66. Memorandum From Director of Central Intelligence Helms to Secretary of State Rogers1


  • Gromyko’s Review of Current Soviet Foreign Policy

1. The key to Gromyko’s address of 10 July2 lies in the classified instruction3 cabled over his signature to Soviet embassies around the world four weeks earlier. That lengthy document announced that [Page 199] Moscow intended to give new priority to the struggle against China, modifying other policies to achieve the isolation of Peking. This theme is of course not sounded in the speech to the Supreme Soviet, but its implications run through the entire review.

2. The secret document is explicit on the point that the USSR has no hopes of improving relations with the present Chinese leadership. Whereas Gromyko told the Supreme Soviet that Moscow stands ready to negotiate the questions disputed between the two states, the document states that “such proposals will most likely prove basically unacceptable to the present leadership of the CPR” but will be useful in their effects on the Chinese people and foreign Communists. The real task is to deny Peking friends and allies in the socialist camp, among the imperialists, and around the Chinese periphery in Asia.

3. In this regard, primary attention is given to the US. The secret document reflects the usual ambivalence about US policy: its imperialist interventions must be rebuffed, but sober elements may yet prevail in Washington. The new element is the fear that the US will find a way to use the Sino-Soviet rivalry against Moscow. While US public statements maintain an “apparently neutral line” on Sino-Soviet relations, after the Ussuri clashes “the idea of the usefulness of pressure on the USSR from two flanks—NATO and China—is ever more clearly discernible.” The document draws the conclusions that, to head this off, it is necessary in current policy “to manifest restraint, moderation, and flexibility in relations with the US, to refrain from complications with her which are not dictated by our important national interests.” This conclusion is worked out in a number of ways in Gromyko’s subsequent formal address.

The General Line toward the US

4. In comparison to earlier set speeches of this sort, Gromyko balances professions of desire for good relations with the US with relatively little stress on the dark sides of American policy. His acknowledgment of “deep class differences” is more than offset by approving references to President Nixon’s statement on an era of negotiations and [Page 200] even to a “well-prepared summit meeting,” the first such Soviet reference since the Inauguration. Criticism of the US role in the Middle East and Vietnam is mild; in the TASS summary,4 designed to emphasize the points intended for foreign audiences, most of the negative remarks about Vietnam are eliminated. In both these cases, the Soviet version of linkage—that a change in US policy would contribute to the settlement of other questions—is briefly and moderately put.

Arms Control

5. The secret document is silent on this subject. To the Supreme Soviet, however, Gromyko endorses strategic arms limitations and says the USSR is preparing to negotiate this matter with the US. He rejects Chinese charges that this amounts to engaging in deception and gives several arguments which may be designed as much to win over waverers in the USSR as to affect debate in the US. One is that military superiority is unattainable because of the action-reaction phenomenon between the two military machines, and a second is the burden of spiraling costs. A third, which is much more novel in Soviet parlance, is that the requirements for quick reaction are placing the decision to go to war beyond human control and into the tubes and tapes of the computers.

6. The Foreign Minister’s presentation on the NPT, a comprehensive test ban, and the seabeds treaty breaks no new ground. In the arms control discussion, however, he sweeps off the boards a number of long-standing Soviet proposals having to do with nuclear weapons, such as non-first use and liquidation of nuclear armaments. All such matters, he says, can be settled only with the participation of all nuclear powers—”and I mean all.” Since he knows that the prospect of Chinese agreement is zero, this signifies the practical abandonment of such schemes.

Western Europe

7. The secret document makes two points about this region. First, the danger of Sino-West German collusion is second only to that of Sino-American cooperation against the USSR. Second, the socialist camp will have to content itself with temporary, partial solutions, to European problems, “actually putting on ice” more acute problems which cannot be agitated without upsetting NATO. These ideas are expressed, in the Supreme Soviet speech, in a rather forth-coming attitude toward West Germany and a vague proposal for four-power talks on West Berlin, unaccompanied by the usual list of pre-conditions. With respect to Bonn, the standard criticisms are condensed and put in relatively [Page 201] calm tones, and the FRG is encouraged to continue its efforts to negotiate with Moscow on the renunciation of the use of force. The proposal on West Berlin seems to invite Bonn and the Western Allies to believe that, if the Federal Republic will refrain from political activities in the city, access will be undisturbed and perhaps even improved. The tone of these passages is consistent with the implication in the secret document that the USSR, for larger reasons of policy, intends no new Berlin crises for the indefinite future. Gromyko’s speech is in fact being read in this manner in both Germanies; Bonn officials are anxious to investigate the negotiating possibilities, while Pankow betrays anxiety by largely ignoring these passages in its commentary on the speech. At any rate, it appears that East Germany’s more far-reaching ambitions to undermine the present status of West Berlin have been decisively set aside.


8. In the light of his strictures before the Supreme Soviet about the Chinese threat, Gromyko’s claim that the USSR’s proposal for a collective security system in Asia is not directed against any particular country has a hollow ring. The anti-Chinese thrust of the secret document belies this assertion altogether, although it nowhere mentions the proposal. Gromyko adds no further details, even about the countries whose participation is envisaged; at one point he speaks of “all Asian states” and at another of “all interested states.” It seems clear that Moscow has no expectation whatsoever of Chinese participation. It probably believes that, while the obstacles to formal action cannot be overcome, the USSR has much to gain, particularly in the post-Vietnam environment, simply from launching a concept which permits it to pose as the champion of collective security against unnamed threats. The scheme is probably also designed to preempt any US proposals for new collective organizations in the wake of a settlement in Vietnam.

Eastern Europe

9. The secret document expresses a surprising amount of concern about the role of China in the USSR’s troubles in Eastern Europe. The public speech briefly refers to this and omits the conventional charges that the US and West Germany are fomenting counter-revolution in this area. The absence of even indirect attacks upon Romania reflects a Soviet decision to swallow the displeasure which Moscow finds in the US President’s forthcoming visit to Bucharest. Gromyko repeats the essence of the “Brezhnev doctrine,” but in a way which smacks more of defensive justification than any intent to apply it anew. He is somewhat more explicit than previous spokesmen in delimiting the sphere in which the doctrine is applicable, stating that the Warsaw Pact “will [Page 202] never permit anyone to encroach on the security of its signatories and on the socialist gains in these countries.” This formulation seemingly excludes Yugoslavia, a point which the USSR has never before clarified to Belgrade’s satisfaction. A brief and amiable passage acknowledges the socialist character of Yugoslavia but, lest Belgrade’s behavior be sanctioned as an example to other Eastern Europeans, notes that Soviet relations with that country “are not always smooth.”

The Middle East

10. Gromyko’s mention of the Middle East offers nothing new, and stresses again Moscow’s position that Israeli occupation of Arab territory is the obstacle to a political settlement. Nevertheless, Gromyko does not indicate any extreme concern about the Arab-Israeli situation and—unlike last year—he does not threaten Israel with the consequences of failure to fulfill the Security Council resolution of November, 1967. Moreover, Gromyko notes that Israeli withdrawal must be accompanied by Arab recognition of Israel’s right to exist, thus publicly recording a recent change in the Soviet position. Less authoritative spokesmen often continue to support withdrawal as a unilateral first step toward a settlement.


11. It would be easy to overstress the degree to which the struggle with China is affecting various aspects of Soviet policy. While this impact is evident in current Soviet documents and behavior, there is no sign of a consequent willingness to give up important Soviet interests. Indeed, many aspects of the USSR’s rivalry with the US are embedded in third areas—Vietnam, the Middle East, Central Europe—where the USSR is not free to call the shots and cannot propose major compromises without risking the loss of influence. Within these limits, however, it seems clear that the China problem has now reached a degree of intensity which is moving Soviet policy onto an altered course. This course is intended to avoid unnecessary conflict with others and to make sure that states which cannot be corralled into an anti-Chinese front at least do not work parallel to or in collusion with Peking against the Soviet Union.

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Registry Files, Job 80–R015080R, Box 12, Soviet. Secret; No Foreign Dissem; No Dissem Abroad; Controlled Dissem; Background Use Only. Sent under a July 16 covering memorandum to Rogers in which Helms explained, “Herewith is a copy of a paper written at White House request for an analysis of Gromyko’s address to the Supreme Soviet on 10 July. I think you will find it useful.”
  2. See footnote 2, Document 65.
  3. Helms explained in his covering memorandum that “This ‘instruction’ was disseminated by CIA as CSDB–312/01562–69 of 24 June 1969. If you have not read this Soviet Circular Telegram, I would strongly suggest that you do so. Signed by Gromyko himself, it contains many interesting points on current Soviet foreign policy.” On June 24, Haig sent the circular telegram to Kissinger under a cover memorandum that read: “I recommend that you read every page of the document … Quick reading confirms the extremely concerned state of mind of the Soviets with respect to the Chicom threat. It also confirms a strong suspicion on their part that we should, if we have not already started to, exploit the differences between the Soviet Union and Communist China. The report, together with others that we have picked up, simply confirms that a concerted effort on our part to at least threaten efforts at rapprochement with the Chicoms would be of the greatest concern to the Soviets. It is interesting to note that the Soviets have surmised that the best environment for their problem with the Chicoms is a détente situation.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 710, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. V) (Ellipsis in the original)
  4. See footnote 4, Document 65.