Archive (Reagan Library)

Cold War: Washington (Reagan-Gorbachev) Summit (working lunch) [declassified 2000]

Document type: Declassified documents
Venue: White House
Source: Reagan Library (NSC System File Folder 8791367)
Editorial comments: The fourth and fifth sessions remain classified.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 4175 words
Themes: Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)




SUBJECT:Working Luncheon with General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev
The Vice President
Secretary of State Shultz
Secretary of Defence Carlucci
Chief of Staff Baker
Director Wick, United States Information Agency
Colin L. Powell, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Ridgeway
U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union Jack F. Matlock
Mark Parris, Director, Office of Soviet Union Affairs, Department of State (Notetaker)
John Herbst, Director, Office for Policy Development, NSC (Notetaker)
General Secretary Gorbachev
Foreign Minister Shevardnadze
Aleksandr Yakovlev, Politburo Member and Central Committee Secretary for Ideology, Propaganda, and Culture
Anatoly Dobrynin, Central Committee Secretary and Chief, International Department
Chairman Kamentsev, Foreign Economic Commission
Central Committee General Department Chief Boldin
Chief Administrator of the Central Committee Kruchina
Ambassador Dubinin
DATE, TIME, AND PLACE:December 10, 1987, 12:40 PM – 2:10 PM Family Dining Room

While walking from the Oval Office meeting, which ended at 12:15 p.m., to the Family Dining Room, the President emphasized to Gorbachev the necessity of Vietnamese withdrawal from Cambodia. The President noted that the occupation was possible due to the Soviets' extensive support and urged them to use their influence with Hanoi. Lunch began at 12:40.

Gorbachev began by continuing the discussion of Afghanistan from the recently concluded Oval Office meeting. He suggested that the Joint Statement adopt the language on Afghanistan prepared by [end p1] the working-group. That was enough. He suggested that the Soviets and Americans work together on Afghanistan. He said that he had decided to address this particular issue because he felt the President had responded coolly to yesterday's discussion. Now he felt the President was receptive, and business-like; and this opened up possibilities of a more useful discussion.

Gorbachev said that maybe the Joint Statement should mention that there had been a discussion of very acute regional problems, an in-depth discussion, regarding Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia. The first thing many people worldwide would want to know was whether the President and the General Secretary had paid attention to regional issues. Gorbachev stated that he would really like to work together with the President to resolve regional conflicts.

The President said that perhaps for the Joint Statement we could note agreement that the Soviet Union would stop supplying arms to Nicaragua.

Gorbachev responded that the Joint Statement could say that the two sides accepted and supported the Contadora process and the Guatamala accords; that they agreed to look at practical measures which would contribute to the Guatamala Accord process. Gorbachev added that in the process of working together, the Soviet Union was ready to stop the supply of arms to Nicaragua. This applied to all except “light arms”, or “small police arms.” Gorbachev said, however, that this should not be included in the Joint Statement.

Secretary Shultz noted that the President was anxious to get regional issues on the table. So the President had cut in toward the end of their conversation earlier in the day to make sure that they were mentioned. Secretary Shultz said that on the basis of general observations by the President and the General Secretary, the working groups had the opportunity to exchange ideas. Shultz said that these groups had reported to the Foreign Minister and himself yesterday; and, after that, he and Shevardnadze had agreed on the regional issues language for the Joint Statement.

Shultz remarked that he and Shevardnadze thought it not wise to go into detail on each regional issue. Were we to do this, we would argue over the language and people in the areas affected would not take it well. Shultz added that we should build on the rising quality of our regional issues discussions to work together in practical ways.

Gorbachev noted his agreement and said that there was not much in the Joint Statement concerning regional issues. He expressed the wish to share his impressions regarding the American response to his proposals yesterday.

[end p2]

Shultz then said he felt the working group had made progress in clarifying the Soviet view that withdrawal from Afghanistan and national reconciliation need not be linked. This was necessary because national reconciliation would take a great deal of time. Also, in the end, this was something the Afghan people must do among themselves. Understanding this delinkage would help pave the way for the next Geneva round, which should concentrate on the unresolved issue of Soviet withdrawal.

Gorbachev responded that Soviet withdrawal was definitely linked to an American obligation to cut off support for opposition forces on the date Soviet troop withdrawal started. As of that date, Soviet troops would no longer engage in military operations and the ceasefire would go into effect. Gorbachev emphasized the importance of the American and Soviet sides' using their influence with the parties to the Afghan conflict to promote national reconciliation. He said that the Soviet side would tell Najib – and the American side should do the same with the opposition forces – that the creation of a coalition government was their affair. They should find a balance of concessions.

At the same time, Gorbachev continued, both the Americans and Soviets should say that they did not want the new Afghanistan to be led by either a pro-American or a pro-Soviet government. Afghanistan should be neutral and nonaligned. Of course, Gorbachev added, this was just his projection of how things would develop. Gorbachev noted that the situation could develop differently. The Soviets would withdraw and the United States could continue financial and military support for the opposition forces. This would lead to increased tension. Gorbachev said that he did not see how the Soviets could withdraw forces in such circumstances. There must be linkage of withdrawal and non-interference.

Gorbachev suggested that after the meeting the two sides move the questions to a practical footing. He said that this would be well-received by public opinion.

Secretary Shultz said that as he and Foreign Minister Shevardnadze discussed following the meeting of the working group yesterday, the Soviet side welcomed American readiness to reaffirm support for the Geneva agreements. This resolved the non-interference issue. The missing piece in Geneva remained the timetable for a troop withdrawal.

Gorbachev interjected “that there must be an end to American support for the opposition forces at the same time.” If there was agreement on this, Gorbachev said, let us declare it. If the American side needed more time to think this over, it should take it. But the Soviet side wanted to engage in specific action. Gorbachev added that action here would demonstrate American sincerity in addressing the Afghan problem. It would also help the Soviets judge American intentions regarding other regional conflict situations.

[end p3]

Secretary Shultz responded that both the United States and the Soviet Union accepted the Geneva agreements. These agreements covered the issue of outside support. According to the agreements, after the signing of the accords, a troop withdrawal would begin; and 60 days after this, American support would cease.

Gorbachev rejoined that he understood three points in the Geneva agreements were settled. The fourth point remained to be settled.

Shultz noted that the linkage of national reconciliation and troop withdrawal had been a problem; but now Soviet statements indicated that there was no such linkage, and the American reaffirmation of support for the Geneva accords meant that we could devote our attention to the fourth point, a timetable for troop withdrawal. This could get the process moving.

Foreign Minister Shevardnadze remarked that there was no linkage “in effect” between troop withdrawal and national reconciliation. He added that national reconciliation would be a long process.

Gorbachev said that the Soviet side had already confirmed this. He then asked if we could state that after the Summit we would begin work to consider practical, concrete measures with the parties concerned.

Secretary Shultz agreed.

Gorbachev then proposed that the Joint Statement on regional issues mention that Afghanistan was discussed.

When Secretary Shultz noted that Afghanistan was already in the statement, Gorbachev suggested that it mention other regions discussed, such as Cambodia, South Africa, and the Middle East.

Shultz noted that most of these were included.

Shevardnadze remarked that Central America had been discussed and was not in the Joint Statement. So it should be added, as should southern Africa.

Gorbachev said that this would show the responsibility of the United States and the Soviet Union – the degree of responsibility incumbent on us in handling regional conflicts.

Secretary Shultz said that the Joint Statement noted the dialogue between the Soviet Union and the United States should have as its goal “to help the parties to regional conflicts find peaceful solutions that advance their independence, freedom, and security.” Shultz added that our discussion on regional issues had been getting better and better.

[end p4]

Central Committee International Department Chief Dobrynin suggested that the President and the General Secretary give instructions to improve this language even more, perhaps by adding regular consultations.

Noting the hectic pace of the past three days, Gorbachev asked the President if he had been able to look at the proposal Gorbachev had passed along from North Korea.

National Security Advisor Powell answered that the proposal was currently being staffed; so there was no response yet.

Gorbachev said that he could tell the North Koreans that he had fulfilled their request by giving the President their proposal, and that it was now being reviewed at the staff level.

Powell noted that we would handle the proposal in a private manner as Gorbachev had suggested. Gorbachev remarked that the North Koreans wanted it that way. And the President, by immediately placing it in his coat pocket, showed that he too wanted to play it close to the vest.

Shultz then said that the United States might propose to respond to the North Koreans through Moscow – perhaps through Foreign Minister Shevardnadze.

Gorbachev agreed. He then asked for the Administration's evaluation of the Gulf situation following yesterday's discussion. Gorbachev said that he was asking this in a straight-forward way, since it seemed that someone was pushing the Administration to rash steps without considering what might happen. This could lead to a situation that would not be satisfactory either for the Americans or the Soviets. Gorbachev thought that the UN had not used all of the potential of Security Council Resolution 598. Gorbachev said that he was not trying to procrastinate. He knew that decisive action was needed. In an aside Gorbachev then noted it had been decided yesterday that some aspects of the conversation should be handled in a confidential manner.

Secretary Shultz said that he saw the situation as follows: the Iraqi side had unambiguously said it would accept 598. Iran was almost impossible for UN Secretary General Perez de Cuellar to talk to, never mind to get something out of. According to our intelligence, Iran had adopted a strategy of putting off the Security Council.

Gorbachev agreed that Iran probably had such strategy; it would be hard to say anything else.

Shultz then said that UN Secretary General de Cuellar was totally frustrated. De Cueller felt it was now up to the Security Council to act. Shultz said that this led us to conclude that the Soviet term as Chairman of the Security Council should be a [end p5] decisive one. Shultz suggested that the Soviets and the Americans work to energize the Secretary General in his mediation role pursuant to resolution 598. Shultz noted that we could aid the UN Secretary General's effort if we seriously started work on a second resolution. Shultz said that it would be useful to announce work now. This could be done by our Ambassadors at the UN. We could agree to instruct them to start. Shultz gave two reasons for this. The first was that this represented our best chance to have the UN Secretary General achieve progress on the Iran-Iraq War. Secondly, we must worry about the dignity and credibility of the Security Council, and not allow Iran to make it look foolish.

In Gorbachev's view the American and Soviet sides thought basically the same about this. Gorbachev requested that the two sides make precise calculations regarding prospects in the Gulf. He said that he would very much like cooperation in the Security Council. He added that this could create a precedent for cooperation elsewhere – Afghanistan, the Middle East.

Secretary Shultz agreed regarding the importance of cooperation. He remarked on his presence in the Security Council chamber when Resolution 598 was passed last July. He said that each government went around the table and spoke, and then voted. All hands were raised. All had the sense that it was a very special moment.

Gorbachev said that he saw new elements on the Gulf war. These had to be sorted out. Gorbachev noted in this connection the new statement by the Iraqi Foreign Minister – that Iraq was no longer against parallel implementation of all paragraphs of Resolution 598 (including that of an investigative body into the origins of the war). In Gorbachev's view, this represented fundamental movement.

Secretary Shultz noted that Iraq accepted 598 in all its parts;

Shevardnadze remarked that Iran said the same.

Secretary of Defense Carlucci discussed the American military presence in the Gulf, noting that Gorbachev had raised it several times. Carlucci said that it was important to say here that the U.S. had no plans to change its current posture in the Gulf. We were currently escorting our 20th convoy, and most of these convoys had proceeded without incident.

Gorbachev then asked if it was necessary to have that many ships in a convoy operation.

Carlucci answered that we had now reached a steady state; so we were looking at ways to change the mix and the number of ships which would still enable us to deal with the risks. He said he was sure Gorbachev would agree that so long as American forces were in the Gulf, they must be able to defend themselves if attacked. Carlucci then noted that American forces were in a [end p6] fully defensive posture; they represented no threat to Iran at all. If, however, our forces were attacked, or if it appeared that they would be attacked, they would take the appropriate defensive measures. But there would be no offensive operations, except in retaliation.

Gorbachev said that he wanted to be clear on this. As he understood it, Secretary Carlucci had said that, since the situation was now “steady,” the Americans were looking at ways to reduce their presence in the Gulf.

Carlucci responded that he did not want to predict that there would be reductions. But we were looking at ways to meet the threat in the Gulf. If it seemed possible to reduce, we would do so because we did not wish to deploy more ships than the situation warranted; everything depended on the level of threat.

Gorbachev then noted, with pleasure, that dessert was served, and dessert was the favorite course of the meal for Americans. Gorbachev joked that last night the President and he had no choice but to eat all of their dessert. They decided to do so and then engage in self-criticism.

The President agreed.

Gorbachev then remarked that he feared contacts between the Soviet and the American military had become more vigorous than his own with the Administration. According to Gorbachev, Marshall Akhromeyev had said that in his conversations at the Pentagon, it had been agreed to expand military contacts to keep pace with political ones. Gorbachev affirmed the importance of this suggestion. He said that this was consistent with the statement of the President that the Soviets and the Americans had no intention to fight – or be at war with – each other. So the military should try to establish an atmosphere of trust.

Secretary of Defence Carlucci noted that the Soviets and the Americans should talk with each other regarding defense doctrines such as military sufficiency.

The President then said that this discussion of military cooperation came at a perfect time. Chief of Staff Baker had just brought him a poster of a meeting on the Elbe between a Soviet and an American soldier at the end of World War II. The President said that the American soldier was now retired from the military and the Soviet soldier was part of the Summit delegation. The President said it would be wonderful if the two could meet.

Soviet Ambassador Dubinin interjected that the Soviet and American soldiers had met three days ago at the Soviet Embassy and now there was a second picture of them together.

[end p7]

The President said that we would have to get that picture to go along with this poster.

When Chief of Staff Baker said it would be wonderful if the President and the General Secretary would sign the poster, both the President and the General Secretary agreed.

USIA Director Wick said that he had met at USIA with Politburo member Yakovlev and the heads of TASS, Novosti, and Gostelradio. All had agreed and affirmed that there would be not only arms reduction, but also an end to disinformation. There was agreement to have joint meetings to determine where instances of such disinformation appeared.

Gorbachev said that, in other words, both sides spoke against psychological warfare.

Only with verification, Wick answered.

Shevardnadze joked that disarmament would come faster than agreement on this.

The President then remarked that Director Wick should have said “doveryai and proveryai.”

Gorbachev then referred to his meeting with Congressional leaders. He noted that in the United States, there were many complaints and suggestions regarding Soviet human rights practices. Gorbachev said that this was “very unnecessary.” He then mentioned a proposal he had made to the Congressional group: that the Supreme Soviet and the Congress organize seminars or colloquia on human rights. These should be conducted in a constructive fashion. The American side would present its analysis and the Soviet side would reciprocate concerning the human rights situation both in the Soviet Union and the United States. Then all of these questions would be discussed. However, human rights questions must be placed on a responsible footing. It would be unacceptable for one side to assume the role of a prosecutor and the other side that of the accused; or one side the role of the teacher and the other that of the student. Gorbachev emphasized Soviet readiness to discuss human rights constructively.

Gorbachev said that soon he would be saying goodbye to the President and the President's colleagues. Gorbachev said he had arrived at the conclusion that the third summit had been a landmark. It had witnessed important agreements and other questions had been discussed intensively. Most importantly the atmosphere had been good. There had been more elements of mutual understanding. Gorbachev said that he would like to pay tribute to the contribution of the President toward making this a successful summit, as well as to the contributions of other American participants. Gorbachev added that he would like the momentum achieved at the summit to continue. He then said that [end p8] on his way to the White House lunch he had ridden with Vice President Bush. He had looked out the car window and seen Americans responding warmly to what had happened in the negotiations. When the car had stopped at a red light, he jumped out of the car and had had a spontaneous conversation with some passersby. When it was time to go, he did not want to leave the conversation.

Chief of Staff Senator Baker interjected that this was known by American politicians as “working the crowd.”

Gorbachev remarked that he had always had this style – throughout his entire career. He said that he had become well known around the world over the past two years because of his position. Before that, however, he had spent his entire career in the provinces. He had developed this style then and there was nothing to change. He then commented that there was more common sense in the provinces than in a nation's capital. He quipped that if our ambassadors reported information based only on sources in the capital, he would have to seriously question their reporting.

The President responded that he agreed more completely with this than with anything else the General Secretary had said over the past three days. The President said that he often wondered what would happen if he and other leaders closed the doors of their offices and quietly slipped away. How long would it be before people missed them?

Gorbachev responded that in his case, within 56 days of his “disappearance” earlier this year, people had begun to say that he was dead or had been dismissed; in fact, he had done good work during this period on many things, including the visit to the United States.

Chief of Staff Baker said that the conversations between the President and Gorbachev had given him the impression that, as politicians, they were alike in many ways:

  • They were strong personalities;

  • They knew what they believed;

  • They knew where they wanted to go.

Baker added that this augered well for our two countries.

Gorbachev agreed. He said that he did not often hear such complimentary assessments. Most people tried to see the problems, but that was Yakovlev's and Wick's department.

The President agreed with Gorbachev, joking that he could never understand why Gorbachev opposed him on so many things.

Gorbachev rejoined that the areas of agreement would increase and disagreements decrease, provided both sides moved.

[end p9]

The President said he would like to return to the subject of Iran. He commented that some of his harsh feelings toward Iran had come from the fact that in 1978 he and the First Lady had visited there for several days. They had shopped for rugs in the bazaar. The President said that he was still trying to get even.

Noting that Secretary Shultz and Foreign Minister Shevardnadze had left the lunch to compare the final draft of the Joint Statement, Chief of Staff Baker said he would go and see if it was ready.

The President remarked that he and the General Secretary had the right to feel good about the summit. When they had first met in Geneva, the President had told Gorbachev that theirs was a unique situation. They represented two countries that could initiate another world war. Or, they could make sure that there would not be another world war.

Gorbachev remembered this and agreed with the President.

The President noted too that both he and Gorbachev had problems with bureaucracy.

Gorbachev also agreed.

The President then remembered a World War II incident when he was in the military. There was a warehouse full of filing cabinets full of obsolete records. He had asked, going up the chain of command, for permission to destroy these documents in order to make space for current records. The answer came down through the chain of command that the request was approved – so long as copies were made of the records to be destroyed.

Gorbachev said that the President's anecdote reminded him of a joke about Russian business. Someone bought a case of Russian vodka; that person emptied the bottles by pouring out the vodka. He then returned the bottles for money which he used to purchase more bottles of vodka. This was Russian business. He then noted that this was an old joke, 30 maybe 40 years old.

The President recalled the joke of a man who was driving down the road and spotted a chicken running alongside his car. The man sped up, yet the chicken ran right alongside of him. Then the chicken went into high gear, passed the car, and turned off on a side road. The driver of the car followed down that side road, saw a farmer and stopped to ask him if he had seen a chicken pass by. The farmer said he had seen the chicken and, in fact, had raised it. The driver asked if it was true the chicken had three legs. The farmer said yes, explaining that both he and his wife liked to eat chicken legs. Then they had a son, who also liked to eat chicken legs. So the farmer had decided to raise a chicken with three legs. The driver then asked how the chicken tasted. The farmer told him that he did not know; he had never been able to catch it.

[end p10]

Gorbachev then mentioned the Russian writers Ilf and Petrov. They wrote humorous, satirical novels. They left as a heritage notebooks consisting of thoughts and ideas for writing future books. Gorbachev said he particularly liked one idea in these notebooks. A man was accused of driving a government-owned car to a public bath. To defend himself, the man said that he had not been to the bath for two years. Gorbachev said that the same could be true of our governments. We would not want to be in the position of defending ourselves by saying that we have done nothing – when we should have acted.

On this note, the luncheon ended, at 2:10.