285. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • US Side

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

    • Foreign Minister Shevardnadze
    • P. Palazhchenko, Interpreter

The Secretary thanked Foreign Minister Shevardnadze for agreeing to meet with him privately before the plenary. He said that he wished to touch upon two things. The first was the question of the expulsion of the 25 Soviet diplomats from the United Nations. The Secretary indicated that he had listened to what Shevardnadze had said about the US decision, and had noted Shevardnadze’s statement that there were fewer than 218 Soviet UN employees at present. To the extent that this has brought the number of personnel at the Soviet Mission more in line with the numbers at other missions, it was welcome. The Secretary indicated that he did realize that Shevardnadze had said that this had been done by the Soviet side for reasons of economy and efficiency.

The Secretary continued that, as the US had indicated to the Soviet Ambassador to the UN, Belonogov, the Soviet side had not been willing to indicate which of the UN mission people had departed, and this made it difficult to determine accurately the total number of personnel at the Mission. For example, if an individual had a visa and had gone [Page 1161] on vacation to the USSR, the US could think that he would return. Perhaps the Soviet side knew that the person would not return. This was one reason why there were different ideas about the size of the Soviet Mission. An additional reason was the difference in counting people such as chauffeurs and communicators. The US counted such people, and perhaps the USSR did not. As a result, some differences in numbers occurred. Therefore, if the Soviet side could establish that the 25 people whom the US was expelling would bring the total below 218, the Soviet side could replace its personnel up to that number. The US would expect that any new people would have legitimate UN functions. And the US would be sensitive to anyone who had a suspicious background. The US would also expect continued work with regard to future requirements, e.g. bringing down the level to 170 by April of 1988. But the US was not interested in complicating the legitimate functioning of the Mission, and this could be resolved given a constructive approach by the Soviet side.

The other subject which the Secretary wished to raise was a reply to the proposal made in the General Secretary’s letter. The US side welcomed Gorbachev’s proposal for a meeting, and of the two places mentioned by Shevardnadze, would prefer Reykjavik.2 This proposal of the General Secretary had merit and was a serious one. The US side would prefer to reply positively to this proposal and to subsequently schedule a time for the meeting, but the present atmosphere made it difficult to put a positive reply into effect, which emphasizes the importance of rapid resolution of the current problems. There would be no point in having the President and the General Secretary spend all their time talking about Daniloff and Zakharov. This issue must be out of the way so that they could focus their attention on the type of substantive issues which were discussed at the plenary between the Secretary and the Foreign Minister the day before. These were the two basic things that the Secretary wished to mention.

The Secretary indicated that he could note that the content of the General Secretary’s letter with regard to arms control and similar issues would be studied by the experts and by the principals. However, the number of people who know about the proposal for a short meeting [Page 1162] between the President and the General Secretary is small, and any references to the letter in the plenary ought not to include references to the special meeting, since some of those present would not know about it.

Shevardnadze replied that he would like to ask for clarification of the answer to the first question. He had already indicated that the present size of the Soviet UN Mission was under 212. If additional confirmation was needed, this could be obtained through the UN Secretariat or the Soviet Mission, and this would not be difficult. With regard to chauffeurs, technicians, etc., there were general rules governing these things for the member countries of the UN, and these procedures ought not to be changed. Shevardnadze understood the Secretary to say that if the US side was convinced that the size of the Soviet Mission was equal to 212, then the indicated personnel would not be expelled.

The Secretary replied that this was not so. Those names would remain, but if the US established (and this ought not be difficult in accordance with what Shevardnadze had said) that the expulsion of the 25 would bring the number below 218, then the US would not object to having the USSR bring in additional people to perform UN tasks. But the 25 would remain on the expulsion list.

Shevardnadze asked what these people were guilty of.

The Secretary replied that they had been identified as being connected with espionage and intelligence activities. The US had a special problem because of the location of the UN. Every country could decide what kind of people to assign to its mission. But it was not a proper use of the UN function to assign intelligence agents to work there, and this was what the US was objecting to.

Shevardnadze replied that he was not a first grade student, and he understood that UN personnel ought not to be intelligence agents, but there was no proof that they were. Let’s say that the Soviet side would react in the following way: it would expel 25 Americans from the USSR (maybe somewhat more, maybe somewhat less), since the appropriate Soviet authorities have corresponding information on Americans, and then would say the same thing that the Secretary had said, i.e. that the US could add extra people to make up for those that had been expelled. Would this make the US happy? At any rate, the US action could not be left without a response.

The Secretary replied that the USSR would have to decide what it would do, and the US would not want to see its people expelled, so the Secretary could not agree to such an approach. In that case, the US would respond as well.

Shevardnadze asked what this would lead to. There would be no stopping.

[Page 1163]

The Secretary said that there would be an end, since the intelligence communities knew who their corresponding numbers on the opposite side were, and these numbers were limited. But the Secretary felt that we could put this issue into one pile. There were other issues as well, and all of them were independent of each other. The two sides could see if all of these piles could be resolved on a mutually acceptable basis.

Shevardnadze indicated that the reply given by the Secretary concerning the expulsion of the Soviet UN Mission employees was not satisfactory. US intelligence services could say that he, Shevardnadze, was also an intelligence officer. So a great deal of care and a feeling of responsibility was necessary in carrying out such actions. Shevardnadze stressed that there would be actions taken in response. He pointed out that since, according to the US side, the time limit for Soviet reductions was to be October 1, there was still enough time, and the US should think again about how to resolve the situation.

Shevardnadze continued that with regard to Daniloff and Zakharov, he felt that his proposal was a good one, and the faster the cases were resolved, the better it would be. Decisive steps needed to be taken.

Shevardnadze continued that he considered that the main decision to be taken was the one about the meeting between the President and the General Secretary. And although this would be a short, working meeting, he thought that the two leaders could decide matters of basic importance, taking into consideration everything that had happened since the Geneva meeting. Shevardnadze agreed with the Secretary that the way needed to be cleared for this meeting by resolving the cases of Daniloff, Zakharov and the expulsion of the UN personnel. All of these needed to be resolved before there could be a meeting of the heads of state.

Shevardnadze indicated that as far as practical steps connected with implementation of any agreement on this were concerned, these could be coordinated during a meeting between the Secretary and himself in New York if necessary. He indicated that he was referring to the three questions that the two sides had spoken of. If the Secretary would agree to resolve the Daniloff and Zakharov cases as the Soviet side had suggested, Shevardnadze could relate this to Moscow immediately and practical preparations could be made to implement the solution. With regard to the place for the meeting between the President and the General Secretary, Shevardnadze thought that this was a good choice. He thought that the dates of this meeting could be agreed upon at the working level. It would be good if the President could indicate what dates might be suitable for him. Such a meeting could produce action decisions on all outstanding issues.

The Secretary indicated his appreciation of the agreement to meet in Iceland, but felt that we should first contact the Icelandic authorities.

[Page 1164]

Shevardnadze commented that Iceland was an attractive country and that Reykjavik was a small city, even a town, but a very nice one. He also remarked that the US has a nice base there.

The Secretary added that it would be a quieter place than London.

Shevardnadze indicated that he did not doubt that the Icelandic authorities would be happy to receive them.

The Secretary repeated that he thought that before any public announcement be made concerning the place of the meeting, we should pay the courtesy to ask Iceland about it.

Shevardnadze agreed.

The Secretary indicated that with regard to the question of dates, both he and Shevardnadze had agreed that the problematic issues facing the two countries at the moment would have to be resolved before one could focus on a date for the meeting. He indicated to Shevardnadze that it was not clear to him what framework for a solution existed, although he said that he would be prepared to rearrange his schedule to talk about such an important issue, and this could be done in New York.

Shevardnadze replied that it would depend on the readiness of the US to resolve the issue. He himself was ready today to make a basic decision with regard to Daniloff and Zakharov.

The Secretary stressed that it would not be possible to accept an arrangement concerning these two cases without an understanding and specific arrangements with regard to individuals on the transmitted list. He asked Shevardnadze if he had had a chance to reflect on this.

Shevardnadze replied that it was difficult to add to what he had already said the day before. These were unrelated issues. In accordance with current practice, the Secretary had asked that the Soviet side look at a list of people who had submitted applications for emigration. Shevardnadze had replied that the list would be examined within the limits of Soviet law, as before, and decisions would be made. But as far as the time frame was concerned, this would require some time. And the cases of Daniloff and Zakharov were different. On those two issues Shevardnadze felt that a quick decision should be made.

The Secretary indicated that he accepted what Shevardnadze had said about the length of time involved in the process of examining the list, and the fact that these matters were independent of each other. But he stressed that no decision could be made on Daniloff and Zakharov without an understanding about the Soviet view on the US list. The Secretary indicated that the names on the list should be familiar to the Soviet side since their cases had come up before. They should all be in the Soviet computer.

Shevardnadze replied that he did not like to dig down into these issues.

[Page 1165]

The Secretary said that he had meant that the names were in the system.

Shevardnadze indicated that he had already replied with regard to Sakharov, indicating that this was a useless endeavor. With regard to the other names, they would be looked at, but the decision could not be made immediately. And the two issues should not be linked to this third one. Shevardnadze did not exclude the possibility of resolving some of the cases, as had happened before.

Shevardnadze continued that in his opinion this was a matter of prestige for the US side, and that was the main thing. The US was insisting that in addition to resolving the cases of Daniloff and Zakharov, the Soviet side should make some additional concessions. But the US ought not to think of questions of prestige. This was not the main thing at the moment. When everyone would learn of the upcoming meeting between the General Secretary and the President, all such issues would be pushed into the background and would be resolved more quickly. The meeting was the main thing. It ought not to be complicated with lists. Shevardnadze recalled that he and the Secretary had pushed the hardest to have a summit meeting, and when they were in Geneva the Secretary had said that the longer the President and the General Secretary sat at the fireplace, the better.

The Secretary agreed. He then said that he had heard what Shevardnadze had said and Shevardnadze had heard what he had said, but he wanted to repeat once more that the US side would need to wait to hear the Soviet reaction to the list. With regard to the question of prestige, the Secretary had described the structure of the way things would happen, namely, as independent events. With regard to the release of the people on the list, the US would welcome this as a humanitarian gesture on the part of the Soviet Union, or perhaps as a gesture to create a good atmosphere for the summit.

Shevardnadze said that the USSR had given the US Shcharansky, and what had it gotten in return?3

The Secretary joked that what it had gotten was that the US was no longer screaming about Shcharansky.

The Secretary indicated that it was time to go and stressed that he was prepared to work on this issue personally, both here in Washington and subsequently in New York in order to resolve it and to move on to other issues.

Shevardnadze said that the main thing was that he was glad that the President had agreed to meet with the General Secretary, and that [Page 1166] he could pass this on to Gorbachev, as well as the agreement about the place that the meeting should occur.

The Secretary concurred and indicated that the President would reply about a date subsequently. However, as both he and Shevardnadze had agreed, it would not be wise to think about a date until the present cases were resolved, in order that the heads of state deal only with the key issues, and not get mixed up with the other ones.

Shevardnadze said again that linkage with the third issue was not acceptable. Why not simply resolve the cases of Daniloff and Zakharov? The US had given the Soviet side a list, and the Soviet side would examine it, but this would take some time, and we should not wait to resolve the Daniloff and Zakharov cases until then, since that process could take 10, 15 or 20 days (on the other hand, it might take 5). But the Soviet side would reply, and perhaps a decision could be made on some of the people on the list.

The Secretary repeated that the US would not be ready to make a decision on Daniloff and Zakharov until there was a clear understanding of the Soviet decision concerning the names on the list. Perhaps the Soviet side could reply early next week in New York.

Shevardnadze agreed that the list would be examined, but not necessarily quickly.

The Secretary indicated that, as Shevardnadze knew, he had a great deal of respect for Shevardnadze’s country, its leadership, and for Shevardnadze himself. The Secretary very much desired that there be a summit and that progress be made on all issues as soon as possible.

Shevardnadze indicated that he and the Secretary would look helpless if they left the resolution of these issues to the General Secretary and the President.

The Secretary agreed.

In conclusion, Shevardnadze stressed that the issue of the 25 UN Mission employees needed to be resolved. He did not know how, but this needed to be done.

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S Records, Memorandum of Conversations, 1981–1990, Lot 93D188, September 19 & 23, 1986, Shultz/Shevardnadze in Washington (Daniloff case). Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Zarechnak; cleared by Hill. The meeting took place in the Secretary’s office.
  2. See Document 280. In his memoir, Shultz recalled: “I told Shevardnadze that we reacted favorably to Gorbachev’s proposal for a meeting soon in Reykjavik, but that in the present atmosphere, “we cannot put such a positive response into effect. The Daniloff problem must be resolved as soon as possible. No summit meeting can be held until Daniloff is out of the Soviet Union.” On the Soviet mission to the UN issue, I also told him that we wanted the Soviet mission to be reduced to no more than 218 people by October 1, 1986. If the twenty-five people we had declared persona non grata brought their overall number below 218, they could fill those slots, but not with intelligence agents. By a year later, we wanted the number down to 170 people.” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, p. 744)
  3. See Document 193.