BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Jack Matlock, author of "Reagan and Gorbachev," what was the reason for this book?
JACK MATLOCK, JR., AUTHOR, "REAGAN AND GORBACHEV: HOW THE COLD WAR ENDED": I wrote it in order to explain how these two very different people, coming from, really, a different position on almost every issue, within a very short period of time, historically, within three years, became virtual partners to end the cold war, which was, I think, one of the defining events of the 20th century.
LAMB: How many times have you actually served the U.S. government in Russia?
MATLOCK: I spent four tours in Moscow at the embassy between 1961 and 1991. In fact, we clocked about 11 years there in that embassy.
LAMB: And what were your jobs while you were there?
MATLOCK: Well, I started as a vice consul and visa officer, at which time I, among other things, issued the visa to Lee Harvey Oswald`s wife, Marina, when -- before he returned to the United States. And then in the "70s, I was the deputy chief of mission and in charge of the embassy at periods of time. Then in 1981, when President Reagan was first elected and took office, I was asked to go and take charge of the embassy for most of that year.
LAMB: Is that ambassador then?
MATLOCK: No, I was charge at that time. I had been named ambassador to Czechoslovakia, but they delayed that until they could decide on whom to send to Moscow, and Ambassador Art Hartman (ph) went to Moscow at that time, but I spent most of the year sort of minding the store. Then I came back as ambassador as 1987 and stayed until 1991.
LAMB: There`s a point in your book where you say that you had an up-close experience with President Reagan that taught you a lot about him.
MATLOCK: Yes. When I was due to go to Czechoslovakia as ambassador, we had a photo op. Every new ambassador could bring the family in and have five minutes with a picture. And he asked me -- usually, you carry on a conversation then. And he asked me something that I didn`t really expect. He asked me if we were doing all we could for the Pentecostalist Christians that had taken refuge in the embassy.
And I was very much involved in that because I had been in charge of the embassy when we did not force them out, and they had been with us then for two or three years. And I assured him we were doing the best we could. Space was tight. We were doing the best we could. And then he prolonged the five minutes that we were to have, and he said, Well, why are they keeping them there? Why won`t they let them leave? He was really interested, too. You know, why is it that a government, you know, would not let people leave when they want to leave for religious reasons? And I tried to explain to him the Soviet psychology in this.
And what this told me was that he was more interested in looking at the human factors. I mean, he could have asked me, you know, about some arms control matter or he could have asked me about Brezhnev`s health. No, it was, you know, what makes the Soviet leaders act the way they do. That was the thrust of his questioning.
LAMB: You tell more about the story about the Pentecostals. Go back a little bit. And they ended up spending how many years inside the American embassy in Moscow?
MATLOCK: Well, I`ll have to think a bit. They were allowed out in 1983. I think it was 1977 -- don`t hold me to the exact date -- when they entered the embassy. At that time, I was the deputy chief of mission, and my apartment was just above the consular section. And they came into the consular section. part of the family was stopped by Soviet guards. They came in very quickly. And they simply -- they wanted to leave the Soviet Union to practice their religion in freedom because they were -- their young people were being drafted, their young children were being sent off to boarding schools, where they were taught atheism, and they were very devout. And they refused to leave the embassy, even though they -- although we could have given them permits to enter the United States, they had no permission to leave the Soviet Union. And so they stayed there for, I think it was, five years.
LAMB: In the embassy?
MATLOCK: In the embassy, yes. We found an apartment for them in the basement, as I said. It was Spartan but probably better than the houses they had in Siberia. At least it had indoor plumbing. And they helped out in our snack bar. They wouldn`t leave the embassy compound. They helped the Catholic chaplain, although they were also Protestants themselves. The Protestant services were held at the American ambassador`s residence, which was outside the compound. They wouldn`t venture out. The Catholic services were there, so they would help out in those services. The younger children started learning English and how to type. And they simply lived with us for about five years.
LAMB: Could you have said, You have to leave the embassy, and...
MATLOCK: Yes, that`s what I should have said -- I mean, by regulation. We weren`t supposed to allow people to take refuge in our embassies for more than a temporary matter. However, I couldn`t bring myself to do that. I know some people in the State Department at the time criticized me for undermining our asylum policy. But it wasn`t that courageous. I knew nobody in Washington was going to take me on on this because most Americans would not have approved forcing them out.
LAMB: Whatever happened to that family?
MATLOCK: They were finally allowed to leave in the spring of 1983, as a result of negotiations that President Reagan started at that time. And in fact, when they were allowed to leave, this was the first signal to him that it might be time to start negotiating on other issues.
LAMB: Where are they now?
MATLOCK: They`re -- well, they first went to Texas, and I suppose they`re still there. I`ve, unfortunately, not maintained direct contact with them.
LAMB: And they`re American citizens today?
MATLOCK: I would assume so. I would imagine so. Again, I`ve not been -- had direct contact since they left. I do know that they were sponsored by some families in Texas and they originally went there and, I assume, settled there.
LAMB: Where were you educated?
MATLOCK: I was educated in Greensboro, North Carolina, where I grew up, at Duke University for my bachelor`s degree, and then at Colombia University, where I went to the Russian Institute, and then continued in the Department of Slavic Languages. My specialty, aside from Soviet-area studies, was Russian literature and language.
LAMB: But you -- when you became ambassador, you made Russian language the language of the social occasions, you said.
MATLOCK: Yes, that`s right, because we were trying to enter into this closed society and to get as close contacts as we could. Earlier, the KGB had tried to wall off most foreign diplomats from social contact with Soviet citizens. And though we were able to make a few friends among intellectuals -- poets, writers, theater people -- who were relatively free, it was difficult. But when they began to let these barriers break down in the late `80s, we tried to use every occasion to reach out, meet as many people as possible. And of course, socially, to make them comfortable, Russian was the language of our social events. We even eventually sponsored lectures by Americans and others to come and lecture on topics that they would be interested in. We would have buffet dinners. I would do press conferences also, once they started letting their correspondents come.
So we definitely made our residence, you might say, Russian language. It was not Russian atmosphere, but a Russian language milieu.
LAMB: How many people worked in the American embassy in Moscow?
MATLOCK: At the time I arrived in 1987, probably something like maybe 200. I don`t have the exact figure before me. When I left, we had about 405 people, if I remember correctly. But we had -- before I came, we had a number of Soviet employees. Most services were not available on the local economy, and so we had carpenters and painters and others. But when we had some incidents of expulsions regarding spying, they removed all of those employees. And when I arrived, we were without most local employees. Later, Americans came. And this brought the numbers up, so that we had 400 to 500 actually working for us at the time I left in 1991.
LAMB: When did you get interested in the idea of being either ambassador or working for the foreign service or speaking Russian?
MATLOCK: Well, I got interested in speaking Russian as an undergraduate, largely from reading Russian literature and getting fascinated by it and by the culture. And by the time I graduated from college in 1950, it was clear to me that the Soviet Union was going to be the big issue, you might say, in our foreign relations and that very few people, very few Americans, really knew much about it. So that`s when I decided to go on to graduate study and either teach in college or else go into the foreign service.
LAMB: One of the things I found interesting in your acknowledgements is that there was a famous Russian name that worked with you on research for this book. Where were you when you researched this book? And who was it that worked as one of your research assistants?
MATLOCK: Well, I was at the Institute for Advanced Study Princeton, and my research assistant for the first two years was Anina (ph) Khrushcheva, who is the great-granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev. He was the first secretary of the Communist Party when I first went to Moscow in 1961. And I recall my surprise when -- I knew her mother when I was ambassador. Her mother was one of the administrators at a theater in Moscow. And she told me in intermission of a play that we attended that, You know, my daughter is going to go to Princeton. And I know I wrote in my journal, Well, I never expected this. The great-granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev will be studying in the United States.
LAMB: What`s the relationship of the -- is it the great-granddaughter or the granddaughter?
MATLOCK: She`s actually the great-granddaughter, but she was raised as the granddaughter because the family had a very tragic history. Her grandfather, Khrushchev`s first son, was killed early in the war. Her mother was born sort of after her father was killed, so her mother was actually the Khrushchevs` granddaughter. But Khrushchev`s daughter-in-law was actually arrested by Stalin and sent to the camps, so they -- the Khrushchevs adopted the infant granddaughter and raised her as their daughter. So that their great-granddaughter was raised as the granddaughter.
LAMB: Is she an American citizen?
MATLOCK: She`s living in the United States as a -- certainly, she was a resident alien. I don`t know whether she`s taking American citizenship or not. Another of Nikita Khrushchev`s sons has taken American citizenship.
MATLOCK: Sergei Khrushchev.
LAMB: What is it about -- I mean, Sergei Khrushchev is here, and Stalin`s daughter, I understand, is still here and lives in Wisconsin. What is it about these big Russian names that end up in the United States?
MATLOCK: I think each case would have its own rationale. I know in the case of Nina Khrushcheva, she still considers herself very much a Russian, and she goes -- she travels very often to Moscow. She teaches courses there. She lives in New York and teaches at Colombia and at the New School. So that I think that they do find career and other opportunities here, but I think most of them don`t want to cut their ties also. And most of them feel that they don`t need to. It`s no longer necessary to choose one or the other. The Iron Curtain is down. Communism is behind us.
LAMB: I want to put on the screen some dates that you talk a lot about in this book. And it starts in November 16, 1985, the Geneva summit; October 11, 1986, the Reykjavik summit; June 12, 1987, the speech from Berlin, "Tear down this wall," by Ronald Reagan; December 8, 1987, the INF treaties was signed; and November 9, 1989, the Berlin wall comes down. A couple of things to go over on this list. What was the importance of the Geneva summit? And what role did you play in it?
MATLOCK: Well, the Geneva summit, I think, was important because it was the first direct meeting of Reagan and Gorbachev. Gorbachev had just become general secretary in March of that year. And it took us until November to prepare for that meeting. And at the same time, though they were not able to agree on arms reduction, they did sign a very extensive cultural exchange agreement. The exchange agreement we had earlier had been allowed to lapse by the Carter administration, and we put that back in place and made it much more active, including, for example, the exchange of high school and college students, which had not been allowed before. So we considered this a real breakthrough in having more contact.
Now, my role was really preparing substantively for the meeting. I was asked to...
LAMB: What was your job?
MATLOCK: I was at that time on the staff of the National Security Council and...
LAMB: In the White House.
MATLOCK: In the White House, yes, and responsible for European and Soviet affairs. The title was senior director for Europe and the Soviet Union. But my specific task was to prepare the president for the meeting.
And you know, Reagan was not a scholar and he was not an intellectual, in terms of his knowledge of a lot of facts, but he had the great virtue, he knew what he didn`t know, and he wanted to be educated and -- in a sense. And so I did, in effect, a college course for him, 20-odd papers, which we sent. And we didn`t do this in a normal way, by just asking the intelligence community, Send us papers." I called the State Department intelligence chief and the deputy head of the CIA, and I said, I don`t want papers that have been -- come out of committees. I want you to assign your best analysts to each of these topics and send me a paper with that analyst`s name. And I have the right to edit it, and I have the right to choose which paper I use, whether it`s the State Department or the CIA, but I don`t want interagency pap.
And they did that, sent me some very good papers. I wrote a few myself. And we would send two or three of these each week to Reagan, who would take them to Camp David over the weekend, would read them carefully, would note, and if he had questions, we would have him meet with the actual analysts. That -- so I sort of call this jokingly "Soviet Union 101," as if it was a college course.
Then when we got closer to the meeting, we actually, once we got to Geneva, did some mock sessions. And I would play Khrushchev -- I would play Gorbachev. I didn`t paint my forehead, but aside from that, I did speak Russian. And we had carefully studied Gorbachev`s TV performances. He had been to Paris. He had talked about a lot of the issues that we would talk about. And therefore, I knew more or less what he was going to say on these issues, so we could give Reagan a run-through on the sort of dialogue he would be having. I spoke Russian. We used an interpreter, and so on. And I think that helped make him a little more comfortable.
LAMB: What did you see up close, being around Ronald Reagan, that we didn`t see on television? What kind of things -- would you say to people that the myths of Ronald Reagan that you saw that maybe weren`t so?
MATLOCK: Well, I think one of the myths was that -- that he -- that he was sort of uninterested in issues. Now, he selected the issues he was interested in, but he had a very intense interest in those. He took a deep interest.
As I said, he was comfortable with himself, in the sense that you could correct him. I mean, he made errors and he knew it and he didn`t get uptight. And you could say, you know, Mr. President, you made a boo-boo, as I did once tell him, when he said, You know, the Russians don`t have a word for freedom. And I said, you know, They really do have a word for freedom. And he said, Gee, you know, how did I get that wrong? And I said, I think you may have heard they don`t have a native word for "compromise," and they don`t, you know, they -- and -- but "freedom" they do. And he said, Well, gee, thanks, you know? I`ll try to remember that. I`m glad you set me straight.
And you know, that was wonderful because most presidents don`t react that way to relatively junior staffers who say, Hey, you made a mistake.
LAMB: Did he need cards, like we hear so often?
MATLOCK: He liked to have the cards. I think, normally, he knew very well what he was going to be saying. He did like to have the cards, and we would do them for him. And -- but the important things, he didn`t need them, particularly when he was meeting with Gorbachev, people would joke about it, and sure, he would want to have the basic points, you know, typed in all caps on these three-by-five cards, and he would, you know, have them in his hand at times. But when he went into his meetings with Gorbachev, he knew exactly what he was going to say.
And as a matter of fact, before Geneva, that first meeting, he dictated a statement to his secretary and then had her type it out and checked it with Bud McFarland, the national security adviser, and he then checked it with me to see if -- you know, if he had anything wrong. And it was a very revealing statement of his own attitude as he went into that meeting.
LAMB: What was the world like -- I mean, 1986, he would have been 75 years old, around there. He would have been in his second term for president. What was the world like at that point? Like, for instance, were the Russians in Afghanistan then?
MATLOCK: They were still in Afghanistan, yes.
LAMB: When did they go in?
MATLOCK: They had been -- they had gone into Afghanistan in December, 1979, and in 1986, they were still there. And the -- we were still in 1986 in the arms race with -- we had been deploying intermediate-range missiles in Europe to counter the Soviet SS-20s. These were the missiles that had caused a great controversy in 1983 and `84. And we still were not getting anywhere in our arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union. Europe was still divided. The Soviet Union still had not started really opening up in `86. We still had tens of thousands of refuseniks being refused visas. You had political prisoners being held. You had people -- dissidents being sent to insane asylums, and so on, so that many of these problems were still there.
LAMB: And as you sat there with the president anywhere you were, in the Oval Office or whatever, who were the kind of people that were around him that he was relying on as he looked toward the Soviet Union?
MATLOCK: In dealing with the Soviet Union, I think his -- and of course, the -- his assistant for national security, Bud McFarland, until late 1985, and then John Poindexter in 1986, until he had to leave during the Iran-contra. Certainly, Secretary of State Schulz was, by all odds, the most influential, as he should have been. He would always, of course, consult Defense Secretary Weinberger, the -- our director of central intelligence, Casey, and his deputy, Bob Gates. So that -- and of course, the chief of staff in the White House was important. Jim Baker was there during the first term, and then Don Regan replaced him. But basically, these were sort of the key people he consulted
LAMB: Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko, all leaders in the Soviet Union, died in the time period. Had he met any of them? Had he ever conversed with any of them?
MATLOCK: I think he saw Brezhnev briefly in California, at one point. I wouldn`t call it a real meeting. He had not really talked to any of them directly until he met Gorbachev in the fall of 1985.
LAMB: What was the status of the ABM treaty or the SDI, the "Star Wars"?
MATLOCK: Well, the ABM treaty, of course, had been signed in 1972 by Nixon, and it was still in effect. But at that time, from about `85, `86, we began to have a dispute with the Soviets about an interpretation of the treaty as to whether we had the right to do research, testing and development of new types of systems. And this dispute came forward after Reagan`s speech on the Strategic Defense Initiative, what many people call, I think erroneously, "Star Wars," because it did not necessarily have to be a space-based defense system.
But nevertheless, to find out whether you could build it and whether it would work, you had to go beyond laboratory research. You had to have some testing, and you had to be able to develop components and test them. And the dispute was really whether that is in accord with the ABM treaty or not. The Soviets said it was not. You can do laboratory research, but nothing beyond it. And Reagan said, Look, I know I don`t have a right to deploy, under the treaty, defensive systems. I`m not asking for that right. But I am asking for the right, which we think is allowed by the treaty, to test and to develop short of deployment. And that`s was what for years the argument was all about regarding SDI.
LAMB: One of the things on our list of dates -- and we can put it back up on the screen again because it`s hard to keep track of all this -- the INF treaty was signed. I know a lot of what you talked about led up to that. What does Information stand for?
MATLOCK: Well, it was intermediate-range ballistic missiles. They were the nuclear-tipped missiles that had what we called an intermediate range -- I think, if memory serves, between 500 kilometers and 2,500, something like that. So they were -- the Soviets began deploying missiles of this range in the 1970s. And this disturbed NATO because they threatened all of the European NATO capitals with a very short flight. And NATO or the U.S. had no missiles of that range in Europe.
And what the Europeans worried about, and the Americans, was that this would somehow decouple NATO security, European security, from American security because, after all, the Soviets could threaten to hit a European capital, and the United States would have no missiles in Europe that could hit Soviet territory, would have to retaliate, if they retaliated, from the United States, and then risk retaliation on its own cities. And so the question was, Would any American president risk American cities to defend Europe under these conditions?
And the answer was, All right, we must ask the Soviets either to remove these missiles or deploy American missiles in Europe that could be used to retaliate if these are used. Therefore, then the Soviets would be in a position that we would not have retaliated from American territory, and they would be, in that case, unable to use this, you know, for political blackmail. So this was the issue, and the INF treaty was signed to abolish on both sides all of these missiles. So it was very important because it was the first treaty that abolished a whole class of missiles, not just limited them, but said, We`ll eliminate them totally.
LAMB: This is out of context, but in the middle of your book, all of a sudden, you read a footnote, where Nancy Reagan`s astrologer changed a speech that was supposed to be given, the date. What was that? And how often...
MATLOCK: He didn`t change the speech, but apparently, she changed the date.
LAMB: That`s what I meant, the date.
MATLOCK: The date. yes. Well, you know, we didn`t know about that at the time. I think Don Regan, who was then the White House chief of staff, first wrote about this in his memoirs. He found it rather outrageous. I actually -- I don`t think that this made the speech any less effective than it was.
LAMB: What speech was it?
MATLOCK: It was a speech having to do with his policy toward the Soviet Union, when for the first time, he went out and made a major speech setting the parameters for negotiation and for settling our issues. He put forth our agenda. It was a speech that concentrated much more on cooperation, compromise and getting together than it did on lambasting the Soviet Union. There was no "evil empire" in it anymore. It was, We`ve got these problems. Let`s get down to work on them. We want to work with you. That was the message of the speech.
Now, originally, it was written to be given in December 1983. We were told, All right, it`s being delayed, and it was actually given January of 1984. I don`t think the date really made any difference. It certainly didn`t hurt the effect, but the reason they originally wanted it in `83 is that they suspected that if it was given in 1984, that it would be called a political ploy because he was coming up for reelection in `84. Actually -- and many people did call it that.
The people who called it a political ploy forgot in 1985 and `86, when he was still following these policies, that it might not be a political ploy. But the fact is, I think December, `83, January, `84, it didn`t make that much difference. And as I say in that footnote, you know, I don`t know whether astrology was right or not, but certainly, the change of date did no harm.
LAMB: You also talk about the relationship of President Reagan to his wife, Nancy, and Raisa to Mr. Gorbachev, that those relationships mattered, and when -- like, she wasn`t there in Reykjavik.
MATLOCK: Yes. These were important relationships in both cases. And you know, Gorbachev and Reagan were very different in many aspects, but in one, they were very much alike. They both had very close, supportive marriages. They both had wives who were very influential with them. I think maybe Raisa Gorbacheva was perhaps even more influential on substance. Nancy Reagan`s influence was more a matter of tone. But they both depended very heavily, I think, on the advice of their wives.
And in the case of Reykjavik, that meeting when Gorbachev proposed a meeting in a letter to Reagan, he said, Let`s meet maybe just for one day and set the agenda for my trip to the United States. You know, Reagan very much wanted Gorbachev to come to the United States. He wanted to show him the United States. And Gorbachev was resisting coming until he could sign a major arms control agreement.
So -- and in his letter, he said, We could do it either in London or in Reykjavik. He was thinking about someplace maybe about halfway between Moscow and Washington. And when I saw the letter, I said, yes, I think we should take him up on it, obviously, and I think we ought to go to Reykjavik because we don`t want to make this a circus in a big city. It`ll be small. You can make it businesslike. And probably, the wives shouldn`t come.
And they said, well, you know, if Mrs. Reagan doesn`t go, will Mrs. Gorbachev go? And I said well, you know, if we tell the Soviets that she is not coming, they`ll get the point, and protocol would not require her to come, and I am sure Gorbachev would come alone.
Well, they followed my advice, and to everybody`s surprise Mrs. Gorbachev did come and carried out public events, which annoyed Reagan, and I`m sure annoyed Mrs. Reagan.
But later I asked a friend who was deputy foreign minister at that time in Moscow. I said, how could this happen? And he said, you know, we sent Gorbachev the schedule of the Reykjavik meeting and assuming that she wouldn`t go. I said, obviously, your assumption was the same as ours. And he came back with a note, "you`ve left no time for me to consult my wife." And he said we first realized then that -- I said, you know, he couldn`t make decisions without her.
So the fact was that, as I said, we miscalled it in a sense, but their professionals did too. But I think it turned out that the influence of these ladies in both cases was extremely important. And they both played a major role in -- I would say getting their husbands` policies on track.
LAMB: Let me ask you the big question that comes out of a book like this. And you have heard the argument go on for years. Did Ronald Reagan bring either the Soviet Union down? Or did he bring the wall down? Did he change -- was he solely responsible for all of this?
MATLOCK: That`s claiming too much. I think in terms -- I think we have to distinguish between three different events, and they happened so close together, people often, you know, conflate them. One was the end of the Cold War, and that, I think Reagan put out a policy, which was a prescription for the way to end it. Gorbachev saw that it was in his interest to end it and to accept that, and he cooperated.
LAMB: What year did that happen?
MATLOCK: And I think that happened philosophically and ideologically by the end of 1988. Now, we had a lot of diplomacy to do in the Bush administration to clean up, you might say, the debris of the Cold War. But, I think, philosophically we were no longer in a win-lose sort of situation in our negotiations.
LAMB: Let me go back just a second.
LAMB: Mikhail Gorbachev took power what -- what year?
MATLOCK: `85. And by the end of 1988, I think, philosophically, the Cold War was over when he -- when he actually discarded the class struggle, philosophy of Marxism, which had been the basis of Soviet foreign policy throughout its history. That there was an international class struggle, and this was more important than other things. Instead Gorbachev said, you know, we have to base our foreign policy on the common interest of mankind and that nations have the right to make their own choices. In other words, there was not going to be a Brezhnev doctrine anymore, that a so-called socialist state has to stay socialist or be invaded.
LAMB: How much credit do you give Gorbachev for changing all this?
MATLOCK: I give him great credit, and -- and he was doing this at the same time that he was freeing up the Soviet Union. I give Reagan credit for recognizing what he was doing and for giving him credit for that.
I think the both of them cooperated in the Cold War and I think that they both need credit.
Now, ending communism -- I think that Gorbachev takes most of the credit for ending the control of the Communist Party in his country, and I think he was the only person who could have done it. And the -- because he was the head of the Communist Party, and it was structured so that only the head, really, was capable of making changes. And he decided that when members of the Communist Party and much of the apparatus was resisting his reforms, that he had to take them out of power -- the direct power -- in order to get the reforms forward.
And -- but much of this happened after the end of the Cold War. And it could not have happened unless the Cold War ended, because as long as those pressures were there, he really wasn`t free to do these internal things.
Finally, you had the end of the Soviet Union. Now that, I think, happened because of internal pressures. Once the pressures of the Cold War were off, it`s sort of like a pressure cooker, and once the control of the Communist Party had been removed by Gorbachev he couldn`t control the forces that bubbled up from that system, which was an irrational one and a dysfunctional one.
LAMB: When you put this book together, who did you interview?
MATLOCK: I interviewed just about everybody on the Soviet side. That is Gorbachev, his foreign policy advisor Chernyaev, the -- Shevardnadze, his foreign minister, the -- the principal assistants of Shevardnadze. And then I interviewed, of course, many of the Americans, although I knew them as things were going along, so I did fewer interviews with Americans.
LAMB: What difference does it make that you can speak Russian when you`re talking to someone like Mikhail Gorbachev?
MATLOCK: Well, it makes all the difference in the world, because, you know, the two of us can -- can have a conversation without an interpreter, without it going on the record. You can react much more spontaneously. And as a matter of fact, by 1991, when I would go in at times with Deymar (ph), he would look at me and quite sincerely say, how are you reading the situation? Or what do you think I should be doing now?
LAMB: Where did you interview him?
MATLOCK: Well, I would interview him usually in his office at his foundation in Moscow. Also, at times we would be in the same city here. He travels a lot. I would see him here, I would see him at conferences that he attended, and more recently he has been organizing a world political forum in Italy, and I usually go to that, and we have a lot of time together at those occasions.
LAMB: How well does he live today?
MATLOCK: I think he -- he lives comfortably but not lavishly.
LAMB: Has he made a lot of money?
MATLOCK: I don`t know. I think what he has made, I think -- I hear his lecture fees are fairly high, but I think a lot of it goes to his institute -- his foundation. And he does do a lot of work for a number of foundations.
LAMB: How much of that money has come from the United States?
MATLOCK: I imagine quite a bit, but he also speaks in Europe, and so on. I have no -- I have not looked at his books, so I couldn`t give you, you know, anything like a figure. I think he -- I suspect he gets varying rates for his speeches. Some would be very high if those can pay, some would be probably not so much. But I don`t think he is a lavish spender. And I think as a former chief of state he lives pretty modestly, actually.
LAMB: For four years we have watched the division or the perceived division between Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell, between the Defense Department and the State Department. All through your book is what you say was a big division between Caspar Weinberger at Defense and George Shultz at State. Can you give us some more background on that?
MATLOCK: Well, yes. I -- I think that was a matter of tension throughout. You know, basically, I think Secretary Weinberger didn`t trust the Soviet Union, he didn`t trust Gorbachev, and he thought that the changes were essentially a sham, and that it was a real mistake to start negotiating with them on these things, or to be serious about negotiation.
LAMB: Did he trust Ronald Reagan?
MATLOCK: Well, he was loyal. He was loyal. But certainly ...
LAMB: But you say that he undermined him all the time.
MATLOCK: Well, I think his people certainly, whether he did it personally, whether there were people on his staff, there were certainly civilians in the Defense Department at that time who would leak stories that Reagan wasn`t serious about negotiation. That, for example, his January 1984 speech was an electing tactic and that this cooperative spirit would disappear after he was reelected. That sort of thing seemed to be coming mainly out of civilians in the Defense Department.
Now, I can`t say that necessarily Secretary Weinberger was the source. I think he personally was loyal to Reagan. But he definitely pushed his own agenda, and at times he would not carry out the president`s orders if he thought he shouldn`t, at least until the president came in and personally told him, you must do this.
LAMB: You have a paragraph in here about George Herbert Walker Bush when he was president. And I always wanted to ask somebody about this because you -- it`s alluded to all the time -- that he would tell Mikhail Gorbachev, don`t pay any attention to what I`m really saying, because I`m in a political race, I don`t really mean it. I don`t know if I`m going too far with this, but -- did you see that?
MATLOCK: That`s -- that`s in effect -- I didn`t see it happen, but it happened in a car when he was traveling with Gorbachev back from the Soviet embassy. Gorbachev had -- had given a breakfast for us, which he attended, and his interpreter writes about it.
MATLOCK: Palazchenko, yes. Pavel Palazchenko writes about it -- that -- he said, in effect, yes, you know, political campaign is coming up, I`ll have to say certain things and in effect, don`t take them too seriously.
LAMB: Is that fair to the American people?
MATLOCK: I think it is, in a sense. Look, every politician to get elected is going to -- is going to, you know, pick those issues he thinks can be -- can be effective. I think George Bush the elder knew he had a problem with the Republican right wing. They didn`t fully trust him. And I think that he felt if he was going to be effective, he had to -- he had to make it clear that he was not going to be soft on the Soviets and so on, and I think that was also the reason that he spent several months doing a so-called review of our policy when he became president.
Now, he had been intimately involved in all the decisions and had supported them when he was vice president. He didn`t need to be educated, but he needed to convince his own supporters that he was solid. And I -- so, you know, politicians -- they have to get elected.
No, I don`t think that was unfair to the American people, and I rather respected him that he told Gorbachev, OK, I`m going to have to say some things that -- he didn`t say he would be lying, but that -- that Gorbachev might not like, but, you know, take it easy, I`m going to continue Reagan`s policies, was in effect what he was saying. And eventually he did, of course.
LAMB: We talked about Mikhail Gorbachev`s temper. How big was it? And when did you see it first?
MATLOCK: Well, he could have quite a temper, particularly with his own people. He would -- he would constrain it a bit, of course, when he was meeting with Reagan, but when he met with Shultz, he would sometimes show it, and particularly before he was coming to Washington -- a few months before he was coming to Washington in 1987, he -- he led out his meeting with George Shultz with complaining about a brochure the State Department had issued about Soviet disinformation. And he really sort of ranted and raved on that, and Shultz hadn`t even seen it. Actually, it was quite accurate, but -- and then before he came to Washington, he also complained about some of Reagan`s speeches. And -- and so on. So, he could show his temper, but usually he would calm down.
LAMB: Now, how often were you in a private meeting between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, where you were either writing notes or interpreting? How close...
MATLOCK: I -- I never interpreted for the meetings. We always had a professional interpreter. I took notes in the private meeting at the Reykjavik meeting in 1986.
LAMB: There`s a picture right here. Is that you in the back?
MATLOCK: Yes, I`m the one in the background, yes.
LAMB: And what was it -- what was going through your head when you would sit there in a meeting like that?
MATLOCK: Well, I was simply trying at that point to -- to follow closely what was said. I -- I would take my notes on -- in Russian of what Gorbachev said, and in English of what the president said. Whereas many note takers would simply, you know, use the English translation. So I was mainly -- I was mainly thinking, you know, about getting it accurate. But, of course, I did react mentally to some of the things that were said in these meetings. I -- at times I thought, for example, at the Reykjavik meeting when the president, Reagan, prematurely asked, well, you know, can`t we talk about a date? Would you like to mention one or should I?
LAMB: For Mr. Gorbachev to come to Washington?
MATLOCK: Yes, for Mr. Gorbachev to come to Washington, when we had -- it was very obvious Gorbachev wasn`t going to give us a date until we had agreed on some arms control agreement. And as I say in the book, I -- you know, I was disturbed that the president let his eagerness to show Gorbachev the States get ahead of, you know, wise negotiation. Because Gorbachev was not going to answer that at that point.
Gorbachev himself at an earlier meeting had made, I think, more serious boo-boos. At Geneva, he lectured Reagan on how strong their economy was and how we were making a mistake to put it down and say they were in economic difficulties. Well, they were so obviously in economic difficulties that denying it simply, you know, in effect, confirmed it. And I said, as a negotiating ploy that was simply not very wise.
So, I did occasionally react myself, mentally, to some of the things. But basically I was simply trying to make sure I didn`t miss anything important in what was said.
LAMB: Do you have any idea how many intercontinental ballistic missiles are pointed at us today, or are capable of being pointed at us from the Soviet Union or Russia, and how many American ICBMs are there?
MATLOCK: There are several thousand. I think we have both said we will get them down to somewhere around 2,500 in -- over a 10-year period starting a few years back.
LAMB: Will that really make any difference, though?
MATLOCK: I think this is an absurd situation. Obviously, neither is going to use them against the other. I think, frankly, having so many on schedule and taking them off so slowly is a symptom of one of the problems that brought on 9/11. I think throughout the `90s, we kept acting as if the Cold War was still on, when it was not. We should have moved much more rapidly, as both Gorbachev and Reagan wanted, to reduce these down to a very minimum, the nuclear weapons.
Instead, our intelligence agencies, everyone else, seems to have been doing for the most part what they did all during the Cold War. Rhetorically we knew it was over, but we didn`t take these actions, and we failed to recognize, and I -- this is not partisan, both administrations since the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War was over, I think, did not reorient our intelligence agencies to the real threat, and we`re paying the price now.
LAMB: By the way, is there any opportunity today to do what these two men did, sit down and negotiate anything around the world? I mean, given 9/11?
MATLOCK: Obviously, you cannot negotiate with Osama bin Laden or that -- or al Qaeda the way they did. This is a different situation, and the threats are quite different. The -- so that -- however, I think that in working out problems between countries, and if there are major problems, there`s just no -- there is no substitute for periodic meetings of the top people.
LAMB: You talk about the social aspect of all this. Did you see them go into negotiations and then later on that evening have a social occasion together?
MATLOCK: Yes, yes.
LAMB: How do you make that transfer after you`ve been going at each other all afternoon, then all of a sudden become social?
MATLOCK: Oh, I think, I think politicians do it all the time, and I think also diplomats and others. You -- you do try to separate the substantive from your social life and the person from the policy. And just as Republicans and Democrats can debate things in the Senate or the House all day, and still, you know, enjoy a drink together in the evening and talk about other things, I think this is also true between countries.
LAMB: How did they get along personally?
MATLOCK: I think ...
LAMB: Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev?
MATLOCK: I think very well, and increasingly well, obviously, as their policies meshed. The important thing, I think, was for them to realize that both really did want peace, both really did want to put the Cold War behind us. And for Reagan, it was important to realize that Gorbachev was really dedicated to real reform in the Soviet Union, that he was turning it into something that was no longer an evil empire, and that that deserved his support. So that -- I think as he realized these things, their personal ties became closer and closer. They began to share the same goals, and the same big goals. So, the question is -- was, how do we solve all of these concrete problems in a way that doesn`t do harm to either of our countries?
LAMB: You pointed out in the book that at the time the Soviet Union had something like 5.4 million men under arms and America had 2.3 or 2.4 million in the services. Did the Russian people know they had 5.4 million?
MATLOCK: No, and actually ...
LAMB: How many do they have today?
MATLOCK: Actually, they didn`t talk about how much they had. And Gorbachev himself began to tell the Politburo in 1987 -- this is after the meeting in Reykjavik -- that we have got to bring these numbers down before we even admit to our people how many we have. He did this in response to -- after Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher came to Moscow and gave him a strong lecture on why we feared the Soviet Union, because of their overbuilding. And he told the Politburo after this, he said, you know, she`s a formidable debater and I tried to hold my own, but, you know, she`s got a point. Why do we have all these arms? You know, you can sort of understand why they fear us.
And then he said, you know, if our people knew how much arms we had, they would not say we should cut them in half. They would say we should cut them to a quarter of what we have. And comrades, we can`t even admit to them how much we have until we cut it down to a level more comparable to the United States.
LAMB: What are they today?
MATLOCK: I don`t know. But probably, as effective troops less than a million, I would think, maybe a good bit less. I don`t follow the -- the concrete things. Certainly, the Russian army today is not the same, of course, as the Soviet armed forces. It`s extremely weak, and, of course, it`s unable even to win its war in one of the smaller provinces, in Chechnya.
LAMB: Now, one of things that you -- another thread of your book is that American negotiators, including the president, always brought up time and time and time again the human rights issue ...
MATLOCK: That`s right.
LAMB: ... with the Soviets. And time and time again, the Russians would bring up Americans` relationship with the African-Americans. Explain that.
MATLOCK: Well, actually this was an issue which had been one that we tried for years to get on the agenda. And for years, until Gorbachev, they would say, it -- you know, it`s none of your business. And oh true, they would make some propaganda about race relations or other situations in the United States, but they were not interested for a long time in discussing it.
Finally, when they accepted a discussion, they said, and this was said in the first meeting that Secretary of State Shultz had with Shevardnadze, the new Soviet foreign minister. He said, well, if you`re going to talk about humanitarian issues, as they put it, in our country, can we talk about race relations in yours? And Shultz said, be my guest.
And -- but -- I think with them, what they said was often a bit artificial. They wanted to say that it was a two-way street, and they were right. I do tell in the book on one occasion when Shultz was there with -- at the table -- Assistant Secretary of State Roz Ridgway and Colin Powell, who was then the president`s assistant for national security, that Shevardnadze led off the discussion with the Soviet foreign minister by saying, well, we`re disturbed because you`re not giving African-Americans and women the same rights as -- as men and whites. And Shultz`s answer, and he said looking across, you had a very senior woman and a very senior African-American, and -- but Shultz said, I think we`re making progress. We still have some ways to go. And, in effect, we think you`re making progress, but we want to point out some of the ways we think you have to go.
The important thing for them at that point, and they were changing, was to be able to say politically, well, you know, we can also criticize them, that these are international issues. And this was important, because it wasn`t just a matter of doing what the United States says they should do. They criticized us, we`ll criticize them. But having the Helsinki final act that had international standards was very important.
And so, internally they could say, we`re not doing this because the Americans asked us to. We`re doing it because there`s an international commitment, which we signed, and we should follow that. So from about 1986 and `87, they began to follow that policy. But -- and part of it was talking directly to us about problems we had.
LAMB: You also talk about the relationship between George Shultz and Mr. Shevardnadze.
LAMB: Mr. Shevardnadze went on to be the president of Georgia, the state ...
MATLOCK: Yes, right.
LAMB: ... he came from. Just very quickly, before you talk about that relationship, what happened to him there?
MATLOCK: In Georgia?
MATLOCK: You know, after having stopped a civil war, and brought a certain stability, I think he was unable really to control the corruption and many of the other problems. Also, he was unable to recover three of the enclaves, non-Georgian enclaves, that were legally part of Georgia, but had more or less rebelled.
LAMB: Was he corrupt himself?
MATLOCK: It`s hard for me to believe he was. There were charges that members of his family were involved. I still have the greatest respect for him, and I think he`s one of the great men of the 20th century politics, but his last years in Georgia were not his best years. And that he did have, I think, the good sense to resign when it appeared that the pressures were so great that there would be bloodshed.
LAMB: Go back to the times when you would be with George Shultz and Eduard Shevardnadze in social occasions? I mean, you implied that that made a difference ...
LAMB: ... in this whole business.
MATLOCK: Well, I think, first, both of them made an effort, but I think George Shultz started it -- of developing close personal relationships. I think Shultz and Shevardnadze were people who knew very well that although a close personal relationship doesn`t really solve big problems, it sure helps. Because it helps to develop a personal trust in what you`re saying to each other. So, the Shultzes invited Shevardnadze very early on to simply a private dinner at their house. And just the two of them came, I guess with interpreters, and probably with security people that stood outside.
LAMB: Here in town?
MATLOCK: And -- it was, yes, at their house, whether it was in the D.C. or Northern Virginia, I`m not sure, I wasn`t at the Shultzes` house, but it was where they lived when he was secretary of state. And they cooked a dinner for them, a barbecue.
And the next visit to Moscow the Shevardnadzes had the Shultzes for a private dinner, also at their private apartment, which in those years was almost never used for entertaining foreigners. And so, this continued with each sort of doing nice little gestures.
At one point, one of the -- I would say for me more embarrassing things that suddenly Shultz asked us to do a translation of "Georgia on my Mind" and to sing it for Shevardnadze at -- at one the lunches that Shevardnadze was hosting in Moscow. So, three of us, Tom Simons of the State Department, and Bill Hopkins, his interpreter and myself -- none of us particularly good singers -- had to get up and sing this in Russian, a combination of Russian and Georgian for Shevardnadze.
He loved it. I mean -- it was -- the music couldn`t have been worse, but as he even writes about it in his memoirs, that it showed respect. And I think that -- I think these personal relationships -- as I say, they don`t really solve anything directly, and cynics can say, well, you know, what difference does it make? These are hard, big communists, they`re not going to change. They do make a difference.
LAMB: Which one of the books, that came out of that era, the Reagan memoir, the Shultz book, the George Herbert Walker Bush book, the Shevardnadze book or the Gorbachev book -- which one of those gave the most information?
MATLOCK: I think -- well, the Shultz book certainly gives the most information about the actual negotiations. The Reagan book gives the most information about his correspondence, much of which he gives literally with -- with Gorbachev. Of course, the George Herbert Walker Bush book deals with his own administration, which really is a period after the period I write about in this book. They all give, I think, very interesting information about Gorbachev.
LAMB: Now, we have very little time. Where are you now? What are you doing?
MATLOCK: I am living partly in Princeton, partly in Tennessee, where my wife has a farm. And I have been teaching, but I probably will be just speaking and writing from now on.
LAMB: And where did you put all of your memoirs, your research, your files?
MATLOCK: I have them at home now, and I`m still using them. I may write some more proper memoirs. Several libraries have asked for them, but I haven`t actually decided where I will have them deposited.
LAMB: All right. Last question. Of all the people you met in this book -- around this book, and if you had to pick one of them to spend an evening with, just because of the way they were as a person, who would you pick?
MATLOCK: Oh, I would love to spend an evening with almost any of them, but certainly, I would say, George Shultz, Shevardnadze -- either one of them -- are great companions in the evening, as is Gorbachev, for that matter.
LAMB: Our guest has been Jack Matlock. He was the former ambassador to the Soviet Union and Russia from the United States. And here`s the book, "Reagan and Gorbachev." Thank you very much.
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