated the American position on the espionage matter, and that’s quite natural. But he did not put it very harshly. His other remarks seemed more constructive than I had expected. And he did not reject the idea of a meeting with Gorbachev.’ The foreign minister listened and did not object, although my assessment probably seemed too rosy for him.” (Palazchenko, My Years with Gorbachev and Shevardnadze , pp. 52–53)
  9. Prior to this 5:30 p.m. meeting, Shultz and Shevardnadze met from 3 to 5:25 p.m. For the record of the meeting, see Document 284.
  10. In his memoir, Shultz wrote: “I gave Shevardnadze in our private meeting two lists with names of people who wanted to emigrate from the Soviet Union and who, we felt, should be allowed to do so: one was a list of Soviet Jews given me by Morris Abram, chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry; the other was a list of Soviet dissidents.” Shultz recalled that the “Soviets were getting tough: they were going to fight us tooth and nail on the UN ouster. Zakharov was merely a poor, innocent student, they said; they could try, convict, and keep Daniloff in the Soviet Union forever. In our private talks, I stressed Daniloff; Shevardnadze stressed a summit.” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, pp. 743–744)