43. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Leonid I. Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU
  • Andrei A. Gromyko, Foreign Minister
  • Anatoli F. Dobrynin, Ambassador to the USA
  • Georgi M. Kornienko, Chief of USA Division, Foreign Ministry
  • Viktor M. Sukhodrev, Interpreter
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, NSC Staff
  • Winston Lord, NSC Staff
  • William G. Hyland, NSC Staff
  • Jonathan T. Howe, NSC Staff
  • John D. Negroponte, NSC Staff

Brezhnev: There is one question on which I would appreciate your advice. American businessmen come here and they want to meet with Premier Kosygin. If Kosygin or I receive them, they say that they can talk seriously about projects and purchasing of equipment. Now, say that some industrialists come here and we agree to receive them, what is the reaction of your government? They may not be on President Nixon’s side. They may be Democrats or Republicans, I don’t know.

The American press says that I am walled off from receiving Americans, but you are here and I am receiving all of you at one time. For instance, Mr. Hammer is here and has put in a request to see me.

Dr. Kissinger: As far as we are concerned, we do not insist that visits should be confined to Republican businessmen. We would understand if you received someone who had different views than the Administration. Your Foreign Office could advise you about the relative significance of various visitors. When you see them, you can assume that whatever you may say will become public. Second, you can assume that your visitor will turn the conversation to his business advantage. Third, you cannot assume that businessmen have an understanding of their own interests. When I lectured once at one of your institutes, I said that, while I did not propose to debate Leninism in Moscow, there was one aspect I wanted to challenge: the idea that American businessmen understood their own interests or how to pursue them. I can give you our opinion on where businessmen stand [Page 140] and what they can deliver. In any case, the American Government has no objection to your receiving businessmen.

[Brezhnev at this point told a story: There were two old friends who spent each evening together in a local pub. They would have a drink and sit there. One would sigh and say, “da, da” (yes, yes). Then the other evening a third man joined them. The first of the old friends sighed and said, “da, da,” and then the second did the same. The third man who had joined them, sighed and said, “da, da, da.” The next evening the two old friends were alone at their usual place, and the first said what did you think of our friend who joined us? And the second man said, I don’t care for him, he is too talkative.]

Brezhnev: On the European Security Conference, there is a certain measure of agreement reached: Interim consultations on the timing of multilateral consultations are to start on November 22 in Helsinki.2 We can register general agreement in Helsinki on an understanding that we will make every effort to achieve productive results, and then continue bilateral consultations.

So, if Dr. Kissinger has no objections we will register agreement on this basis and make every effort to insure that the Conference is held in the first half of 1973. And naturally we will continue contacts through our channel. Does Dr. Kissinger agree with this?

Dr. Kissinger: Not completely.

[Dobrynin and Gromyko begin explaining to Brezhnev that there is more involved and he should read the rest of his notes. Brezhnev understands and continues.]

Brezhnev: So, there is a second half. We agree that about three months after the start of the consultations (for CSCE) consultations could begin on procedural matters on reducing forces and armaments in Europe.3 We are prepared to enter into these consultations with a view to holding a conference after the completion of the European Security Conference. But there is no linkage between the timing, the venue and participants.

Dr. Kissinger: We can agree with this in principle. Let me be specific: We do not think it a good idea that these two consultations take place in the same place. We accept, and prefer, that they not be physi[Page 141]cally together. Indeed, to prevent the issues of MBFR from being introduced into CSCE, we want the procedural meeting on MBFR before the actual CSCE. We want a preparatory meeting on force reductions before CSCE, but three months may be a little long. It would be most expedient to have them at the end of January, 1973; for the preparatory talks on MBFR, the last week in January might be appropriate. The actual conference should be after the completion of CSCE if it starts at the end of June, the MBFR Conference could be about the end of September—somewhere in September–October. If these principles are agreeable we will then agree to the November 22 starting date for CSCE preparations. We can tell you later how to manage this bureaucratically.

Brezhnev: Let us agree.

Dr. Kissinger: I will need a proposal from your side while we are here, and an unsigned proposal to take up with our allies. After consultations we could then announce our agreement at the beginning of October.

Brezhnev: I agree, that it is all on this.


[Brezhnev asks Dr. Kissinger to begin; he is looking through his papers, obviously unable to find the right ones.]

Dr. Kissinger: There are two problems: one is substantive, one is procedural. The procedural one is when to start the next round of talks, and the substantive question is what to aim for. With respect to procedures we could begin around November 15 and the first round could be similar to SALT I; that is to discuss general principles and a work program. This could go until Christmas and then we could resume after the first of the year to get into the actual work.

Brezhnev: On this I feel you could tell President Nixon in principle I agree, and will give the details of our reply later. Because of my travels in the past weeks, I have had no exchanges [within the government] but I would be prepared to agree on mid-November.

As regards the substance, we will give our reaction through the channel. In principle we agree to taking up this line of work, but I have only glanced at your documents. We will delve into more details. For now, I guess we will repeat last year’s performance but this will help speed it up. If you have any more proposals to make, this would help.

Dr. Kissinger: If, prior to November, your Ambassador and I could have concrete exchanges it would be helpful, because our delegation is composed of people who want to win the Nobel prize, or to defeat “us” (gesturing to the American side of the table). They have complicated ideas that they tell to your delegations and then report to us that they are your ideas. So if we can first have an exchange in the channel, you [Page 142] will know what we think and we may have something further in this channel. I do not exclude that we could achieve something by the time of your visit.

Brezhnev: I agree. I have never known contacts through the channel not to be conducive to progress. On other matters, however, I have to talk with my military people.

Dr. Kissinger: I have one general comment. One objective is how to make the Interim Agreement a permanent one. To do this we have to look at numerical ratios differently. We have studied this and have concluded there can be a permanent agreement by wider coverage than those weapons in the interim agreement. Beyond making a permanent agreement, we have the problem that so far we have only dealt with numbers. But as the General Secretary has said, numbers of weapons are no longer as important as quality. Qualitative changes can produce greater advances than numbers. Therefore, a beginning should be made on limiting qualitative forces that threaten the strategic force of the other side. We can decide whether this should be included in a permanent agreement or a provisional agreement. We can leave this open for discussion. But I wanted to open our thinking on this to the General Secretary.

[Meanwhile Brezhnev found the papers he was searching for, and showed them to Gromyko and said something to the effect: can we agree with this? Gromyko replied no, and added some remarks to Brezhnev.]

Brezhnev: To this should be added: since the general idea underlying the second round is to create the possibility that the appearance of new weapons should be narrowed not broadened, and to convert the interim agreement into a permanent one, we will have to deal with qualitative problems that affect the balance. And with air forces, we will have to deal with bases for nuclear aircraft. But this is just thinking out loud. Let the delegation decide and work through the channel.

Dr. Kissinger: We will leave it that we are aiming for opening on November 15th and before this we will be in touch in the channel on substance. We can announce in mid-October that we will begin in November.

Brezhnev: I agree.

We have been working most fruitfully today. We agreed to complete our talks by 10:00. I need to spend an hour on internal matters. We have some questions for tomorrow: Vietnam, the Middle East, German admission to the UN and others, but you wanted to go to Leningrad.

Dr. Kissinger: I am here for discussion with the General Secretary. We can defer Leningrad. We could also talk about the Far East tomorrow.

[Page 143]

Brezhnev: Next time you might go to Pitsunda or Leningrad. You are going to Paris. Le Duc Tho was here, passing through but I did not see him. . . . So we can meet at 11:00 tomorrow.

[All rise to leave, and Brezhnev begins talking again, and finally sits down to relate the following story: His father was a metallurgist, and so was Brezhnev and his son, the whole family. One day during the fall of France in 1940, his father was reading the newspaper, and he turned to Brezhnev and asked him what was the highest mountain. Brezhnev guessed and said Mount Everest. His father then asked how high was the Eiffel Tower. Brezhnev did not know, but said 300 meters. His father said he had an idea. To build a tower like the Eiffel tower on top of Mount Everest and then hang the war mongers—Hitler and his gang—from the tower, and then give telescopes to people so everyone could see their fate. Then there would be no wars.

Brezhnev recalled his father’s words when the war criminals were hanged at Nuremberg. His father was a simple man, but that is how the people felt about war. The Russian people know war first hand. Perhaps if New York had been bombed or the United States touched by the war, the American people could understand better. In any case, as his father said, we must prevent wars. This is why he, Brezhnev, attached so much importance to his work with the United States. They must build for the future.

Dr. Kissinger replied that this was a very moving story, and that he could say for the President that if in the next four years we could secure the foundation of peace for 15 years, this would be an historic achievement. Brezhnev agreed that they should work for this even more than 15 years.

At the end, in small talk, Brezhnev said that the work had gone well today only after Negroponte joined the talks; he was a good man and should be at all the talks.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 74, Country Files—Europe—USSR, HAK Trip to Moscow, Sept. 1972, Memcons (Originals). Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. The meeting took place in the Council of Ministers Building inside the Kremlin. Brackets are in the original.
  2. See Document 34.
  3. In an undated memorandum to Kissinger, sent just before Kissinger’s departure for Moscow, Sonnenfeldt wrote with regard to CSCE that “we have to decide, fairly soon, how to respond to the Finnish invitation for November 22, but we cannot accept the date until we have a firmer commitment to MBFR.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 73, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Moscow Trip, September 1972) The full text of the memorandum is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXIX, European Security, Document 110.