189. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Leonid I. Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU
  • Nikolai V. Podgorniy, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR
  • Aleksei N. Kosygin, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR
  • Andrei A. Gromyko, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR
  • Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Soviet Ambassador to the USA
  • Andrei M. Aleksandrov, Assistant to the General Secretary
  • Georgiy M. Korniyenko, Member of the Collegium of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chief of USA Division
  • Leonid M. Zamyatin, Director General of TASS
  • Viktor M. Sukhodrev, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Interpreter)
  • Andrei Vavilov, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • President Nixon
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Walter J. Stoessel, U.S. Ambassador to the USSR
  • General Alexander M. Haig, Jr., USA (Ret.), Assistant to the President
  • Ronald L. Ziegler, Assistant to the President and Press Secretary
  • Major General Brent Scowcroft, USAF, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor to the Department of State
  • Arthur Hartman, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs
  • William G. Hyland, Director, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Department of State
  • Jan M. Lodal, NSC Senior Staff
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff


  • Test Ban; Mediterranean Nuclear Ban; CSCE

Test Ban

Brezhnev: What are we going to do today? Kissinger and Gromyko didn’t suggest anything.

[Page 926]

Nixon: It might be helpful if we hit briefly on where we stand in terms of the test ban. Then go to Europe.

Brezhnev: I would do that.

Nixon: Then come back to the threshold [test ban] later.

Kissinger: Mr. President, the Foreign Minister and I and some associates met this morning2 to review where we stand on the threshold test ban. We pointed out it was probably impossible to complete an agreement while we are here, but it would be possible to sign a protocol which in a rather precise way could settle certain details.

With respect to the threshold, the United States side proposed 150 kilotons and only a single threshold.

With respect to exchange of geological information, the Soviet side pointed out to us that some of our proposals were perhaps excessive in detail, so we accepted the substance of draft paragraphs two and three of the Soviet draft—we would discuss the exact wording, but essentially those paragraphs.

With respect to peaceful nuclear explosions, we propose to keep peaceful nuclear explosions outside this threshold agreement, but we agreed there would be no peaceful nuclear explosions until there is a separate protocol on that subject.

With respect to the impact of events elsewhere on the agreement, we propose a five-year review clause. The Foreign Minister said this was a matter he has to discuss with his colleagues.

And if we reach an agreement on these issues, these could be a basis of a protocol. This is where the discussion was left.

Brezhnev: You see how easy their work has been, Mr. President. It is obvious that the United States does not accept the proposal for a complete ban on underground nuclear testing. Politically speaking, from the standpoint of public opinion, this means we are continuing the arms race. Again, politically speaking, this means we will be contradicting the statements we are making. But ways do have to be found to seek out mutually acceptable solutions. Of course the question does arise as to why we cannot reach an understanding on this issue. I fully agree with what the President said yesterday:3 Neither of us needs an agreement in which one side can be put in the drawer and eaten up by moths. We need documents that will be really effective and that people feel are really effective. So neither of us can ever be accused of saying one thing and acting in another way.

The very fact that Dr. Kissinger says it is not possible to reach an agreement does arouse certain doubts. Are we cutting ourselves off [Page 927] from a solution of these questions forever? We could, of course, discuss the questions of quotas or ceilings, but to be told there is no possibility whatsoever of an agreement does cause certain doubts. Because the two days of talks we had with the President instilled confidence in my mind that we should work to an agreement.

Just before this meeting we had a brief exchange of views on the substance of the exchanges between Dr. Kissinger and Comrade Gromyko. What we feel can be done in the interests of the present, and future as well, is to conclude an agreement.

We are fully aware of the tasks you want to solve. In the interests of preserving friendly relations and in the interest of further advances toward limitation of strategic arms, we would be prepared to accept a ceiling of 150 . . .

Gromyko: Kilotons.

Brezhnev: . . . kilotons, which does represent a big concession on our part. And it means we are in fact meeting the U.S. proposal. The lower threshold is immaterial. Do you agree with that?

Kissinger: I agree.

Brezhnev: Which, as I say, means we are fully meeting the U.S. proposal. But what we must give thought to, Mr. President, Dr. Kissinger, is how we present this agreement. And we should also be clear in our minds how we want to continue to act to halt the arms race.

I would suggest we go about it this way: we cast aside all second-rate matters, details about water and sand, but include a clause in the agreement roughly that the two sides have undertaken to continue within a certain time limit to find a solution to the question of a complete ban on nuclear tests. If we do that, everyone will understand this interim agreement will continue for some time while we continue efforts to find a comprehensive ban. Then people will understand. They will understand it is not possible yet to achieve a comprehensive ban but both will continue active efforts and this will continue in effect until that.

Then I would suggest we do not include any specific quotas in the agreement but inscribe a clause that within an agreed period of time the two sides will conduct a minimum of tests. You will be free to conduct 150-kiloton testing but with a clause indicating a minimal number of tests. We will be indicating the trend of the agreement. And a clause on continuing efforts.

That will be the kind of agreement we need. It will show the public we are continuing détente. I think an agreement of that kind can be worked out quickly.

I have another question, Dr. Kissinger: Why should we not be permitted to conduct peaceful nuclear tests? We agree they should be left [Page 928] outside this agreement. What we are suggesting is, in the event of any peaceful explosions, we will agree to notify the American side and invite observers.

Gromyko: And vice-versa.

Brezhnev: So in the event, therefore, of any peaceful explosions, we would invite your observers to attend there.

Kissinger: I have a few candidates whom I would like to send to the test site. [Laughter]

Brezhnev: We wouldn’t place them right on top of the explosion! But if we do any such explosions, it would be to unite two rivers or shift water somewhere, something like that. We have areas, for example, where we have very substantial deposits of copper, and it could become profitable to do that with a nuclear explosion, and we would invite your observers.

Nixon: First, let me put the matter in context, the reason we proceeded to spend so much time to work out a test ban of this nature. When Dr. Kissinger returned from Moscow in March, he indicated that our friends on the other side had proposed this as an approach to a complete test ban.4 As far as the details are concerned, I see that the general principles the General Secretary has outlined are ones that we agree upon. The reservation I have here is with respect to the time limit. So we seem to have a meeting of the minds. I would like to have Dr. Kissinger indicate the points he sees we agree on and the points we would like to have the experts work on.

Kissinger: Mr. President, I think the General Secretary made a very constructive proposal. We agree on the threshold.

Nixon: Of 150.

Kissinger: Of 150 kilotons, and we can agree to this formulation, I believe, that both sides will conduct the minimum necessary.

Nixon: “each side agrees . . .”

Kissinger: We would have to formulate it but the principle is acceptable. I think also, Mr. President, that the approach of the General Secretary to peaceful nuclear explosions offers an approach to a solution, and is acceptable in principle, but we would have to be more precise in how it works out. We don’t have to do it in this room. I believe the principle of the General Secretary’s proposal is consistent with your instructions.

We can also accept stating the objective of working toward a comprehensive test ban.

[Page 929]

Brezhnev: Something to the effect that the sides agreed to continue talks with a view to achieving a complete test ban.

Kissinger: That we can accept. What we cannot accept is saying that a comprehensive test ban must be accomplished in a certain time period.

Brezhnev: Let us at least say something about the time period for doing it: “To seek to achieve within four years, five years.” Let me suggest we write some words like: “The sides agreed to continue a discussion aimed at finding a solution.”

Kosygin: Without a time limit.

Brezhnev: I think that would be well received.

Nixon: That would be better than putting an unrealistic clause saying we will do it by a certain date. That means that between the two sides it has been discussed—which is true directly—and we will continue our best efforts to reach a comprehensive test ban. If you say, for example, a time of five years from now, it may indicate you may reach a test ban in that time but also means we would delay it until then. So saying we will make our best efforts is a better principle.

Brezhnev: So you see we can reach such an agreement, and that is the substance of an agreement.

Nixon: Good.

Kissinger: And on exchange of information, we will use your two paragraphs.

Brezhnev: Are you prepared to reach such an agreement? Not a protocol, but an agreement?

Kosygin: If we have reached an agreement, we should decide it by an agreement.

Brezhnev: And we will be indicating the exact test sites. These will be in specified areas.

Kissinger: These will certainly be the substance of an agreement. The question is whether we can finish all the protocols in time for signature on Tuesday.5

Brezhnev: What details do you mean?

Podgorny: Your experts who have been working on it are still here; ours are here. The main thing is to agree on the principles.

Kosygin: Mr. President, we would think it would be in your best interest and ours to have an agreement at this time. It would give you a very strong position in public opinion. So we should do it in two days.

[Page 930]

Nixon: We shouldn’t put an unrealistic deadline on drafting. But we could put diplomatic experts on doing the principles now.

Kissinger: What we could do, Mr. President, is: Ambassador Stoessel, who headed our delegation, could work with the Soviet experts this afternoon. If they can agree on all the protocols, we could sign the principles.

Kosygin: That could be worse, just signing principles. Because your experts have been working about a month together. If we hand these principles down to them, I feel sure they could work out the details very quickly. Then we could have a well-balanced document.

Kissinger: Mr. President, I think, if you agree, you could instruct your experts to meet with theirs. We don’t have to discuss it abstractly. They have two drafts; we could see how far they can get.

Kosygin: They should.

Kissinger: Then if there is a deadlock, it can be brought to you and the General Secretary. So we will keep the Ambassador here [instead of going to Oreanda], if you agree, Mr. President, and they can report to us tomorrow. And you can make a decision together with the General Secretary whether it is ready for the whole thing or just a general statement.

Brezhnev: Documents of this kind are always elaborated on the basis of decisions at the highest level, but experts always think up 200 problems. So they have to be instructed to stick strictly to the principles we agreed.

Nixon: I agree.

Podgorny: Let the experts draw up the agreement based on these principles.

Nixon: It is important that there be no misunderstanding.

Brezhnev: Agreed.

Mediterranean Nuclear Ban

Brezhnev: Now another subject, Mr. President. In March when we met with Dr. Kissinger, I mentioned the possibility of both our nations’ agreeing to remove from the Mediterranean submarines and other naval ships carrying atomic weapons.6 Dr. Kissinger told us he would think it over and give us a reaction later. But so far we have heard nothing from him. We believe an agreement on that subject would offer a good example to the people of other nations and show we are fully resolved to pursue détente. I mention this because we did have a talk.

Kissinger: I remember it.

[Page 931]

Nixon: We have considered that, the General Secretary’s proposal, but we are unable to take that step. There are some areas where, the General Secretary is aware, proposals are made and dependent on the good faith of either side. But we did discuss it; I want the General Secretary to know everything he discusses with Dr. Kissinger is brought to my attention. But after consideration, we believe we cannot take such a step. But there are other steps we can take.

Brezhnev: Could we at least, between ourselves, know the reasons why you feel unable to take that step?

Nixon: I think the General Secretary is aware of the nature of the reasons we can’t take this step. It isn’t for a purpose directed against the Soviet Union, but in the interests of peace in the Mediterranean. But in the context of our responsibilities and alliance in that area, this would be inconsistent with our responsibilities.

Brezhnev: All right. It would of course have been a very good step if taken jointly.


Brezhnev: Well, could we then turn to the European Conference?

Nixon: All right.

Brezhnev: We have already had several consultations on this matter. Now, when we are sitting across the table, we should try and gain a clear idea as to our joint actions and aims in this matter.

Nixon: Before the General Secretary raises European matters, I want to reiterate what I said to the Foreign Minister. We made a commitment to try to get our European allies on track so there is sufficient substance to get a summit. That is our goal. We have had a problem, quite candidly, getting our European allies to agree on the substance. We could discuss among ourselves what can be done to get the substance straight. We can agree on certain things as on supporting the Finnish proposal, which has been a very constructive development.

The various items which are in question, I would like for Dr. Kissinger to run over briefly, and I will state positions as we go. Movements and maneuvers, for example, where our positions are more in tandem than with extreme positions, and so forth.

Kissinger: Well, Mr. President, we have been discussing with the Soviet Union how to move the European Security Conference forward. First, on specific issues and then on the level of Phase III. On specific issues, there are three major ones.

What is generally called confidence-building measures—maneuvers and so forth, and notification. On the so-called confidence-building measures, we have stated our view to the Soviet leaders, and as you correctly said, we have tried to move matters into a more rea [Page 932] sonable framework, that is, to limit the area in which notification is necessary, to increase the size of the unit about whose movement notification is required. We have worked primarily with the British on this, when we were in Brussels with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister.

The second issue is what is generally called Basket III. This has two aspects. How to relate the general principles of Basket III to specific clauses. [Gromyko and Brezhnev confer behind Podgorny’s back.] The Foreign Minister and we worked out a compromise solution, the so-called Finnish solution, that on the basis of close coordination was tabled. We are supporting the Finnish position. But we are having massive difficulties with our European allies. I think the only way to solve this deadlock is to agree on the content of Basket III and link it to the Finnish position.

The third issue is: Germans have raised the issue of peaceful change. They would like it in the same paragraph as inviolability of frontiers; or if it goes into another paragraph, on sovereignty, then they would like to change the sentence. We have taken the position with our allies, Mr. President, that if these changes can be achieved, then we would approve a high-level meeting for Phase III.

At the NATO meeting we agreed we should reach an agreement concretely on the content of Basket III.

This is where we stand on the issue of the European Security Conference.

Gromyko: Here I must say this area, CSCE, is really one where we should invent an artificial heart, because the pulse is really not there.

Nixon: And brain too.

Gromyko: The trouble is, each participant in the Conference thinks his brain is the best one too. But that can be handled.

I would like to explain our position. With respect to the so-called Basket III, which includes social, humanitarian, information, culture, etc., the situation briefly is as follows: Some of the participants in the conference are advancing dozens and I would even say hundreds of second-rate proposals. Literally piles of proposals: Reuniting families, cultural ties. Some go so far as to say we have the right to open a movie theatre, a club, in another country.

Kissinger: A cabaret.

Gromyko: Or the right to sell newspapers at newsstands whether they like it or not. Some of them have such an obsession with this that they have completely forgotten the objective of reducing the war danger in concentrating on these second-rate matters.

How do we react to these innumerable proposals? We say in response that we are in favor of development of scientific and cultural [Page 933] and all other ties. We are in favor of solving all humanitarian issues; we are in favor, within reasonable limits, of lower fees for visas; we are in favor of Mr. Smith being allowed to marry Miss Jones.

We are not against measures. But we believe it is necessary in all this to respect national laws and regulations. This is the principle of the UN Charter. If this principle is embodied in a document, this will take care of the matter. Because whether a large country or a small country, its laws must be respected. [Brezhnev gets up and goes out.]

Therefore if this question is resolved, the question of respect for the laws of each country concerned, all the problems that relate to Basket III will be solved and no country that participates in the Conference will have anything to fear. This is the subject of many discussions with the United States, and we worked out a formula ensuring respect for laws and administrative regulations in each country. We found a third country to introduce a compromise: The Finns volunteered. I can’t say we were completely happy with what the Finns proposed, but it could provide some degree of understanding. [Brezhnev returns.]

There were some who reacted positively immediately. There were others who, as Dr. Kissinger correctly said, without directly rejecting the Finnish proposal, try to link it to other things not related to it. How? For example, the West Germans advanced a new idea with respect to a question that had been resolved. It had been resolved that the question of peaceful change of frontiers should be included in the document. Now the West Germans say “Let’s review the situation,” and they try to connect the formula on peaceful change with the formula on inviolability. The purpose obviously is to try to weaken the principle of inviolability.

We had the impression the United States would promptly take a firm line in this matter. Unfortunately this is not so. As I said, West Germany has taken a stand aimed at weakening the principle and trying to link it to the Third Basket with which it has no relation.

We think we should stand on the basis of our previous understanding. If we do that, we can achieve progress on Basket III. It is a question of the influence the United States can exert on its allies. Your possibilities are greater than the concrete manifestations. We would like you to work a little more actively. We believe it is a matter of honor for the United States and the Soviet Union and others who came out in favor of this formulation to stick with it in its undiluted form.

I have therefore covered two of the questions mentioned by Dr. Kissinger, Basket III and inviolability of frontiers, which has now been raised again although it had been agreed upon. The phrase on peaceful change we continue to think should be linked with sovereignty.

[Brezhnev gets up and confers with Dobrynin and Korniyenko; Hartman confers with Dr. Kissinger, while Gromyko talks.]

[Page 934]

As regards the question of confidence-building measures, including such items as maneuvers, sizeable troop movements—although even there, some define it in a certain way—security zones, etc. This question has been inflated so much by some that unrealistic decisions are made.

How can you expect the Soviet Union to do nothing else but write out accounts of all its troop movements in the European part of its territory? I am sure you understand this, but there are many who believe it. The United States I know takes a skeptical view. But we would appreciate the United States to use more of its influence with its allies. We have made a technical approach in Geneva.

And the last question, with respect to the level of the third and final phase of the Conference: The West European countries through their representatives at Geneva said they are not opposed to a summit but it depends on the work of the second phase. From what the President has said today and several occasions previously, and statements repeatedly made by Dr. Kissinger, it will be obvious you are taking a more positive view of the work of the third stage. Nonetheless, certain reservations are evident in your voice.

If we base ourselves on the standard arguments marshalled by some participants, that is, that the highest level for the third stage is justified only if the second stage gives positive results, then any step can be seen as inadequate. Nobody has succeeded in giving actual criteria on whether it would be justified, no letter or agreement. Therefore any outcome of Stage Two can be used as a pretext against the summit level. So we would like the United States to come out more definitely on holding a summit.

Generally speaking, most European participants are in favor of holding a summit, but this general situation that I have outlined is standing in the way of it.

Finally, we believe the United States, Mr. President, could say its weighty word in favor of a time limit for ending the Conference. There are many time limits in the past that didn’t come off. This left a negative impression. If this one would stick, this would give the entire affair a more positive aspect.

Brezhnev: We have always understood that your need to see a successful outcome is a joint desire of both of us. And we continue to hope this is so. On the other hand, we cannot but agree with the remarks by Comrade Gromyko that our joint role at the Conference is very great. We could do more than we did before. Indeed, that Basket is really being inflated to such an extent.

Let me just cite one fact in this connection. In our last meeting at Pitsunda with Pompidou, he too spoke out in favor of proceeding with the European Security Conference as soon as possible and he had unfa [Page 935] vorable remarks about some of the tactics used to prolong it. It was a bit inconvenient, but I just had to show him one of the proposals that had been made just before by the French delegation. The proposal was that any country, France for example, should be entitled to open a movie theatre in the Soviet Union, governed by French administration, governed by French rules. He was very surprised and said he would immediately give instructions to have it removed.

All this is by way of confirming what Comrade Gromyko just said. Since you and I, Mr. President, are agreed to follow the line of détente, the line of developing good relations between our two peoples, we should agree to take more vigorous action at the European Security Conference and to register our stand along these lines in our final communiqué.

Nixon: I think no useful purpose is served by going into more detail on the enormous number of proposals which are in the Conference. Dr. Kissinger at NATO was alone, with the British and French on the other side, on the German proposal to link the principle of inviolability of frontiers with peaceful change. We are trying to bring our allies along but we can’t dictate to them. Now, I suggest, in addition to having some positive language in the communiqué, that we ask our people at the Foreign Office level, whoever is designated by you on your side and whoever is designated by Kissinger on our side, to see if they can sort out how we can get through the details.

Brezhnev: I agree.

Nixon: I would expect this, Mr. General Secretary . . .

Brezhnev: We have got to get this matter off dead center.

Nixon: I would respectfully suggest, Mr. General Secretary, that we should not haggle too much with dotting i’s and crossing the t’s. In other words, if we want a meeting at the highest level, we ought to be prepared, to the greatest extent possible, to adjust the language of various provisions in a way that will soothe the sensitivities of our allies. The language isn’t going to change the fact.

I recall, for example, 15 years ago, Premier Khrushchev and I had a rather extended discussion about a resolution that had just passed our Congress about “liberation of captive peoples.” The language there wasn’t operative; we were really talking about theory, not a fact.

The Lithuanians I saw dancing last night didn’t seem to be captives.

But to return to the point, I propose we get our experts working. Where there is possible “give” on language to see to the sensitivities of the Western allies, if it isn’t going to have any great significance . . . It would not be, in other words, to have the Conference fail to take place because of a quibble over language. That would be unfortunate.

[Page 936]

All they insist on is that it be substantive enough to justify a meeting at the highest level.

Brezhnev: That is true, but there are some things that concern matters of principle and are not minor matters.

Nixon: I understand. That is why I suggest the experts get together. I know language can sometimes be enormously important.

Kissinger: Maybe Hartman and Sonnenfeldt on our side, and Korniyenko, could go over it, and your man in Geneva, and that way we could have an agreed content.

Brezhnev: We will agree to that.

Nixon: I agree.

Kissinger: I want to work with Stoessel on the test ban. [He gets up to leave with Stoessel. Kosygin gets up to talk with Kissinger.]

Brezhnev: I guess we shouldn’t discuss any more before the signing ceremony.7

Nixon: We meet at 2:30?

Brezhnev: No, 1:30.

Gromyko: In twenty minutes time.

Nixon: See you at 1:30.

[The meeting then ended, and the President and Secretary returned to the Residence.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 77, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Memcons, Moscow Summit, June 27–July 3, 1974. Secret. The meeting was held in St. Catherine’s Hall at the Grand Kremlin Palace. Brackets are in the original.
  2. See Document 188.
  3. See Document 187.
  4. See Document 168.
  5. July 2.
  6. See Document 168.
  7. At 1:35 p.m., Nixon and Brezhnev held a ceremony to sign the long-term economic agreement between the United States and the USSR. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) See Document 199.