220. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

3243. London for Hillenbrand.2 Subj: Call on Gromyko on Force Reductions in Central Europe. Ref: State 085212.3

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I saw Gromyko at noon May 17 for 30 minute discussion of force reductions in Central Europe. Klosson and Polansky accompanied me. Referring to my earlier discussion with Gromyko about Brezhnev’s Party Congress speech,4 I told Gromyko I wished to lay before him some lines of our thinking on the subject of force reductions and to seek Soviet clarification of their attitudes on this matter. I then read and left with him talking points in reftel and also gave him copy of pertinent portions of Rome communiqué.5
Gromyko read through copy of the Rome principles, apparently looking for word “balanced,” which he found, and which he commented on subsequently in the discussion. After Gromyko made the point that he understood my call was to ascertain whether the USSR was ready to discuss the question of force reductions, with due regard for the principles in the Rome communiqué, he said he had several observations of a preliminary nature.
First, he said, the question of force reductions deserved serious attention. With respect to the Rome proposals, Moscow proceeded from the assumption that the West had once posed the question in the context of a CES. While the USSR deemed it a positive fact that NATO had referred favorably to a CES, Gromyko said they had expressed the view that discussion of this question at a CES, at least at the first meeting, would complicate the situation and put too heavy a burden on the conference. Therefore, the Soviets posed the question in terms of the possible reduction of foreign forces in Europe. This is simpler way. It could be done by a special body of the CES or in any other forum. If the Western powers agree that the question should be examined outside a CES, this would be much simpler and more productive. A number of questions arise, such as scale of reduction of foreign or of national troops as well and other questions. Therefore, a non-CES forum would be better.
Another factor, which Gromyko said he wished to draw to my attention and that he assumed I would report to the USG, was that Western proposals—at Rome, Reykjavik and until now—had introduced the idea of “balanced” reductions in connection with certain other reservations. Gromyko said this concept introduced an element which could prevent troop reductions. The idea put the Soviets “on the [Page 658] alert” in a sense. The Soviet view was that no preconditions should be set up for the very idea of discussions.
Lastly, if he, Gromyko, understood correctly, the USG shows interest in discussing the reduction of forces question. If so, this is a “positive indicator,” and we can continue to consult.
I told Gromyko we were not attached to any particular forum for discussing the question, as the Secretary had made clear in his TV remarks of Sunday. The forum and means were open to consideration. I did, however, wish to emphasize we would be unable to make any specific proposals until we had held discussions with our allies.
Regarding his comments on the word “balanced,” I reread to him the first principle of the Rome communiqué, indicating this was the rationale for the use of that term which protected both sides. I added, however, this was a matter to be considered and discussed in the framework of setting up an agenda for force reduction talks. Both sides appeared interested and seemed to agree that a way should be found to get talks started.
Gromyko suggested both sides review each other’s position. He then said that either side should feel free to discuss the question additionally with each other, adding in English “between us.”
The discussion concluded with my stating that both sides will wish to think over the matter of timing for such discussions, and with Gromyko saying it would be good to find a more realistic, more attainable ground on which to discuss the reduction of force question.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 715, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. XIII [2 of 2]. Secret; Immediate. Repeated to Ankara, Athens, Bonn, Brussels, Copenhagen, The Hague, Lisbon, London, Luxembourg, Oslo, Ottawa, Paris, Reykjavik, Rome, USDEL SALT IV, and USNATO. Kissinger forwarded and summarized this telegram in a May 26 memorandum to Nixon, stating that the meeting between Beam and Gromyko confirmed a “complete reversal” in Soviet policy on linkage between MBFR and CSCE, possibly due to a similar reversal on SALT. (Ibid.) The memorandum is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXIX, European Security, Document 54.
  2. Hillenbrand was in London May 17–18 to discuss the quadripartite negotiations on Berlin with British, French, and West German senior officials.
  3. In telegram 85212 to Moscow, May 15, the Department instructed Beam to meet Gromyko and probe the Soviet attitude on MBFR in the wake of Brezhnev’s Tbilisi speech. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 715, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. XIII [2 of 2])
  4. Beam met Gromyko in Moscow on April 30 to discuss Brezhnev’s Party Congress speech. The Embassy reported their discussion on force reductions in telegram 2848 from Moscow, May 1. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL USUSSR)
  5. Reference is to the declaration on MBFR issued at the NATO Ministerial Meeting in Rome on May 27, 1970. For the text, see Department of State Bulletin, June 22, 1970, pp. 772–775.