170. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Secretary’s Meeting with Shevardnadze—Initial Organizational Meeting


  • U.S.

    • George P. Shultz, Secretary of State
    • Colin Powell, National Security Advisor to the President
    • Rozanne L. Ridgway, Assistant Secretary of State (EUR)
    • Jack Matlock, U.S. Ambassador to the USSR
    • Alexander R. Vershbow, Director, Office of Soviet Union Affairs (notetaker)
    • Dimitri Zarechnak (interpreter)
  • USSR

    • Eduard A. Shevardnadze, Minister of Foreign Affairs
    • Aleksandr A. Bessmertnykh, Deputy Foreign Minister
    • Viktor P. Karpov, Directorate Head, Soviet MFA
    • Yuriy V. Dubinin, Soviet Ambassador to the U.S.
    • Sergey Tarasenko, Special Assistant to Shevardnadze (notetaker)
    • Pavel Palazhchenko, MFA (interpreter)

Shevardnadze, putting on his headset, noted that in order to disarm one needed first to arm oneself.

The Secretary said that following usual practice we would propose to discuss the organization of our work and resolve any other lingering problems, after which we would proceed upstairs for a photo of the delegations and a brief plenary session.

Shevardnadze agreed but first said he wanted to say warmly hello and extend the best wishes of Gorbachev and Gromyko to the Secretary.

The Secretary said he appreciated that; he always looked forward to his meetings with Shevardnadze. The President as well was looking forward to seeing the Foreign Minister, as was the Vice President. The Secretary noted that he had spoken with the Vice President, since it didn’t seem to him that the arrangements for their meeting were quite right. As a result of their conversation the Vice President proposed that the Minister join him for breakfast at 8:00 on Friday.2 He was looking forward to a candid personal discussion. Given this approach, the Vice President thought the right composition would be just himself, [Page 1137] the Secretary and Shevardnadze, but if the Soviets wished to bring along an additional person there would be no objection. The Vice President wanted this to be an informal wide-ranging conversation about the future, and he wanted Shevardnadze to hear his thoughts. Two interpreters would also come along and take the notes.

Shevardnadze said he agreed it was clear that the Vice President himself should decide on who should attend and he would think about that question as well.

The Secretary said we proposed to take the usual approach, with working groups to get into motion right away. For our side Ambassador Nitze would chair the Arms Control Group; this group could sub-divide into groups on nuclear and space issues, nuclear testing, chemical weapons, and conventional arms. Mr. Schifter would be chair human rights working group, Mr. Solomon the group on regional issues, and Mr. Silins the group on bilateral affairs.

Shevardnadze said he agreed we had developed a good pattern of working together and agreed there should be working groups. He had the same list of subjects, although there were other names of course. On arms control and disarmament the Soviet delegation would be led by Ambassador Karpov with sub-groups set up on strategic offensive arms and ABM, nuclear testing and non-proliferation, chemical weapons, and conventional arms. The regional group would be led by member of the MFA Collegium Vladimir Polyakov; the group on humanitarian questions would be led by Mr. Glukhov, an expert well known to the U.S.; on bilateral problems Mr. Sredin would lead the Soviet side and he would expect active participation by the two Ambassadors as well.

Shevardnadze added that he thought the Secretary and he would also have a lot of work to do. He thought there was basic understanding that the sides should aim to conclude the meeting with an agreed document called a joint statement or something else. They should instruct the working groups to prepare language that could be included in such a statement. He noted that the Soviets had presented a draft and Ambassador Ridgway had provided an unofficial U.S. proposal as well. He noted that, of course, the section on NST issues was not yet filled and it would take some work to do so. But the aim should be to provide the Ministers a text without brackets despite the experts’ automatic desire to put things in brackets whether the Ministers wanted this or not.

The Secretary commented that this was a new disease: “bracket-itis.” Shevardnadze responded that he would remember that term.

The Secretary said he agreed that it would be a good idea to end the meeting with a statement. We had two drafts as a starting point [Page 1138] and we had found that we have people who can handle this question well. We should feed raw material to them as the meetings develop.

The Secretary then suggested a possible sequence of subjects beginning with human rights and the Vienna CSCE meeting, then turning to arms control questions including Krasnonyarsk. After the lunch they could continue with regional and bilateral issues, so that by the time the first day’s afternoon session was over all areas would have been touched upon. On Friday morning they could go back and revisit these subjects, perhaps bringing in working group representatives as necessary. The afternoon just before the President’s meeting they would have a final session to hear the reports of the working groups and wrap up the joint statement.

Shevardnadze said he agreed to the agenda and sequence of discussion proposed by the Secretary. He said he understood that the Secretary hoped that the discussions could be completed in two days.

The Secretary replied that we should certainly aspire to do this. It would be good if the President’s meeting could be an occasion to report our results, after which we could make our public statements. Nonetheless, it was obvious that if important things remained to be done he would be available on Saturday.3 However, he understood that Shevardnadze would be in New York for some time and there was always a possibility to meet whenever something useful could be done. He noted that the two Ministers would see one another at the Secretary General’s luncheon the following Friday in New York. Again, he thought that they should try to finish the meeting by the afternoon of September 23.

Shevardnadze said he agreed, adding that a great deal would depend on how well the working groups proceeded and what material they provided to the Ministers. The Soviets were ready to work on Saturday morning as well but that was just an option and he agreed it was desirable to finish on Friday. Shevardnadze said he had a letter from Gorbachev to the President. He would be giving the original to the President but wanted to give an advance look to Secretary Shultz. He then handed over copies of the Russian original and an English translation.4

Secretary Shultz said that he wanted to make one additional point. He had recently obtained a full translation of Shevardnadze’s speech to the MFA conference in July and had read it in full.5 Shevardnadze quipped that this would qualify his hard labor. The Secretary responded [Page 1139] that this was not in fact the case. He had been very much impressed by the speech, finding it far-reaching and thoughtful. He thought he had benefited from reading it. At some point he would like to hear more about the speech—to hear Shevardnadze develop some of the thoughts he had put forward, as these had been presented in a broad plane, whereas our ministerial meetings tended to focus on individual issues.

Shevardnadze said he had said nothing that was absolutely new in that speech. It was a consolidated reflection of what Soviet leaders had been saying at party conferences, in speeches by Gorbachev, etc. His speech had been an attempt to synthesize the main guidelines and priorities of Soviet foreign policy in the context of the new political thinking.

The Secretary responded that in the spirit of consolidation and reflection, he had discussed with Ambassador Dubinin the possibility of giving prepared toasts at the luncheon that day, and he had written one which had quoted from Shevardnadze’s speech. He then spelled out the three citations from Shevardnadze’s address (full text of toast attached),6 adding that he would not quote the Minister if he objected.

Shevardnadze replied with gratitude and expressed no objection. He noted that Secretary Shultz’s article had recently been published in the Soviet academic magazine Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn, and that it had been read by Soviet leaders—including by Gorbachev—as well as by political scientists. It was important that the President had also agreed to write an article for publication in the Soviet Union. This form of cooperation showed the level that we had reached—one that would have been impossible to have imagined 10 years ago when we tried to limit the flow of information rather than promote it.

The Secretary agreed that it was quite extraordinary. Shevardnadze had referred to developments in the last three years. His own thinking was that in just two or three years we saw many of the major problems shifting. He noted that Ambassador Dubinin had been present at his Middle East speech and this typified how we were now addressing regional questions.7

The Secretary then raised one final procedural question, the dinner at Blair House that evening. He explained that he wanted Shevardnadze to see the newly-reopened Blair House since, the next time the General Secretary visits, we would hope that he would stay there as Brezhnev did in the 1970s. Thus he planned to give Shevardnadze a tour of the [Page 1140] house before sitting down to dinner. He noted that he had taken care that, in the renovation, a nice suite was set up for the Foreign Minister. The Secretary then ran through the guest list, noting that if the Soviet side wished to bring two more people, they would be welcome. We were not sure whom to invite beyond the Minister and Mrs. Shevardnadze, Bessmertnykh, Ambassador and Mrs. Dubinin, and Ambassador Karpov, since we did not like to delve into Soviet internal affairs.

Shevardnadze said the only problem he could see was that some of his people had wives back home. But he thanked the Secretary for the gesture and promised to respond later.

The Ministers and their colleagues then proceeded to the Monroe Room for the opening plenary session.8

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S Records, Memoranda of Conversations Pertaining to United States and USSR Relations, 1981–1990, Lot 93D188, Ministerial Memcons. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Vershbow; cleared by Ridgway. The meeting took place in Shultz’s office at the Department of State.
  2. September 23. Shevardnadze met with Bush and Shultz from 8–9 a.m. on September 23 in the Vice President’s Residence. The memorandum of conversation is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1989–1992, vol. XXXI, START, 1989–1991.
  3. September 24.
  4. See Document 168.
  5. See Document 169.
  6. Attached but not printed.
  7. Reference is to Shultz’s address before the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on September 16. (Department of State Bulletin, November 1988, pp. 10–12)
  8. See Document 171.