137. Memorandum From the Counselor of the Department of State (Sonnenfeldt) and the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Hyland) to Secretary of State Kissinger1


  • Your Meeting with Dobrynin2

Dobrynin has hurried back to Washington in the wake of the suspension of the Middle East talks, and he probably has instructions to take up the Geneva Conference,3 the state of bilateral relations, and such particulars as CSCE timing, SALT prospects, and the Brezhnev summit.

Dobrynin may be under somewhat of a cloud for his misestimate of the situation since the trade bill (the submarine salvage operation4 will certainly not have helped those in the Politburo who are arguing in favor of good relations with the US though it may impress even the hardliners).

—More important, the Soviets have been passing through a period of some uncertainty themselves, brought on by the Middle East, Brezhnev’s illness, and the outlook for US-Soviet economic relations, and political developments in the US.

Thus, Dobrynin may prove to be a more difficult interlocutor, and he will have to report more carefully on your general mood and the [Page 533] outlook in light of recent setbacks to our policies. The Soviet leaders cannot help but speculate on your tenure in office, on President Ford’s prospects in 1976, and the impact of a range of foreign policy problems that seem to shift the locus of decision-making toward Capitol Hill and put the President’s ability to deliver in doubt.

While we still believe there is no persuasive evidence for a shift in Soviet policy, there are accumulated irritants, some potential problems in the negotiations underway, and in evolving situations.

In sum, the Soviets may feel that at this particular juncture, we may need “détente” more than they do.

—You will want to disabuse Dobrynin of any notion that we feel under pressure to repair Soviet-American relations, or that Vietnam, Cambodia and the Middle East and Cyprus put us in a weakened position vis-à-vis Moscow. In particular, you may want to complain of their failure to restrain Hanoi, and their agitation against your Middle East effort.

On the Middle East:

Dobrynin will want: (a) some debriefing on your talks; (b) your views on the timing and procedural problems of Geneva; (c) whether you wish to begin the dialogue on “guarantees” suggested to Gromyko, and whether we intend to collaborate with them in addressing the issues.

—You ought to put the Soviets on the defensive at the outset, by asking precisely how they propose to proceed: timing, invitations, participation, UN role, etc.; this will reveal that they will press the PLO, which will allow you to point out the immediate deadlock (you may want to say that both sides are reconsidering step-by-step, but only if your strategy is to prod the Soviets).

—In general, you have an opportunity to put the burden on the Soviets by taking the line that as the champions of the Geneva conference they now have to face dangers of a potential deadlock over the PLO questions and the gloomy outlook in the area for any real political progress; ultimately, the Soviets will have to accept the fact that only the US can influence Israel and serve as the mediator between the sides; thus, the Soviets will have to be aware that sooner rather than later they will have to come to us.

—On the question of bilateral talks about guarantees, we think you should pull back and save this for trading material later; a discussion of guarantees at this point will be exploited by the Soviets to show the Arabs that they are already moving on the major issues and that they have influence over the outcome; later, you might want to agree to discuss guarantees as a concession in the maneuvering that will be involved over the PLO, etc.

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You ought to raise SALT, if Dobrynin does not, in order to register your disquiet over the Soviet position.

—Under “instructions from the highest level,” the Soviets have now formally rejected our MIRV position; however, the Soviets have not even hinted that they have an alternative, other than “national technical means”; indeed, they have said that they have none. They have said publicly that they plan to deploy the SS–18 in both modes but they will not permit us to count the single-warhead ones as MIRVed.

—The Soviets are still insisting, of course, that (a) all ASM’s over 600 km range carried on bombers must be counted, not just ballistic missiles, (b) that Backfire is excluded, (c) that there should be restraint in the form of a 240 limit on new types of SLBM’s, and (d) bans on ASM’s on non-bomber aircraft, on intercontinental cruise missiles and on ballistic missiles on surface ships and on the seabeds.

—They have also hinted that the delegation’s work is now a matter of “months” rather than weeks, suggesting that the summit is not imminent, and in any case, is linked to the outcome of SALT.

—Finally, the Soviets still maintain that there must be another negotiation that includes FBS, and they also continue to press their sweeping non-transfer position.

In sum, SALT is making little progress on major issues but inching forward on minor ones. (Summary of Geneva negotiations at Tab A.)5

You should take the same line with Dobrynin that you did with Gromyko: namely, that attempts to go beyond the Vladivostok accord threaten to reopen the entire range of issues; point to Jackson’s proposal for a limit on 700 “older” systems that would not be modernized as only an opening wedge for such questions as sub-limits on heavy ICBM’s, limits on throw-weight, etc.6

In particular, you should make the following points:

1. There must be adequate MIRV verification, lest the agreement fail in the Senate, where there are already questions about SALT I compliance.

—Our draft protocol on MIRV verification is not necessarily the last word, but it raises the issues that you have explained to him and to Brezhnev: (a) that we must count missiles as MIRVed that have been so tested, (b) that we must count all modernized silos as MIRVed, since [Page 535] that is their ultimate purpose, and we must count all SLBM’s MIRV’s by general classes.

—Our basic point is that we cannot distinguish between a MIRVed and unMIRVed deployment, if the ICBM’s and SLBM’s launchers involved are deliberately constructed to take MIRVed missiles.

—If the Soviets can make some counterproposals, we might be flexible.

2. If the Soviets persist in their effort to limit Trident, we will have to counter with some sublimits on their new ICBM’s and SLBM’s, thus creating a new deadlock.

3. In general, the Soviet delegation should work for completing a draft agreement, leaving the 2 or 3 major issues for discussion either in your channel or in Moscow later.

—Stress that there is some risk that SALT will be seen as deadlocked, and then there will be a series of unavoidable and damaging leaks in Washington.

Threshold Test Ban:

We have no major reasons for complaining, since the Soviets have moved some distance toward our position. (Summary of TTB talks at Tab B.)7 Indeed, it is possible that the next round, about a month from now, could reach an agreement, or narrow the issues to the political questions of “cooperation” in PNE’s.

The issues are:

—Can we accept the Soviet counterproposal for a 150 KT limit on individual contained PNE’s (versus our 100 KT proposal); can we accept a higher aggregate for several simultaneous shots?

—Can we accept modification in our position on excavation PNE’s: we proposed a salvo limit of 500 KT, and an unspecified limit on individual explosions, whereas the Soviets proposed a 500 KT limit on individual shots, and perhaps a 1 MT limit on salvos.

—On the sublimit of 0.2 KT on the fission yields, the Soviets have been surprisingly receptive, but have not proposed a specific limit.

The outstanding political issue is whether, in order to clinch an agreement on observers, we will agree to “cooperate” with the USSR, which will suggest a condominium toward non-nuclear states, and perhaps pressures on nuclear ones.

In any case, you can tell Dobrynin we were satisfied with the last round, and can now see a final agreement: the question is whether to sign a PNE agreement at the summit, or to do so at whatever time the [Page 536] negotiations are completed. (You might consider whether you would sign a protocol during a Moscow visit, if the agreement is ready.)

Robinson in Moscow:

Chuck’s talks got off to a positive start March 27 with a Soviet team headed by First Deputy Foreign Trade Minister Kuzmin. The entire first session was devoted to IEA and domestic US energy policy (reporting telegram at Tab C).8


On CSCE, if Dobrynin brings it up, you should say that we believe it should be possible to hold the Stage III finale in mid-late July and that it will take that long to complete Stage II negotiations and preparations for the summit. The Soviets have recently shown some flexibility on the maneuvers CBM, indicating they could accept purely voluntary notification (you have a separate memo on this), and you should tell Dobrynin that we are working on our Allies to bring them around. (They will accept Soviet position with no pressure from us.) Summary of CSCE talks at Tab D.9


You might simply allude to the situation, emphasizing that the USSR must be mindful that simply because they can expect a more favorable attitude in Lisbon with communists in the government, that any effort to take “unilateral advantage” of it will impact on our relations with the USSR. (Cable from Walt Stoessel on Portugal and USSR at Tab E).10

Finally, at Tab F is a summary of MBFR talks at Vienna; at Tab G is an outline of our V–E Day discussions with the Soviets; at Tab H a rundown on recent minor bilateral irritants; and at Tab I a brief summary of current bilateral issues.

On the Brezhnev summit, it is clear from a number of indicators that the Soviets see it after CSCE; thus as a practical matter it would probably be after Labor Day (and before the UNGA(?)), or possibly, late July after CSCE.

—Since the CSCE is one of our last remaining carrots, it may be that the best strategy is to point for a Brezhnev summit in September which allows time for SALT and for a consideration of the trade bill.

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—Depending on your assessment of how to play the Middle East, and whether we need some reinsurance, you could propose that we begin to plan for a September visit.

(An interesting sidelight is Korniyenko’s comment that this summit should not come up with new agreements, but concentrate on improving existing ones; this would give the summit a different character than the Nixon meetings, and might be the best approach.)

In sum, the outlook might be as follows:

—Geneva Middle East Conference—April–May.

—Your visit to Moscow—June?


Brezhnev summit—September; after which the SALT and TTB treaties are submitted to Congress.

Ford visit to China?

Ford visit to Moscow—May 1976

This would keep something in the foreground through the next year.

[Omitted here is a list of attachments.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 5, Soviet Union, January–March 1975. Secret; Sensitive. All tabs are attached but not printed.
  2. No record of the meeting between Kissinger and Dobrynin on March 29 has been found. See, however, Document 140.
  3. On March 23, after meeting with Rabin in Jerusalem, Kissinger announced that he was suspending his efforts to help negotiate an interim agreement between Israel and Egypt.
  4. On February 7, the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times published stories on the Glomar Explorer, a failed intelligence operation to raise a Soviet submarine from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
  5. At Tab A is an unnumbered and undated telegram to Kissinger, drafted on March 21.
  6. Jackson unveiled his proposal in a speech from the Senate floor on March 26. Sonnenfeldt and Lodal assessed the proposal and provided press guidance in a memorandum to Kissinger the same day. (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, “Outside the System” Chronological Files, 1974–1977, Box 2, 3/21/75–3/31/75)
  7. At Tab B is an unnumbered and undated telegram to Kissinger, drafted on March 20.
  8. At Tab C are telegrams 4258, March 27, and 4326 and 4327, March 28, from Moscow. See also Document 138.
  9. At Tab D is an unsigned and undated paper on CSCE.
  10. At Tab E are telegrams 4097 and 4207 from Moscow, March 26 and 27, respectively. Although the former telegram is on the Soviet Union and Portugal, the latter is on Soviet policy toward Indochina.