333. Telegram From Secretary of State Rogers to the Department of State 1

Secto 17/2877. Memorandum of Conversation: FM Gromyko (U.S.S.R.): Dinner. September 24, 1971, 8 pm, Waldorf Towers.

Following is Noforn, FYI only, uncleared and subject to revision on review.

Participants: USSRFM Gromyko, Ambassador Dobrynin, PermRep Malik, Mr. Mendelevich, Mr. Kornienko, Mr. Vorontsov, Mr. Israelyan, Mr. Sukhodrev (interpreter/notetaker); US—The Secretary, Ambassador Bush, Ambassador Beam, Mr. Pedersen, Mr. Sisco, Mr. De-Palma, Mr. Hillenbrand, Mr. Muromcew (interpreter/notetaker).
The Secretary opened the discussion by stating his gratification at the positive outcome of the Berlin talks and felt it useful now to discuss the problem of the mutual reduction of forces and their relation to the Berlin problem. The US side has already mentioned its interest to the Soviet Ambassador. Now was the time to discuss possible procedures.
FM Gromyko replied that the Soviet side had noted US’s statement on European security and, if correctly understood, the USG is sympathetically considering a European security conference. As earlier indicated the Soviet side has no intention to pursue any treacherous aims or to harm any nation. The Soviet side is being guided by the desire to find a way to reduce tensions in Europe and to improve the European situation as well as the relations between countries, all countries, Gromyko stressed, not only between European countries. What he had said so far was not new but now it was necessary to see what practical measures can be taken to pursue above aims.
It would be well he continued, to have a preferably multilateral meeting to discuss the agenda, the participants, and to finalize other questions such as the time for such a meeting. He felt that the Finnish proposal should be considered to speed up the work. He would hope on his return from the UN to report to the Soviet Government that the [Page 1009] USG agrees to such an approach and would agree to such a meeting next year. And hopefully be even more specific on the date to which all participants would have to agree.
The Secretary then asked FM Gromyko to clarify his thoughts on the agenda and whether all or only some of the participating nations would take part in the preliminary meeting. FM Gromyko replied that he would like to seek all nations participating in such a preliminary meeting. The Secretary then asked about the level of such a preliminary meeting and also about the timing in relation to the ratification (after final signature) of the Berlin agreement.2
FM Gromyko thought that no strict relationships should be applied but the developments were such that it would be better to have the ratification first. The FRG Government, to his knowledge proceeded from the same assumption. He expected the ratification to take place early next year but this should not be a pre-condition for the preliminary, he stressed, preliminary conference to discuss the agenda and the organization of the full conference. His side was open minded as to the level of the preliminary conference. It could be, for instance, on the deputy foreign minister level or their equivalents. It was up to each of the governments to appoint a suitable representative. Some countries could authorize their ambassadors to Finland. The main point in his view was not to get tied up by a protocol consideration but to remain flexible.
The Secretary replied that any meeting of this nature would assume the aura of a conference. The US side planned to be flexible and find ways to accomplish this without a conference. One could, for instance, have bilateral exploratory talks on procedure and agenda without convening a conference. Such an approach would alleviate the problem of having a conference before the ratification.
Gromyko replied that perhaps a very modest term could be found to describe such a meeting. He felt that bilateral talks would not serve the purpose since the agreement of other countries was needed. It would take too long to do this in writing. The problem was to find a suitable and rational format to prepare for the conference. He was against sitting and waiting for the ratification. After all, he argued, the US and the USSR are conducting parallel talks on different subjects.
The Secretary replied that he had no intention to decide on the conference in a bilateral manner but was looking for a less structured approach to the problem. He foresaw difficulties with a conference before the ratification. The FRG stated that it has to have a satisfactory [Page 1010] solution on Berlin before they could participate in a European conference. He then asked for the Soviet views on mutual reduction of forces, that is, to discuss it at the conference or to negotiate it separately.
FM Gromyko replied that he would prefer separate talks on the reduction of forces in order not to burden the main conference with too many items. He also thought it possible to exchange views on the reduction of forces before convening the European security conference. It would also be possible to create a special body or machinery to deal with this question at the security conference in which all countries would participate. He stressed that the reduction of forces could also be treated separately as an isolated item.
The Secretary inquired whether the same nations would be participating in both conferences. FM Gromyko replied that all European countries interested in it will participate but this should not mean that it would affect the armaments of all the European countries. He could not present a detailed plan at this point and hoped that the US side was not expecting it from him. He could however list some, if not all, principal points: (a) the reduction of armed forces will pertain to foreign as well as national forces; (b) this question must not be viewed in terms of blocs but on basis of separate states. To use the bloc approach would put many countries on guard. This was all he could say at this time and could offer no further analysis. He would hope to have an exchange with the US side on this subject of a more concrete nature.
But the Secretary inquired whether a single person could deal with the Soviet Union and other countries in this matter. FM Gromyko doubted that this would be the best approach because having one person from each group would give this enterprise a bloc aspect. The Soviet Union was not afraid of this but in general was not enthusiastic fearing that some countries may react negatively and not without a reason. Therefore a more acceptable form was needed to please potential participants. The Secretary then suggested a committee. FM Gromyko continued that the above reservations did not apply to a US representative who would meet a Soviet representative. In no case should this be a NATO representative or a Warsaw Pact representative. A more flexible attitude was needed. For instance, a US and a Soviet representative could meet and then the USG would share the views with others just as the Soviet Union would do with her allies. Let us go outside of the bloc framework and I invite your attention to this proposal, concluded FM Gromyko. The Secretary suggested to continue these talks in Washington.
Ambassador Bush then presented a brief report on the parliamentary situation in the UN on the ChiRep issue. This was an important issue for the US although his colleague, the Soviet PermRep Malik, would argue that the Middle East is a far more important question [Page 1011] at this time. The problems included differences of official positions of several governments and some people at the UN thought that the US side was not serious about it. The President and the Secretary had determined to work on a solution of this problem, in particular about seating Taiwan and Peking.
On the China question FM Gromyko wanted to say again that the position of his government was known and has not changed. In the interest of his government’s policy and in the interest of the UN he could not act otherwise. There was nothing new he could state and his government will maintain the same position during the whole session. If the USG would like to communicate some new nuances he would be glad to hear them and take note of them. In conclusion he congratulated Amb Bush on his efforts.
Turning to the Secretary FM Gromyko asked him for his views on the outcome on the China question. The Secretary replied that it was too early to tell but the US side hoped to succeed. Gromyko then asked whether the Secretary expected the Chinese to come in case of a successful outcome. The Secretary replied that he was aware of their present position but that governments had a way of changing their views in face of reality. He added that the Middle East question will have to be discussed in the near future.
Ambassador Beam then raised the question of divided families in the USSR and in the US adding that this question had been under discussion since 1959 and meant a lot to the families concerned but was such a small matter for the Soviet Government. He then transmitted a list to the Soviet representative Kornienko.3
The question of a statement to the press was briefly discussed in light vein. In conclusion the Secretary said again how glad he was about the progress achieved during the last year and hoped to continue in the same spirit and was looking forward to seeing FM Gromyko in Washington next week. In reply FM Gromyko assured the Secretary of the willingness the Soviet side also to continue in the same spirit of cooperation.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 USSR. Secret; Exdis. Repeated to Moscow. Rogers forwarded a copy of the telegram with a September 28 memorandum to the President on the upcoming meeting with Gromyko. “My discussions with Gromyko in New York last week,” Rogers observed, “were cordial and reflected the improved atmosphere in US-Soviet relations from last year.” (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 71, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Gromyko, 1971–1972) Nixon, however, apparently saw neither the telegram nor the memorandum; see footnote 1, Document 334.
  2. Reference should be to ratification of the Moscow and Warsaw Treaties and signature of the Final Protocol for the Quadripartite Agreement on Berlin.
  3. Not found.