366. Telegram From the Embassy in Bulgaria to the Department of State1



  • Assistant Secretary Eagleburger’s Visit to Bulgaria.


  • (A) Belgrade 84902
  • (B) Belgrade 84923
  • (C) Sofia 2916.4
(C—Entire text)
Summary. Assistant Secretary Eagleburger’s October 19–22 visit to Bulgaria, the first at this level under the Reagan administration, included frank exchanges with GOB policy-makers on a wide range of international and bilateral questions, and provided the GOB with an authoritative restatement of US desire to continue improving bilateral relations within current limitations imposed by East-West differences.
High-Level Meetings. Eagleburger met for two and one-half hours with Foreign Minister Petur Mladenov (who reportedly left the hospital, where he was under treatment for back problems, for the occasion). While the meeting focussed on contentious international issues, particularly European and strategic arms matters, the atmosphere was cordial (ref A). Eagleburger discussed economic relations and the economic situation in Bulgaria with Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Lukanov (ref B), candidly outlining present constraints on any dramatic improvements such as MFN. At same time, he stressed US support for expanding economic ties within possibilities now available. Lukanov concurred in this approach, also presenting an optimistic picture of Bulgarian economic development.
Foreign Ministry Consultations. Bilateral relations were reviewed in detail with First Deputy Foreign Minister Marii Ivanov in a one-and-a-half hour session including working-level experts (ref C). The Bulgarian side downplayed differences and stressed hopes for intensified higher-level contacts, also asking for more congressional [Page 1177] visitors to Bulgaria. Both sides agreed to work for steady improvement within current constraints. Further consultations in Washington, probably in January 1982, were contemplated. In additional informal talks with Ivanov, Eagleburger urged prompt Bulgarian action to apply true reciprocity in social security payments to avert a cut-off of US payments to Bulgarian recipients in the near future. Ivanov promised to give this matter urgent attention.
Atmospherics. Bulgarian hosts were most cordial throughout, stressing repeatedly their government’s policy of seeking improved relations but also acknowledging current limitations. The Bulgarian side strenuously avoided contentious bilateral issues, such as MFN. The GOB’s desire to make the visit a success was probably reflected in the absence in President Zhivkov’s 1300th anniversary speech (septel)5 of any pointed criticisms of the US or the Reagan administration, even though such attacks have become daily fare in the Bulgarian press and other high-level pronouncements.
In contrast to the evident Bulgarian desire to stress the positive in bilateral matters, the Assistant Secretary’s Bulgarian interlocutors were prepared to exchange views frankly on international and East-West issues, such as the Middle East, theater nuclear forces, the strategic balance, and the neutron weapon. This was particularly true of the session with FonMin Mladenov, who obviously had a number of points he wished to get across, including Bulgarian preoccupation over the arms race, support for arms negotiations, and concern over US Middle East policy and America’s demonstrations of support for Egypt. At the same time, Bulgarian positions on international issues predictably hewed close to the Soviet line.
In addition to the scheduled meetings with high Bulgarian officials, Eagleburger had an opportunity to exchange views in a more informal atmosphere with MFA and foreign trade officials at a reception hosted by Charge. The event was noteworthy both for the unusually large number of Bulgarians attending and the unprecedented and free-wheeling (for Sofia) give-and-take discussion.
1300th Anniversary. Eagleburger attended celebrations of the 1300th anniversary of the founding of the Bulgarian state, including a formal commemoration at the Palace of Culture marked by a speech by President Zhivkov and Zhivkov’s evening reception at his residence at Boyana. Eagleburger also presented the official US gift—a china bowl with portraits of US patriots—to FonMin Mladenov.
Press Coverage/Private Reactions. A brief factual report outlining the meetings held and their basic subject matter appeared in Rabotnichesko Delo on October 23. Despite limited press coverage, the visit aroused considerable interest on the part of Bulgarian contacts of the Embassy, as well as the local diplomatic corps. In subsequent comments to Embassy officers, Bulgarian officials involved in the visit have stressed their satisfaction with the discussions and their view that the visit represented a highly positive step in our dialogue and in continuing efforts to improve relations.
Comment: Both the substance and tone of the talks during the visit struck a good balance between the mutual desire for better bilateral relations and a realistic appraisal of the limitations imposed by broader differences. The visit thus made a valuable contribution to furthering the gradual process of developing a greater network of ties, and our relations seem to be on a realistic track, with neither side overly pessimistic about the obstacles to further limited cooperation nor excessively sanguine about any “break-throughs.”
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D810501–0253. Confidential; Priority. Sent Priority for information to Belgrade.
  2. Not found.
  3. Telegram 8492 from Belgrade, October 22, reported on Eagleburger’s meeting with Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Lukanov. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D810499–0349)
  4. Telegram 2916 from Sofia, October 21, reported on Eagleburger’s meetings with officials at the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D810496–0322)
  5. Telegram 2960 from Sofia, October 23, summarized Zhivkov’s speech marking the 1300th anniversary of Bulgaria. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D810501–0711)