Politics of Global War: Diplomacy Resumes D+25 (3 August, 1987)

The first meeting between US and Soviet diplomats took place at a Swiss industrialist’s estate on the shores of Lake Geneva. Security was provided by Swiss Federal Police and specially trained detachments of soldiers from the Swiss armed forces. The world media was made aware of a meeting between US and Soviet officials set for 1:00 PM on this day somewhere in Switzerland. However, the location was quite smartly left unrevealed.

The US and Soviet contingents were both scratch teams drawn mainly from junior and mid-level officers and officials who had spent the duration of the war in Switzerland preparing to lay the groundwork for US-Soviet negotiations if needed. Neither Moscow nor Washington had found need for those services through most of the war. Only after the limited nuclear exchange on D+18 did members of the US and Soviet diplomatic missions in Switzerland speak via telephone for the first time. The conversation lasted a total of one minute and twenty seconds. It’s only purpose had been to confirm the promises of their respective governments not to initiate the use of further nuclear weapons without provocation.

The US team was made up primarily of officials from the embassy in Bern. These individuals came from a hodgepodge of areas and responsibilities. The rank and file consisted of a political military officer, two military attaches, a handful of arms control experts who had been conducting informal discussions in Switzerland and Vienna with their Soviet counterparts in late June and found themselves stranded here when tensions worsened. They were headed up by the US Deputy Head of Mission (DHM). Not exactly the first team as far as diplomacy went, these officials were nevertheless all that was available.

The Soviet group consisted of a similar makeup. Junior and mid-level bureaucrats and officers, led by a senior official from their own embassy. The DHM noticed the absence of the Soviet embassy’s cultural affairs attache, who was in reality a KGB officer. His exclusion from today’s meeting was interesting to say the least.

Each side had been briefed and understood what was expected to take place here today. In most respects this meeting was little more than a formality intended to make the ceasefire agreed to by US and Soviet military commanders earlier in the day official. It rubbed both the DHM and his Soviet counterpart the wrong way that it had been soldiers who came to the agreement first. Even in a time of war it should’ve been diplomats ironing out details around a conference table instead of two general officers doing it someplace in West Germany. Still, the DHM had to admit the ceasefire conditions and terms were clear and made sense.

The meeting started promptly at 1:00 PM. It was held in a windowless study/library room. Introductions were made and the mood was civil, if slightly chilled. Negotiations commenced right away. The Soviets went first, explaining they had no qualms with the length of the ceasefire or the majority of the terms. Their biggest issue was with the matter of prisoner exchanges. With the new government in Moscow still consolidating its hold on power, it was unclear if the first exchange could be made by the intended date. Contributing to the problem was the very fluid situation in East Germany and Poland. Both of these countries had announced their withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact, but with a large number of NATO prisoners interred within their borders, releasing them could prove to take longer than Marshal Snetkov believed.

The Soviet position on this issue provided an opening for the US delegation to seek more information on the political situation in Moscow. The DHM was under orders not to press the Soviets hard on what was taking place on Moscow and moved the discussion on.

The United States had no qualms with the initial length of the ceasefire or the terms. The next round of negotiations would settle any remaining problems. Yet on the matter of prisoner exchanges, the DHM did insist the initial exchange in Berlin be honored as an indication of US and Soviet faithfulness in their desires to bring the war to a complete close. The Soviets agreed but informed the Americans that the final decision would rest with Moscow.

From there on, the meeting moved faster. The terms and length of the initial ceasefire, laid out by General Galvin and Marshal Snetkov earlier in the day, were formally agreed on. The DHM proposed another meeting in two days to provide and receive updates on the prisoner issue and other matters needing clarification. The meeting officially came to a close at 1344 Hours, Central European Summer Time. The members of both delegations departed from the estate quickly and without further interaction.

Their job had been successfully completed.  

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