150. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Andrey Andreyevich Gromyko, Member of the Politburo of the Central Committee, CPSU, and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR
  • Anatoliy Fedorovich Dobrynin, Soviet Ambassador to the U.S.
  • Georgiy Markovich Korniyenko, Chief, America Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Member of the Collegium of the MFA
  • Vasily Georgiyevich Makarov, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Chef de Cabinet
  • Mikhail Dmitriyevich Sytenko, Chief, Near Eastern Countries Department, MFA, and Member of the Collegium of the MFA
  • Yuriy Yevgeniyevich Fokin, Special Assistant to Gromyko
  • Oleg Mikhaylovich Sokolov, Chief, American Section of American Department
  • Viktor Mikhaylovich Sukhodrev, Counsellor, MFA and Interpreter (English)
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Amb. Walter Stoessel, U.S. Ambassador to the USSR
  • Joseph J. Sisco, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor, Department of State
  • Arthur A. Hartman, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs
  • Alfred L. Atherton, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
  • William G. Hyland, Director of Intelligence and Research
  • Jan Lodal, NSC Staff
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff


  • SALT; Middle East

Kissinger: Let me sum up. On the European Security Conference, I just want to sum up what our instruction will be to our delegation: that they should negotiate simultaneously human contacts, all Basket III together, with your delegation. The speed with which this can be done will depend also on the flexibility shown by your side. We have to start with the fact that we have made a major effort to meet your concerns.

And we told you we have tentatively set aside on the President’s schedule the week of July 21st. But whether we can meet this depends on the flexibility shown by your side.

[Page 574]

Gromyko: We have made our comments on your text.2 And as for contacts, we have not had time to go into that. Let the delegations deal with it.

Kissinger: Our delegation will be instructed to wait until your delegation has something on information and human contacts.

Korniyenko: Our delegation was given instructions on human contacts today.

Kissinger: Then our delegation will be instructed to start today.

It’s a much better way. But will your delegation also have your comments on information? So our delegation can get it from the Soviet?

And the Foreign Minister also said, on the notification time, that they would increase it to 18 days.

And 155 kilometers. [Laughter]

And we said we would take it up with our allies. All right.


Gromyko: Now shall we take up SALT, Mr. Secretary?

Kissinger: On SALT we’ve given you a paper which incorporates our ideas [U.S. Note, Tab A].3 Could we have your reaction on that? And then we could comment.

Gromyko: So I see you would prefer us to make a few comments first.

Kissinger: Yes, because we gave you this paper, and there is no point in making additional comments until we hear from you.

Gromyko: All right. Then we will touch upon several matters which you also refer to in your paper and then go on to other matters we do not yet agree on.

The agreement presently in operation and the exchange of views we have had until now regarding the new agreement were based on one major premise—that national means would be used for observation and verification. The issue of any kind of international control measures simply didn’t arise and that is one of the most important premises on which the whole agreement is based. Otherwise no agreement would have been reached.

But we have now noticed, notably from statements by your representative at Geneva, that you are gradually beginning to inject certain elements of an international control into discussions, and this is cer[Page 575]tainly something that brings in a complicating element of a principled nature.

You yourselves probably are aware of the complexity of this issue and this is why in our view you are putting forward certain ideas to solve the problem. That is why, in our view, you are specifying that MIRVed missiles be located in certain areas, and this applies to both sides.

Kissinger: This applies only to SS–18.

Gromyko: Yes, yes.

Kissinger: Not to all of them.

Gromyko: We realize that, but that we cannot accept.

Kissinger: You cannot accept? But you appreciate the thought.

Our people thought it was your idea.

Gromyko: No. Our answer is definite. It was not our idea.

Kissinger: Then there is a foreigner on your delegation.

Gromyko: No.

Kissinger: We thought Mr. Shchukin thought it was an interesting idea.

Gromyko: No.

Kissinger: We’ll sign it with Shchukin then.

Gromyko: Frankly speaking, in Moscow we were surprised.

Kissinger: Then we have to go back to our original position.

Gromyko: Then the question arose of so-called heavy missiles. You will recall your representatives at Geneva put forward certain considerations in connection with the clause in the existing agreement regarding increasing dimensions by ten to fifteen percent. Your representatives set out certain considerations which are not in line with those agreed dimensions which were included in the existing agreement. You will recall, because it was said directly by our delegation and was in the aide-mémoire we exchanged [Tab B],4 that we agreed to transfer those clauses unchanged from the existing agreement to the new one. And since this understanding was included in the aide-mémoire we agreed, we therefore were surprised this was raised by the American delegation.

Therefore, let me repeat we are in favor of transferring this clause from the existing one to the new one. You will recall, when the original agreement was being worked out, this question took up a lot of time and this solution was found and recognized as the most suitable.

[Page 576]

Kissinger: Because we never clarified what is meant by 15%—whether it means it can be changed 15% in every direction, or 15% overall. Secondly, we cannot accept that every time there is a new missile you can add another 15%. Fifteen percent you can do once, not every time.

Gromyko: Do you mind if I went through all our comments first, and then you can comment?

Kissinger: It’s a serious test for me. Reluctantly.

Gromyko: We can of course do it one by one, but we will never finish all my points.

Kissinger: All right; I’ll no longer interrupt.

I’ll talk to Sonnenfeldt while you are talking Russian.

Gromyko: So we are in favor of proceeding from the Vladivostok agreement, whose sequel was the agreed aide-mémoire that we exchanged. Further, you will recall the total numbers of missiles were to include all missiles, all air-to-ground missiles over a certain agreed range, which was set at 600 kilometers. But later you introduced another element, so-called cruise missiles. We don’t think that would be appropriate. So on this matter too, we believe it is necessary to stand by what was in the agreed aide-mémoire.

Kissinger: When I nod, it means I’ve understood, not that I agree.

Gromyko: Now, regarding the definition of heavy bomber. For the United States, heavy bombers will be taken to mean the B–52 and B–1. For the Soviet Union, the TU–95 and Myasishchevs [the Mya–4 Bison]. Plus on our side all Soviet aircraft whose characteristics would be analogous to the B–1. Possible aircraft.

Kissinger: How about analogous to the Bison?

Gromyko: I’ve not finished yet. As regards the Soviet aircraft you call the Backfire, we cannot agree they should be included in heavy. They are not heavy. They are not a strategic aircraft. What you people are saying is that it’s not a strategic bomber—it can’t complete its mission and reach its base—but it can be refueled in-flight and therefore should be included in the strategic bombers. But if you start reasoning in that fashion, you can even include fighters, because they could have two, three, four refuelings in the air.

Kissinger: You don’t want me to answer now?

Gromyko: So what your people are saying, the reservation regarding the southern area of USSR, doesn’t help.

[Both sides confer.]

Further, it seems to us indispensable to include in the new agreement a clause which would limit the development of new strategic weapons. We are not sure we have provided for all possible eventual[Page 577]ities in our proposal but we believe we should not lose sight of this important matter. As we understand it, in the course of the discussions taking place in the U.S. itself, there are some, for example, in the Congress, calling attention to the need to have a clause limiting development of new strategic weapons, so it is in the spirit of the agreement. But the U.S. proposals bypassed this entirely. Maybe it is by chance, [or] something temporary.

Further, we believe the new agreement should include a clause relating to an obligation not to transfer to other states any strategic arms and not to render any assistance to other states to develop strategic offensive arms. No mention of this is made in your proposals and we think it would hardly be right to lose sight of this question as well.

From time to time the question of mobile strategic systems arises. This question arose originally in the preparation of the first agreement, then was sort of left alone and not emphasized again. But of late, if not discussed too broadly, it is arising. We at this point do not have any detailed comments to make or any elaborated position, but the question does exist. In other words, it should be kept in mind and at some future time there should be a more detailed discussion. If you have comments, we would be prepared to hear them.

Now, on future SALT negotiations, that is, after we sign the new agreement: We are familiar with the general trend of discussion on this in the United States, so we know that quite a good deal of attention is devoted to it in the United States. We certainly too believe it is a question worthy of discussion. We are not against these proposals and believe at some later time we could return to this matter.

Kissinger: You mean about starting in 1977?

Gromyko: Yes. We do not believe it is a difficult issue.

Further, you will recall when you were in Moscow before Vladivostok, in October, there was a question about the number of Tridents.

Kissinger: And Typhoons.

Gromyko: Right. You will recall you had quite a detailed discussion with the General Secretary on that, but it later took a different form when you were discussing not the number of Tridents but the number of launchers, which in effect amounts to the same thing. To switch from generalities to more specifics, we mentioned the number of 240 launchers. You know how that figure came into existence, but we recall you didn’t like that limitation. And you believe there should be no discussion of that question.

Kissinger: It’s also not discussed in the Vladivostok memorandum.

Gromyko: That is true, but we are referring to various discussions before.

Kissinger: That’s right, we discussed it previously.

[Page 578]

Gromyko: Now I just want to say, in our view, we could return to this in the context of the general course of the talks. We don’t right now want to build a high wall which would be an obstacle to our further efforts. We could return to this later in the context of the general course of the negotiations.

Further, if we take the ultimate total figure of launchers, that is, 2400, by what time should that figure be reached? There is a question there.

Kissinger: Not in our mind.

Gromyko: You too asked a question about this to the General Secretary, last October. I was sitting opposite you at the same distance as today. So the question was perfectly present. Our general view on this is: It is quite clear that the dates by which the total numbers should be brought in line with this figure should be agreed upon.

Today I merely want to say this date should not be prior to the entry into force of the agreement.

Kissinger: Not prior.

Gromyko: Yes.

Kissinger: In other words, not before 1977?

Gromyko: Yes. So obviously the deadline will lie somewhere between the date of entry into force of the agreement and any other date we choose. We have no specific date in mind but at least we hope this question won’t be a serious impediment to the agreement.

Now there is also the question of forward-based weapons. Usually as soon as this question comes up, one usually senses some wariness on the American side.

Kissinger: Sonnenfeldt?

Gromyko: We, on the contrary, believe you should be enthusiastic on this matter.

Kissinger: Do I not look enthusiastic?

Gromyko: Rather indifferent. Rather indifferent.

You may well say that at Vladivostok this point was not included in the discussion as a condition for the preparation and signing of the agreement. To that I would say I agree it was not made a condition for the agreement. But if it was your impression it was discussed as a condition, we would certainly agree with you.

Kissinger: You must have seen my talking points.

Gromyko: So we consider ourselves to have read your thoughts correctly!

But let us be quite clear on one thing: On no occasion have we said as far as the future is concerned that this question does not exist. It does exist and in the future it will be a matter for discussion. So it would be a [Page 579] good thing, we believe, if in conjunction with the negotiations now under way, we merely indicate this is a topic for future discussion. You would certainly look upon us as quite naive if we failed to mention that matter or if we believed it closed. History, after all, doesn’t come to a close with the end of the duration of the first agreement; neither will it come to an end with the end of the duration of the second.

Kissinger: You will still be Foreign Minister, so I am sure it won’t be forgotten.

Gromyko: We will both meet on it. Our experience will be enriched by it. We will meet at the terminal point of the second agreement!

Kissinger: By 1985 we will be moving towards alliance; that’s my historic prediction.

Gromyko: You are saying this as a historian, not as Secretary of State.

Kissinger: I have to give my associates some hope of a terminal date. When you say I’ll still be Secretary of State by 1985 . . . Look at the expression on Sisco’s face.

Gromyko: So let me just sum up. Let me say I tried to be as brief as possible to set out these questions that have to be considered in a new agreement. And every word said by General Secretary Brezhnev to President Ford at Vladivostok remains in force. We feel there is equal interest on both sides for a new agreement to be signed. We will work that way and we hope the United States will act in the same spirit. We trust you will try to be that specific in your comments as we endeavor to be, because we have already spent time on general principles and we should get down to specifics.

Kissinger: I would like to consult with my colleagues, but can you tell me what in your presentation differs from what is already presented at Geneva?

Gromyko: In principle, what I’ve said here has nothing new. Maybe some slight nuances in the method of presentation rather than substance.

Kissinger: That is my impression.

Gromyko: Regarding the first question, that is, the so-called regional approach to MIRVed missiles, was not presented at Geneva.

Kissinger: But you closed off the discussion.

Let me consult for five minutes. We don’t know which of your concessions to accept first.

[There was a break beginning at 11:15 a.m. Kissinger and Gromyko conferred informally alone from 11:29 to 11:45 a.m.]

Kissinger: All right, Mr. Foreign Minister, let me make two comments, one general and one specific.

[Page 580]

The general comment concerns the utility of these meetings at the political level and the purpose we’re attempting to serve. Our practice in the past was that Geneva would proceed at the somewhat technical level, that the Geneva negotiators would explore, and that difficulties would then be solved at the political level after which we give new instructions to our delegations.

The second point was that we would use these meetings to make some progress in political relations, but this requires some substantive progress.

I must say on neither of the two subjects we’ve discussed, CSCE or SALT, has any substantial progress been made. And we will have to consider at the end what to tell the press, so we don’t give a misleading impression.

Even a quick look at your comments on information indicates it will not be particularly helpful.

Now let me not return to the European Security Conference, which we have discussed before. Let me deal with your SALT position.

We submitted a paper to you, which quite frankly was in the category of the discussions of your Ambassador and I. It had no official standing in our Government, and went to the limit of what we thought we could get. If you had accepted part of it, or even made a counterproposal, we could then have pushed in that direction. We made some specific suggestions that went beyond our position at Geneva. You, on the other hand, gave us word for word the same position you had at Geneva. We have to consider the value of discussions in this channel. We had made an effort in preparing for a new position and even made a start last Saturday [by a Verification Panel meeting]5 in preparing the Government for new instructions for Geneva.

In order to help your colleagues in Moscow, and not to be impolite, there is no chance whatsoever, no matter how long the negotiations go on, that we will accept your position at Geneva. There is no chance whatsoever that we will accept your Geneva position. The agreement will lapse in ’77. If we begin organizing our public opinion for it, we will get support, and there will be no chance of a strategic arms limitation agreement, if we make it a controversial issue.

Now let me go through the individual points.

First, the issue of MIRV verification. We have made clear even before Vladivostok—I know I made it clear to your Ambassador; he didn’t agree but I made it clear—how we proposed to count, that is, [Page 581] that we would count any missile of a MIRVed type as MIRVed. The burden would be on you to show it wasn’t. You know your missiles better than we do. That means either you accept it or you give us some alternate criteria that are plausible by which we can determine whether a missile is MIRVed or not MIRVed.

Now neither of these has happened. The idea of complexes we thought was accepting your idea, and we did this in order to help you. Otherwise we prefer our position. Indeed, the purpose of the complex idea was to make it possible to verify by national technical means, a principle which we are not now and have never challenged.

So there has to be some definition by which national technical means can verify deployment of MIRV’s or we cannot make an agreement. It is as simple as that. If our proposal isn’t acceptable, or the complex idea isn’t acceptable, then you have to give us some other criteria. If not, then there is no means of verification, and therefore we cannot have an agreement.

The second point, the 15%. I will not refer to the fact that when the General Secretary spoke to President Nixon, he specifically disclaimed that he was talking about each direction but only in general terms of size. I won’t mention that if you increase by 15% in each dimension, it would mean an increase of 52%. Even when we put forward our definition, it means an increase of something like 30% in volume. This is the maximum we can go to.

At one point in Moscow in 1972 we discussed not permitting any increase at all; we permitted you to back off from that position because 15% wasn’t very significant. We cannot accept that it is more than 15%, nor can we accept that it can be done more than once. This is not in addition to the old agreement; it is a clarification of the old agreement. The old agreement was not very precise on the issue.

Then let us turn to the question of air-to-ground missiles. The issue of air-to-ground missiles was extremely vaguely drawn in Vladivostok. Though it may not have been always clarified in translating, the President was extremely careful to say “ballistic” missile. This was the translation from our side; it wasn’t you, Viktor.

Sukhodrev: It wasn’t actually translated.

Kissinger: Did you do it?

Sukhodrev: Yes.

Kissinger: Be that as it may.

The second ambiguity is the carrier for these cruise missiles, or, to put it another way, where they should be counted. The Vladivostok agreement speaks only of missiles carried on bombers, so missiles carried on transport planes theoretically need not be counted. Third, bal[Page 582]listic missiles carried on ships don’t have to be counted. So we in our proposal attempted to close these loopholes.

Again, I have to say, not that you have to accept these, but we attempted to make serious efforts to work out principles that in some cases worked in your favor, or made clear the Vladivostok agreement in an area where we weren’t so clear about in Vladivostok.

Again, I didn’t necessarily expect agreement with our position, but we made a serious effort in our position and were met with your Geneva position which is impossible for us.

On heavy bombers, it is not so simple. The Backfire in range and size is not different from the Bison and is superior in performance. If the Bison is to be counted, logically the Backfire should be counted. If we developed a variation of the B–52 and called it something else, then we would have to count it, or it would be absurd.

We attempted to do the same thing as we did with MIRV verification, that is, we tried to develop criteria, including the deployment of the Backfire and the refueling of the Backfire. This is a position we have not even presented to our or the Congressional bureaucracy. To be presented with simply a repetition of the Geneva position makes it extremely difficult to make progress on this issue.

Again, we went considerably beyond our Geneva position and I regret to say you did not.

Now let me deal with new strategic systems. As far as the general trend of opinion in the United States is concerned, I pay no attention to these kinds of arguments but the trend of opinion that matters is the trend you negotiate with, not Senatorial statements. And it makes a difference whether you are talking about the Trident or B–1 or systems subsequent to the Trident or B–1. If you are talking about the Trident or B–1, it is impossible for us, because we cannot allow you to modernize your whole missile force and we are not allowed to take measures we consider necessary. As for new systems, after the Trident or B–1, we are in principle prepared to discuss it and we are openminded. We think it is better to be handled in the follow-on negotiations; it is not necessary to be treated in the implementation of the Vladivostok agreement.

Now, the next issue is the one of nontransfer. With respect to nontransfer, the Foreign Minister was not very specific. It is an issue we are prepared to discuss, keeping in mind certain existing commitments we have and related matters. But I repeat, we are prepared to discuss this issue. Always keeping in mind any provisions we negotiate would also have to be applied to the People’s Republic of China.

Eight, let me deal with the mobile issues. There are two issues. One is, should they be counted? The second is, should they be permitted?

With respect to the first, should they be counted, there is no question under the Vladivostok agreement that all mobiles beyond a certain range must be counted.

[Page 583]

With respect to ballistic missiles and some cruise missiles, there is no question they should be counted. With respect to the second question, should they be permitted, we asked in a note to you. It is a subject on which we would like to hear your views before we take a position. That is to say, should all mobiles except sea-based be banned? We are open-minded; that is, we are prepared to listen to your position.

What is absolutely unacceptable is to ban missiles on airplanes while permitting mobile missiles on land.

With respect to new negotiations, I have the impression you were making some positive statements, and if I understand them correctly, I need to make no comment on them.

With respect to the Trident, I must establish the principle that we cannot go back to the October negotiations and add elements to the Vladivostok agreement. As I understood the purpose of the Vladivostok agreement, it was to eliminate the technical complexities we encountered in October. As I understand it, there were no sub-limits except those in the Interim Agreement.

The next question—by what time should the figure of 2400 be reached? There again, we cannot accept the October discussions which were on a different basis, which included differentials on MIRV deployment. We cannot accept that it takes place sometime between 1985 and the signing. If you need some period to get down to 2400, that we can negotiate, but if you mean years rather than months, it will be unacceptable.

And in the aide-mémoire it says: “During the time of a new agreement each of the sides will be entitled to an aggregate number of delivery vehicles of strategic arms not exceeding 2400.” The only way to interpret that is that it means during all of the time, not during part of the time.

Now, with respect to forward bases, it is not contained in the Vladivostok agreement and therefore cannot be part of this negotiation. We recognize your continuing concern and we recognize you will be free to introduce it in any subsequent negotiation, without prejudice to any position we may take on that subject. Any new negotiation.

Now let me sum up, so there is no misunderstanding. There is no possibility whatsoever of an agreement on the basis of the Geneva position of the Soviet delegation. There is no possibility of resuming the talks on the basis of the Geneva instructions of the Soviet delegation.

So I would like to make three proposals: That we delay the opening of Geneva by three weeks, that we continue discussions in our channel, to see if we can work out new instructions on both sides. And you might consider sending experts on SALT to Washington, or we could send some experts to Moscow. We think it is more efficient for [Page 584] you to send someone to Washington because we are better equipped there.

We think if we are seriously concerned about reaching agreement in connection with a possible visit by the General Secretary this year, then there must be serious decisions on both sides. If we are concerned about the public discussion of the state of our relations, it will certainly accelerate if there is no agreement on this, coupled also with a possible stalemate in the European Security Conference.

Gromyko: On what you call complexes, certain geographic regions for MIRVed missiles, I have nothing to add to what I’ve said, nor to the reasons I gave for our position. You expressed your hope we would make serious examination of the reasons you set out in explaining your position; we will certainly study them most thoroughly. And we hope you will seriously study what we have said on this score. But here naturally I proceed from the assumption of which you are fully aware, that the principle you set forward—if you have tested one such missile, you will count all such types as MIRVed—that principle we have rejected all along. So I’m saying nothing new on that.

As regards the figure of the famous 10–15% increase under the first agreement, you may well be right that we did not perhaps fully elaborate the interpretation we would place on those figures when we were negotiating the first agreement. Our interpretation boils down to the fact that we propose that this basic principle be transferred to the new one. So if in your view this means there should be an additional exchange of views to clarify it, we didn’t say we were loathe to do that.

Korniyenko: It was in effect on the suggestion of the American side that the aide-mémoire carried the phrase that this be carried over to the new agreement.

Gromyko: And as we see it, you do not now question the basic principle of carrying it over.

Kissinger: We require clarification of two points—one, that only one modification can be made to an existing silo . . .

Gromyko: You made it clear.

Kissinger: . . . and that we require an understanding of the definition of 10–15%.

Gromyko: That is clear.

On the question of cruise missiles, our understanding of what transpired at Vladivostok is at variance with yours. Our understanding was that it related to both ballistic and cruise missiles.

Regarding Backfire, I have nothing to add to our position. We believe our position to be fully justified.

Paragraph five in the aide-mémoire reads: “A new agreement could also provide for additional limitations on deployment of new [Page 585] types of strategic arms during the period of its effectiveness.” So we assume you accept the principle of this. And we should agree on what we specifically mean. But the principle is accepted.

Kissinger: That is correct.

Gromyko: Regarding non-transfer and non-provision of assistance to other states, we have set out our position and we consider it an important point. You understand the reasons for it. I’m sure you are aware, unless our two countries undertake certain obligations in this regard, it will not be resolved. I understand you see a problem too, so let’s find a formula.

Kissinger: But one that’s discussable.

Gromyko: As regards mobile systems, you requested us to be more specific. But we have set out our general considerations, and we believe it requires more detailed discussion. We agree that both questions you mentioned do exist, that is, whether to count them or not to count them, and whether to ban them or not. So the basic starting positions coincide.

You correctly understand our position on starting new negotiations. Our position is one that is basically favorable to yours.

So I don’t think we should paint a picture so black.

As regards the 240 Tridents, that is something that is discussable in the general context of further negotiations. Does that make no impression on you?

Kissinger: After 1977. After this agreement goes into effect.

Gromyko: In the general context of further negotiations. In short, we will come back to this. But on this we are not erecting any unsurmountable wall in the path of the agreement.

Kissinger: I understand.

Gromyko: Regarding the time limit for reaching the figure of 2400, do not be wary of our statement there should be some gap before the entry into force and the actual reaching of the figure. We do not proceed from the assumption there should be any overly lengthy period of time. We don’t know who this will benefit, you or us. It is most likely we will both be in an equal position in this. In any event, what we mean is a limited period. Since this is a process, not one single shot in the air, but probably some definite limited period of time will be required.

Kissinger: If it is a question of months, we can probably agree.

Gromyko: On FBS, I have nothing to add. I have set forth our position, and I think you have understood us correctly.

As regards your suggestion that we delay the resumption of SALT, that is a new question, but I don’t think it will cause any great difficulty. So we will return to it. And as to whether Washington or Moscow [Page 586] would be the more relevant venue for further exchange of views, we will inform you, and also as to what the level of these further exchange of views should be.

I think I should repeat in passing that the colors you mix are all too dense. If they were light colors, I could agree. On many matters, our positions are not too far apart; the situation isn’t so much in the shade. It is not a simple problem; the questions are complicated. On some things we think your position is not objective and is somewhat one-sided. Those questions require in-depth consideration, with due regard for what you said to us and what we said to you. But if we pass too much pessimism back and forth, it will not be helpful. The difficulties were no less in the process of achieving the first agreement; they were all ultimately overcome.

Our interest in seeing a new accord reached has not diminished, and we trust the same is true of your side. I have no intention of elaborating on that, because our position was adequately stated by General Secretary Brezhnev at Vladivostok, as was your position by President Ford.

And I, frankly speaking, did not like your remark that these difficulties on these matters can compound the difficulties already existing on the European Security Conference.

But let us not allow emotions to get the better of us. Let us take a cool and level-headed view.

Kissinger: I didn’t say that. I said the positions advanced by the Soviet side this morning on information6 did not make me extremely optimistic about the chance of success.

Gromyko: You separated them?

Kissinger: I said the two propositions this morning taken together do not make me as optimistic as I had hoped to be at this point of the discussion.

Gromyko: I am pleased to hear the clarification. Nevertheless, will you please consider our texts?

Kissinger: Our delegation will be instructed to consider your proposals on information and Basket III with a view to completing the negotiation in the time frame we have discussed.

Gromyko: We will be proceeding from the assumption that anything raised from your side that calls into question the domestic legislation of the Soviet Union will not be acceptable.

Kissinger: I have said we will approach it with the intention to meet the deadline, and in that spirit we hope there will be agreement.

[Page 587]

Gromyko: Our delegation in Geneva will have instructions to put forward its views regarding the second part of your views, that is, on contacts, in addition to what we gave you on journalists. But I am puzzled: What we gave on journalists, all your concerns have been taken into account—the conditions of their stay.

Kissinger: I have just taken a quick look. I have not had a chance to study it. We will study it and reply formally. It is not a considered judgment.

Let me sum up.

On strategic arms limitations, we have proposed a delay of three weeks. I have the impression you can’t make a decision now.

Second, we will have discussions in this channel. My definition of this channel is that it will be of a more political level than of experts, and with a greater degree of flexibility and also secrecy than in Geneva. We are prepared to consider your views. We don’t exclude having someone added to the Ambassador’s staff in Moscow.

We do not insist, on the verification issue, that our ideas are final. If you can give us another proposal, another criterion for distinguishing between single and multiple warheads that we can do by national means. It must be something plausible. You can’t just paint a green cross on the warhead and say it is single.

Gromyko: Do we have to open up the warhead and let you see it?

Kissinger: Give us some ideas. And we will try to come up with other ideas.

Gromyko: I have nothing to add. And you have not ruled out holding these talks in Moscow?

Kissinger: If it is in this channel. We prefer to have them in Washington, because it is easier, given how we make decisions.

Gromyko: You mean in established procedures, but not with technical experts?

Kissinger: How you handle it in Washington is up to you. If you want to send technical experts, that is fine. If you don’t, that is fine.

Gromyko: We will think it over.

Kissinger: We would not announce it. We would say only that exchanges will continue. We don’t have to say where or how.

Gromyko: Could we have a break?

[There was a break from 1:17 to 1:37 p.m.]

Middle East

Gromyko: We will have ten more questions to discuss. Which one will the next one be?

Kissinger: Trade.

[Page 588]

Dobrynin: Trade with whom?

Kissinger: I suppose you would like to discuss the Middle East.

Gromyko: How can you read my mind? One case of telepathy!

Kissinger: Should we say we should try to finish by 3:00, no later than 3:15?

Gromyko: All right.

Kissinger: I told the interpreter, we have a new proposal from Israel: If Egypt demilitarizes all the way to Mersa Matruh, Israel will move eight more kilometers. If Egypt withdraws to Libya, Israel will give up ¾ths of the passes.

Gromyko: What is your view of the situation?

Kissinger: When we say we are making a reassessment, it is not propaganda; it is a serious effort to see how progress can be made.

Second, we have made it very clear we will not accept a stalemate. Because we agree with the assessment of General Secretary Brezhnev that he gave us in San Clemente. I am agreeing with your assessment. I’ve told you privately we made a mistake in June 1973.

Three, we recognize and accept that no settlement in the Middle East can be made without the Soviet Union nor can it last unless there is a joint assurance, guarantee, by the Soviet Union and the United States. And we regard some of the remarks by the Foreign Minister when our mutual friend Khaddam visited Moscow7 to be constructive, and I must say courageous.

Fourth, this is a matter of profound domestic consequence and we are seriously considering the situation.

That is our assessment. President Ford is meeting with President Sadat and Prime Minister Rabin in early June, and will meet with various other leaders of the area. But after mid-June we will be making serious decisions, as I told your Ambassador before I came.

We are considering whether to go for an interim solution or a comprehensive solution or some combination of both. Those are the three possibilities. But we are determined to make some progress and we are determined that this progress be made fairly rapidly.

Of course, there are various details such as when Geneva should be held, how it should be organized, which we are prepared to discuss with you today.

[Page 589]

Gromyko: But concretely, what are your considerations regarding the Geneva Conference, especially considering the agreement by everyone on the need for it? How, and when should it be reconvened? There is also the question of the participants, and the question of the Palestinians.

Kissinger: We agree it should be convened at an early date. Secondly, we would like to hear the views of all the parties before we make a decision on the precise date. So we would like to reserve our position for two or three more weeks before taking a position.

Third, you and we should have some preliminary exchanges on the substance before a convening. Because it would not be very good.

Gromyko: It would be very bad.

Kissinger: There could be the danger of war in the Middle East, which I will discuss in a minute.

I think the procedure should be the way we did it last time—that you and we would send the invitations.

Gromyko: A simple invitation. [Laughter]

Kissinger: I remember the last time—we spent six weeks with the Israelis to get them to agree to the UN, and then later they refused to meet without the presence of the UN.

Now with respect to the Palestinians. We have to decide whether we want progress or we want issues. Palestinian participation is best for those who don’t want progress. That is one issue on which we can’t get public support and will have to take the Israeli position at least at the beginning.

I’m not sure the Palestinians want to go there, because soon they would have to take decisions there that they would prefer to avoid, like whether to accept 242.

We don’t mind discussing the Palestinians later on. We recognize that no final solution can exist without a final solution of the Palestinian problem.

Gromyko: Let me state our position in brief. Our general assessment is that the situation in the Middle East is a dangerous one. If I went into detail, I would just be repeating statements you have heard from us on many occasions.

Kissinger: I agree with you.

Gromyko: The situation is dangerous because the Arab lands occupied still have not been returned, and second because the Palestinian problem is not resolved. True enough, the guns are silent now, but always before the war breaks out, the guns are silent. Specifically, we believe at present what is needed is a serious approach, and by a serious approach we mean the participation in the consideration of this issue of all the parties concerned.

[Page 590]

Kissinger: Not India.

Gromyko: They are not asking as yet.

The forum wherein the problem should be discussed was agreed on; it exists. That is in reply to your question about whether India should be included. It is true, however, that Lebanon has approached us, and probably you, too, but basically their desire is not to participate from the outset but at some point. Basically, the Palestinian problem must be resolved. But I don’t see this as a new problem; it is an old problem. Nuances may be new, but it would be pointless to try to resolve the Palestinian problem without the Palestinians. Whether or not we invite Lebanon and whether or not we recognize Lebanon as a party concerned, it is impossible not to recognize the Palestinians as a party concerned.

As far as we know, the Palestinians want to participate from the very beginning and we appreciate their stand. We do not know whether they would agree to participate not from the beginning. It would depend on the attitude of the other Arab states. All the ones we have talked to have told us they favor the Palestinians participating and from the very beginning.

Maybe Egypt allows of some kind of variation, but . . .

Kissinger: I have to tell you an experience I had. An Arab Foreign Minister told me, “I know you are lying to me.” I said, “How do you know I am lying to you?” “Because you wrote me a letter. And the letters you wrote to all the others were similar. Therefore you are lying.” [Laughter]

What Arabs say, and what they will do, requires analysis.

Gromyko: In short, let me state our position. We cannot fail to support the Palestinians as do the other Arabs if they raise the issue of their participating from the very beginning. However, if the Palestinians and other Arab states generally should agree they will participate not from the beginning, we, the Soviet Union, naturally could not be more Arab than the Arabs. But the Palestinians must participate in the discussion of the Palestinian issue.

Kissinger: We don’t really know the Syrian attitude on Geneva. Do you?

Gromyko: Not 100%.

Kissinger: Our impression is they have said if they go, they would want the Palestinians there. But we don’t have a clear picture.

Gromyko: I’m saying right now if the Palestinians say they want to participate from the very beginning, they will certainly be supported in that by all the Arabs . . .

Kissinger: I agree.

[Page 591]

Gromyko: And the Soviet Union would support them in that demand. On the other hand, if the Palestinians say they could participate but not from the very beginning, they would be supported by the other Arabs. But we regard it as a foregone conclusion that the Palestinian question must be resolved with the participation of the Palestinians.

What is necessary right now in our opinion is for us as co-chairmen to send an invitation to the Palestinians to participate, without a date or prejudging the timing of their participation. That we feel is the “A” we should start with. And that would give things a push in the right direction.

Now, regarding your statement that not everything is clear regarding the Syrian position. That is true, not everything is clear. But let me state the Soviet position. Here I want to repeat something I said to you in Geneva: If it is clear the parties are not coming with a serious view but it is clear the Conference is doomed in advance, that we can’t accept. That seems to be the view of the Syrians. If it becomes clear there is any intention the Conference is intended as a coverup for separate steps contemplated in circumvention of the Soviet Union, that we don’t need. We don’t need a screen. If I’m being too frank, you have heard this before. Why do we raise the matter in such a way? So as not to cause harm to the consideration of the entire problem. We don’t want the Conference to fail; the outcome of that would be the outbreak of war. That is why we believe there is a great need for good preparations to precede the Conference. And I and my colleagues therefore agree with the idea of holding prior to the Conference further bilateral exchanges of views so the Conference yields substantive results, an in-depth exchange of views on the substantive issues involved.

That is what I basically wanted to say. And I would appreciate hearing your response to the suggestion that we should, as the “A,” send an invitation to the Palestinians to attend.

Kissinger: Do you want my honest reaction?

Gromyko: There are also possible nuances regarding the possible wording of the invitation. The Palestinians have their own views on the subject.

Of course, I want an honest answer.

Kissinger: My honest reaction is that you asked it because your Ambassadors can then go around the Middle East saying the Americans refused to give an invitation. So I give you that opportunity.

But let me now turn to the serious part. The Palestinians and the Arabs, I think, understand we can’t begin by giving an issue to those who want no progress.

Regarding the second part, I agree we should have an in-depth exchange of views. Secondly, we intend—though the reassessment is not [Page 592] completed—to conduct the next phase of the Middle East in a more cooperative spirit. As for who does what, when, we have solved problems like this before, as on Berlin. We don’t need both to say something at the same time. So we agree we should have an exchange on the nature, the structure, and substance of the Geneva Conference.

Secondly, should Geneva be a “cover-up”—a cover—it’s a painful word; we’re not so good at cover ups. Anatol, explain it to the Foreign Minister.

Sukhodrev: I did.

Kissinger: I was going to say we should go the modified hang-out route. [Laughter]

We have, at this point, no fixed idea how to proceed, except we would like to have some progress made. We have had no serious exchanges on the next steps because we don’t want to throw ourselves into another negotiation that could fail, or one that even if it succeeds, raises more difficult questions. Any more than you want to go to Geneva without preparation.

So we have had no discussion of separate approaches, or policies.

As I understand you, Mr. Foreign Minister, you’re not in principle opposed to separate steps, as long as there is participation of all the countries concerned in the area. Is that your view?

Gromyko: That is absolutely correct. We’re not against certain intermediate measures, provided they are the result of joint consideration of all the parties concerned and the joint agreement of all the parties concerned, and in the context of an overall settlement. The form of this context is, of course, a matter to be decided, not to build a wall between the general and an interim agreement. Do you agree with this?

Kissinger: I understand it.

Gromyko: Only understand?

Kissinger: I sympathize with it. Let me explain. As I have explained to you in private on many occasions, gratitude for services rendered is not exactly the coin of the realm in international affairs, and certainly in the Middle East. The Soviet Union cannot be excluded, objectively, and it’s in your power to make any interim agreement impossible.

I do have one concern, which I’ll say frankly. It is possible for us to work jointly, but it is possible for you to put yourself one step ahead of us in any negotiation, and while that leads to certain propaganda victories, it also leads to diplomatic stalemate.

Gromyko: Describe it to us.

Kissinger: It’s a concern. It could happen intentionally or unintentionally. It could happen if an approach is too legalistic.

[Page 593]

We are prepared to continue our consideration and to consult with you before we make any decisions. We are not designing a diplomacy that excludes you. You must learn this from your own sources.

Gromyko: But Israel could be doing it.

Kissinger: We are not participating in it either. Neither organizing nor participating. Our present intention is to do it cooperatively with you.

Your concern is that we organize a completely separate diplomacy.

Gromyko: Organize . . .

Kissinger: Or participate. See, our concern is what you said earlier, “We agree with the Arabs: if they change, we’ll change.”

Gromyko: How many times we disagree with the Arabs, you know. How many! On recognition of Israel, and so many other questions.

Kissinger: Our problem is we are asked to separate ourselves from Israel; you take the exact Arab position.

Gromyko: That doesn’t exist. The question of Israel’s right to exist . . .

Kissinger: But it goes beyond that. If you take exactly the position of the Arabs, we can deal directly with the Arabs; why should we deal with you?

The existence of Israel is the absolute minimum.

Even on the content of peace, leaving aside the question of territory, the Arab position may not be exactly satisfactory.

We both have an obligation to move the parties.

Gromyko: But if we say yes, yes, yes to all your proposals . . .

Kissinger: Anyone who has dealt with you knows the possibility of your saying yes, yes, yes, is extremely remote. [Laughter]

Gromyko: If you know me, when I say yes, you say no. [Laughter]

Kissinger: I don’t expect you to say yes to all our proposals. At this moment we have no proposals. What we want is for you to take an objective view of the situation and not just ask us to bring pressure on Israel. If it’s just a question of influence on Israel, we can do it ourselves.

Gromyko: There can be influence on the Arabs at the same time.

Kissinger: Exactly.

Gromyko: There are many considerations.

Kissinger: We are prepared to work with you in a cooperative attitude, in details and not just general terms.

We have not made up our minds yet. I think it’s easy to assemble Geneva; it will be hard to keep it from blowing up. Who’ll get blamed if [Page 594] it fails isn’t at all clear—whether it’s you or us. It will look like impotence before the Arabs.

Gromyko: You’re right, convening Geneva is easier than the success of it.

[Fokin gets up and opens the windows]

It’s as hot in here as in the Arab Middle East!

Kissinger: So if we don’t go to Geneva, we have a problem. If we go to Geneva, and it fails, even if your friends in Iraq like it, we have a problem, because we don’t want a war. We have to proceed in a way that takes care of both our interests. This seems to us the best way to implement the principles of détente. If we have a confrontation, it would be like World War I, where a war starts over the stupidest issue. That is not in anyone’s interest.

We are not now engaged in a serious effort—or any effort—to start up separate negotiations. We’re just listening. You can confirm this—and the press too. Everything we do is in the newspaper—and some things we don’t do are in the newspapers. Generally the Israeli press has accurately what’s going on, which is nothing.

We could have more precise discussions in July.

Gromyko: Wouldn’t we be busy in July preparing for and going to the European Security Conference?

Kissinger: That’s at the end of July.

Gromyko: That means Geneva won’t convene in June.

Kissinger: August.

Gromyko: August is inappropriate.

Kissinger: Maybe September.

Say around July 10, give or take a day. No, July 10 we have a foreign visit. Say July 5th. We should meet just two days in some neutral place.

We haven’t met in Iceland. It’s a nightmare; you can’t sleep.

Or come to Washington.

Dobrynin: There is no night there. You can negotiate two or three nights running. [Laughter]

Kissinger: The last time we were in Iceland it was to meet President Pompidou.8 Iceland’s Prime Minister threatened to go to war with England, and Rogers pleaded with him not to go to war.

Gromyko: What is your opinion of what we should be doing now, in late May and early June?

[Page 595]

Kissinger: I’ll tell you what we’ll be doing.

Gromyko: And the outcome of Salzburg. You must have some idea.

Kissinger: No.

Gromyko: There are not any secrets—just the substance. [Laughter]

Kissinger: Mr. Foreign Minister, you’ve dealt with Egypt. You know that precision of substance is not what made Egypt what it is today. [Laughter]

[Sisco whispers to Kissinger]

Sisco tells me that since Israel is printing a book on what I allegedly said,9 you’ll probably print one too. My protection is the Arabs won’t believe what’s printed.

We’ve made no propositions; Egypt has made no propositions. We have said we would like their ideas on how to go to Geneva. The President will tell them substantially what I’ve told you. We will want to hear what they have in mind. We have not considered a resumption of step-by-step precisely, or even imprecisely.

Gromyko: What if he begs you?

Kissinger: We’ll still want to know where it leads us, or it would be like in March. We wouldn’t do it to your exclusion. But I don’t expect this to happen. I personally will not agree to get involved unless both sides give me iron-clad assurance of the result. I won’t shuttle around in the Middle East persuading people. It’s not an appropriate way to proceed.

Gromyko: It’s a strange situation. Everyone agrees—you, us, the Arabs, Israel—that it’s dangerous, but yet we can’t sit down and straighten it out. It is a strange situation indeed.

Kissinger: We have been preoccupied since April with other parts of the world and haven’t been able to turn to this systematically until last week. For the Middle East alone, I told your Ambassador, June would have been better for this meeting. But we did this for other reasons. We should all observe restraint.

Gromyko: Restraint on our part is permanent. [Laughter] The situation may cause surprise for both of us.

Kissinger: Not in June.

Gromyko: Better in July?

Kissinger: In July we’ll be in a better position to make a decision.

[Page 596]

Gromyko: How can we explain to public opinion that we were not able to convene the Conference in June? You will be the one to explain.

Sisco: We told them we weren’t ready.

Kissinger: I’ll brief our people on the plane that we’ll continue our exchanges and meet in June or July—on both the Middle East and SALT. That keeps both of these issues in momentum.

But our decisions will be to keep our relationship in terms of cooperation, rather than competition. This you will see.

Gromyko: I do not mind your saying this to the press.

Kissinger: I think it will be helpful.

Gromyko: You can even say we’ll be ready for deeper discussion; more “penetrating” discussion.

Kissinger: That’s fine.

Gromyko: But we should now agree on the text of the invitation to the Palestinians.

[Sonnenfeldt and Korniyenko agree on the communiqué.]

Kissinger: Can I read it?

I don’t mind putting in the communiqué that you and I agreed to meet again in the first half of July to continue discussions on strategic arms limitations and the Middle East. It is up to you.

[Gromyko and Korniyenko confer]

Gromyko: Maybe something like that could be said verbally to the correspondents.

Kissinger: Why don’t we both say it when we go downstairs? Or I can say it alone, and you can deny it. [Laughter]

Gromyko: “In the near future” or in the “not distant future.”

Kissinger: Make a plunge! Say, “near future!” I will say on background it will probably be in the first half of July.

Gromyko: From you.

Kissinger: On the airplane.

Gromyko: Fine.

Kissinger: When are we going to release this document [the communiqué, Tab A],10 that will rock the world?

Dobrynin: Tomorrow morning.

Kissinger: I think the suspense will cause too much uncertainty in the financial markets of the world.

Gromyko: Will they rise or fall, the financial markets of the world? [Laughter]

[Page 597]

Kissinger: Why don’t we do it at 7:00 local time, so we can give it out on the plane?

Gromyko: All right.

While you and I are talking, Mr. Schlesinger seems to be declaring war.

Kissinger: What did he say now?

Gromyko: While one Minister is here talking peace, another is talking war. It’s some kind of “polycentrism.”

Kissinger: Suzy Parker11 once said she would get her husband to feel totally secure and totally loved, and then let him have it between the eyes.

Gromyko: What do you say about broadening the participation of the Conference?

Kissinger: Let me tell you what we’ll say to the Arabs.

We want Romania there.

Our view is that if we want Geneva started with the least debate, we should take the countries who were there—Israel, Egypt, Syria, Jordan—but without prejudice to others. There are some—Britain, France—who aren’t a concern. Our judgment is a forum must be created for the consideration of issues or else it plays into the hands of those who want to waste time.

Gromyko: When for the Palestinians?

Kissinger: Our judgment is the question can be raised after some months. First, the Conference must be convened. If we and you work together as we did on the Berlin negotiations, there will be progress. If we don’t, there will be no progress.

Dobrynin: Should we put into the communiqué that the two ministers condemned Mr. Schlesinger?

Kissinger: This is not our view of what the Soviet view of détente is. [Schlesinger interview, Tab B].12 I did not see the interview before it was published. You will not see it again.

[Page 598]

Gromyko: I have another question, which may perhaps not be topical, but we should have clarity from a long-term perspective. We once discussed in the Middle East, that is, how do you visualize long-term guarantees for settlement? From the Israeli point of view, the best guarantee is a rifle.

Kissinger: At that time we suggested that Dobrynin and Sisco should resume these discussions. I suggest, after Rabin’s visit—say the week of the 12th—they should begin, to prepare for our meetings, and they should begin with guarantees.

Joint guarantees I have a problem with—intellectually. So we should discuss them jointly, or separately. We could give the same guarantees, but individually, if it’s not possible to get an agreement on joint action. If we don’t agree? Therefore we can’t act. Therefore it should be a guarantee that can be implemented by the individual countries.

This is not a final position; this is a thinking-out-loud position. Because I don’t think either of us wants to give the other a right of unilateral intervention.

Gromyko: Let’s have a five minute break, and then spend the last five minutes.

[There was a break, beginning at 3:03 p.m. At 3:10 p.m., the Secretary and Minister Gromyko conferred privately.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger Reports on USSR, China, and Middle East Discussions, 1974–1976, Box 1, USSR Memcons and Reports, May 19–20, 1975—Kissinger/Gromyko Meetings in Vienna (2). Secret. Drafted by Rodman. Brackets are in the original. The meeting was held at the Soviet Embassy.
  2. Not found.
  3. At Tab A is a letter from Scowcroft to Dobrynin, May 10, with an attached U.S. memorandum on SALT. Scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXIII, SALT II, 1972–1979.
  4. Not attached. Printed as Document 97.
  5. The minutes of the Verification Panel meeting on Saturday, May 17, are in Ford Library, National Security Council Institutional Files, 1974–1977, Box 23, Meeting Minutes—Verification Panel (Originals), April–May 1975.
  6. See Document 149.
  7. Syrian Foreign Minister Khaddam was in Moscow April 23–25 for an “official friendly visit,” including meetings with Brezhnev and Gromyko. For the condensed English texts of Gromyko’s and Khaddam’s speeches on the first day and of the joint communiqué on the last, see Current Digest of the Soviet Press, Vol. XXVII, No. 16 (May 14, 1975), pp. 8–9.
  8. Nixon met with Pompidou and Icelandic political leaders in Reykjavik May 31–June 1, 1973.
  9. See footnote 3, Document 146.
  10. Attached but not printed. For the text of the joint statement, released on May 20, see Department of State Bulletin, June 16, 1975, pp. 810–811.
  11. Cecilia Anne Renee “Suzy” Parker, an American actress and model.
  12. Not attached. Reference is to an interview with Schlesinger published by U.S. News and World Report in its May 26 edition, which included his critical remarks on the Soviet view of détente. The full text of the interview was sent to Kissinger in telegram Tosec 10039/116621 to Vienna, May 19. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files) In a report submitted to Congress in early May, Schlesinger also advocated the use of tactical nuclear weapons to stop a conventional attack by Warsaw Pact forces in Europe. Although the report was classified, its substance was subsequently leaked to the press; a sanitized version was released on May 29. (Bernard Gwertzman, “U.S. Backs Tactical Atom Arms Against a Soviet Push in Europe,” The New York Times, May 30, 1975, pp. 1, 65) Brezhnev protested both Schlesinger’s remarks and his report in an oral message to Ford on May 31. (National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 7, Soviet Union, June–July 1975)