291. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • U.S.

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

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

After preliminary exchanges about the difficulties of scheduling in the UNGA environment, the Secretary said that he thought that since the issues the two countries were facing were so important, they should make every effort to resolve them. He would be going back to Washington the next day, and returning to New York on Sunday, and he had read that Shevardnadze would be in the United States until sometime on Tuesday.2 The Secretary indicated that he would like to see these issues settled while Shevardnadze was still in the United States, if this were possible. Perhaps of course, it might not be possible, but Shevardnadze was the most authoritative individual to work on [Page 1210] these issues. The Secretary was the person next to the President, and Shevardnadze was the one next to the General Secretary.

The Secretary continued that the day before and that day he had consulted extensively with his colleagues and the President in Washington, and he had assured them that Shevardnadze had likewise consulted with Moscow. The situation was a very difficult one. The President had made some truly hard decisions, and some important concessions, and the Foreign Minister had told the Secretary that the General Secretary had done the same. The Secretary did not doubt the Foreign Minister’s words, and he had conveyed this to the President.

The Secretary thought the two sides should review the situation to see where the differences between them were, or to solve the problem, if possible. Following tradition, since the Foreign Minister was the guest, the Secretary wished to offer him the floor first, if the Foreign Minister so desired.

Shevardnadze replied that the question of who was first was not so important. The main thing was to resolve the problem.

The Secretary agreed.

Shevardnadze said that if the two of them could not agree about a settlement of the main question, they would not be forgiven. Dozens of leaders of delegations from foreign countries had asked him whether or not there would be a Summit between the U.S. and the USSR.

The Secretary confirmed that he had also been asked the same thing.

Shevardnadze said that he had spoken with the General Secretary every day concerning the situation and the overall atmosphere. The General Secretary had given him guidelines and had made compromises and concessions. The following framework had developed. Shevardnadze thought that there was basic agreement on the following:

—The investigation of the Daniloff and Zakharov cases would not go to trial.

—There would be an exchange of the two, with a twenty-four-hour interval in between, and appropriate guarantees by the U.S. side that this would be carried out.

The Secretary replied that this was so, but he wanted to make a technical observation in order to familiarize the Foreign Minister with the process which the U.S. side would need to go through. This would not take more than twenty-four hours, but it was necessary. In order for Zakharov to be released without trial, he would either have to plead guilty, in which case the judge would let him off, or (and the Secretary assumed that the Soviet side would want to take the second option) he would say that he did not contend the issue (the technical term was nolo contendere). The Secretary believed that the Soviet lawyers would know what that meant. Zakharov would say that he did not [Page 1211] contend the charge (for whatever reasons he might have), and he would be released. This would not be an admission of guilt. He could say that he was not contesting the charges, bearing in mind that he was going to the USSR. There would be no implication in this pleading, but it would need to be done, and ought to take about 24 hours to accomplish. The Soviet side saw the procedure which took place when Zakharov was released to the custody of the Ambassador. A similar procedure would need to be followed in this case. These were just the technical details which the Secretary wished to explain to the Foreign Minister so that it would not come as a surprise.

Shevardnadze commented that the same type of procedures would probably take place in the case of Daniloff.

The Secretary repeated that he simply wanted to be sure that the Foreign Minister knew what to expect.

Ambassador Dubinin interjected that the procedure whereby Zakharov and Daniloff were released to the custody of the respective ambassadors was found to be mutually satisfactory.

The Secretary remarked that it was up to the lawyers to do these things. This was how they earned their money.

Shevardnadze remarked that the main thing was the 24 hours. Each side had its legal procedures, and this needed to be reciprocal. The details could be worked out by the appropriate people on both sides.

Shevardnadze continued that with regard to Orlov, he had indicated two days before that the Soviet side would release him after a certain period of time. Some had said that this period should be thirty days, but he thought that it could be done within ten or fifteen days. This was an essential issue. The main thing was that Orlov would be released.

The Secretary replied that the U.S. side would have to come back to this issue, since the President had very definite views on it.

Shevardnadze replied that if the President had a different view, the Secretary should convince him that no other decision was possible. The Soviet side had made a concession with regard to the 24-hour gap, and it had added Orlov. What else was it expected to do? Shevardnadze continued that the Soviet side could also make a different proposal, i.e., Daniloff could be convicted, as Shevardnadze had no doubt that he would be, and Zakharov would probably also be convicted, as the Secretary probably did not doubt he would be.

Shevardnadze continued that when the General Secretary made his decision about Orlov, as Shevardnadze had indicated two days before, the General Secretary had taken into consideration the personal interest taken in the case by the President and the question of the President’s prestige. The Soviet side realized what would happen after [Page 1212] Orlov would be released, i.e., how it would be portrayed, and despite that the decision was made. With regard to the question of releasing four or five other people, the Foreign Minister indicated that, as he had said before, these names would be examined in the usual way. He took this responsibility upon himself, and if a basis existed for the release of the individuals, the possibility would be carefully examined. This was one group of questions.

The Secretary said that he wished to reply concerning this group of questions. As he had understood, Shevardnadze had summarized the situation as follows: Daniloff and Zakharov would be released without trial following the necessary technical procedures on both sides. He added that each side could publicly describe what had happened as it wished. The Foreign Minister had indicated the last time that if the U.S. side published the information it had on Zakharov, the Soviet side would do the same for Daniloff.

The Secretary reiterated that Daniloff would be released first, and Zakharov would be released 24 hours later. There was a significant difference of positions on the timing of Orlov’s release. As the Secretary had indicated, the President felt that it was very important for Orlov and Zakharov to be released simultaneously. The Secretary realized that the Soviet side did not see it this way (it had proposed that the number of days be ten to fifteen and the Secretary said he was taking it to be ten.) The Secretary added that the President actually thought that Orlov ought to be released first, but he had told the President that he did not think this would be possible for the Soviet side, and, therefore, he did not want to argue for this. Therefore, the President was insisting on simultaneous release.

The Secretary continued that he realized that the Soviet side had problems, and he was sure that the Soviet side understood that the U.S. had problems. But he wished to say a few things about Orlov which might mitigate the Soviet side’s concerns.

The first thing was that, recognizing that these events would be described as independent, even though they were really connected, the release of Orlov would be described as a humanitarian gesture in light of the successful conclusion of the CDE conference at Stockholm and in view of the upcoming conference in Vienna. The second question, related to the first, was the location for the exchange. This could take place in Berlin or Helsinki. Helsinki might have a good ring, because of its connection with the Helsinki Final Act. Vienna was another possibility. All of this would depend on how the question of the location would impact on the Soviet view about timing.

The Secretary continued that the President was very interested in having additional people released, and that there be specific knowledge about them, so that we would know where we were going. The Secre[Page 1213]tary had assured the President that the Foreign Minister had spoken in good faith, had taken the U.S. list, had promised to look at it seriously and do the right thing. The U.S. side would like the Soviet side to do that, and to tell the U.S. side what it thought was the right thing, so that the U.S. would know where it was going. The U.S. side had proposed a number of names to choose from. The Soviet side could let it know the decision it had taken on specific names, especially since some of the people were quite ill and no threat to the Soviet Union.

Shevardnadze replied that he could not promise to do any more than he had indicated. He had said that the maximum had been done. One side had made all the concessions, and the other side only wished to dictate, without making any of its own concessions. No additional adjustments could be made regarding the timing of Orlov’s release. This would be fifteen, twenty, or perhaps ten days. With regard to the other four or five names, the Foreign Minister wished to assure the Secretary that he would personally look at the list. But no obligation could be assumed. The Foreign Minister indicated that he thought his promise to personally examine the names meant something.

The Secretary replied that the Foreign Minister’s personal credibility was high with him, and he could not discount that, but he had indicated what the President’s views were.

Shevardnadze replied that he, too, had indicated the General Secretary’s views. Why did the U.S. side think that it was only U.S. interests and prestige that ought to be taken into consideration, and not the interests and prestige of the Soviet Government.

The Secretary replied that the prestige of both governments was important, and the U.S. did not wish to denigrate Soviet prestige, as he hoped that the Soviet side did not wish to denigrate U.S. prestige. But the two sides needed to find a way around this. He did not expect the Foreign Minister to agree, but as the U.S. saw it, the cases of Zakharov and Daniloff were different. The Soviet side said that they were equal, but the U.S. did not agree, and this was the essence of the President’s difficulty. As Ambassador Ridgway had said, we are looking for a zebra, where both sides would say that they see a zebra, but where the U.S. side would say that it is half black, and the Soviet side would say that it is half white. Both sides sought to have something that each would describe in its own way.

Shevardnadze said that perhaps the two sides could each have a trial of the accused individual. In that case, the Soviet side would not release Orlov, nor three or four additional people. After the trial, there could be negotiation, and if the U.S. wished to trade, there would be a trade, and if not, not. The U.S. would probably find sufficient basis to convict Zakharov, and to give him a jail sentence. The same would happen with Daniloff, and there the matter would end. There would be no Orlov, and no question of 24 hours. This would be one option.

[Page 1214]

The Secretary agreed that such an option existed, and might happen, but it would have a bad effect, and the two sides should try to find a better solution.

Shevardnadze replied this should be done on a mutually acceptable basis.

The Secretary agreed that there was no other way.

Shevardnadze said that both sides should see what could be done. He thought that the people on the U.S. side were realistic and that they did not doubt that the Soviet Union was making one-sided concessions. The problem needed to be solved quickly, so that the interests of the two sides would be served equally.

Shevardnadze continued that since both sides were convinced that a summit was necessary and had agreed in principle that there would be one, he wished to say that the General Secretary had confirmed the dates for the meeting, and that he considered that this would not mean that the visit to the U.S. was off. On the contrary, he felt that this intermediate meeting could serve as the basis for reaching agreement on fundamental issues and giving appropriate instructions so that agreements would be prepared and ready for signature for the Summit in the U.S., and so that this would be done without delay. There were prospects of resolving the basic issues. Other issues should not get in the way of these global questions.

Shevardnadze repeated that the Soviet side had already made concessions on the 24 hours and on Orlov. What else was expected of it? He said again that if the U.S. wished to have a trial, there could be one and the U.S. and the world would see that the U.S. citizen was imprisoned and convicted for good reason. He was saying this responsibly, since he was familiar with the evidence.

The Secretary replied that he was very interested to hear that the General Secretary found that the dates proposed by the President were acceptable, and the Secretary hoped that a meeting could be arranged. As the Foreign Minister had proposed in Washington, and had repeated here, the meeting would be seen and described as a preparatory meeting which would be a “prelude” to the General Secretary’s trip to the U.S., which would come shortly thereafter.

Shevardnadze agreed.

The Secretary indicated that he thought it would be worthwhile to think of the possibility of having the meeting in the U.S. take place in 1986. This would depend on how fast things could be resolved.

Shevardnadze agreed. He then turned to the question of the Soviet UN Mission employees. He indicated that he could not say that he thought there was no promise to Soviet-U.S. relations and to resolution of the issues which had been discussed. The intermediate meeting [Page 1215] between the principals was important in order to resolve some basic issues. Shevardnadze had no doubt that the two leaders could give the appropriate instructions which would lead to the drafting of an agreement, either interim or global, on medium-range missiles, for example. Deadlines could be set for reaching agreement (e.g., 15, 20 days), but the most important thing was that the basic issues would be resolved. Just as in Geneva, as Ambassador Bessmertnykh could recall, the staff sat long hours and argued, and then the President decided that such and such should be done, and the General Secretary did the same.

The Secretary said that he recalled it well.

Shevardnadze recalled that the question of airline service between the two countries was argued about for a very long time in Moscow, and then the General Secretary indicated to the Secretary and to the President that the group that was discussing the question ought to stop arguing, and the Secretary made a phone call and within an hour agreement was reached. It was such a push which was needed. This was why the General Secretary proposed that a meeting be held without delay.

Shevardnadze continued that the General Secretary had also confirmed that his visit to the U.S. should remain on the agenda. It would be the final and historic stage, where agreements would be signed. Perhaps agreement would not be reached on all issues, but if there were agreements at least on a couple of issues, the hopes raised by the Geneva meeting would have been justified. It was understood that the next stage would then be the visit of the President to the Soviet Union, and other things could be prepared for that visit.

The Secretary replied that the U.S. side did want the visit of the President to the USSR to have importance from the point of view of its achievements. The documents signed in Moscow or wherever the meeting would be (presumably they would be in Moscow) should be important, and the U.S. would be working in that direction. Furthermore, the President and Mrs. Reagan would like to see Red Square. The Secretary said that he thought that the view of Red Square was one of the most striking sights he had seen. He liked to see it when it was empty because of its vast size, and the President would also enjoy it.

Shevardnadze noted that there were many attractive sights in Washington as well.

The Secretary indicated that there was this difficulty which the two nations faced at present. He thought that the two sides had described it, and he would meet with the President the following day and would discuss it thoroughly with him. It was one thing to talk on the telephone and to pass on messages and a different thing to sit down in the same room to discuss it.

[Page 1216]

Shevardnadze said that the next question was the matter of the 25 UN employees. This was a very difficult matter. He had indicated the previous day that even before the U.S. ultimatum, six or seven of the persons on the list had already left with their families for various reasons, and an additional two or three were about to leave tomorrow or the day after, in accordance with previous plans.

The Secretary asked for clarification as to whether the six or seven had left permanently.

Shevardnadze confirmed that this was the case. Going back to the list, he indicated that he could not let three of those people go. He needed them for his work in New York. They were ready to go, but he did not want to let them.

The Secretary asked who these people were, and added that the U.S. had never published the list.

Shevardnadze replied that he could give the Secretary their names, but he would like to propose a different approach. The Secretary had indicated two days ago that there could be a compromise approach to the expulsion of these people.

The Secretary replied that this was a reply to the Soviet request, i.e., the President indicated that it would be acceptable to delay the departure by seven or fourteen days after October 1.

Shevardnadze said that he understood. Perhaps the following approach could be taken. No final decision would be taken until the summit meeting. The process of personnel rotation would go on. Some people would leave and others would come. When he and the Secretary would travel with the two leaders to Iceland, they would see what the situation with the list was like then, and would reach final agreement. The process was already under way. There ought not to be intensification of debate on this issue since it touched upon the interests and the prestige of both governments. Shevardnadze said that he hoped that such a solution would be acceptable to the U.S. side.

The Secretary indicated that he wished to review what the Foreign Minister had said to make sure that he had gotten it straight: six or seven of the people on the list were already back in Moscow.

Shevardnadze confirmed that this was so.

The Secretary continued that an additional two or three were in the process of returning. This would then account for eight to ten of the people on the list. Three of the people on the list worked closely with Shevardnadze, and he felt that they were important to him.

Shevardnadze confirmed that he needed their expertise.

The Secretary asked if he had understood the Foreign Minister correctly in that the Foreign Minister would like these people to stay in New York and be there when he came to New York in the future.

[Page 1217]

Shevardnadze said that this was not correct. He simply needed them during the present visit.

The Secretary continued that the Foreign Minister had said that the process of rotation of personnel would go on and that people could be expected to come and go, including those on the list, in a normal fashion.

Shevardnadze confirmed that this was so, but that the process should not be forced. People would go and come as usual, and this will include those on the list.

The Secretary continued that the Foreign Minister had indicated that since the U.S. had agreed to a 14-day extension, and since the “preparatory” summit would take place in Iceland on October 11 (if it were to take place), this would fall within the 14-day period. The Secretary and the Foreign Minister could meet on the fringes of that meeting to finally resolve this issue. Then whatever would happen, would happen, but the Soviet side would have more information to impart to the U.S. side.

Shevardnadze confirmed that the Soviet side would have more information. He might say that none of the people on the list were left, and then there would be agreement, or perhaps he would be able to convince the Secretary that only real diplomats were left, and the Secretary might agree that they could stay. Or some other solution might be found. But the final resolution would occur in Iceland. And meanwhile, the rotation process would continue.

The Secretary asked if the Soviet side could provide the U.S. with the names of those on the list who had left the U.S. and those who were about to.

Shevardnadze replied that the Soviet side could do this and indicated that if U.S. intelligence worked well, they already knew who these people were.

The Secretary indicated that the intelligence services had not convinced him that they knew everything.

The Secretary added that the Foreign Minister had presented some interesting thoughts and the Secretary would want to reflect on them and discuss them with the President the following day.

The Secretary suggested that a time might be set for their next meeting, since he would want to convey to the Foreign Minister whatever the President had decided, and he would like to hear from the Foreign Minister whatever he wished to say.

It was decided that the next meeting would take place probably on Sunday in the latter part of the day, after the Secretary’s return to New York. The exact time would be agreed upon subsequently.

[Page 1218]

Shevardnadze indicated that these issues should be resolved before Monday. After the Sunday meeting, he would need to inform Moscow of the results and obtain agreement from the General Secretary.

The Secretary agreed. He indicated that he would talk with the President and try to resolve the issue, although it looked like it would be difficult to do so.

Shevardnadze indicated that it would also be difficult for him. The Secretary had the President close by, whereas the General Secretary was far away, and asleep when the Foreign Minister was working.

The Secretary said that he felt that if it were up to the two of them, their assistants and the President and the General Secretary, they could work things out. But there were other people who also needed to be considered.

Shevardnadze indicated that he wanted to raise another delicate issue. It was his understanding that there should be no leaks before a final solution was reached. If he were asked by reporters, he would say that there had been a meeting, that various options had been proposed, but no solution had been found yet. In general, he felt that the less fuss there was, the better.

The Secretary indicated that he took the same position. At a press briefing earlier in the day, reporters had asked him in fifty different ways about the content of his meeting with the Foreign Minister. He had replied that the meeting had taken place and that there would be a future meeting, but he did not say anything about its content. If articles did appear in the press, they were based on speculation and on historical precedents.

Shevardnadze expressed the opinion that leaks might have come from the White House.

The Secretary agreed.

Shevardnadze felt there ought not to be any leaks during this final stage. If there would be agreement on Sunday on the issues, the two sides could also agree on a text which they would use, including indication of a meeting between the President and the General Secretary, without indicating where and when it would be.

The Secretary said that he felt that the two sides would need to agree on a plan of public information, i.e., where and when, and how to describe things as they took place. The two sides should also get the agreement of the Icelandic authorities once they had solved the problems before them, and then announce the agreement to meet in Iceland and the dates of the meeting.

Shevardnadze said that perhaps this information could be given to the press on Monday, i.e., the Secretary could have a press conference and the Foreign Minister could do the same, where it would be [Page 1219] announced that there would be a summit in the U.S. With regard to the preparatory summit, even if agreement were reached before Monday, because of security and other considerations, perhaps Iceland ought not to be mentioned. Perhaps, if the President would have agreed to the options presented, an announcement could be made that agreement had been reached in principle about a summit in the near future, with no indication of the place, other than to mention that a summit would take place in the U.S.

The Secretary thought that there might be a better way to do this, although he was saying this without having consulted with the President. Assuming that the two sides had reached agreement (and this would not necessarily be the case), there would be the following sequence. On day one, Daniloff would be released, and both sides would describe this as they wished. On day two, Zakharov (and the U.S. would want to include Orlov as well) would be released, with appropriate statements by both sides. The U.S. view was that other individuals should be included. But whatever happened would be described appropriately by each side. In the meantime, as all this was being worked out, the two sides would approach the Icelandic authorities. The Secretary doubted that it would take longer than 24 hours to get their approval. Once this was done, it could be announced that agreement had been reached on a preparatory summit, including the dates and place, so that there would be no questions left unanswered, but the Secretary agreed that the question of how to make this public was important and ought to be agreed upon.

Shevardnadze concurred.

The Secretary said that the U.S. side would have proposals and the Soviet side would also have some.

Shevardnadze commented that if this information were not given out, there would be leaks, and this would not be desirable. It would be good if their deputies could think about all of these options before the next meeting.

The Secretary remarked that nothing had yet been leaked about the possible meeting in Iceland.

Shevardnadze alluded to the fact that this might happen in the White House.

The Secretary said that if the meeting were announced without an indication of the place, people would assume that it was Geneva and when they found out it was not, there would really be speculation. Therefore, if possible, it would be better to try to announce all of the information about the meeting.

Shevardnadze again said that the two sides ought to think carefully about how to announce the place of the meeting. Reykjavik was not a [Page 1220] big place. There were security considerations. If the current problems were resolved, it would be okay. If not, there would be no need for a briefing.

The Secretary told the Foreign Minister that he ought not to set himself into a frame of mind that his approach would be acceptable. The Secretary did not think that the President would buy it. But was he wrong in assuming that the two sides had agreed on Iceland?

Shevardnadze indicated that he was not wrong.

The Secretary recalled that he had gone to Iceland when President Nixon met with President Pompidou, and the Icelandic arrangements had been smooth despite the large number of people present.3

Shevardnadze replied that he had no doubt that they would be able to handle it well.

The Secretary added that he did not think that each side should bring 500 people.

Shevardnadze agreed.

The Secretary said that he thought the groups should be small.

Shevardnadze jokingly said that the General Secretary wasn’t even sure that the Foreign Minister and the Secretary should participate. At any rate, there should be a small group of experts and no one else. It should be a working meeting.

Shevardnadze continued that the two sides should think about how to announce the meeting, but this was not the main thing. The dates had been agreed and the place had been agreed. If all current issues were resolved in a positive way, he would ask for confirmation from Moscow, but he did not doubt that Moscow would give it. Then the two sides could agree on a public announcement.

The Secretary concluded by saying they would meet on Sunday to compare notes, and he hoped that the results would be constructive.

  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. No drafting information appears on the memorandum. The meeting took place in the U.S. Mission to the UN. See Document 290.
  2. September 28 and September 30, respectively.
  3. May 31 to June 1, 1973. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–15, Part 2, Documents on Western Europe, 1973–1976, Documents 20, 21, and 311.