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

325. Subj: Kosygin/Muskie Meeting. Ref: State 8191.2

Summary. During Jan 15 Kosygin/Muskie meeting which lasted almost four hours, the opening discussion centered on ecological problems and developments in USSR and US. In addition, Senator raised POW issue, indicating importance American public opinion attaches to it. There was also brief discussion of Vietnam, the Leningrad trial and the treatment of Jews in the USSR, and the question of confidence building between our two countries. Discussion of SALT, ME and Germany are treated more fully below. Muskie prefaced substantive part of his views by emphasizing unofficial character of his visit and fact he carried no message and was not negotiating any agreement. End Summary.
Kosygin took an unyielding, tough line with the Senator with respect to US policies in general. Based on our reading of the Senator’s meetings with Kosygin and with Gromyko (an EmbOff was present on both occasions and took notes3 along with the Senator’s aides), we see no shifts in Soviet positions on international subjects discussed. On US-Soviet relations, Kosygin expressed a desire for better relations, but with the usual caveats that it all depends on US. Kosygin took a harder line than did Gromyko on our position toward Brandt’s Ostpolitik. Discussion in both instances was serious. Kosygin appeared somber, attentive throughout, with some iciness showing through when talking about Jewish problem and heat when talking about Vietnam, and in general was conspicuously more doctrinaire and polemical than Gromyko.
SALT. Muskie began by talking about desire to reduce military expenditures. He said in past two years Senate had subjected defense budget to great scrutiny. As result, administration’s budget in 1969 had been cut by six billion dollars. He expressed interest in MBFR in Europe as part of desire to reduce armaments. He also advocated broadest possible agreement at SALT.
Kosygin responded that USSR has always favored disarmament. He asserted that Soviet military budget was 25–27 percent of US military budget, and nothing was hidden in other parts of budget. He said Soviets noticed and “appreciated” Senate’s action in cutting military expenditures by six billion dollars. Soviets also noticed President’s statement that military budget might have to be larger next year.4 Soviets “follow these events closely.” Specifically on SALT, Kosygin said both sides are approaching question differently, with “great wariness and care,” but “with great desire of finding a solution in limiting strategic armaments”.
In Muskie’s discussion with Gromyko, the Foreign Minister asserted he could not give definitive answer regarding whether US seeking a mutually acceptable SALT agreement with USSR, but did not call into question US intentions. Gromyko said Moscow favors broadest possible agreement, but would not commit himself on how Soviets see next stage of negotiations.
Muskie said he favored broadest possible agreement noting the SALT talks now appear to be focusing on ABM. He then expressed his interest in a freeze for six months as a start on offensive and defensive missiles, with Gromyko cutting in to ask if he included defensive missiles [Page 293] also. Muskie replied affirmatively. Muskie said freeze would give chance to see if national means of verification can work. He also said that there is now parity between US and USSR and if talks last too long, balance might be lost as well as opportunity for agreement.
Middle East. Senator Muskie opened up discussion of the M.E. by noting that no area had more potential for destroying any constructive U.S.-Soviet relationship, that it has poisoned the atmosphere on both sides, and resolution of this problem will help eliminate others. Kosygin replied in uncompromising harsh terms, charging specifically that:
Israel is settling people on seized Arab territories;
US did not call for settling Arab-Israeli conflict by peaceful means but supported aggression—another example, he said, where US takes position “on other side of barricade from S.U.” where major problem is involved;
Israel is like gangster who in US (where there can be large scale gangster problem) might seize your house and demand that you negotiate with him for its return;
rejoicing in USG circles over Israel’s victory surprised USSR since 200 million Arabs will never be reconciled to loss of territory, and this has become inflammatory factor in the situation;
Arabs will remember US policy and this will not create confidence but rather will build tension by implication between Arabs and US.
In a brief exchange on UN question of Israeli security, Kosygin argued that USSR had said all along that Israel must exist as independent state but must give up occupied territories. USSR was acting in accordance with the relevant SC resolution.5 Muskie replied that the situation is not black and white as Kosygin described it. It is a question of what is really security and “acting as if Israel does not have a security problem is not going to allow a settlement.” It is necessary to deal with both Arab desire to recover territories and Israeli desire for security.
Muskie told Gromyko that he had talked with Meir, Dayan, Allon, Sapir6 and the militant-conservative wing, to get a “good cross-section of opinion” on the border and territorial question. He has also talked to Sadat and Riad. While neither side wishes the resumption of hostilities, except as a last resort, their respective positions on territory makes the possibility of settlement discouraging. For Mrs. Meir, the territorial question will recede to the extent that she is satisfied that a [Page 294] real peace will follow a settlement. For Sadat, “even one square inch” of former Egyptian territory is an unacceptable price. Sadat supports concept of four-power proposal on guarantees. Muskie said he had urged Sadat to consider that the territorial question may reduce itself to “minor rectifications,” specifically Golan Heights, the narrow waist of Israel along the western bank of the Jordan (involving Syria and Jordan) and Sharm-el-Sheik (involving the UAR). While Jerusalem is not a security problem, it is also an area about which Israelis feel strongly, although they are prepared to be flexible on details. If hostilities are to be avoided, these points of friction will have to be eliminated. In the Jarring talks, Muskie felt that most recent Israeli proposal had represented some substantive movement; while doubtless unacceptable to UAR, it would hopefully elicit a counter-proposal. Muskie said he found strong disinclination to use Jarring talks as first step, with Arabs preferring instead to go to Security Council. Muskie said he urged Arabs to avoid alternative route until all possibilities exhausted in Jarring talks. Gromyko said Israel’s latest proposals only serve to worsen the chances for agreement.
Gromyko questioned Israel’s view that it can gain security by clinging to occupied territory, and rejected possibility to obtain really effective guarantees from big powers or UN, sanctified in most solemn way. “It seems to us that when offered peace and effective guarantees, Israel runs away.” There was extended discussion of Israeli view of security with Muskie expressing understanding for Israeli feeling about Golan Heights. “This is not question of logic.” In case of Sharm-el-Sheik, UN presence did not guarantee access to Tiran Straits. Gromyko argued against need for even minor rectifications, saying that USSR would have answer similar withdrawal offer from Nazi Germany with massed artillery salvos. Muskie replied that he distinguished between acquisition of territory in war and rectifications of borders in areas sensitive to security of one or another state. He cited example of Soviet borders with Finland and Poland and the Oder–Neisse border. He also recalled that it was only after Six Day War that UAR was ready to concede Israel’s right of passage through Suez and right to exist. Gromyko argued, in turn, that US position on what is necessary to achieve a settlement has continued to expand since 1967, and he referred to international convention which states that UAR has sovereignty over Canal, and if UAR agrees now to Israeli passage it should be considered a goodwill gesture of peace. Gromyko also asserted that US could exert “sobering influence” on Israel to get it to agree to peaceful settlement.
For obvious reasons, Muskie did not pass on to Soviets certain of his impressions of Egypt and Sadat, which the Secretary will find particularly interesting. Muskie told Embassy he was impressed by warm welcome extended to him and Sadat’s unusually frank statement that Egypt needs friendship with U.S. if it is to retain its independence.
Europe. With Kosygin, Muskie expressed support for Brandt’s Ostpolitik and normalization of the status of Berlin. Kosygin responded by asking why talk about Brandt’s policy. It was a policy FRG and USSR shared; without Soviet agreement to such a policy, Brandt would not be able to get anywhere. Kosygin then accused the US of adopting a “cool” attitude toward the FRG/USSR treaty.
Kosygin also asserted that the US opposed the Soviet proposal for a CES, which he said was aimed at reducing tensions in Europe. It was a great concession by Moscow to agree that US and Canada could participate in a CES even though they were not European states. The US would not be so generous toward the USSR if Washington were organizing a conference of Latin American states.
Muskie responded, saying that to work toward a European security arrangement will take protracted work. A CES is not out of the range of possibilities if we generate the right climate and agenda.
Gromyko did not talk about CES, confining himself to West Berlin and the FRG/USSR treaty. He said Soviet position on West Berlin was perfectly clear, in case anyone in US has any doubts. He said crucial point, which he emphasized by speaking in English, was respect for previously concluded agreements. He said Moscow agrees completely with American view that nothing should be prejudicial to other sides even if there are differences of opinion on legal aspects of problem or on factual situation. Gromyko then stressed that FRG political presence in West Berlin must be eliminated.
Gromyko asserted Moscow and GDR were willing to be helpful in meeting wishes of other side on civilian transport, which he said was not regulated by Allied agreement. He said they were ready to do this “practically on the basis of free transit.” He then said there are three problems relating to West Berlin, which in effect form a triangle. First, FRG political presence in West Berlin which is a Four Power issue and involves eliminating violations of 1945 agreements.7 Second, civilian transit, which is totally under GDR sovereignty, and is therefore a question of agreement between the FRG and GDR. Third, movement between West Berlin and GDR, which is between Senat and GDR. Each agreement could operate and remain in force only if the other two are operative, even though the participants in each agreement could be different.
Gromyko said that the efforts to link ratification of the FRG/USSR treaty to West Berlin would be in vain. Muskie said that he would have a better reading after talking with Chancellor Brandt,8 noting that, whether or not there is a formal link between West Berlin and the treaty, as a political matter they are connected. Muskie said he disagreed with recent statements by Ball and Acheson.9 Gromyko said if US approaches West Berlin problem “without prejudice” it will conclude that agreement is possible on the basis now taking shape. He expressed confidence that agreement could be reached in line with wishes of all parties concerned. Finally, he said Moscow appreciated the favorable attitude of USG toward FRG/USSR treaty, and hoped Washington would display “equal realism” on West Berlin.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL USUSSR. Secret; Exdis; Immediate.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 97.
  3. Not found.
  4. No Presidential statement to this effect has not been found. Laird announced on November 17, 1970, that “inevitable upward pressures” might soon force the administration to seek an increase in the defense budget. (New York Times, November 18, 1970, p. 1)
  5. United Nations Security Council Resolution 242. See footnote 10, Document 15.
  6. Yigal Allon, Deputy Prime Minister, and Pinchas Sapir, Minister of Finance. Muskie began his four-day visit to Israel on January 6 and his three-day visit to Egypt on January 10.
  7. Berlin was governed in accordance with several agreements signed in 1945, including the Allied Statement on Control Machinery in Germany and “Greater Berlin,” June 5; and the Allied Agreement on the Quadripartite Administration of Berlin, July 7. For the text of these agreements, see Documents on Germany, 1944–1985, pp. 39–40, 43–44.
  8. Although an officer was not present at the meeting in Bonn on January 17, Muskie and Harriman gave the Embassy a “short debriefing” of the discussion. The Embassy submitted the “highlights” of the debriefing in telegram 586 from Bonn, January 18. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, LEG 7 MUSKIE) After a meeting with Brandt on January 17, Muskie publicly endorsed Ostpolitik with the brief statement: “I like it.” (New York Times, January 18, p. 5)
  9. Former Under Secretary of State George Ball defended the critics of Ostpolitik in a letter to the editor of the New York Times (p. 31) on January 8. On December 8, 1970, Chalmers Roberts reported in the Washington Post (p. A8) that former Secretary of State Dean Acheson believed that Washington should slow down Brandt’s “mad race to Moscow.” See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XL, Germany and Berlin, 1969–1972, Document 143.