102. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Meeting with Academicians


  • The Secretary
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt
  • William G. Hyland
  • Jan Lodal
  • Paul Doty—Harvard
  • Jack Ruina—MIT
  • Wolfgang Panofsky—Stanford
  • William Kaufman—MIT
  • Foy Kohler—U. of Miami
  • George Kennan—Woodrow Wilson Center
  • Robert Osgood—SAIS
  • William Bundy—CFR
  • Marshall Shulman—Columbia
  • Henry Owen—Brookings
  • Richard Garwin—IBM
  • Norman Terrell—C (Notetaker)

The Secretary: (To Shulman) I liked your speech very much.

Shulman: Thank you.

The Secretary: Before I talk about Vladivostok, I would like to say something that should be made clear to the members of the academic community dealing with Soviet affairs. That is we are running out of time. We are using up our capital at a very fast rate, particularly in the last years and the last months. Some of you can disagree, but it has been an assumption of the debate that the Soviets are committed to détente and that we can pile on conditions and conditions. It is assumed that we have made all the unilateral concessions, never defined. But we forget the 50’s and the 60’s. The Soviets have also had major adjustments. And theirs is not at all an irreversible policy. There are two problems to address. First, the general terms of US/Soviet relations, and second, this particular SALT agreement.

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Now, take the Trade Bill. I had a long talk with Dobrynin yesterday2 and called his attention to the TASS item on the Trade Bill.3 From his point of view, the Soviet attitude is not wrong, but quite right. Since 1969 the Administration has been under pressure—including many of the academic community—to expand trade with the Soviet Union as a means of improving US/Soviet relations. We said we would expand trade if the Soviets carried out a responsible foreign policy and we were being attacked by those who said we should take a responsible attitude, that trade will ameliorate political relations.

So let’s look at 1972. In Viet-Nam the Soviets were not unhelpful. They concluded an agreement in Berlin that made that situation fairly stable and calmed down a source of trouble. When we analyzed the Middle East, we found the Soviets were in an extremely difficult position. You can see from our continuing trouble with Israel that it is absurd to think the Soviets merely kick around the Arabs. In 1973 the Soviets tried hard to prevent an outbreak. They did not encourage the Arabs to go to war; they discouraged them. They didn’t know war was coming. And when they finally saw what was going to happen, they got out of the way. The Arab leaders told the Soviets they were going to attack 48 hours before it happened. And the Soviets evacuated. It is not their fault if our intelligence did not interpret this correctly. Thus, we do not believe the Soviets behaved irresponsibly even in the Middle East, although they did not show much foresight.

For the past few years we have been conducting negotiations to give the Soviets MFN. We made them settle lend-lease. On our part, we agreed to extend them credits. Then what happened? The Trade Bill is tied to intrusive demands on Soviet internal matters that we ourselves could not accept. We would not settle for commercial relations with a foreign power under terms like that.

Look at what the Soviets have done in terms of Jewish emigration. They went from 400 to 35,000 quietly. And that was before Jackson. There was no public pressure exerted on them; just quiet conversations. Then we had this formal Congressional pressure. And the Soviets paid in a way we would not pay. They gave us assurances on the practices they would follow in granting permission to emigrate. I repeat that I would not put up with it if Dobrynin came in here and made demands about Angela Davis.4 No Secretary of State would.

Next, Jackson steps out of the meeting at the White House. We told him, “when you step out, just say we agreed.” But then he released the [Page 391] exchange of letters and said, “this proves what you can do if you hold firm.” And now he and others are saying about Vladivostok, “you should go renegotiate this agreement.” But the Soviets met 90% of our demands. The terms of the agreement are ours, not theirs. When we say we can’t renegotiate, Jackson says, “no, that’s not true, that’s what you used to say about emigration.”

I think the Soviets still would have taken it if the ExIm Bill had not been loaded down like a Christmas tree. We have now put a restriction on commercial credits to the Soviet Union of 300 million dollars in a four-year period. I would like to see someone try to put a restriction of 75 million dollars a year on Israel. And on top of that, there is a special requirement of not more than 40 million dollars on credits to develop energy sources.

The Soviets were better off in the Cold War. In the Cold War, the Government at least had authority to give the Soviets trade, but didn’t. Even in 1970 and 1971 we could talk to them about energy projects. The President, the Secretary of Treasury and the Secretary of Commerce all held out the prospect of trade; now that’s been taken away. If we have another crisis in the Middle East next year and the Soviets are not cooperative, I will say to them that they are threatening détente. They will ask, “what have we got to lose?” I suppose I can say that if they aren’t good we will get mad. But they are used to it. We got mad in 1961.

In all our dealings with the Soviets since 1969 it has been clear to me that everything Brezhnev agrees to has to be taken to the Politburo. Now the Politburo must think either that the United States cannot keep its commitments or that Brezhnev is a fool.

I am not saying that the Soviet Union is necessarily good. But never before have two nations had the power to destroy humanity. To argue whether the strategic force levels are 2400, 2350 or 1760 is intellectual purism that is extraordinarily dangerous. The damage has been done, and now all that is left of détente is SALT. What we wanted to do was establish linkages and vested interests in the bureaucracy. But that has been substantially eroded. And it was done for nothing. We got nothing for it.

We who are concerned with US/Soviet relations should take this seriously. If the Soviets change course, don’t think they will change back easily. They will cling as tenaciously to a new policy as they have to five years of détente. If Brezhnev is discredited, his successors will believe they cannot make themselves dependent on American decisions. They concluded agreements with an American President who won the greatest electoral victory in our history, and who a short time later left office discredited. (As for the Chinese, this is also not a settling phenomenon.) This is the basic problem we should look at before we [Page 392] hack away at Sakharov, Solzhenitsyn,5 and so forth, in what is basically an immoral system. We should give some thought to this over-all problem in addition to looking at the details of Vladivostok.

Now, as to Vladivostok, you know the agreement and I won’t explain its terms. I will discuss its significance and deal with some of the criticisms that have been leveled against it.

I myself was not a wild advocate of equal aggregates within the United States Government. I preferred unequal aggregates in favor of the Soviets and unequal MIRV’s in favor of the United States. However, that was not attainable at an acceptable price domestically, although it is intellectually better. The Soviets would have accepted unequal aggregates and unequal MIRV’s, but the idea of unequal aggregates was ours and its presence in the agreement is their concession. I do not know why equal aggregates assumed such a symbolic significance in the Pentagon and why there was such a domestic debate over it. The JCS conceived the perceptual impact of unequal aggregates in foreign relations terms as unacceptable. If it seemed okay to the Secretary of State, I don’t know why the JCS couldn’t accept it. But since unequal levels would have been subject to the same kind of Congressional treatment as the Trade Bill, we pursued the less intellectually supportable goal of equal levels, so we could have the widest domestic consensus on this agreement.

We could have had another deal of 2400 launchers for the Soviets and 2200 for us, along with 1300 MIRV’s for us and 1100 for the Soviets. However, there is no difference strategically between this and equal levels.

The significance of equal aggregates and a MIRVed ceiling is that for the first time in the post-war period we have a fixed ceiling for ten years under which the planning of the two sides can take place. We have deprived the military on the two sides of the rationale for planning on the basis of unknown actions by the other side ten years hence. Second, at these levels you can make no plausible demonstration that either side can achieve strategic superiority in this period. It is true that the qualitative race will go on. But quality unrelated to quantity cannot make a strategically significant difference. (The most likely qualitative improvement over this period is some breakthrough in strategic defense.) I don’t see that improving accuracy from one-tenth of a mile to a fraction of one-tenth of a mile is important. That will not change the vulnerability of fixed land-based ICBM’s. When one questions vulnerability, he must consider the proportion of the force in fixed land-based ICBM’s. Hence, the Soviets will be more vulnerable in the 1980’s than [Page 393] we will. This creates a substantial incentive to move the strategic force into more stabilizing forces.

The MIRV ceiling establishes constraints on what the Soviets can do with their MIRV’s. The Soviets must soon choose between converting ICBM’s for MIRV’s or putting MIRV forces at sea.

The ceiling of 2400 as it now exists means the Soviets will have to get rid of 200 launchers. If land mobiles come in, that means another reduction. Moreover, the Soviets will have to retain a large part of their force in SS–11’s and SS–9’s because of the MIRV ceiling. Into the 1980’s these forces will become obsolescent, which will in itself make reductions easier. Just as there is no strategic difference between 2400 and 2200, it will be safe during this period to go from 2400 to 2000, because this will mean no sacrifice of strategic capability.

The agreement has been criticized because no reductions will be possible before 1985. This is not true, no matter how the statements were drafted at the Vladivostok meeting. This inference has been eliminated from the aide-mémoire.6 Reductions can start any time the two sides agree.

Ruina: Will the aide-mémoire be made public?

The Secretary: The criticisms about the “secrecy” of the aide-mémoire are also serious. I will say something about that later.

First, I want to address the criticism that the negotiations were hasty and the agreement was sloppily drawn. We had two years of negotiations to reach this agreement. This summer we and the Soviets did a detailed analysis of the possibilities that were open to us. We exchanged information on military capabilities that would have meant treason in the Soviet Union earlier; the accuracy of missiles, deployment levels and so forth. Thirty years ago information of this kind would not have been exchanged even between France and Britain. It became obvious that both sides were protecting against a breakout. We would be in the middle of our B–1 and Trident deployments and the Soviets in the middle of their new MIRV programs just at the end of the Interim Agreement. It would therefore be easier to make decisions for 1985 than for 1977 or 1980. Then we went to the Soviet Union in October and we had many exchanges with the Soviets following that. Therefore, there was nothing hasty about this agreement.

Concerning the aide-mémoire, I have frankly dug in on a point I think George Kennan will appreciate. You cannot conduct foreign policy if the temperature of the negotiations is taken every day. You cannot do it if, while you are negotiating, every Senator tells you how to conduct the negotiations on every aspect. Everything in the [Page 394] aide-mémoire has been made public, except the precise language. It has been submitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee for their information. But I have up to now resisted making it public. There have been irresponsible charges leveled about the delay in drafting it. The fact is, however, that I went to China, then there was a draft, then a counter draft, and so on. But there was no dispute. I felt we were in no hurry. We should do it properly. Finally, it sat on my desk for three days and I didn’t bother to get it done. Before I left for Brussels for the NATO meeting, Dobrynin called and asked whether we should do it now or after Brussels, and we initialed it the day I left for Brussels. There were no real disagreements, we wanted some details on verification, they had some other points. But it was the most normal negotiation I have conducted for a long time, not at all contentious. I am reluctant to release the aide-mémoire because the Soviets will not be happy if every time they say something to us they must worry about a public debate. They would have to consider not only what they tell us, but also how it looks in the papers. However, if we are beaten up on this, we will make the aide-mémoire public. I will be glad to show it to any of you. However, it is drawn mostly from the Vladivostok communiqué.7 The 1985 date for reductions is out; one or two points are made more precise.

Panofsky: Does it still say that negotiations will commence before 1980 or 1981?

The Secretary: Yes. But we can start anytime. We don’t have to wait until 1980.

Garwin: There is a point I want to take up regarding secrecy. The relations between Congress and the Administration are in disarray. The Senate is after all the Senate. The Administration in Nixon’s time did many things to Congress. Nixon is gone, but many of the Cabinet are the same. There is no confidence in the Administration on the Hill. They do not know what you are doing.

The Secretary: It was leaked.

Garwin: Wouldn’t it be better if it were published?

Owen: It would be good if you could bring out that the negotiations for SALT III could start soon, not long after SALT II is completed.

Panofsky: That particular point would be very valuable.

The Secretary: That is an easy thing to say. We will have hearings on Vladivostok before Jackson and others and we can make that point.

Owen: I don’t think it is so important whether the aide-mémoire itself is made public.

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The Secretary: I will not die on the barricade not to publish the aide-mémoire. But in the daily press briefings we have inquiries: “Has it been signed? Has it been signed?” There was no problem. We were carrying out regular procedures. In any event, the Congressional committees have the aide-mémoire and in a couple of days it will leak.

Owen: Can you agree with the Soviets on an early starting date for SALT III?

The Secretary: Another point I want to make is that everyone should not only compare his ideal SALT agreement with this SALT agreement, but also no SALT agreement with this agreement, and decide what we are ready to do if this agreement is not ratified.

Garwin: The other damaging thing that is being said is that this agreement will force us to build up. Ford said we had an obligation to do so.

The Secretary: I wish we could stop the methods of debate of the Viet-Nam war. Any President, and especially a President new in his job, is not going to give his final thoughts on the subject in answer to a press question. We are under no obligation to build up. In fact, if we are willing to live with some disparity, it is going to be easier if the Soviet level is 2400 than if it is 2600, and easier still than if it is 2900 or 3000. The very ones who yelled the loudest for equality are now yelling about an agreement that provides equality.

Garwin: Don’t misunderstand. I am a supporter of this agreement. But your supporters need tools.

The Secretary: We will decide on our strategic forces on the basis of our national interests. But we should not engage in the pursuit of formal equality for its own sake. It was phony before we had this Agreement, and it is phony now. The ceiling we have set on Soviet forces make rational decisions easier.

Ruina: It would be valuable if we could now say that we will slow down Trident and B–1. This would make an important public impression.

The Secretary: For your information, it is in our interest to slow down now so we will have our production lines open toward the end of this period. Then if the agreement were not extended, the Soviets would know that we can accelerate. Our deployments should not be complete in 1985.

Ruina: Can you start negotiations on further reductions next year?

The Secretary: After the agreement is ratified, it should be easy.

Shulman: I agree with what you said about détente. In support, I would refer to the Western European economic situation. At this time, the Western Europeans should not have to raise questions about the Soviet position.

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I also have a question. Do I understand you to say that if we had unequal MIRV’s in our favor, it would be at the price of unequal aggregates?

The Secretary: Yes.

Shulman: Although I do not like the idea of unequal overall levels, I am sorry that you had to give up on the MIRV ratio. The arguments about the Soviet throw-weight advantage would be much easier to answer if the MIRV levels were in our favor.

The Secretary: I don’t know how we could have got unequal MIRV’s with equal aggregates, excluding U.S. forward-based systems, Allied strategic systems and compensation for Chinese forces—all of which the Soviets had earlier demanded. In the Crimea,8 Brezhnev mentioned to us a very high number of warheads that could be targeted on the Soviet Union. I said that didn’t sound right and he said go check. Well, he was right if you approached the question from the Soviet worst case viewpoint, counting every aircraft carrier, every F–4, etc. I tried saying to him that FBS was no good, that it could not get through to the Soviet Union. Then Grechko took me aside and showed me the lines in the Soviet Union where our various systems could reach. He said your F–4’s would attack targets up to here, your aircraft carrier planes up to here, and so on. It was done well. Then he said that would free your missiles to reach deep into the Soviet Union. The point is we are geared for a second strike and we tend to write off our FBS. They must take account of a possible first strike, and for them FBS is not totally irrelevant. I have the impression that the Soviet military is not totally satisfied with this agreement. There were two Generals sitting behind Brezhnev in Vladivostok, who had also been in the Crimea. Every time we said something about ceilings, they would jump up and pass him a note telling him what that meant they would give up. Then after the first session at Vladivostok, Gromyko came and suggested we limit our discussion to three per side. I agreed and that meant the two Generals were not seen again until the departure ceremony. The point is that once the Soviets threw in the sponge on FBS and third-country forces, they drove the level up.

Shulman: However, equal MIRV’s opens the way to the throw-weight issue.

The Secretary: If you analyze throw-weight, it is not important if you also include yield, accuracy and a specific target system. For instance, throw-weight does not help on sub-limits. The Soviets are now testing four warheads on the SS–17, six on the 19 and around 8 on the [Page 397] 18. We can assume those numbers will be deployed in the next years. That means by the 1980’s, fixed land-based ICBM’s will be vulnerable regardless of throw-weight. I think it is reckless of the Soviets to rely on land-based silos. However, if we want throw-weight, we can get it by putting new missiles in our Minuteman silos. I found that out by accident a few months ago. I asked the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff how much our throw-weight would increase if we increased silo dimensions by 15%, as we are allowed under the Interim Agreement. He said, “we needn’t bother; we can put a heavier throw-weight missile in the existing silos.” But we must recall that increasing our throw-weight does not help make U.S. forces invulnerable; it hurts Soviet vulnerability. The U.S. intellectual community can help bring about an understanding of this. As I said, unequal aggregates and unequal MIRV’s would have led to other debate like the Trade Bill, and that would have been used to undermine our position with our Allies. Finally, it does not make any difference. Even if we had an advantage of 200 MIRV’s, that would not help.

Ruina: I agree that equality helps in the presentation of this agreement.

The Secretary: We came to the same conclusion and gave up on the more intellectually satisfying concept.

Panofsky: There are two areas where public perceptions cause problems. One is the misunderstanding of what our options are to begin the next phase of negotiations. The second is the misunderstanding that we are under an obligation to go up to higher levels. If you can explain this thing, it would be good.

The Secretary: That is easy. We can make clear we will do our utmost to move rapidly on reductions.

Ruina: Will DOD agree to that?

The Secretary: Yes. Even though there are some over there who allegedly support Jackson’s level of 1800. But Jackson’s 1800 has no sub-limits. It would mean 1800 MIRV’s or 1800 SS–18’s.

Mr. Owen: There are two things that would help on the first point—follow-on negotiations. It would be good if not just the U.S. said it was willing to have an early SALT follow-on, but if the Soviets would agree with us on a concrete date. It would also be good if we could have an annual review conference with the Soviets, so that each year we would look at our programs under this agreement.

The Secretary: I would be wary to go to the Soviets and ask them now for additional assurances in light of our economic relations.

Owen: In that case, if you can say that the U.S. is ready for early negotiations.

The Secretary: That we can do.

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Doty: If I understood you, the numbers from the Soviet view relate to their concessions in FBS. Does that mean the numbers could be further reduced, and we could have reductions earlier, if the U.S. counted FBS?

The Secretary: The Soviets never explained why they dropped FBS. In Moscow they dropped FBS and agreed to equality to be achieved in 1985. But they said we would have to count UK and French forces. Next, we gave a complicated formula that would start with unequal aggregates and unequal MIRV’s and then go to equality during the agreement. Finally, in Vladivostok the Soviets agreed to drop everything and have across-the-board equality. I have the impression that Brezhnev just found the whole thing too complex. But we may never be able to explain. Hence, we will have equal aggregates and equal MIRV’s from the beginning. When we get into reductions and get down to 1800 or 2000, I have an idea that this will re-open FBS.

Doty: Will SALT create conditions for other nuclear powers to enter into negotiations and thus assist in the general problem of nuclear proliferation?

The Secretary: In 1973 the Soviets made a point of getting China in. They said that otherwise we would weaken ourselves while China grows. They felt that in about 10 years China would be a serious problem. I think that if China does not join in strategic arms control, and continues to build up, they will become a factor in the future. I have the impression the Soviets are not as worried about France or the UK.

Ruina: If this is ratified, I think a next step more important than reducing numbers is to slow down the pace at which new systems are introduced.

The Secretary: I agree completely.

Shulman: How have the Soviets reacted to limits on flight testing?

The Secretary: It has not been raised. I think they would be allergic to it.

Garwin: If there are systems which are not limited in the next agreement, it seems to me they must be banned. I am thinking, for example, of intercontinental cruise missiles. In that case, limits on flight testing can be used as an aid to verification.

The Secretary: I can’t predict how the Soviets would react to such measures, although I personally favor them. We tried something like that. We know the number of SS–18’s the Soviets intend to MIRV, unless Brezhnev lied. I proposed that we just write that down and put it in the agreement. We were even willing to pay a little price for it. But I think it got hung up somewhere in the Soviet military. It is logical the Soviets will want to keep some SS–9’s, which is a unique system. The [Page 399] MIRVed SS–18 is not that significantly different from any other MIRVed missile. However, the Generals in the back room did not want to give up the right to MIRV all the SS–9’s. Just like our Generals wanted equal aggregates, even though they will probably not build up. On both sides the military forewent restraints on the other side, in order to keep options open.

Owen: I don’t understand your remark about the SS–9. Does that mean the Soviets will be reluctant to give up second line forces in SALT III?

The Secretary: The point is that the SS–18 offers nothing significant over and above the SS–19. There is no real difference between, say, a warhead of one megaton and a warhead of one and a half megatons. But the SS–9, with its very large warhead, could be used against China, or against mobiles in area coverage. If they keep their large missiles, it is logical that they will want to keep some of them as single warheads. When they go into further reductions, I think they must get rid of the SS–11’s.

Osgood: Do you think the Soviets will go to sea?

The Secretary: In the 1980’s they will have 85% of their throw-weight in ICBM’s, which must become vulnerable. I think the wise Soviet weapons designer will want to make his force mobile, either by air or by sea. I have no proof, but that is my view.

Panofsky: In the past, defense programs have been looked on as bargaining chips. Since the perception of Vladivostok will mean more than the numbers, I think two things are important. First, the actual increases requested by the Administration in next year’s budget hearings, and second, the oratory that accompanies the Administration requests. These things will affect ratification in July or August.

The Secretary: The rhetoric that issues from this building and the White House will not be excessive. I cannot speak for the Government, as the Government is not as monolithic as when George Kennan was in it. We now have a number of independent satrapies here and there. However, whatever the rhetoric is, it will be justified by ratifying this agreement. Look at the intelligence projection on what Soviet forces will be if this agreement is not ratified. There will either be a large gap between our levels and theirs, or a large increase in our defense budget to keep up. Even if the only result of this agreement is that we stick to our present programs, it will be the first 10-year period in which there is no increase in planned programs. Perhaps Bill (Kaufman) can make sure we don’t make exorbitant claims on the DOD budget.

Kaufman: You have given a picture of precarious relations with the Soviets.

The Secretary: Yes. Largely because of our actions.

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Kaufman: Given the anticipated DOD budget, how should we play the Soviet angle?

The Secretary: I would make two points. First, we should stick to the DOD budget at least through the summer, until we have this agreement ratified. Second, if we have another Middle East crisis, we must conduct it without Soviet influence. We now have no economic restraints on Soviet conduct. I think there is a 50–50 chance the Soviets will reject MFN.

Shulman: Because they wanted ExIm credits?

The Secretary: That’s right. And for everyone else MFN is indefinite. They only have it for 18 months. That means we must go back to them to change the trade agreement.

Shulman: What is your view of the Kennedy/Mathias/Mondale resolution?9

The Secretary: I have asked them to let it die and reintroduce it. We don’t care if it is the sense of Congress that we should have follow-on negotiations for certain purposes. However, it is impossible to go back to the Soviets and re-open the aggregate levels right now.

Doty: Can we re-open a ban on all mobiles?

The Secretary: If we don’t spend too much time on it. If we try it, and it flies, that would be fine. But we cannot fool around with the numbers.

Shulman: Do you worry about verification?

The Secretary: The Government is no longer what it was. Everyone will now try to cover his own rear. I don’t know what the intelligence community will come up with. Until recently it was the unchallenged judgment of the intelligence community that the SS–17, 18 and 19 could be deployed only with silo modifications that take about six months. We would then count the new missiles as MIRVed whenever they would be deployed in the modified silos. There are now rumblings in the intelligence community about additional “collateral constraints.” I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I don’t take it too seriously. The question of SLBM MIRV deployment will be a little more difficult, and I am not sure the Soviets are on board on that. On the land-based MIRV’s, however, we have told them often enough how we will count MIRV’s, and that should be feasible unless we come up with something else on constraints.

Ruina: Is every Minuteman counted as MIRVed?

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The Secretary: I think the Soviets have a pretty good idea of what we have MIRVed so far. There is a complication concerning some covers the Air Force puts on the Minuteman silo when they are working on it. Try explaining to Grechko that the covering is just for rain.

Panofsky: The Air Force has changed all the silos so they can take Minuteman III.

The Secretary: The Soviets have not raised that yet. If they do, we will be in a hell of a mess. Hal makes the point that, if they accept our definition of what is MIRVed, they must count all 1000 Minutemen.

Ruina: Why not say we count all their silos as SS–17, 18 or 19, and they count all our silos as Minuteman III?

Panofsky: It looks like a fundamental problem to me.

Osgood: One of the more important aspects of this agreement is its effect on the Soviet domestic debate. Implicit in what you say is the situation Brezhnev finds himself in. Can you be more explicit?

The Secretary: I have no interest in the survival of Brezhnev as a person. But he has made a major political commitment to improved relations with the U.S. I don’t know why that means so much to the Russians: perhaps it has to do with a feeling of inferiority. Everything Brezhnev has done has been submitted to the Politburo, so we are not dealing with just one faction. Now, you can say that the Soviets are engaged in a great confidence game. But they are not that complicated. They are not saying, “let’s pretend we want to have good relations with the Americans and then attack them.” They don’t talk that way. They may believe that certain long-term trends favor them if they go for peaceful relations with the United States. Brezhnev has made a lot of speeches in support of improved economic relations with the United States. And as economic relations improve, political relations expand, and create another network of relationships. The evidence for this is that in crisis situations the Soviets have not been irresponsible: not imaginative but not irresponsible. In 1971 we said that if they would do this, we would do the other thing. But now we look less decisive, more muscle bound. I do not believe that for the next two years of this Administration any dramatic worsening in Soviet policy will take place. But there will be a slow erosion, a slow questioning of the United States. Ask yourself how does the United States look to foreign countries as a functioning political phenomenon. Better than the Europeans, of course, but not good. That is a profound concern of mine. As I say, I think I can see nothing dramatic through the next elections. Short of a Middle East war, I don’t think anything catastrophic will happen. But if we keep on acting the way we do, someday the Soviets will face us down. Do you agree, Bill?

Hyland: Yes, I do. And another point is that this is the last phase of Brezhnev. Soon we will have new leadership in the Soviet Union.

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The Secretary: In 1973 the Soviets implored us to settle the Middle East. We fended them off on the theory that they had no military option in the Middle East. The Israelis were strong and if they destroyed the Arabs, our position would improve. We could not exert ourselves for the domestic price we would have to pay. The Soviets restrained the Arabs until 1973; they did not egg them on. Sadat says he kicked the Soviets out because the presence of 20,000 Russians would keep him one way or the other from going to war. Now we are driving Sadat in the other direction, even though he doesn’t like the Russians. And that worries me. In any case, the Soviets are not irresponsible, albeit not creative. And Brezhnev would have liked to leave something irreversible to his successors. Brezhnev and his group have a fear of war in their bones. They behave with a timidity all out of proportion to their strength. Time and again, we have bluffed the Soviets out when the objective correlation of forces was not in our favor. But the young generation might play the game a few steps further. And if they do, we will see this as another lost opportunity.

Kennan: To give you my personal impression, if the policy changes, Brezhnev will go; and if Brezhnev goes, the policy will change. The consequences could be serious. I haven’t heard any arguments about SALT comparable in importance to a general change in Soviet policy. It is evident that the Soviets want détente not just for practical advantages. They also want the appearance of détente (and this is typical) and so they gave their people the hope that détente will become a reality. We underestimate the degree the Soviets are committed to their own propaganda. They can change, but they cannot change too fast or too sharply. Their internal commitment is very real.

The Secretary: In our public debate we assume détente is a one-way street, where we give and the Soviets receive. But there are benefits to us. For example, in Europe we are no longer seen as an obstacle to peace. That is much healthier, because before the left wing could rally in opposition to the United States. The same is true in Japan, and to some extent in our country as well. If it comes to the point where the question arises whether the U.S. risked all this for nothing, it will be bad. The Soviets could use the energy crisis and economic problems more ruthlessly. If the Soviets did, we could have a massive structural problem in Western societies.

Kohler: The Soviets do not want war.

The Secretary: The younger generation?

Kohler: It is being instilled in them. When they see economic chaos in the West we do not see any dramatic about faces. I don’t see them reversing their policy all that much.

The Secretary: Not in the immediate future. But they are more dubious now than they have ever been.

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Kennan: And there are lots of dividends for them in playing the anti-American note. It is a popular thing. They have not thrown themselves into it in recent years.

The Secretary: I don’t know where to leave this. You will all be involved in the debate on this. I will be glad to meet again and exchange ideas. We should not confine ourselves to SALT. Perhaps the end of January.

Bundy: Is ExIm out of reach?

The Secretary: I was not warned here in the building. All the focus was on the Trade Bill, and they kept loading ExIm up like a Christmas tree.

Bundy: Who did it?

The Secretary: Jackson, Stevenson, Harry Byrd, Proxmire, Church. The usual new coalition of liberals and conservatives. Mindless.

Sonnenfeldt: The problem was the supporters of the bank were interested in somewhere else, and were willing to accept the restrictions on the Soviet Union.

The Secretary: Casey10 did not fight. Had we fought . . . Credits limited to 300 million dollars over 4 years, no energy projects over 40 million dollars subject to individual approval. It gives us no leverage. It is humiliating to the Soviets.

Bundy: Can it be amended?

The Secretary: We are considering a veto and then starting over again.

Owen: We should not leave without thanking you very much for having us and for being so candid. We would like to meet with you again. The next time we will meet toward the end of the day, so we can have more time. We’ll try the end of January.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 6, SALT, Nov–Dec 1974. Secret. Drafted by Norman Terrell in C. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s Conference Room. In a briefing memorandum to Kissinger on December 19, Sonnenfeldt suggested: “Apart from reviewing the elements of the Vladivostok agreement, I think you should hit these people hard about the character of the public debate—its distortions, polemical nature and frequent air of unreality.” (Ibid.)
  2. See footnote 5, Document 101.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 100.
  4. Angela Y. Davis, an African-American activist, professor at UCLA, and member of the Communist Party.
  5. Physicist Andrei Sakharov and author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn were prominent Soviet dissidents.
  6. Document 97.
  7. See footnote 11, Document 92.
  8. Reference is to the meeting on June 30 in Oreanda during the Moscow summit. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XV, Soviet Union, June 1972–August 1974, Document 190.
  9. Senators Kennedy, Mathias, and Mondale had recently proposed a Congressional resolution supporting the Vladivostok accords but also calling for actual reductions, not merely limitations, in strategic nuclear weapons. See also footnote 8, Document 113.
  10. William J. Casey, Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs.