289. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • U.S.

    • Secretary Shultz
    • Assistant Secretary Ridgway
    • D. Zarechnak, Interpreter
  • U.S.S.R.

    • Foreign Minister Shevardnadze
    • Deputy Foreign Minister Bessmertnykh
    • Soviet Ambassador Dubinin
    • P. Palazhchenko, Interpreter

Shevardnadze said he had been ready to meet any place. The Secretary replied that we were there because it was the Soviet Mission’s turn for meeting.

The Secretary said that he wished to reply to the ideas presented by Shevardnadze in the morning.2 He wanted to say that the President personally paid attention to this issue, and asked that Shevardnadze convey his thanks to the General Secretary for the fact that the General Secretary was also personally involved.

The Secretary indicated that the President had suggested a set of steps. The first step was that Daniloff would be released without trial. The second step was that 24 hours later Zakharov would be released without trial. It was understood that each side could make public the evidence that it possessed on each of these cases. At the time that Zakharov was released, Orlov together with four or five other people should be released. The U.S. side would be glad if the place of this release would be Berlin or some similar place. With regard to the question of the 25 Soviet UN Mission employees, the President gave careful consideration to Shevardnadze’s request that the period of time (Shevardnadze had proposed a period of 7 days) could be extended past October 1, and the President would be glad to do so. The President also indicated that he, Shultz, should tell Shevardnadze that if in Shevardnadze’s view it would be better, the period could be extended to [Page 1199] fourteen days past October 1 if necessary. With the completion of these steps, which would be described as being independent, as Shevardnadze had proposed, the matter would end.

The Secretary continued that he had three other points. The U.S. offered to work with the Soviet Union to avoid misunderstandings as the Soviet side replaced its staff up to the desired level, as long as this was below 218, by October 1. The U.S. side continued to hold the view that the Soviet Union should withdraw its intelligence personnel from its UN Mission.

Finally, in Washington the two sides had agreed to the Soviet proposal for the leaders of the countries to meet in Iceland. However, the Secretary and Shevardnadze had agreed that with the present difficulties, it would be hard to set a time for this meeting. The President proposed that if this problem could be ended as described, in further reply to the General Secretary’s proposal, the President was suggesting they meet in Iceland October 10, 11 and 12, 1986. The President had in mind that if this problem is worked out, he would propose to arrive in Iceland on October 10, and meet with the General Secretary on October 11 and possibly the morning of October 12, and return to Washington after that. The Secretary remarked that as the Foreign Minister could see, the President had tried to design his proposals in such a way as to make maximum use of Shevardnadze’s ideas.

Shevardnadze said that he wished to repeat for the sake of clarification: Daniloff would be released without trial; Zakharov would be released without trial 24 hours after Daniloff; and the public description of this would be implemented upon mutual agreement on the basis of reciprocity.

The Secretary indicated that the two sides would need to work out how best to inform the public about this. The U.S. side believed that as things happened, they should be described, and not all at once, although the U.S. side was prepared to describe publicly the actions connected with the UN Mission employees at the time of Daniloff’s release, but there would be a convention, following Shevardnadze’s proposal, to publicly describe these things as independent actions. The Soviet Union would release Daniloff, the United States would release Zakharov, and the United States would make public information about Zakharov as it saw fit, and the USSR would do the same with regard to Daniloff. The U.S. would say that there had been an extension of time equal to seven days, or fourteen days if the Soviet side preferred, or some similar phrase. If the content of the proposal was acceptable, the formulation of this could be worked out.

Shevardnadze began by speaking of Orlov. He noted that the suggestion was that Orlov along with four or five other people be released together with Zakharov. He thought the arrangement about releasing [Page 1200] Daniloff and Zakharov without trial was basically acceptable. How to describe this publicly was not a big problem, and could be agreed at the working level. As far as the next step was concerned, he had indicated that a period of time would need to pass after the return of Daniloff and Zakharov before the decision to release Orlov was taken. He stressed that this was a very serious concession on the Soviet part. Since the Daniloff and Zakharov cases were similar, this should not be complicated by an addition of four or five extra names. However, there could be a gentleman’s agreement that the Soviet side would see if it were possible to solve some of these cases, but this would be done subsequently, as had been done in previous cases. In this particular situation, Orlov would be the only one to be released. Shevardnadze stressed that without Gorbachev’s intervention this decision would not have been made.

Shevardnadze continued that the two of them should decide this issue. He wished to say frankly that he could not do any better. He could not do any better. It was only because of the political decision of Gorbachev with regard to Orlov and the fact that Gorbachev took into consideration the prestige of the President that this decision was made.

The Secretary said that he would like to ask for a clarification. There was agreement by the Soviet side to the series of steps which the President had proposed, except that the Soviet side did not want to add any additional names other than Orlov’s.

Shevardnadze confirmed this, and indicated that the decision about Orlov had taken some time, and it would not take 1½ or 2 months to release him, but more in the order of ten or fifteen days. With that agreed, the package was okay. The question of release of one person 24 hours later was not significant, and although there were some who attached importance to these things, Shevardnadze thought the U.S. side could be accommodated on this.

The Secretary indicated that the President had carefully considered the element of timing. If Shevardnadze said that this was a definite position of the Soviet side, the Secretary would so tell the President. The Secretary did not have any flexibility about the timing of Orlov’s release. He did not know if the Soviet side had any flexibility on additional names, but he wished to say that the President was concerned about this issue. The U.S. side had given the Soviet side a list, and he wished to mention some names specifically. Two of them were quite ill: Ida Nudel and David Goldfarb. The other case was not exactly a divided spouse case, but one that was similar: an American citizen, Susan Graham, lives in Moscow, and can leave, but her husband Matvey Finkel cannot. These were the names that the Secretary was leaving with the Soviet side.

Shevardnadze replied that he had no flexibility on this issue. The maximum that could be done would be to release Orlov. With regard [Page 1201] to further names, they would be examined, as had been done in the past, but in this situation it would not be possible to do any more. He repeated that very serious concessions had been made by the Soviet side, and that he had not expected to receive support on this from Moscow. Frankly he thought that the President would have appreciated this.

The Secretary replied that he thought that there had been concessions all around. It was a major concession for the President to decide to release Zakharov, and he only did it because of the desire to work out the possibilities which existed.

The Secretary continued that he wanted to make the following proposal. He thought that the two sides now had a pattern of large areas of agreement. As he saw it, two differences remained. The first was that the U.S. felt that Orlov should be released at the same time as Zakharov, and the USSR felt that he should be released ten days later (the Secretary remarked that Shevardnadze had said ten or fifteen, but he was using the figure ten). The other difference was that the U.S. wished to have the release of Orlov and four or five other people, some of whose names the Secretary had indicated. The Soviet position was that it might consider these additional names in the future, but it did not wish to have them as part of the “Orlov package.” The Secretary repeated that he was trying to specify the differences between the two sides, and he hoped that his description was correct. He noted that Ambassador Ridgway had added something which he had already mentioned, i.e. that each side would be free to make public its information about Daniloff on the one hand and Zakharov on the other. The Soviet side had proposed this, and the U.S. had agreed.

Shevardnadze said that this had not been a “proposal,” but rather a possibility.

The Secretary agreed, and repeated that there would be no trial, but the Soviet side might wish to indicate that it had arrested Daniloff for a good reason, and the U.S. side might do the same for Zakharov, sort of in lieu of a trial.

Shevardnadze thought that this would not be a problem. The information might be made public or not. If the U.S. decided that it needed to make the information on Zakharov public, then the Soviet side would make public its information on Daniloff.

The Secretary repeated that there were these two differences, and he wanted to make sure that both sides agreed that this was the case. He would be talking with the President, and he assumed that the Foreign Minister would be talking too.

Shevardnadze said that he could agree to the release of Daniloff without trial, and the release of Zakharov without trial. And although [Page 1202] he only had instructions about a simultaneous release, he could take it upon himself to agree to this, since 24 hours were not important. Sometime after this, the decision on Orlov would be made. He wished to divulge a secret by saying that he had firm instructions to indicate a month’s time of delay, but he would take it upon himself to agree to do this within ten or fifteen days. As a matter of fact, he would guarantee this shorter time period, and would persuade them to accept this. Any other compromise would be out of the question. This was the last one. All other lists, such as the ones presented by Ambassador Hartman and the Secretary, would be considered in the normal way, and perhaps some solutions could be found, but this should not be connected with this particular situation. Shevardnadze would personally look at those lists, and if possible make some decisions (he remarked that he always pays serious attention to these lists, and would do so in this case as well).

Shevardnadze continued that the Soviet side had made a concession about the 24-hour time difference. Orlov was a “gift” to the U.S., and the U.S. should realize what a serious move this was. This had been considered very carefully by the Soviet side, and it was not so simple to do. This was the first package.

The Secretary said that he thought that the differences between the sides (although the Foreign Minister perhaps had made a flat statement) were in the length of time between the Zakharov and Orlov release, which the Soviet side might think about, and the question of adding names to the list, which the U.S. would know about ahead of time, in addition to Orlov. The proposals which the Secretary had given to Shevardnadze had been worked out with the President, and, in essence, were the President’s proposals. While the Foreign Minister could see that the Secretary had some flexibility, which he had shown, he would now go back and tell the President what the Foreign Minister had said. The U.S. side would try to think creatively, but hoped that the Soviet side would do the same, and not dig itself into a certain position, since the two sides were very close to working out a solution, and the Secretary would like to get this done and go on to other things.

Shevardnadze repeated that the Secretary would talk to the President, and he would talk to the General Secretary.

The Secretary confirmed that he and the Foreign Minister would be in touch.

Shevardnadze indicated that a solution needed to be found to free the sides of this burden.

The Secretary agreed, and indicated that the Foreign Minister had seen how much he, the Secretary, had worked on this, and how much he wanted to have the leaders of the two countries have direct contact [Page 1203] in Iceland, rather than indirect contact through himself and the Foreign Minister, in order to discuss broader issues.

Shevardnadze repeated that the two of them should agree that what he had said was the maximum that he could do.

The Secretary repeated that he would inform the President that this was the Foreign Minister’s feeling, but that he agreed to convey the results of this conversation to the General Secretary, and that the Secretary would convey it to the President.

Shevardnadze repeated that he needed to convince people about the 24-hour time difference. (The Secretary interjected that the Foreign Minister could be very persuasive.) Shevardnadze indicated, however, that this was not that simple, since things have gone so far. These types of issues are usually decided below this level, but the machine has now been set in motion and things needed to be decided higher up. The second question was the timing of Orlov’s release. He thought this could be accomplished in ten or fifteen days, although he had been instructed to say thirty days, and he would need to work to convince Moscow. This should not be complicated by other issues.

Shevardnadze continued that the Secretary should talk this over with the President again, and if the President gave his final reply tomorrow, actions could be taken, and the faster the better. He had felt that the entire U.S. felt the Daniloff case to be an important one. The situation in Moscow was comparable. There were press conferences, and people were asking, “When would Zakharov be released?” The longer this situation continued, the more difficult it would get. For the first ten or fifteen days the General Secretary did not want to get involved in this, and gave no interviews. And then in Stavropol and Krasnodar he spoke out, and now he is involved.

Shevardnadze hoped that the version of the accord which had been described was acceptable. But he was concerned about the following. He had not mentioned any number of days—seven, ten or fifteen. He had said that the U.S. side had not indicated anything about changing the deadline. The U.S. side has said that the people on the list are intelligence agents. But the Soviet side was saying that this was not so. If the U.S. insisted on sticking by its view, and was not open to compromise, what options would there be? The Soviet side would send its people home, and then the Soviet Union would take action in response. Shevardnadze did not know how many people would be involved, but after such a response, an end could be put to the issue. He did not see any other possibility, since the prestige and authority of states was involved.

Shevardnadze continued by asking what else could be done. There was the question of the number—25. Seven or eight of those people had already left the United States and were in Moscow. Perhaps the [Page 1204] U.S. side could forget about its ultimatum, and the Soviet side would also forget about it, and there would be the normal renewal of personnel at the Soviet Mission, and no sanctions would then be imposed. Otherwise, this action could not be one-sided. The U.S. should put a stop to all the furor which has been raised.

The Secretary remarked that he should be leaving soon.

Shevardnadze indicated that he was expressing his thoughts without having consulted with anyone. He thought that it seemed as if the second possibility was going to be the one to be taken, i.e. the U.S. decision would stand, and then there would be a Soviet reply. After that, the sides would see what would happen. The same situation had occurred with England, where the British expelled some Soviet diplomats, and then the Soviet Union expelled some diplomats, and after that there were negotiations. But this was bad, and should not happen before the Summit. The other option would be to forget about the whole thing, but this was Shevardnadze’s own idea.

The Secretary indicated that the President’s proposals were a set which fit together. For a moment, the Secretary had thought that the two sides were close to agreement, but the more they talked the further apart they seemed to get.

Shevardnadze said that the sides had agreed this was a separate issue.

The Secretary replied that it was not. It all fit together, although the issues were independent, as they had agreed. But it was all one package.

Shevardnadze replied that if we assumed that the issues should be taken together, what would that change? He had said at the beginning that if there could be compromises with regard to Daniloff and Zakharov, on this other issue there could be none.

The Secretary indicated that he wanted to leave the paper from which he was reading with the Soviet side so that there would be no ambiguity, although the Soviet side had written down what he had said.3 He repeated that all of these things fit together. He indicated that in the morning Shevardnadze had spoken of a time period after October 1, and he had possibly misunderstood this to mean one week.

At this point Bessmertnykh , having perused the paper the Secretary had handed over, asked if everything in it was part of a package, for example, not having Soviet intelligence personnel in the UN Secretariat.

The Secretary indicated that this was the view of the U.S. side, which it wished to point out, and the reason for the action which was taken, as he had explained. Those people are in a country, and suddenly they [Page 1205] get caught, and it’s like Russian roulette. They become stuck in glue. So let’s not have intelligence personnel in the Soviet Mission. This was not a demand, but a proposal.

Shevardnadze said that he did not know all 25 people on the list, but he did know three of them personally. They were all well-known diplomats. Could the Secretary believe that he truly knew these people personally? They were professionals who had a deep knowledge of Soviet-American relations and diligently performed their tasks with regard to improving these relations. He had known them for a long time. He had also met with some of the people who never left the building. The U.S. also had such people, used for communications purposes. The unfairness of the U.S. decision was recognized not only here but by the Soviet leadership as well. How they could they swallow this without a reply?

Shevardnadze continued that perhaps what would have to be done would be for the Soviet Union to respond (although he was not sure of the number of people that would be involved), and that would put an end to it. But there was also the question of the reputation of the people who would be expelled. This would be a stigma which they would have to bear. What would a fifty-year-old diplomat say to his children and family about why he was expelled?

Shevardnadze continued that he could see a framework emerging with regard to the first part of what was discussed. With regard to the second, the only thing he could propose would be that the Soviet side would reply and then see how the U.S. Administration would react. If it also replied, then there could be no Summit. Also, if all 25 of these people were really professional spies, why was this action taken on the day of his arrival in New York. If they had been tolerated for so long, why could the U.S. not have waited a few days? Then this issue could have been discussed.

The Secretary indicated the U.S. intelligence services identify people as those who are basically with an intelligence agency. It is not dishonorable to work for an intelligence agency. But if these people are in another country, they have the instincts of intelligence agents, and from time to time they inevitably get into trouble. This was the reason for the U.S. decision, and for our action, especially since the Soviet Ambassador to the UN had made a very contentious statement regarding the level which the U.S. had set for the number of Soviet personnel. That was why the U.S. had felt that it was necessary to make such a specific connection.

The Secretary continued that he thought the President would not withdraw his action with regard to the 25 individuals, although in his reply to the Foreign Minister’s question he indicated a readiness to give the Soviet side more time to let its diplomats leave more gracefully.

[Page 1206]

The Secretary wished to propose that the Foreign Minister take the set of proposals the President had given and study them. Ambassador Ridgway had taken notes, and he had taken mental notes, and would transmit these to the President. He hoped that tomorrow or the day after there might be another meeting with the Foreign Minister. The Secretary would be in New York until Friday morning,4 at which time he would return to Washington and remain there until Sunday afternoon, after which he would return to New York and be in New York all week. However, he could change his plans if there was need to meet with the Foreign Minister.

Shevardnadze said that it would be important to have the final view of the President. He would inform Moscow of their conversation. With regard to the 25 people; it seemed realistic that there would be a reply.

The Secretary indicated that he would tell the President of the Foreign Minister’s views, including the question of the UN personnel, but he was certain that the President would not change his stance. He had shown flexibility as the Secretary had described.

Shevardnadze then indicated the Soviet side would wait for word from the U.S. side tomorrow.

The Secretary said that he would call Washington tonight, and pass on the information about this meeting, and he hoped to talk with the President tomorrow. He also hoped that the Foreign Minister would talk with Moscow.

The Secretary said that he wanted to mention two other things, not related to this case. The first was that he watched the Foreign Minister deliver his speech at the UN, and wanted to compliment him on the forcefulness of his delivery.5 He was saying this despite the fact that he did not agree with many of the things that the Foreign Minister said. Secondly, the Foreign Minister had spoken of his desire, and the General Secretary’s desire, to eliminate nuclear weapons. The Foreign Minister had referred to the Chernobyl accident with great empathy. The Secretary wished to stress that the President felt very strongly about the need to eliminate nuclear weapons, and if there is such a strong mutual feeling, there should be a way to find how to do it.

The Secretary continued that he had met with the Chinese Foreign Minister, who had told him that if the U.S. and USSR took steps to drastically reduce their nuclear arms, then China would be ready to [Page 1207] participate in the process of eliminating nuclear weapons.6 He had stated this publicly, but he went out of his way to stress it to the Secretary.

Shevardnadze said that he wished to be frank and say that he did not think that there were no prospects for good Soviet-American relations. A great deal had been accomplished. If a meeting between the President and the General Secretary took place, there would be good results.

The Secretary agreed.

Shevardnadze continued that the General Secretary has some ideas about the resolution of certain issues, and the Foreign Minister was sure that the President also had some important proposals. So progress was possible, and the two sides should not be burdened by the current difficulties.

The Secretary agreed, and as he was leaving mentioned that the Foreign Minister would have to be especially nice to Ambassador Ridgway’s husband and the Secretary’s wife, who went to the theater without their spouses that evening.

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S Records, Memorandum of Conversations, 1981–1990, Lot 93D188, September 19 & 23, 1986, Shultz/Shevardnadze at the UN. Secret; Sensitive. There is no drafting information. The meeting took place in the Soviet UN Mission. Reagan wrote in his personal diary on September 24: “Back to Wash. arrived at W.H. about 8:30. No new progress on Daniloff,” and then on September 25: “Geo. S. had called from N.Y. to counsel with us about Daniloff. He has had (Geo. S. I mean) with Shevardnadze & the deal cooking is Daniloff free—Zakharov free in exchange for Orlov + others if possible. I think we’ll have to settle for Orlov but I recommended only if Orlov comes here as Z. leaves. The Soviets want Z. first & then Orlov about 15 days later. Of course we hold fast that the 25 KGB’s leave the U.N. and go home.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, vol. II: November 1985–January 1989, p. 642)
  2. See Document 288.
  3. Not found.
  4. September 26.
  5. For coverage of Shevardnadze’s September 23 address to the UN General Assembly, see Current Digest of the Soviet Press, vol. XXXVII, No. 39 (October 23, 1986) pp. 5–9. Extracts of his address were printed in the New York Times, September 24, 1986, p. A10.
  6. In telegram 18013 to Beijing, September 25, the Department reported on Shultz’s meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wu at lunch on September 23. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, [no N number])