175. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Andrei A. Gromyko, Member of the Politburo, Central Committee, CPSU, and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the USSR
  • Anatoli F. Dobrynin, Ambassador to the U.S.
  • Georgi M. Korniyenko, Member of the Collegium, Chief of USA Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Viktor M. Sukhodrev, Counselor, MFA (Interpreter)
  • Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor, Department of State
  • Arthur Hartman, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs
  • William A. Hyland, Director, INR
  • Robert J. McCloskey, Ambassador-at-Large
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff


  • CSCE; ABM Limitation; Threshold Test Ban; Environmental Warfare; Bilateral Agreements; Jackson Amendment

[Photographers were admitted briefly at the beginning of the meeting.]

Kissinger: I saw Senator Kennedy yesterday. He says he saw an opening: He feels he could persuade you to accept a complete test ban, with an escape clause for China. He saw an opening!

Seriously, I think it was a very useful visit. [Gromyko smiles.] Seriously, even for our common objectives. Though he will be an opponent in ’76, in the present debate he will be an ally against Jackson.

Gromyko: What shall I say? I will take notice of that. [Laughter] That is the most correct thing.

Judging by all the papers I see Dr. Kissinger and his aides have, I see you have a mass of things to raise. It seems a massive offensive on your part. [Laughter]

Kissinger: We thought it better to deal with all the issues except the Middle East and SALT tonight, and do those tomorrow.

Gromyko: I received your solemn message [to that effect]. [Laughter] I agree.

What do you suggest we take up first?

[Page 846]

First, let me express my gratification for the opportunity to discuss these things, to discuss on a classical bilateral basis here in Geneva. There are, indeed, always questions to be discussed. You know what they are, as do I.

What should we start with?

Kissinger: I thought, if you agree, we could review where we stand on various items for the summit, then the European Security Conference, and other bilateral issues. Of course, test ban, and ABM site.

Gromyko: I completely agree with that. May I start by saying a few words on Europe?

Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Kissinger: Let’s talk about Europe.

Gromyko: Good. The fact that we are not fully satisfied with the way things are going at the All-European Conference is well known. I said so in my meetings with you and the President in Washington; General Secretary Brezhnev said so to you in Moscow. We think it is time to end the All-European Conference.

Kissinger: I have made an appointment tomorrow, after our discussions, with our Ambassador to the All-European Conference so I can talk to him personally about the direction we will go.

Gromyko: Good. That, I feel sure, would be useful. It is certainly high time to end it. The end of the second stage should be in the nearest possible future—to be more definite, in May. That depends only on the governments and peoples actually at the Conference.

Further, understanding should be reached on holding the third and final stage at the summit level and as soon as possible. It is best of all to hold it before the forthcoming Soviet-American summit meeting.

Kissinger: First, on the Conference. I agree the work now depends on the efforts governments are prepared to make. We could perhaps run over some of the topics while we are here.

As for the level, our position is the one we discussed in Moscow, and has not changed.

As for timing, as a practical matter, looking at the President’s calendar and my calendar, there is no possibility of doing it in June. But I said this to you in Moscow.

Gromyko: What about the first half of July?

Kissinger: As far as we are concerned . . . the President will be in the Soviet Union from the 24th of June to the 1st of July. I think he should return to the United States. So closer to the middle of July would be better. But it would depend on the course of events at the summit and on the decision, of course, of many other governments.

[Page 847]

Gromyko: What is the general mood of your European friends on that? This is the first time we have gone into concrete dates.

Kissinger: My impression is, I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me Brandt has already told you he wants a summit.

Gromyko: With regard to Chancellor Brandt, even previously he spoke in general terms about holding it at the summit, though he always mentioned minor reservations.

Kissinger: I don’t say it as a criticism.

Gromyko: Very minor, minor [reservations]. He was sympathetic.

Kissinger: To tell you candidly our problem: We don’t want to be in the position of being accused of having forced our allies to go to the summit if they don’t want to go. If they want it, we won’t be the obstacle, to put it mildly.

Gromyko: You have now worsened your position—a little bit worse. Before, you spoke lucidly; now you say it is only if your allies agree. We think United States should have a say in this and not just follow, just follow.

Kissinger: “Just follow” is not my style.

Up to now, the West European governments have used the formula that they will go to the summit “if the results of the Conference warrant”—even while it is perfectly clear what the outcome will be. We believe the probable outcome is sufficiently clear so that we will next week take formal soundings of what their view is. Then we will inform you, when we know concretely what their attitude is.

Gromyko: Good.

Kissinger: Because I suspect we will see each other before too long.

Gromyko: Very good.

I recently had discussions with the representatives of a difficult country at the European Security Conference. Guess which.

Kissinger: Romania, or France. [Laughter]

Gromyko: No. The Netherlands.

Kissinger: Oh, the cabaret! [Laughter] Will you try to get a cabaret in Moscow?

Gromyko: He said to me: “I believe the complications which existed until now will be overcome in the very near future.” He spoke of there being certain forward movement at the Conference in the recent period. Regarding the level of the third and final stage, he didn’t express himself definitely.

Kissinger: We didn’t want to take a formal sounding until the results would be more clear. My impression is the Europeans are a little more negative. There is no sense speculating, because in a week we will know. We are not bound by them.

[Page 848]

Incidentally, our impression is also that things are moving forward at the Conference.

Gromyko: Let’s agree then that if, for example, one, two, three small countries—maybe the Netherlands—decide not to send their Head of Government or Head of State to the third stage, all right; every country will be free to decide whom to send at the highest level. But if the major countries decide to send their highest officials, we are free to do so. Why be slaves to our procedural structures? The President I know is accustomed to think in terms of big categories.

Kissinger: It is true that one or two or three won’t be able to veto, especially if they are the smaller ones. I agree with this general observation.

Gromyko: We are sympathetic with that idea. Brandt is. And even France.

Kissinger: That would be hard to verify.

Sonnenfeldt: By national means.

Gromyko: Pompidou was, and whoever wins will not go backward. And thank God China is not represented. Thank any God.

Kissinger: As I said in Moscow, I would think the chances are very good. Actually we have not taken concrete steps with our allies, but it is time to proceed.

Gromyko: Good. Now I think the time is more appropriate than before for you to do that—to get in touch with others. And not simply to compare yours with theirs.

Kissinger: But let us do it before your people ask them.

Gromyko: All right.

Kissinger: My reaction is that West European judgments on the level will depend on their assessment of Basket III. Our view doesn’t depend on that to that degree. But I told you that in Moscow.

Gromyko: With the greatest of pleasure I would simply cut the bottom out of that third Basket, not because it is bad as such but because the questions in it have been inflated 100 times bigger than their real merits. The purpose of the Conference is to strengthen peace and security in Europe.

But I am sure there has been progress. In short, if all of these matters are tied in with the relevant principles and if it is indicated that the Basket doesn’t represent an attempt to interfere with the sovereignty, then the problem is solved. I think the main difficulty will be in the area of so-called military détente—as regards troop maneuvering, and so on.

Kissinger: On Basket III, on the issue of domestic legislation, we are making good progress and it seems to be reaching a solution. I men[Page 849]tioned it not because we won’t agree, but because for some West Europeans to go to the summit, the decision depends on what they can say is in Basket III. What are the issues? Art?

Hartman: We haven’t really started on the details yet.

Kissinger: But something short of the Dutch cabaret would help. But we will be constructive.

Gromyko: What we should do now is take up specific forms of words. We are not far from you on this. We have looked at your formula, the one you gave through Stoessel.2

Kissinger: That is the preamble. That I think we can bring to a close reasonably quickly. Then we should do the content. We should have Stoessel get together with Korniyenko.

Gromyko: It would be better not to waste time and to decide the matter between our two representatives here. Ours came with me and you say you are meeting with yours. We have our Deputy Prime Minister, and you have your man.

Kissinger: I agree. Art, why don’t you and Hal meet tomorrow morning with . . .

Sukhodrev: Kovalev.3

Kissinger: When we are talking about the Middle East tomorrow. I agree.

Gromyko: I would like to ask you to look into the question of military détente once again. I recall what you said previously; it seemed reasonable. But there are some states in the Conference who are putting forth unreasonable proposals. Why don’t they just say they are out to wreck the Conference?

Kissinger: Tomorrow, on the preamble, our people should resolve how it is to be introduced.

On military détente, I told you I would talk to the British about modifying their proposal.

Gromyko: What was their reaction?

Kissinger: Their reaction was not negative. They said at the time they needed time to study. We urged that they not insist on all of western Russia and not insist on the smallest types of units, but something like a division. And there is the issue of the number of days.

Sonnenfeldt and Hartman are going through London Tuesday morning, and if you think this is a positive step, they can do it.

[Page 850]

Gromyko: [referring to Sonnenfeldt] We shall certainly be expecting major results to come from his discussions with the British. All our eyes will be upon him.

Sonnenfeldt: You should talk to the neutrals, who are really the problem.

Kissinger: Who? Sweden?

Hartman: Yugoslavia.

Kissinger: What is Monaco’s position? If you can assure me that the Princess is coming . . .

Gromyko: Your influence on the ladies is more limited now.

Kissinger: More covert.

Are there any other issues in the Security Conference of any major consequence?

Gromyko: The main issues with respect to military détente are the zones and the definition of large-scale troop movements. Because the tendency now is to define as large scale something that is negligible. We cannot adopt the scale of Monaco or Luxembourg.

Kissinger: We agree that on the zones, the definition proposed by some is too sweeping, and on the scale, a battalion is too small.

Gromyko: All right. Look into the matter and see what you can do. We certainly believe you can do much.

Kissinger: We will keep in touch, and we believe we can move in the direction we have indicated.

Gromyko: It would certainly be good if this entire question of the European Security Conference would be something we could see behind us. You can tell this to the President. Our cooperation since the beginning of the Conference has been on a rising scale, and this fact, that we could complete the Conference in that spirit, would give even further reliability.

Kissinger: What length of time do you foresee for Stage Three?

Gromyko: It should be short. We are open-minded. Brezhnev discussed it but never in terms of days.

Kissinger: Could we keep it to two days?

Gromyko: Two to three days.

Kissinger: Does everyone have to speak?

Gromyko: Two to three days.

Kissinger: It is not important, but psychologically. That is procedurally manageable. We can exchange ideas on this but I wanted to get your impression.

Gromyko: So you know our way of thinking.

Kissinger: And we will be in close touch with you.

[Page 851]

ABM Limitation

Gromyko: Perhaps we can now take up a question on which we have a great deal of understanding, the ABM question, where we have the cabalistic numbers of 2–2, 2–2. We would like to give you our draft of the relevant understanding we have on this question. [He hands over Soviet draft agreement, Tab A]4 Solemnly I hand it to you. You see we have been doing all your work; we have drawn up a draft.

Dobrynin: And in English, too.

Kissinger: You have had our suggestion, that something substantially like this would have no problem if it is made for ten years. If it is made part of a permanent agreement, we would like to allow altering the choice of site—though we would be still limited to one site.

Gromyko: We would prefer to do this on a more stable basis. We would hope you would think it over.

Kissinger: For a country to agree in principle not to defend its capital is frankly a different matter than a decision not to defend an ICBM site. This is frankly our problem.

Gromyko: You know our attitude, so can you look at it again?

Kissinger: This is something that will certainly have a solution before the summit. We will study this carefully and we will then respond to your Ambassador.

Gromyko: All right. So this matter would seem to be in a reliable state.

Kissinger: We agree there will be no second ABM site. That is settled. We have a problem either to limit the duration or have some flexibility on what that site is. We will have a concrete proposal to your Ambassador within two weeks.

Threshold Test Ban

Gromyko: Good. Now, on the subject of underground tests, we are prepared to have our experts begin discussions with you in mid-May and we are prepared to have your people come to Moscow on May 15th.

Kissinger: Could we delay it by one week, because of my return to Washington? It is a purely bureaucratic problem. We may be able to do it by 15th. No later than the 22nd, aiming at the 15th.

Gromyko: Let us then agree, possibly the 15th but at any rate not later than the 22nd.

Kissinger: Agreed.

Gromyko: When can you tell us?

[Page 852]

Kissinger: A week from tomorrow we will let you know. On the summit, we don’t think it possible, or a good idea, to try to solve all the problems of the test ban at the summit, or to make a final agreement to take effect 18 months later.

We think at the summit there should be an agreement to have a threshold test ban, with a threshold that will be agreed, and have our experts work it out. Our idea is that the decision of the summit will be to agree on the fact of the ban and on the seismic level at which it will be.

Gromyko: We would prefer, of course, that an actual agreement should be reached at the summit. That would be ideal. But if you object, we should do the next best. It should not be limited to authorizing experts to initiate talks; it should be to agree in principle.

Kissinger: The question would be resolved in principle, and the level of the threshold is decided, at least.

Why don’t we see how our technical experts proceed and agree that whatever they accomplish will be, so to speak, frozen at the summit?

Gromyko: That would be second best. Our position would be for an agreement to be signed. I won’t repeat what you already know, but our agreement could be signed to indicate the dates it will take effect.

Kissinger: Agreed. An agreement in principle and the seismic level, but maybe more things can be done. Agreed.

Gromyko: I do have one question on this, on its technical aspects. You named a specific figure.

Kissinger: Yes.

Gromyko: Are you wedded to this figure? We really think it is too high.

Kissinger: It is our strongly preferred level. We haven’t considered an alternative level, but will certainly take your view seriously into account.

Gromyko: We would certainly like you to take a more flexible position on this.

Kissinger: Have you a specific level in mind?

Gromyko: I don’t want to mention a specific figure, but yours was much too high, I emphasize much too high.

Kissinger: At any rate, [it should be] lower than our warheads.

At any rate, the ones we have already are not the issue.

One problem is peaceful nuclear explosives, and how to handle them is an issue.

Gromyko: That is a separate problem, and let’s not link them or we will tie our own hands. We did have a preliminary understanding with [Page 853] you—in the time of Johnson—when we agreed it should be discussed, but we never went beyond that. We should agree it should be pursued.

Kissinger: I don’t know what happened with Johnson; that was joint peaceful explosions, wasn’t it?

Hyland: There were also technical talks during the Nixon Administration.

Kissinger: The problem is not peaceful nuclear explosions below the threshold but how one makes exception for peaceful nuclear explosions above the threshold. That is not the problem discussed during the Johnson Administration.

Gromyko: What I said was, this entire problem should be addressed as a separate question, and the US Government and others were in general agreement. But so far it wasn’t taken up too actively.

Kissinger: I haven’t studied actually how many of these explosions would be above the threshold.

If they are not covered, they will be prohibited by the agreement. That is easy. It is a problem only if we want to make exceptions for them.

[Both sides confer]

Gromyko: There never was any agreement or understanding on peaceful explosions nor is there any agreement on peaceful explosions. Because in the past, as in the Johnson Administration, when we proposed it, you said, “Let’s discuss it, because you have projects, maybe in Siberia, and we have a project, maybe to build a second canal in Panama.”

Kissinger: That is right. There is such a plan. The point is, if nothing is said about peaceful explosions, everything above the threshold is banned and everything below the threshold is permitted. If that is the clear text, we don’t have to worry.

Gromyko: Yes, that’s exactly what I am saying. There is no agreement. That is a matter to be discussed in subsequent negotiations.

Kissinger: I agree. If we don’t discuss it, that is what happens. A country cannot just have a test above the threshold and say it was peaceful. That is what has to be discussed.

Gromyko: That should be regarded in the future, as today, as a separate issue.

Kissinger: Let us have our experts discuss it and see what they get. It is no issue at all unless an exception is sought.

Gromyko: So we propose this question be regarded for the time being as a separate question.

Kissinger: That is all right as long as we understand that a test ban without mention of it bans all peaceful nuclear explosions above the [Page 854] threshold, and then we can have a separate negotiation about an exception.

Gromyko: Yes, but agreement will have to be reached on that question too.

Kissinger: We are prepared to have a separate negotiation on exceptions. We do not insist that it be treated in the same negotiation.

Gromyko: Of course, in practice, the question will boil down to explosions beyond the threshold. It should be discussed separately.

Kissinger: I agree with the Foreign Minister, as long as we understand what the implications will be.

Gromyko: Within these limits, of this threshold, yes. But the question may arise of other limits, and therefore should be discussed separately.

Kissinger: I think we probably agree with each other. It is not required that there be a separate agreement on peaceful nuclear explosions as a precondition of the test ban.

Gromyko: Yes, yes.

Kissinger: But until that separate arrangement exists, the test ban covers all explosions.

[Sonnenfeldt whispers.]

Kissinger: It is just like the limited test ban.5 No country can test in the atmosphere and say it is peaceful.

Gromyko: Yes, but even before, the question of peaceful nuclear explosions was set aside as a separate issue. The entire question of peaceful nuclear explosions was set aside, not just ones in the atmosphere.

For instance, if it is decided at some future date, as a joint venture, in the interests of mankind, to have a test in the Arctic, it need not be underground, but could be in the atmosphere.

Kissinger: A joint US-Soviet test?

Gromyko: US-Soviet, US-Soviet-British.

Kissinger: Soviet-Chinese?

Gromyko: I wouldn’t go so far. [Laughter]

But that would be in the interests of mankind, and could be done even if there is fallout.

Kissinger: That would be the result of a separate negotiation. I think we agree. I am sure we agree.

[Page 855]

Environmental Warfare

Gromyko: What about a possible agreement to prevent changes in the environment for military purpose?

Kissinger: I do not think we could finish an agreement by the time of the summit. Our studies still are not complete. We could announce at the summit that the two sides have opened negotiations on the subject. That is a possibility.

Gromyko: And to give some indication of the direction in which that negotiation should move?

Kissinger: That is possible, but we really haven’t fully crystallized our thinking. [He looks in his book and finds the Presidential directive.]6

It is an internal matter. They put the Secretary of Commerce on this study, just because the Weather Bureau is under him. If any of this gets to him, we might as well publish it in The New York Times.

Gromyko: Let’s keep working on it.

[Kissinger shows Gromyko his directive and crosses out the name of the Secretary of Commerce as an addressee.]

Bilateral Agreements

Gromyko: On long-term energy, our people arrived in the United States today.

Dobrynin: Our delegation will arrive about 5:00 p.m.

Kissinger: On the long-term economic agreement, it seems in good shape.

Gromyko: Yes.

Kissinger: Space flight, seems in good shape.

Gromyko: Continuing.

Sonnenfeldt: There is a problem about the time.

Gromyko: Artificial heart?

Kissinger: The draft agreement is ready. Secretary Weinberger7 has to approve it.

Gromyko: Did the Secretary of State look through it?

Kissinger: I control the pace at which he moves, not the substance.

Gromyko: On construction in cities?

[Page 856]

Sonnenfeldt: There is some problem with the legislation.

Kissinger: We will check and get the draft to you this week.

How about Korniyenko’s idea on electric transport? Are you still interested?

Korniyenko: Of course.

Kissinger: Pollution?

Korniyenko: As part of the existing agreement?

Kissinger: Your parliamentary delegation: I will receive them if I am back. They will get high-level State Department reception. It is all arranged.

Gromyko: Good.

Kissinger: What should we do now? Go to bed?

Gromyko: There is two hours’ time difference for us.

Kissinger: We have you at a disadvantage. We should discuss SALT. This late is the only time we get anything accomplished.

On our agenda, there is now only the Middle East and SALT. In which order?

Gromyko: Middle East in the morning. 10:30, 10:00.

Kissinger: 10:00. Can you stay for lunch?

Gromyko: We have an election—to find our Jackson!

Jackson Amendment

Kissinger: I told the Ambassador that I talked to Senators Jackson, Ribicoff and Javits.8 We should not discuss in this group, but I have the impression that we are at a strategic moment. Anything I can come back with will have an impact.

There are two issues: trade and credits. If we make a major effort to defeat Jackson, we have to do it in the next 4–6 weeks. It is not impossible. One Senator says he has already collected 33 signers of the Jackson Amendment who will break away. That means we have 53 votes, because 20 didn’t sign. And I had a meeting with Jewish leaders and I had the impression they will go along.

So if I can have something when I go back, it will be the best timing.

On fertilizer, we will hold up approval for the next three weeks.

Dobrynin: EX-IM authorization?

[Page 857]

Kissinger: Yes—not to inflame the discussion. But that we will approve.

Gromyko: 10:00. On the Middle East.

Kissinger: 10:00 at the hotel.

[The meeting then ended and Secretary Kissinger and his party left the Soviet Mission for the hotel.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 71, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Gromyko, 1973. Secret; Sensitive; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Soviet Mission. Kissinger was in Geneva from April 28 to 29 to meet with Gromyko.
  2. This text concerned sovereignty and respect for national laws and customs. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXIX, European Security, Document 185.
  3. Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Anatoli Kovalev was the head of the Soviet Delagation to the CSCE.
  4. Attached but not printed.
  5. The Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space, and Under Water was signed in Moscow by the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom on August 5, 1963. (14 UST (Pt. 2) 1313)
  6. Kissinger wrote in an April 26 memorandum to the Chairman of the NSC Under Secretaries Committee that the President directed that a study be made on the possible international restraints on environmental warfare. (Ford Library, National Security Council, Institutional File, Box 13, Senior Review Group Meeting—Environmental Warfare (2), August 28, 1974)
  7. Caspar Weinberger, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.
  8. No record of the meeting was found. The April 25 briefing memorandum for the meeting is in the National Archives, RG 59, Lot 81 D 286, Box 9, Records of the Office of the Counselor, 1955–1957, Trade Bill, March–May 1974. See also Years of Upheaval, pp. 994–995.