177. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin
  • Henry A. Kissinger


The conversation came about because Dobrynin had sent me an Aide Mémoire2 while I was in San Clemente in reply to the conversation I had had with him on June 23, 1970.3 In this reply, the Soviet Government indicated that they would be prepared to make an agreement at Vienna on ABMs and on the issue of accidental and provocative attacks, but that they did not think it likely that an agreement could be reached on the limitations of offensive weapons at Vienna. I wanted to get clarification on that point.

I deliberately conducted the meeting in a somewhat cool and aloof manner. I asked Dobrynin how he explained the first section of his Aide Mémoire. Did it mean that agreement on offensive weapons was impossible or that agreement would be very difficult? Dobrynin said that in view of all the important obligations that they had raised, the offensive limitations would have to be dealt with in two stages—an agreement in principle to be followed by detailed negotiations. He did not believe that this could be accomplished in the three weeks that were remaining in Vienna. He did want me to know, however, that the Soviet leaders had shown their good faith by instructing Semyonov first, to stay in Vienna at least until August 1st, and secondly, to concentrate for a while on the provocative and accidental attack aspect in order to give us a chance to develop our position.

I said to Dobrynin that we were going to have a meeting the next day to consider various aspects of the matter, particularly whether we could agree to a separate ABM ban. I also told him that I noticed that the last two paragraphs of his Aide Mémoire explicitly established the concept of linkage which they had strenuously rejected the year before. Dobrynin replied that they had become convinced by the persuasiveness of my argument that this was a correct course. We left this part of [Page 545] the conversation with my saying that I would let Dobrynin know after the meeting of our advisers whether we would agree to a separate ABM ban. Dobrynin added that, if that were done, the agreement could be signed later on this summer by the Foreign Ministers, perhaps at the United Nations. I said that this was a matter we could discuss after there had been an agreement in principle.

Middle East

Dobrynin then raised the subject of the Middle East in a much more conciliatory way than in the previous conversation where he said that the Soviets were practically out of it. He said he couldn’t understand why we made the statements we did in San Clemente.4 He thought that at such a delicate moment, it would have been best for us to keep quiet, but he wanted me to know that the Soviet Union sought no confrontation and that the Soviet leaders were eager to have a political settlement. I responded that somehow or other I had gained the impression from our last conversation that he thought that now that the US was negotiating with the Middle Eastern parties directly, the Soviet Union was absolved of any direct responsibility. Dobrynin replied that if he gave that impression, he regretted it. He wanted me to know that he was fully authorized to talk to me at any moment and to come to an agreement with me. I said that I did not have enough time to discuss the Middle East at this particular moment, but that when I gave him our answer on the ABM proposal, I would let him also know about our thinking on the Middle East. Dobrynin again effusively reiterated his desire to have an understanding with us, and we let the matter drop there.


It would be difficult to exaggerate the change in tone between the conversation on June 23rd and this conversation on July 7th. Dobrynin was conciliatory, effusive, and obviously taken aback by the various comments that had been made about the Middle East.

[Page 546]


Aidé-Mémoire From the Soviet Union

President Nixon’s and Dr. Kissinger’s considerations regarding the course of strategic arms limitation talks in Vienna have been carefully studied in Moscow, and I am instructed to outline the following considerations of the Soviet side in this connection.


Soviet-American strategic arms limitation talks have been underway for over two months now, and we agree with the opinion of the American side that the time has come to sum up certain results of the exchange that has taken place and to try to determine how these negotiations could be most productively continued.

The Soviet Union views with importance the problem of strategic arms limitation and is prepared to conduct fruitful talks in this field. At the Vienna negotiations we have advanced a broad program of measures which is a comprehensive one and embraces all strategic arms systems capable of delivering nuclear strikes against targets on the territories of the sides. We have chosen this approach proceeding from the necessity of ensuring equal security for both sides which constitutes an indispensable condition for agreement.

The proposals outlined by the US delegation have been carefully considered in Moscow. While those proposals have been presented to us as based on a broad approach to the problem of strategic arms limitation, we have noted that the American side proposes to include into the framework of agreement not all types of strategic arms leaving aside the question of US aircraft-carriers, aircraft and forward based missiles carrying nuclear charges, as well as of other systems the geographic location of which makes it possible to strike targets on the territory of the other side. Such a proposal, clearly, cannot be taken as a basis for solving the problem of strategic arms limitation because it would give advantages to one of the sides.

A number of other proposals by the US side has also been aimed at attaining one-sided advantages. These include proposals to the effect that Soviet heavy missiles be singled out as one separate category and a special ceiling be placed on them, that a quantitative level for strategic bombers be secured to the advantage of the US, as well as proposals regarding a ban on mobile launch missiles, limiting wing missiles, Diesel submarines, etc.

[Page 547]

With the view of surmounting the existing differences we have come out for, in case the US retains forward-based nuclear means, the Soviet Union’s receiving an adequate compensation. Such compensation could take the form, for example, of quantitative reduction of corresponding armaments from the other side. However, before citing any specific figures in this connection it is necessary to come to terms in principle on all these questions.

In analysing the situation at the talks one has to state that there exist differences between the sides which could be overcome only in the process of further thorough and all-round consideration. It is hardly possible to envisage that this could be accomplished at the present Vienna stage of the talks.

We would like to hope that the US Government will again give thought to our considerations and arguments, outlined in Vienna, in favor of such comprehensive solution of the problem of strategic arms limitation that would ensure equal security for both sides.


It has been noted in Moscow that certain points in common have emerged in the questions of limiting ABM development and of measures for reducing the danger of missile-nuclear war between the USSR and the US resulting from accidental or unsanctioned use of nuclear weapons.

Considerations have been advanced from the American side concerning the possibility of reaching agreement on limiting the ABM systems to two points/Moscow and Washington/. We are prepared to consider this proposal as a basis for obtaining agreement on the question of limiting deployment of the ABM systems.

As regards specific questions which arise in this connection/number of launch installations, their location and the like/, these, in our view, could be agreed on without difficulties.

The same applies also to the problem of reducing the danger of missile-nuclear war between our countries. The Soviet delegation in Vienna has necessary instructions for a concrete discussion on this question.

In conclusion we would like to say that, in our profound conviction, one of the most important conditions for a successful development of the strategic arms talks which have such a paramount significance for the destinies of world peace, is the state of the international situation as a whole.

It is believed in Moscow that for speedy achievement of agreement it is necessary in every way to avoid complications in the international situation and to apply all efforts to make healthier the world atmosphere. It should be emphasized that the Soviet side attaches great importance to this.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Geopolitical File, Box TS 36, Soviet Union, Chronological File, 7/70–1/71. Top Secret; Sensitive. The conversation was held in the Map Room at the White House.
  2. Attached. Sent to Kissinger from Dobrynin, through Colonel Kennedy, while Kissinger was in San Clemente.
  3. See Document 171.
  4. On July 1, while in San Clemente, Nixon was interviewed by the American Broadcasting Company and talked about a variety of foreign policy issues, including the Middle East. A text of these comments is in Public Papers: Nixon, 1970, pp. 543–559.
  5. Top Secret; Eyes Only.