111. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Shultz-Shevardnadze Meeting, December 9 Afternoon


  • U.S.

    • George P. Shultz, Secretary of State
    • Colin Powell, National Security Advisor
    • John C. Whitehead, Deputy Secretary of State
    • Michael H. Armacost, Under Secretary of State
    • Rozanne L. Ridgway, Assistant Secretary of State (EUR)
    • Jack F. Matlock, U.S. Ambassador to the USSR
    • Richard Schifter, Assistant Secretary of State (HA)
    • Richard Solomon, Director, Policy Planning Staff
    • Warren Zimmermann, U.S. Ambassador to the CSCE Review Conference, Vienna
    • Thomas W. Simons, Jr., Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (notetaker)
    • Mark R. Parris, Director, EUR/SOV (notetaker)
  • USSR

    • Eduard Shevardnadze, Minister for Foreign Affairs
    • Aleksandr A. Bessmertnykh, Deputy Foreign Minister
    • Evgeniy Primakov, Director, Oriental Studies Institute
    • (fnu) Rybakov, Director, Legal and Treaty Department, MFA
    • (fnu) Glukhov, Deputy Director, Cultural and Humanitarian Affairs Department, MFA
    • Sergei Tarasenko, Special Assistant to Shevardnadze (notetaker)
    • Interpreter

The Secretary suggested that the two ministers hear the reports of the working groups, and then go through the joint statement.

Shevardnadze suggested they try to wrap up by 6:00, although there was also the possibility of coming back after dinner. The Secretary said they should try to finish by 6:00. Or, Shevardnadze suggested, they could come back early the next day.

The Secretary suggested they hear the report of the ambassadors. (Ambassador Dubinin was not there.) He then suggested they hear the [Page 646] report of the regional affairs subgroup. (Mr. Solomon had not yet arrived.) He then suggested they hear the report of the human rights subgroup.

Addressing the Secretary and the Minister, Ambassador Schifter noted that during his luncheon address2 the Secretary had spoken of a down-to-earth, pragmatic, businesslike approach. That had characterized the human rights discussions.

[Page 647]

Schifter continued that the U.S. side had expressed satisfaction that the group of separated spouses, which continued to be of concern, was now down to three, and the hope that, as in INF, the Soviet side would go for the zero option. The U.S. side had explained the cases that were left. Schifter said the Ministry and Shevardnadze personally had the U.S. side’s thanks for what had been accomplished in this area.

Other questions raised, Schifter went on, included the U.S. concern that the commission of the Presidium which reviewed denials had not acted as affirmatively as we had thought it would. There had been some reversals, and some reaffirmations of denials where the classified work cited had been performed 10, 15 or 20 years before. There seemed to be reason to hope that another look would in the General Secretary’s terms lead to new thinking.

Schifter continued that the U.S. side had noted progress on German and Armenian emigration from the Soviet Union, and the last two months had brought a slight upturn in Jewish emigration. It had expressed the hope that the Soviet side would look at the rules, to help resolve an issue that remains a point of difficulty with us.

The U.S. side had then described its expectations concerning the policy of glasnost, Schifter went on. It had noted progress on recognition of the principles of freedom of speech and religion. People imprisoned under Articles 70, 190–1 and others of the relevant codes3 had been released. We had hoped that all political and religious prisoners would be released under the amnesty. We were disappointed that this had not yet happened. We recognized that this was the Soviet side’s internal affair, but we had noted that if people can do things in 1987, people who did the same things in 1982, 1983, or 1984 and are in prison for them should be released. We had expressed the hope that preference would be given to people in ill health in prison, especially in Perm Camp 36–1.4

Schifter continued that the U.S. side had heard the Soviet delegation on matters of interest and concern to it, on a variety of topics. This included the death penalty for minors. The U.S. side had arranged presentation of the relevant court papers in a case before the Supreme Court, and had escorted a Soviet representative to the Court to hear argument in the case. It would be decided within the next month or two, and during the hearing the Soviet had attended three judges had supported reversal of the law; two more might be found. The law applied in a small number of states.

The two sides had also discussed homelessness, Schifter went on, including people on grates around the Department of State. The U.S. side had explained that the main cause was deinstitutionalization of people who were mentally ill but did not threaten violence to themselves or others. Matters had been raised that could be topics for fruitful discussion.

Schifter concluded that the U.S. side saw developments that brought improvements in the Soviet Union, but problems continued to exist which we hoped would evaporate.

Rybakov said he would present the viewpoint of the Soviet side in the human rights subgroup. Its impression was that both sides were interested in the topic and considered it important. The exchanges had been non-formal, deep, serious and candid. They were in the spirit of efforts to depart from the stereotypes of the past, get rid of obstacles to businesslike Soviet-American cooperation. It had been characteristic that each side had raised any question it wished. They had different historical and social traditions, but neither side departed from a businesslike approach. They had not just listened but heard, taken the viewpoint of the other side into account. On some aspects, they had openly exchanged suggestions. They had touched on conceptual approaches and specific facts.

Rybakov said the Soviet side had asked how the U.S. solved various human rights questions. This was of interest to Soviet society, from an economic, political and ethical point of view. There was interest in rights and freedoms, in how obstacles to full development of the individual were removed. The Soviet side had asked about homelessness; about capital punishment for minors; about repression for racial or sexual reasons; about exit and entry procedures; about international terrorism; about drug abuse.

The question of practical cooperation had had an especially systematic basis, Rybakov went on. The Soviet idea of a Moscow international conference on humanitarian issues had been raised. There the two sides continued to differ substantially. But it was still realized that there was a solid potential in both countries for developing cooperation in this area, which would foster peace and understanding.

[Page 648]

The dialogue was already taking place in terms of new thinking, Rybakov concluded. Though complex, it was feasible. The whole atmosphere of the dialogue was different from what it had been not long ago. The Soviet side had considered the discussion useful, and believed it should proceed.

Ambassador Zimmermann said there had been a brief discussion of CSCE. He was not able to report progress. In CSCE there had been useful discussion of military security, but the human rights area had not kept up. With regard to the text, the Soviet delegation had not been able to accept positive language even when it was introduced by neutrals. There had been balance in the Helsinki process from the beginning, and the tradition that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. It would not be possible to conclude on conventional arms until human rights was also concluded. If the Soviet delegation were given more flexible instructions on human rights, the U.S. delegation would work closely with it, in order to end Vienna as soon as possible.

The Secretary said that the practice of systematic discussion was a good one. It was progressing well. The U.S. side was ready to work with the Soviet side to bring Vienna to an end.

Shevardnadze said there had been a useful exchange. A good practice was emerging. The atmosphere had been calm. His question was the extent to which we intended to reflect this in the joint statement. The Secretary noted there was a sentence in the proposed text which registered the fact of continued discussion in this area. Shevardnadze said he was familiar with the text. If the Secretary thought that was sufficient, the two sides could confine themselves to that sentence. The Secretary said the U.S. side thought it was fine. When the U.S. side briefed on the document, it would be comfortable saying the discussion had been good. We could go forward at Vienna based on it. Shevardnadze said that was sufficient. There were limited possibilities as to what could be included.

In his meeting with Congressmen, Shevardnadze went on, Gorbachev had expressed the desire to pursue cooperation in various forms: experts, jurists, lawyers. But the details could get out of hand in a document. In practical terms the two sides should be guided by what had been discussed at the top level. The Secretary said the U.S. side agreed. Shevardnadze thanked the group. Schifter concluded that we would continue the dialogue.

(Schifter, Zimmermann, Rybakov and Glukhov left the room to continue discussion in their subgroup.)

Primakov said jovially that the two sides had spent many hours on the easiest problems—regional issues—and had failed to produce agreed rules of conduct. But they had produced better understanding. The following points seemed to him agreed:

[Page 649]

—First, that settlement of regional disputes was one of the main tasks of international life and our bilateral relations;

—Second, that settlements should be achieved by political means;

—Third, that both were against involving the two countries in conflict situations, and should consult to avoid such involvement;

—Fourth, that a rapprochement of positions at the global level—as was taking place here in Washington—will help mutual understanding, and thus help solve regional conflicts; and the converse was also true. The principle was important.

It would be counterproductive to prioritize various goals, Primakov said, and we had concluded that we should try to move forward across a broad front. But the situation was becoming different. This was true objectively, in that in many areas the prospects for national reconciliation were improving. It was also true subjectively, in that both sides were in favor of eliminating conflict situations. Philosophically, they were no longer looking at such situations from the perspective of confrontation, with a view to exploiting them against the other.

When it came to specifics, they had spent a lot of time on Afghanistan, Primakov said. The U.S. side had given a positive response to the Soviet statement that there was no link between troop withdrawal and national reconciliation, which could take a long time. The Soviet side had given a positive response to the U.S. statement that, once Soviet troops were withdrawn, the U.S. would do nothing to build up its military position, to use Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. The U.S. side had confirmed what had been in the Geneva documents for two and a half years: that if the Soviet Union put in place an acceptable timetable, the U.S. would guarantee non-interference.

Addressing the Secretary directly, Primakov said that was important to the Soviet side, given recent statements in the U.S. which suggested this was not the U.S. position. For the agreement provided that if there were an acceptable withdrawal timetable, this would then rule out arms deliveries to the insurgents, those whom the U.S. called mujahadin.

The two sides differed in their interpretation of the internal situation in Afghanistan, Primakov continued. The Soviet side believed that the national reconciliation process could lead to stabilization. It thought all forces should be included. It thought the proposal of the Afghan leadership created conditions for this. It thought the U.S. and the Soviet Union should facilitate contacts among the forces. The U.S. side, for its part, thought that the prospects for national reconciliation were insignificant, and appeared to ignore the current government as a political force.

The Iran-Iraq war had been discussed, Primakov continued. With regard to ending the war, the interests of the two sides were identical. Three specific questions had arisen.

[Page 650]

First, Primakov went on, there was the second resolution. The Soviet side thought that perhaps the U.S. side exaggerated the benefits of a second resolution. It would not stop arms deliveries, which depended mainly on free markets.

Second, there was the political aspect of ensuring that the second resolution did not interfere with the first. It should not rule out agreement to consider all means to revitalize the first.

Third, there was the U.S. military presence, which added to the difficulties, in the Soviet view. If the U.S. were to decrease that presence, one could consider the UN mission again. The Soviet side knew there were difficulties, but thought a UN mission could help the U.S. reduce its military presence, of course with reliable guarantees for freedom of navigation.

Primakov continued that the two sides had also discussed the Middle East. The problem was now acquiring a nuclear dimension. It could come in the next ten years or so, and ten or twenty years was not long in history. Another problem was Islamic fundamentalism. This was developing, and could hurt the prospects for an Arab-Israeli settlement. The Soviet side had said that steps toward a separate peace had borne no adequate results. They clearly did not help. But one should distinguish between separate steps and interim steps toward a comprehensive settlement. The Soviet side had clarified its views on the conditions for a conference. If the U.S. were to support it and announce this support, this could have positive impact, especially in view of the Israeli elections, where there was a danger of further movement to the right. The process of preparing for the conference could thus improve the conditions for a settlement.

The Secretary said that had been very interesting.

Solomon said he and Primakov had spent almost six hours together. They had known each other in their academic capacities for almost a decade. The talks had been useful. The two sides had agreed there is a historic opportunity to resolve conflicts through negotiations, and that this could have a profound effect on bilateral relations, and develop confidence between the two countries. They should try to consider ways of disengaging East-West competition from regional conflicts as much as possible. The U.S. side had pointed to the risk or danger to the credibility of the negotiating approach to these issues, and to the national reconciliation processes. Both sides had agreed they should try to make progress. The U.S. side had pointed to the need, in the period ahead, to put regional issues on a level in tandem with START and other arms control issues.

Abstract principles would be of little help, Solomon went on. What was needed were concrete steps, and there were serious disagreements on the specifics.

[Page 651]

On Afghanistan, Solomon continued, both sides had agreed that the issue of troop withdrawal had to be resolved independently of arrangements for an interim government. Both supported the Geneva proximity talks, where the one outstanding issue was that of troop withdrawals. Both reiterated that once this issue was resolved, they would fulfill their obligations under the Geneva instruments.

However, Solomon said, serious differences remained regarding the timetable for withdrawal. The Soviet side continued to withhold setting a date certain for the start and finish of withdrawal in 1988. That remained the key issue.

On the Iran-Iraq war, Solomon continued, both sides agreed on the need to begin immediately to draft a second, enforcement resolution.

The Secretary asked if it had been agreed that work on the resolution could begin. Solomon said it had. The Secretary asked if this could be said publicly.

Primakov said he would like to clarify. The Soviet side had thought and said for some time that it should be possible to start considering some additional measures, including a second resolution. But this should not interfere with the first resolution. It was aware that there were complexities involved for the Secretary General, implications that he had failed. So there could be a different form of signal that additional measures were needed; the signal did not have to be public. But the sides should stipulate that the second resolution was made necessary by the fact that the Secretary General needed additional guidance.

The Secretary said that, as had been said with the President, if the two sides could come out with agreement that work should start on a second resolution, this would help the Secretary General. The Foreign Minister of Iraq had told the Secretary General on Tuesday that Iraq accepted Resolution 598 in all its parts, without ambiguity or reservations. The Secretary General had told the U.S. side that he was totally frustrated with Iran, and did not know what to do.

Something to step up the pressure was needed, the Secretary went on. The passage of 598 had had an impact on Iran. The prospect of a follow-on resolution with unanimous Security Council support would also have an impact, if Iran saw that the Security Council members were out of patience, and a process had started.

He agreed with Primakov that the second resolution should support the first, the Secretary continued. It would give the Secretary General added leverage. He (the Secretary) was not sure that an unanimously passed embargo, which all followed, would be so inconsequential. Countries selling to Iran would be put on the spot. Shipments could be publicized.

The Secretary said he thought that if the two sides could let it be known publicly that they had discussed the topic and decided to start, [Page 652] that would be useful. It would be good for the Security Council. He was worried that Iran was playing a game. The two sides should not permit that.

Shevardnadze asked if Solomon were finished.

Solomon said he was not, but would be brief. On the Middle East, there was agreement that the conflict was dangerous to both sides’ interests, and that stability in the region was further threatened by long-range trends like the spread of Islamic fundamentalism and the increasing destructiveness of modern weaponry so readily available in the international arms market. But the sides disagreed, as before, on the procedures for promoting peace. The Soviet side continued to promote the idea of a plenipotentiary international conference. While not ruling out an international framework, the U.S. side urged that we concentrate on setting up direct negotiations—as the only formula likely to achieve durable results—and on creating the political conditions that would make such negotiations possible.

Solomon said the two sides had discussed three Far East topics.

On Cambodia, Solomon said, there was agreement on the need for a political settlement, national reconciliation and the withdrawal of all foreign forces. The U.S. side stressed that prompt withdrawal of Vietnamese troops remained the key to resolving the conflict, and that this should proceed without linkage to national reconciliation. The Soviet side indicated that it was using its influence in Hanoi to press for a negotiated political settlement. The American side indicated its continued commitment to a political settlement and its support for ASEAN’s efforts.

Solomon noted that time had not permitted a discussion of southern Africa or Central America, although the working group had left open the possibility of returning to these issues.

The Secretary expressed the views that there seemed to be better prospects for movement on regional issues than ever before. The discussion on Cambodia, Afghanistan and the Iran-Iraq war seemed to bear this out.

Shevardnadze said he thought the exchange of views among experts had indeed been useful. Now it might be a good idea to discuss how the discussion should be reflected in a possible joint statement. Shevardnadze thought that conceptually the problem could be divided into two parts: on a general level, it would be well for the document to indicate that the two sides would be working to find solutions to regional problems; but it might be best not to get into too much detail about what, specifically might be done. Some of these issues, e.g., Afghanistan and Iran-Iraq, would require further discussion at the ministerial level or higher. Another point was that, if an attempt was [Page 653] made to develop common language for every region, it would take too long. It would be well, on the other hand, to support positive trends which had been identified—such as the expansion of the phenomenon of national reconciliation.

Bessmertnkyh observed that the two sides were at a “crossroads” in terms of working joint statement language. It would be too difficult to seek common language on every regional issue. Better to confine the effort to broad, fundamental problems.

The Secretary agreed that if an effort were made to cover every issue we would drive ourselves crazy. He felt we should nonetheless be able to find clear and mutually acceptable regional language for a joint statement. There were proposals from both sides. They contained differences, but the Secretary thought these could be worked out.

More important, however, was the point Shevardnadze had made that we should continue our efforts to deal with the problems themselves. The specifics need not be reflected in the joint statement, but we should see what could be done. It might be possible to express the view that things had become a bit more open, and that that was important. Ridgway and Bessmertnykh could find the necessary language.

Armacost noted that the only reason to have language on specific regions was to register areas of agreement. It made no sense to register disagreements. But if, for example, agreement could be reached to say something positive about the Persian Gulf, it would be constructive. The Secretary pointed out that the two sides could be more specific when they briefed. Putting specific language into a joint statement ran the risk of being misunderstood by the countries involved.

Primakov suggested that it would be useful to make a reference to UNSC 598 in the joint statement, given its significance. Perhaps there could be a general paragraph on regional issues, with a reference to UNSC 598 as illustrative of the progress which could be made through joint efforts.

Shevardnadze said the Soviet side could accept a call for full implementation of 598. Language on a follow-on resolution would be more difficult. He doubted agreement could be reached. It might be better not to address the issue in a joint statement.

Primakov said it might be possible to express support for the Secretary General, without being more specific. Shevardnadze pointed out that the General Secretary had outlined for the President the Soviet side’s views on practical actions to secure implementation of 598. There was no desire to avoid the issue. Were the joint statement to include a reference to the Resolution’s provision for involvement of an “impartial body,” that might be a good thing. But for the moment Shevardnadze was not comfortable going beyond that.

[Page 654]

The Secretary suggested that Ridgway and Bessmertnkyh be instructed to work out a general statement on regional issues. Perhaps they could develop something constructive to say separately about 598. Shevardnadze endorsed this approach.

The Secretary reiterated his sense that the content and clarity of the two sides’ regional discussion was gradually improving. The report the ministers had heard suggested that the sub-groups had had the best conversation ever, even though neither side had had anything dramatic to say.

Shevardnadze said it would be well to note in the joint statement the positive trends which the sub-group had identified, and which could be important factors in resolving regional disputes. He had in mind such phenomena as movement toward regional settlements and national reconciliation.

The Secretary noted Solomon’s report that the Soviet sub-group had expressed “95%” certainty that the Soviet Union would attend the Seoul Olympics. Primakov said he had never said that. Solomon said Shishlin had been specific on this point. Shevardnadze recalled that Gorbachev had set forth the Soviet position to the President that morning.5

The Secretary noted that Gorbachev had indicated that the Games should go forward, but in the proper way. Was there any chance that the Soviet side could accept an endorsement of the Olympics in the joint statement? Many American athletes sincerely hoped that the Soviets would be there, even though it would probably mean we would win fewer gold medals. An endorsement could help lift the cloud now hanging over the Olympic movement; it need not indicate the Soviet Union would be in Seoul. The Secretary asked Shevardnadze to consider the idea.

Shevardnadze said he knew what Gorbachev had said. He had said it would be desirable to have the Games take place on a parallel basis in both the North and South. The split need not be 50–50, but holding five or ten events in the North would be a good idea.

The Secretary said he withdrew his suggestion. Shevardnadze asked if this meant that the U.S. ruled out holding any games in the North. Armacost noted that there was an IOC proposal to hold the final two events in Pyonyang. The North had not responded, and time was running out. Shevardnadze said that the lack of a North Korean response was another reason why he should not address the matter. He asked the date of the deadline. Armacost said it was January 17.

[Page 655]

Shevardnadze said that it would be better not to address the issue in a statement. Moscow supported the Olympic Games. It would be good to find a way to hold them which would make a contribution to the unification of Korea. “Unification?,” the Secretary asked. Shevardnadze said yes.

The Secretary, noting that Ambassador Dubinin was unavailable, asked Ambassador Matlock to report on their discussion of issues affecting the functioning of Embassies.

Matlock said that it had not been possible to come to closure on the package under consideration. Dubinin had sought to add a number of new conditions which had not previously been discussed. The U.S. had taken the position that it would be unwise to take this approach. We had desiderata of our own. If both sides were to bring in new issues it would be impossible to reach agreement. Nonetheless, the U.S. had accepted the list Dubinin handed over, and would look into what might be done.

The Secretary noted that this seemed to mean the ministers would have to wait before making any decisions. Shevardnadze suggested that they discuss the question the next morning; perhaps they could reach agreement then. The Secretary pointed out that many issues had been under discussion for some time.

It made no sense to hold areas where agreement had been reached hostage to new questions. Bessmertnykh commented that the items Dubinin had raised were not covered by the package. Matlock said he thought some might be resolved, but complained that there would never be closure if new issues were constantly introduced. The Secretary said that it would be well to get the issue behind us. Shevardnadze repeated his offer to meet with the Secretary on the issue the next day. The Secretary agreed.

The meeting concluded after a brief discussion of specifics relating to the draft joint statement being prepared under the direction of Ridgway and Bessmertnykh.

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S Records, Memoranda of Conversations Pertaining to United States and USSR Relations, 1981–1990, Lot 93D188, Washington Summit, 12/87. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Simons and Parris. The meeting took place in Shultz’s office at the Department of State. The abbreviation (fnu) in front of two Soviet participants indicates first name unknown.
  2. For the lunchtime remarks of Shultz and Gorbachev, see Department of State Bulletin, February 1988, pp. 8–10.
  3. References are to articles from the penal code relating to so-called anti-Soviet agitation.
  4. Reference is to a Siberian Labor Camp.
  5. See Document 110.