283. Memorandum of Conversation Between Secretary of State Rusk and the Soviet Ambassador (Dobrynin)1

In a relaxed and extensive informal talk with Ambassador Dobrynin on the evening of Thursday, August 15th the following points emerged:

I pointed out that the alternatives which we had suggested as to the level at which offensive-defensive missile talks might begin were for the purpose of making a prompt reply by the Soviet Union somewhat easier if our original suggestion had caused complications. The alternatives were given in a rough order of priority as far as our own choices were concerned. The Ambassador said that he might have a reply on the 16th or 17th because the Soviet leadership has its meeting usually on Thursdays—similar to our Tuesday luncheons at the White House. I told him that I thought there would be advantage in our being able to announce the time and place of such talks before the convening of the Non-Nuclear Weapons Conference later this month in Geneva.
On the substance of the offensive-defensive missile talks, Dobrynin reflected great earnestness in the importance of the talks and the seriousness with which he considered the subject. I told him that I thought that these talks might well be the most important talks between our two countries since World War II—and he agreed. He asked about our Poseidon and Minute Man Tests and I told him that it was not possible for us to proceed on the basis that we already had an agreement prior to reaching one. I said that these tests have been laid on for a long, long time and that the timing was not connected in any way with the timing of discussions. He seemed quite relaxed on this point.
On a very much off-the-record basis, he told me that he did not think Le Duc Tho2 was bringing any change of position back to Paris with him. I clearly had the impression that he had had a telegram from Moscow following the Le Duc Tho visit to Moscow. I have passed this information on to Harriman and Vance.
On Czechoslovakia, he said that “the” issue was the exclusive position of the Communist Party and the discussion in Czechoslovakia about sharing political responsibility with “twenty or more” parties. He said this was a matter of such fundamental importance that it was not only Czechoslovakia’s business—it was also the business of the Soviet Union. He further stated that if the Communist Party remains in full control, the Soviets would have no problem about considerable changes in the internal structure of the country, especially in matters of economic reform.

He was upset by two recent instances of bad manners—partly because Moscow seemed to wonder whether he, the Ambassador, had handled his own part of them properly. The first was Senator Mansfield. Senator Mansfield called him on a Monday afternoon saying that he was leaving for Moscow the next morning, would be in Moscow for twenty-four hours and wanted to see Brezhnev and Kosygin. The Ambassador explained to Mansfield that such appointments are not easy to arrange on such short notice but that he, the Ambassador, would do what he could. During his day in Moscow, Senator Mansfield was informed by the Soviets that Mr. Kosygin would see him the following morning. Much to their surprise, Senator Mansfield simply took off for Prague.

The second case involved Mr. Nixon. After Mr. Nixon’s public announcement that he was not going to the Soviet Union, an aide of Mr. Nixon telephoned Dobrynin and asked him whether there was any reply with regard to Mr. Nixon’s visit to Moscow. Dobrynin said “What do you mean reply? My Government and I assume from your public statement that you are not going to Moscow and, therefore, there is nothing to answer.” Thereupon Nixon’s aide said that Mr. Nixon did wish to go to Moscow.

I told the Ambassador to get a private word to Mr. Gromyko that I personally regretted bad manners but these are people whom we cannot control.

I reminded the Ambassador that he had telephoned me last week expressing concern about the EURATOM countries entering a “reservation” at the time of signing the NPT. I told him that my information was that these countries did not intend to enter a reservation but were stating that the timing of the ratification of the NPT on their part would be related to an agreement between EURATOM and IAEA on safeguards.
Mr. Gromyko will be coming to the United Nations General Assembly.
I referred to a remark by Mr. Kuznetsov to one of our Embassy officers in Moscow indicating the Soviet desire to discuss the opening of Consulates in Leningrad and San Francisco. I told him that, in connection with the ratification of the Consular Agreement, I had made a [Page 678] commitment to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to discuss with the Committee the actual opening of Consulates and I would do this in September when the Senate returns. He seemed to understand and was relaxed about it.
I asked him what they really had in mind about their proposals for a new International Communications Satellite System. I expressed the hope that we could find a basis for a genuinely international system but that we were opposed to the notion of a one nation-one vote formula because it separated too much actual responsibility and usage from the element of control. After discussing the problems created in the General Assembly by the multiplication of small states, he expressed the hope that we could work out some formula in which a general communications satellite system could come into being.
There was a little discussion of domestic politics in the United States but nothing of moment came up. I declined to answer his question as to whether or not there was a “New Nixon.”

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Rostow Files, Rusk-Dobrynin. Top Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Rusk on August 16. Rostow pouched the memorandum to the President at the LBJ Ranch under an August 16 covering memorandum. The President flew to the ranch on August 2 and remained there until the afternoon of August 19.
  2. North Vietnam’s chief negotiator at the Paris peace talks.