157. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Ambassador Anatoly F. Dobrynin
  • Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger

The conversation started in a mellow mood, with Dobrynin reflecting on some of his experiences.

He said that it was his view that Khrushchev had a great sense of publicity and was tactically quite good but had no sense of strategy whatsoever. He said that Gromyko and he had all urged Khrushchev first to return to the summit conference in Paris in 1960, after he had made his scene, and secondly, to go into concrete negotiations with Kennedy in September 1961. Both Gromyko and Dobrynin were convinced that they could get major concessions, first from Eisenhower and then from Kennedy—a judgment with which I tend to agree. However, Khrushchev was convinced that he could obtain a stationing of Soviet forces in West Berlin and therefore was not prepared to negotiate. As a result, the Soviet Union obtained nothing. The Soviet judgment of Kennedy was that he was a very weak but very vain man on whose weaknesses one could play.

Dobrynin also told me that prior to the Vienna summit,2 when Khrushchev explained to the Politburo how he planned to proceed, the only man who stood up to him was Mikoyan,3 who said in effect that it would be easier to deal with Kennedy with sugar than with vinegar.

Gromyko Visit

The meeting was supposed to go over the Gromyko visit [Monday, February 4]. There was some discussion of Gromyko’s arrival, and Do[Page 651]brynin suggested that, since Gromyko had met me at the airport in Moscow several times, it would be a nice gesture if I reciprocated this. I said American protocol does not call for the Secretary of State to go to the airport. Dobrynin pointed out that this was not the issue, but that in the present state of U.S.-Soviet relations some solidarity was useful.

We then discussed the order of the meetings and the participants. We agreed that I would have lunch at the Soviet Embassy and would give a dinner at Blair House Monday evening.

Middle East

We then turned to the Middle East.

Dobrynin said that a bitter debate had been taking place within the Soviet Union. Many had argued that the Soviet Union had suffered a setback without any commensurate benefit. To be sure, in the long term nobody was going to gain anything by solo performance in the Middle East, but the long term was not all that mattered. When I pointed out that gratitude was not the outstanding attribute of the Mid-East nations, Dobrynin agreed, but he said that nevertheless an interval of bad feelings could do serious harm to our relationship. I agreed, and told him we would be very circumspect.

Dobrynin added that a policy decision had been made in the Soviet Union to move very constructively and cooperatively with the United States in the Middle East. The explicit decision was that the Soviet Union had nothing to gain from a continuation of conflict and that it would use its influence to help end the rivalry and move towards peace. I told him that in that case the Soviet Union would have to change some of its tactics. The tendency to come up with global solutions was simply not possible. Each issue had to be dealt with individually and one at a time. Dobrynin said that this was true, but that there was a good chance that Sadat would get himself completely isolated and into more difficulty than he ever bargained for. I said this is why it was important to make some progress on Syria.

I asked Dobrynin how we could give effect to this determination and move constructively. He said, one, Gromyko was planning a trip to the Middle East in March and we should do nothing to interfere with that. I assured him he could count on it. Secondly, he said that if we had periodic meetings of the Co-Chairmen,4 it would symbolize our common commitment. I agreed to that as well.

Nuclear Test Limitation; MBFR

We then turned to other matters. Dobrynin asked about the forthcoming summit visit to the Soviet Union. Would it be possible to agree, [Page 652] if not to an end of underground testing, to a limit on the number of tests? I told him I would look into it.

Dobrynin then asked whether it might be possible at the summit to agree to a percentage cut of Soviet and U.S. forces in MBFR. I said that I remembered that Brezhnev in June 1973 had recommended only five percent; we thought ten percent would be the minimum. Dobrynin said, “Well, maybe we’ll compromise on eight percent.” I told him it seemed to us that ten percent was the genuine minimum, but in any event the problem was how to relate it to the position of our Allies. Dobrynin said we should both think further about that. I said it would help to do this if we could get a basic plan accepted in the MBFR negotiations as a goal, within which this first stage could be negotiated.


We then turned to SALT.

Dobrynin said that the equal throw-weight proposal was creating major problems in Moscow. The Soviet military were pointing out that this would mean, first, that they would have much fewer MIRVed missiles, and second, that their large missiles could have no MIRVs at all. I said no, their large missiles could have MIRVs. He said yes, but in that case they could only have 50 to 60 MIRVed missiles.

I told him one way of handling this problem would be to reduce some of the non-MIRVed missiles. Dobrynin seemed surprised and asked whether we would really be prepared to dismantle some of our missiles. I said in principle, yes. Dobrynin asked whether we would be willing to dismantle some submarines too. I said in principle it was more difficult for us, but we would be prepared to discuss reductions in all categories, including airplanes.

Dobrynin said in his judgment this was not a matter in which we could make any progress with Gromyko. It had to be settled with Brezhnev when I got there in March.


Dobrynin asked whether we were still thinking of June for the President’s summit visit. I said yes.

Economic Relations

Dobrynin raised questions about the economic relationship and said that MFN had now become a highly symbolic issue which could profoundly affect our relationship, but that credits were absolutely imperative. Were we prepared still to go ahead on the long-term economic agreement? I told him we were, but urged that it be deferred until after the Trade Bill’s fate had been decided.

The meeting then ended.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 22, January–April 1974. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The dinner meeting was held at the Department of State. Brackets are in the original.
  2. The June 1961 Vienna Summit between Kennedy and Khrushchev.
  3. Anastas Mikoyan served as First Deputy Premier of the Soviet Union from 1956 to 1964 and then as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet from 1964 to 1965.
  4. The United States and the Soviet Union were Co-Chairmen of the Geneva Peace Conference on the Middle East.