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Memo on 1979 Senate delegation to USSR

Memo on 1979 Senate delegation to USSR

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Published by Paul Conner

Documents obtained by Russian historian Pavel Stroilov show details of a U.S. Senate delegation visit to the Soviet Union in 1979.

Documents obtained by Russian historian Pavel Stroilov show details of a U.S. Senate delegation visit to the Soviet Union in 1979.

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Published by: Paul Conner on Nov 16, 2012
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09/17/2013

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19-20 April 1979 [?]The memo by Vadim V. Zagladin, deputy head of theInternational Department of the CPSU Central CommitteeON THE BASIC CONTENTS OF TALKS WITH THE USSENATORSDuring the official negotiations with the delegation of USsenators led by J. Biden and the unofficial talks with the delegation'shead and some members, our collocutors expressed a number of considerations of certain interest.1. J. Biden, the head of the delegation, said that the mutualunderstanding that the SALT-2 treaty should be ratified is, basically,achieved in the Senate Commission for Foreign Affairs. However,four reservations should be formulated. The contents of thosereservations have already been reported to us by our embassy inWashington.While commenting on the contents of those reservations, Bidensaid they should not worry the Soviet Union because they do notconcern the substance of the treaty. The only reservation which, inhis opinion, may cause our 'displeasure' says that the SALT-2should not prevent the US from providing the defence capabilities of their allies. In practice, the collocutor said, this is a way to confirmthe US' preparedness to keep supplying European NATO memberswith modern US weapons, with the exception, naturally, of thosetypes which are covered by the treaty itself.The Senate Commission for Foreign Affairs is going to concludethe consideration of the treaty by the end of September. However,the Senate itself is starting to work on this problem later, possibly onthe eve of the Christmas.2. As for the problem of supplying Western Europe with newtypes of weapons, including the Pershing missiles etc.;, Biden saidthat no final decisions had been taken on this issue yet. Those
 
decisions will be taken in December. And a lot there, heemphasised, will depend on the position of the Soviet Union.During unofficial talks, Biden noted rather cynically that hepersonally and other members of the US Senate do not very muchcare about the Europeans' concerns. The main area of the UScitizens' interest is the security of the US itself. Nevertheless, thefeelings of our allies also 'concern us', he said. 'We cannot stopsupporting our allies, because if we did that, we would haveweakened America's own security'. Therefore, Biden continued, the Americans will probably have to solve the question of the supplies of the new types of armaments to Western Europe positively inprinciple. In any case, the majority in the Senate supports that, hesaid.Then Biden meaningfully emphasised (and he was activelysupported by Senator Prior here) that if the SALT-2 treaty is ratifiedbefore December, and if the Soviet Union makes somedemonstrative steps in favour of further disarmament progressbefore the NATO meeting, the European countries probably mayrefrain from deploying new types of American weapons in Europe,or at least, postpone the decisions taken on this issue.To our question on what exactly steps are meant here, Prior answered that, for example, the Soviet government might state it isnot going to increase the number of SS-20 missiles any further.3. Something that caught our attention was that this time, inboth official and unofficial talks, the senators would raise morequestions about the prospects, about the SALT-3, than the SALT-2.Unofficially, Biden said that 'the question of the future is moresignificant to the more serious senators - although not to all - thanthe question of the present treaty. The thing is (he explained) thatmany in the Senate consider the present treaty as a kind of anintermediate step, a booster for the further reduction of the armsrace. Many in the US are very serious about this, believing it ispossible to negotiate the reduction of the level of militaryconfrontation with the Soviet Union. However, at the same time,many people are uncertain whether the USSR will agree to further serious steps of that kind.'
 
Most questions concerned two subjects. Firstly, whether theUSSR would agree to a significant reduction of the number of nuclear missiles at the next stage (the senators were particularlyinterested in heavy missiles in this connection). Secondly, whether the USSR would agree to the explansion of control and theintroduction of 'more effective methods' (for example, the 'blackboxes', which were discussed during the negotiations on theprohibition of underground nuclear tests).It emerged during that talks that, in spite of all huge work we aredoing about this, many statements of Comrade L. I. Brezhnev wereunknown to the majority of the senators – for example, hisstatement that the Soviet Union was not going to make the firstnuclear strike against anyone. The relevant texts were given tothem, along with some other documents of the CPSU and the Sovietgovernment.4. It should also be noted that, this time, the delegation did notofficially raise the issue of human rights during the negotiations.Biden said the did not want 'to spoil the atmosphere with problemswhich are bound to cause distrust in our relations.' However, duringthe breaks between the sessions the senators passed to us severalletters concerning these or those 'refuseniks'.Unofficially, Biden and Lugar said that, in the end of the day,they were not so much concerned with having a problem of this or that citizen solved as with showing to the American public that theydo care for 'human rights'. They must prove to their voters that theyare 'effective in fulfilling their wishes'. In other words, the collocutorsdirectly admitted that what is happening is a kind of a show, thatthey absolutely do not care for the fate of most so-called dissidents.In the same conversation, Biden asked us to ensure thatsenators' appeals on those issues are not left unanswered – even if we just reply that the letter is received but we cannot do anything. According to Biden, letters of this kind – if they are not addressed tothe highest representatives of the Soviet state – sometimes remainunanswered.

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