196. 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, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Amb. Walter J. Stoessel, U.S. Ambassador to the USSR
  • Gen. Alexander M. Haig, Jr. USA (ret), Assistant to the President
  • Ronald L. Ziegler, Assistant to the President and Press Secretary
  • M. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, USAF, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor to the Department of State
  • Jan M. Lodal, NSC Senior Staff
  • Harold H. Saunders, NSC Senior Staff
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff


  • Tour d’horizon (Middle East, SALT, CSCE, MBFR, Southeast Asia)

Brezhnev: Now we can continue our talks. I think we did well to instruct Dr. Kissinger and Comrade Gromyko to continue their discussions. But speaking quite objectively, your instructions to Dr. Kissinger probably weren’t vigorous enough. There is still time to correct that. On the one hand, Dr. Kissinger likes a fast pace; on the other hand he delays things. That is probably one of his subjective qualities. Please don’t think I am attacking you. But being objective, we would have to say they have accomplished certain work and they have moved our joint documents a distance forward. Not much actually remains, and [Page 993] what little does remain can be agreed. Especially if we don’t give Dr. Kissinger any cookies.

Podgorniy: On the contrary, he should be given as many as possible, and we will be able to have some, too.

Brezhnev: Mr. President, I’ve given an account of our discussions at Yalta2 to my comrades in the car, which is also natural because these are questions that require consultations between us. We can now see where we reached agreement with you in our discussions, in the documents we will be signing. We have now a few details on strategic arms in its new version. I feel we have correctly understood what Dr. Kissinger said, and by that I assume your position, that is, not to have any specific figures, to provide for a longer duration, and to maintain the existing agreement, in the sense in which we discussed it yesterday.3

The second point I want to make is, although we did have a brief exchange on the Middle East, in the car on the way to the airport,4 I just want to repeat: As I see it, the question is a complicated one, but you and we have not rejected attempts to work jointly on its solution, and to focus our attention and our efforts on the Geneva Conference and its work. Without—I wish to be precise—without of course ruling out the possibility for both of our countries to be in touch bilaterally with various countries in the region while endeavoring to resolve the basic issues of principle through the Geneva Conference, and while continuously maintaining consultations between us on all matters pertaining to that region. And I think on both sides we emphasized one of the important issues is bound to be the Palestinian issue. Of course, in the brief time we had, none of us could think up any specific solution to that problem. And we agreed between the two of us—in Sukhodrev’s presence—that we would act jointly in accordance with the resolution before us, that is, Resolution 242 of the Security Council.

So that therefore was, I believe, if I correctly sum up the gist of our discussions not only at Oreanda but also in the car from Simferopol to Oreanda and back from Oreanda to Simferopol.

I also would like to mention we did briefly touch upon the question of the reduction of forces and armaments in Europe. But that, I say, was only briefly touched upon without any detailed discussion. In fact, it was only mentioned, without any elaboration.

[Page 994]

This morning we discussed how to exchange between us in terms of the general situation in Europe.5 We know in the talks in Vienna there are some who want to include the reduction of national forces, and others who are opposed to the reduction of national forces. We know you don’t want these talks to relate to air forces. There are various points of view. So proceeding from our general belief that one cannot do all things in just two years time—that is too small a period—maybe we could all agree that without renouncing our attempts, we continue our efforts but conclude that this question is not yet ripe for a solution.

So if our associates Gromyko and Kissinger complete their work to agree on all of points in the Communiqué and on underground nuclear tests, I think we will have grounds to thank them and say we have made a new step forward in terms of détente and developing relations between us on the basis of equality.

And the last point I want to make is that the agreements that have already been signed and those we will be signing tomorrow will give our peoples grounds to believe we are following the path we jointly chose in 1972, and during our discussions yesterday at Yalta we confirmed that that is indeed our intention once again.

In these remarks I have endeavored to take up only the major issues, so as not to allow second-rate ones to overshadow them.

Of course, there is also the question we again touched upon yesterday, in brief, of course, that objective fact that nuclear weapons are spreading in the world. Although we were busy for the best part of the day yesterday, and I wasn’t able to read all the reports, continuing concern is raised by the continuing aggressive trend of Israel. While it was possible to bring about a cease-fire in that area, Israel is still bombing Lebanon, the camps of the Palestinians. That is something that defies comprehension. But we didn’t have time to really go into that.

And just to mention one general issue: During our discussions we confirmed to one another that we must deal with each other in terms of equality both in strategic matters and economic cooperation and other fields. I just want to underline that all our discussions must be in accordance with that principle.

And lastly let me say the proposals made today by Dr. Kissinger to Comrades Gromyko and Dobrynin on the new version of the formula on the strategic arms,6 that is, not to refer to the numbers but only the general principles, seems to us acceptable. That is what I wanted to say [Page 995] about our work the last two days and the work of Comrades Kissinger and Gromyko.

I trust the President will confirm that my summing up was indeed a reflection of what happened these last two days. I’ve tried to be concise. Our discussions ranged over other issues, but I’ve tried to give you the gist.

Nixon: The General Secretary has given a very accurate summary of what we discussed. There were, of course, other matters which we agreed are for the future and were not ripe for concrete discussion. That is, what the General Secretary and I agreed, without discussion and without making formal offers, are subjects we can both think about before our next meeting.

And I would say with regard to the Middle East, only briefly, the General Secretary has precisely stated our position, that while we of course recognize the importance of the Geneva forum, at the same time he recognizes that in such a complex area there are times when bilateral discussions must take place and where each of us—provided we are working for the common goal of peace in that area—will engage in the closest consultation. Obviously what we want in this area, as does the Soviet Union, is results—results that will recognize the interests of both major powers in that area. We wouldn’t want to be in any great public forum where the US and the Soviet Union appear to be at odds in settling the problems of the Middle East. In one fell swoop, in one grand play, one big play—I wish we could. But the complexity of the area requires a step-by-step approach—not because we want to drag our feet, either side, but because we want results; we want to get somewhere.

We will continue to be in the closest consultation, at every level, on the Middle East. And it is also important that neither the General Secretary nor I have a ready-made solution to the Palestinian problem. But we recognize the problem and we have to devote great efforts to find one.

On the question of troops in Europe, we touched upon it only briefly, the General Secretary and I. Here, of course, the proper forum is Vienna because the interests of European allies and the Warsaw Pact—both our allies—are involved. I would hope in the communiqué we could have a strong statement to the effect that we didn’t just push this aside lightly and that we are continuing to have intensive and balanced discussions. For example, the General Secretary’s suggestion—made only as a preliminary matter, which is not on the table for negotiation—of a 5% reduction on both sides, as one approach. And I would hope we could preserve our efforts to get a more forthcoming discussion on this issue. Because I think while the European Security Conference is not directly connected with MBFR the two questions will inevitably have to be considered together at some point.

[Page 996]

With regard to the Middle East, one final point I raised, Mr. General Secretary: it will certainly not serve the interests of peace, will not serve the interests of settlement, and not serve the interests of the Soviet Union and the United States to be drawn into an escalating arms race. Restraint on both sides is necessary.

Another area not on the agenda now but was on it two years ago—the spirited discussion we had at the dacha7—was the question of Southeast Asia. It turns out there is an uneasy peace of a sort in that area of the world. But as the General Secretary knows, the seeds of war are still there. The North Vietnamese, for example, are building up at a much higher rate than was allowed by the Agreement. As a result of the actions of our Congress we are providing less to the South Vietnamese than the Agreement allows. But the key to maintaining some semblance of peace in that area is for both sides to exercise restraint in arms supply to our allies in that area. It would be a tragedy if that part of the world, which compared to the Middle East is less important to the strategic interests of our two countries, should draw us into the kind of confrontation that we were facing two years ago, before our first meeting.

With regard to the general results of our talks, I agree with the General Secretary that we have made very significant progress at this summit. In the area of peaceful cooperation, we have met all the goals we set for ourselves at the beginning. In the area of arms, security, we have made significant progress as the General Secretary has pointed out: ABM, the threshold test ban, which was suggested first by the General Secretary. But I think both the General Secretary and I have been disappointed that we haven’t been able to make more progress in the field of SALT. I understand how this came about. This involves our vital interests, both nations. And consequently, it is extremely difficult to find an area of agreement which is one that both sides can, one, accept, and two, defend both to his military and to his people. It was obvious we could not—not only based on our discussions here but in discussions at Oreanda—reach agreement on specific numbers at this time, and even with the diplomatic skill of our Foreign Ministers we are not finding it easy to agree on a general statement. And based on my discussions with the General Secretary, I know he feels as strongly as I do that we must avoid a runaway race in the field of offensive strategic weapons which no one is going to win and which is going to be an enormous burden on both our peoples.

I am sure the General Secretary knows we have made the very best effort we can in this area. The proposal which Dr. Kissinger outlined at [Page 997] Oreanda is one which would have caused us considerable problems—though we could have surmounted them—but considerable problems in selling it to the people at home. Yet in talking to my friend the General Secretary as frankly as he talks to me, I recognize it also presents problems for him. What concerns me on this is that all of the good things we have done in this historic meeting may to an extent be downgraded because of the tendency of sophisticates in the press and political world to zero in on the fact we were unable to get an agreement on further limitation of strategic arms. Some of the critics, we have to recognize, will jump on this and say this summit was a flop because we were unable to reach agreement on the central issue before us. That criticism will be inaccurate and unfair. One meeting does not solve everything. That is why these annual meetings are so important. Because we must move inexorably forward until we can control nuclear arms and also consider even reductions, which is my goal as well as the General Secretary’s.

It is for that reason that I want to give the General Secretary my commitment—and this is a matter Dr. Kissinger and I have talked about at great length—we are not simply going to wait one full year before discussing this again in a serious way. I consider it the highest priority that before we meet again in Washington, or Camp David, or where else the General Secretary visits, we will have bitten the bullet on this by then. Because the General Secretary knows that once you start down the road of a new weapons system or increasing armaments or increasing budgets, it is very difficult to turn back. We just reach a new level.

I am not an expert on the language, but I trust the Communiqué will indicate our determination in the strongest terms possible to continue negotiations in that area and on this concrete problem and to reach a future agreement. We on our part will examine the situation as surely as we can. We will be prepared to conduct talks at any level that seems appropriate. But I think we must recognize that this, must we say, is a major goal for both of us to work for an agreement in the lowest possible time for this purpose.

Brezhnev: Of course, there are many issues, but could I ask a question concerning one problem, and an important one at that: How do we see our end goal in the Middle East? And where do we want to go on that matter? How do we see the situation from that point of view? Because, as I see it, this region is still an explosive one. You said there is not Arab unity and I agreed with you, because it is a fact. But it may come in the future. Today Sadat goes one way and another goes the other way. But at some future point . . . After all, they are all Arabs. So we can agree on the things we have agreed upon in the Security Council. That may seem to be simple, but it is important because it con[Page 998]cerns the interests of the biggest—the United States and the Soviet Union.

So if you could say your view on this end goal.

Nixon: As for our end goal, it must be 242, that is, the independence and survival of all the countries. With regard to achieving that goal, it cannot be achieved, we have found, in one simple action. Nor in a conference, for example, in one meeting where the people at the conference would be so far apart in their ideas. It requires a constant, continued exertion of influence, on the part of the nations that have influence in specific areas. We will continue on the course of taking measures for a solution.

Tactics are what is essential in this area. The problems are so complex—but as far as the goal is concerned, we have of course subscribed to the UN resolutions and will certainly work toward that goal. We cannot of course and will not proceed on a course which is unrealistic. That is why in the case of the Israeli-Egyptian agreement and Israeli-Syrian agreement, we found the step-by-step approach was the only feasible way to move. But we do not consider the first step to be the last; we do not consider the first course to be the full meal. But it will take some time; it always takes time to digest the first course. But we will continue to press forward to the objective to which we are dedicated. We will not be satisfied with a temporary truce. Our goal is a permanent settlement, as is the General Secretary’s. [Podgorniy and Gromyko chat] And we will continue to seek that goal.

The General Secretary knows we have a terribly difficult problem. He has already mentioned it and it is a problem that we think can be managed. But it cannot be managed suddenly or drastically, and we feel the course we are pursuing is the right one.

Brezhnev: Just one more question, which we need not go into in any detail again. I mentioned it because we are here in our full delegations. We have agreed to act together and jointly in the European Security Conference so as to make relations between us irreversible, in that as other areas. So one confirmation of that will confirm our efforts.

Nixon: I made a commitment to the General Secretary in Camp David, on the porch overlooking Shangri-la, on that subject.8 We did not reach the goal we set at the end of the year. But we have sincerely tried. And as we indicated in our meeting the other day, we will give renewed impetus as a result of our discussions here to what we agreed to so as to achieve the objective we set at Camp David.

[Page 999]

Brezhnev: Good. Then Mr. President, do you think we could now give the floor to our respective Foreign Ministers, so they could report on where we stand on the work done today and yesterday, mainly today. So we can be clear about what is ready to be signed.

Nixon: Shall we let the older man go first?

Brezhnev: It is your choice. It doesn’t matter, as long as we get an account of what has been achieved.

Kissinger: Mr. President, we agreed, on the basis of the instructions we received in the Crimea, on the following:

We completed work today on the draft of the treaty on the threshold test ban and on the protocol implementing the treaty. The effective date of that treaty will be March 31st, 1976, and we will use our best efforts to negotiate an agreement on peaceful nuclear explosions.

Secondly, we agreed on a joint statement to be signed by the General Secretary and the President in which the parties agree to advocate overcoming the dangers of environmental warfare and to work out concrete measures to achieve that end.

Sukhodrev: Environmental?

Nixon: Environmental.

Kissinger: Environmental modification. That statement has been completed and it will be ready for signing tomorrow.

We have also completed work on the communiqué, which in my judgment is a very considerable political document, except for two paragraphs. One paragraph is dealing with the Geneva Conference, which I don’t think will require much work. The Geneva Conference on the Middle East. And another paragraph on strategic arms limitation, which will require some further discussion. Partly because I think it is in our common interest that in the United States there is not created the impression that there is a total stalemate. So we still have to find some formulation that makes it clear that by extending the time period for agreement we are trying to find a new balance between the qualitative and quantitative aspects of arms.

On the European Security Conference, we have completed discussions on the paragraph that explains our common objective, and our associates have worked out a means of working out Basket III.

So tomorrow the President and the General Secretary will be able to sign four documents: the protocol on anti-ballistic missiles, the treaty on the test ban, the joint statement on environmental warfare, and the communiqué. The Foreign Minister and I will sign two documents that will have to remain secret, having to do with implementing provisions on strategic arms limitation produced by the Standing Consultative [Page 1000] Commission resulting from SALT I. This is purely a technical matter and won’t be published.9

So my colleagues will agree with that.

Brezhnev: Dr. Kissinger, just one question, with the President’s permission. The agreement on strategic arms, so far it’s effective until 1977.

Kissinger: That is right.

Brezhnev: Where do we go from there? I think it would be best if we introduced no new figures.

Kissinger: Before 1977 or after 1977?

Brezhnev: After 1977. Because what we have will be effective until 1977.

Kissinger: If you cannot accept the numbers we presented on Sunday10 on multiple warheads, since there are three factors—time, quantity and quality—we will have to establish a new relationship.

Gromyko: I will not repeat what Dr. Kissinger has said. He has correctly set out where we stand and the documents that we have prepared and are ready for signature. Let me dwell very briefly on two matters. First, the Geneva Conference. We will probably find an acceptable formula. For reasons that are easy to understand, it will be rather general. We won’t be able to go into the details—like the Palestinians. Even with a good form of words, one can act at the Conference itself in a good way or in a bad way. One can convene the Conference, make very fine speeches, and then depart, leaving the relevant representatives at the Conference to die, as has once already happened. Information is reaching us more and more frequently that there is an intention to substitute bilateral talks for the Conference. That we feel would be unacceptable indeed and would run counter to our understanding between us. We are in favor of the Conference being the forum for reaching a substantive solution to the problems in the Middle East. The situation will depend to a great extent on whether or not the representatives of the Palestinian movement attend the conference. We are in favor of their attending the Conference from the very beginning because no one but them can set out their position and otherwise the Conference can’t produce results. They themselves are in favor of participation on the basis of full equality. And as regards the outcome and progress of the Conference, much will depend on the actions and attitudes of the two great powers represented at this table.

[Page 1001]

My second comment is this. We are in the process of working out a formula for the communiqué on strategic arms. It will of course provide a line for our subsequent efforts. There will be basically two elements in this formula—one on a long-term agreement and one on the need to continue talks. We have reached agreement on a very prompt beginning of the talks. But however effectively we undertake to act and in fact act, the achievement of our goal in this responsibility will require some time. Meanwhile, nothing in the communiqué should cast any aspersions on the existing agreement. If something is said about the need to change the levels or the correlation of various types of arms, that will indicate there is something wrong about the existing agreement and that will be wrong.

So if we find an acceptable formula, and not one that is one-sided, and put it forth as a common agreed view, then I am sure the idea we inject into the communiqué will seize the minds of public opinion. First, we indicate a long-term agreement and second that we promptly initiate talks. It means the foundation under the talks and the existing treaty will be firm.

Brezhnev: And on the basis of the principle of equality as in the existing one.

Gromyko: In conclusion, I am sure we can find a good formula.

Kissinger: Mr. President, I pointed out to the Foreign Minister yesterday there is no way the United States can possibly permit the Soviet Union to MIRV a substantially larger missile force.11 We cannot permit a missile force of 2300 for the USSR and 1700 for the United States. That will never be accepted.

Gromyko: Aren’t you running ahead of yourself? That is a question for the course of future negotiations.

Kissinger: That is exactly correct.

Gromyko: To achieve equality.

Kissinger: Yes.

Brezhnev: Do you endorse that, Mr. President?

Nixon: That is an argument for attaching the greatest possible importance to working out something definitive in the earliest possible time. Otherwise we will be in an impossible position where it will appear down the road that we agreed to something we cannot accept, as Dr. Kissinger said. Therefore we think we should have something more definitive in the communiqué. Something more than just a prayer, a wish that we will negotiate. The General Secretary and I will have to realize that we carry a very great responsibility in this respect. The forces [Page 1002] that would welcome an all-out missile race are considerably strong. And it is that that we are trying to deal with. That is why Dr. Kissinger is trying to find an effective formula.

Did you have any further discussions?

Kissinger: Yes, Mr. President, we will try to settle the language now. The Foreign Minister makes so many concessions we can’t absorb them all. His propensity to yield is so intense.

Brezhnev: Good.

Nixon: I will see you later tonight.

(The meeting then ended.)

  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; Nodis. The meeting was held in St. Catherine’s Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace. Brackets are in the original.
  2. See Document 190.
  3. A reference to Brezhnev’s and Gromyko’s meetings with Kissinger. See Documents 191, 193, and 194.
  4. No formal meetings took place between Nixon and Brezhnev on July 1, when Nixon traveled from Oreanda to Minsk where he spent the day meeting with Belorussian officials. Brezhnev did accompany Nixon to the Simferopol Airport prior to Nixon’s departure for Minsk. No record of their conversation was found.
  5. Not further identified.
  6. See Document 195.
  7. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 271.
  8. See Document 126.
  9. See Roger P. Labrie, ed., SALT Handbook: Key Documents and Issues, 1972–1979 (Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1979), pp. 221–240.
  10. June 30. See Document 190.
  11. See Document 194.