151. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Andrey Gromyko, Member of the Politburo of the Central Committee, CPSU, and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR
  • Viktor Mikhaylovich Sukhodrev, Counsellor, MFA (interpreter)
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

[The Secretary and the Minister began this conversation after a break in the plenary meeting.]

Kissinger: Let me say one word about Schlesinger.2 It’s as much directed at me as at you. If it’s true what he said about détente, we look like fools. If you’re using it to weaken us, we’re idiots.

It will not happen again. I will put a stop to it.

Gromyko: On the Middle East, in substance, we made no progress, but if you follow the line you describe, that you will be working together with us while working with other parties—to the extent you are ready, that’s a helpful sign.

Kissinger: We should operate on the assumption that we get our information from each other, because the parties in the Middle East are not reliable reporters of what’s going on.

Gromyko: Maybe. The first point is: we are preparing to conduct matters seriously with you if you intend to proceed in accordance with our joint responsibility. That’s what I want to say on the Middle East.

Kissinger: We appreciate it.

Gromyko: Regarding the Palestinian question, it’s definitely our conclusion that without it [the PLO], there is no solution, since there are two million people.

Kissinger: There must be a solution to the Palestinian problem.

We think it would be best not to begin with it. We will reach it in time.

[Page 600]

Gromyko: On European security, we believe that when it is finally resolved, we will rise one step higher in our own relationships. But what we don’t like is when somebody tries to tread on our feet.

Kissinger: But we have really made an effort in Basket III. We’ll make an effort to meet the deadline. We have already reserved the week of the 21st on the President’s calendar.

Gromyko: So on CSCE we will be expecting to hear from you in the very near future, and we expect it will be positive.

Kissinger: On Basket III, we’ll instruct our delegations to begin immediately. On the military, we’ll let you know by Tuesday of next week.3

Gromyko: Good.

Regarding the [Brezhnev] visit—October, if the schedule we mentioned is followed, but whether it will be the first or second half is hard to say. Is the second 10 days all right?

Kissinger: We are thinking the President’s trip to China will be the end of November, for we don’t want them too close together, and we need some time to prepare for the other.

Gromyko: What follows from that?

Kissinger: That we would prefer the General Secretary to come not later than October 20.

Then I’ll brief our press that we don’t have a firm date, but we’re thinking of the first part of the Fall.

Gromyko: As regards specific timing, it will be our responsibility to put out an agreed statement at an agreed time. What you say is your responsibility but what I said is firm.

Kissinger: We’ll do it in a vague way.

Gromyko: Two words on West Berlin. We were not favorably impressed by your visit to West Berlin, and to boot accompanied by the Minister of the FRG.4 We see that—how shall I say—as a little pebble thrown into our garden.

Kissinger: American Secretaries of State have visited before, and you remember we announced it after my visit in February.

Gromyko: Yes, but there was also a time when our tanks stood facing each other. So, we shouldn’t look at it that way. We also think the three Western powers are taking a position we don’t think is in accordance with the Quadripartite Agreement.

[Page 601]

That’s all I’d say.

Does the word Rota mean anything to you?

Kissinger: Yes.

Gromyko: Have you forgotten?

Kissinger: No, we haven’t found a way of working it out in the domestic situation in the United States.

Gromyko: What you said is still valid?

Kissinger: You care about the de facto, not a piece of paper. If we work it out with the Government of Spain that it will be abandoned by 1980, that meets your needs. But we’ll work it out one way or another.

Gromyko: The important thing is that it not be forgotten.

Kissinger: No, it has not been forgotten.

Gromyko: And the matter of our sunken submarine.5 We do not regard the matter as having been closed. We don’t regard the reply we received as final. This was a fact that wounded us, though we did not give vent to our feelings, for reasons that should be obvious.

Regarding the Far East, we are observing at a distance what is going on, and we came to the conclusion that China wants, through pressure on Japan, to do something against both of us. What you should do, you are the judge, but neither of us should ignore the information we have on the subject, and neither can afford to underestimate it.

Kissinger: Let me put it this way: In the next 10 years, given our strength, we may often clash. But after 1985, events may drive us into ever closer collaboration, if not alliance. Provided we don’t weaken each other too much. But we should bear in mind the alliance between Japan and China could be directed against either of us, and if joined with other parts of the world, the Third World, it could be worrisome. This is over 10 years. Before then, it is not a danger.

Gromyko: I appreciate this.

Kissinger: This is what I keep in mind in present controversies. Europe destroyed itself over Serbia; we should not destroy ourselves over Syria, Israel and Iraq. Ten years from now it will be irrelevant.

Gromyko: That approach is, we believe, the correct one, and is a far-sighted approach, and in fact, the Soviet leadership always had that approach regarding our relationship with the United States. Whether from time to time events occur in one part of the world that are not to your liking or ours, but trouble comes only if we allow events to close our eyes to the issue.

[Page 602]

We must not let it happen.

Kissinger: We’ll make the maximum effort to prevent it from happening.

Gromyko: That’s the right attitude. You’ll quite soon be in China, and I’m sure the Chinese will sing like nightingales about their attitude to you. We trust you will be realistic about their political and international implications.

Kissinger: We will clearly distinguish between the immediate and the long-range, and the long-range is what I’ve given you.

Gromyko: Regarding the Middle East, we will continue to act in the direction of ensuring a lasting peace, as in Europe and Asia. Regarding various allegations in the press about the alleged intentions of the Soviet Union, we pay no attention, even though 1,000 arms are ascribed to us where we only have two.

Kissinger: Here the next nine months are very important. We would like to anchor détente very firmly before the primary campaign begins next March.

Gromyko: Informally, who will be the next President of the United States?

Kissinger: If the economic situation improves, as all signs are that it will, Ford will be re-elected with a large majority.

Gromyko: Privately, General Secretary Brezhnev, on several occasions after Vladivostok, mentioned President Ford in a positive way, as a very nice man.

Kissinger: Our press in the East is very misleading. When I travel, and I’m not a Presidential candidate, I draw very large crowds. It shows something about the mood of the country. If the economy improves, and it’s almost certain it will, he’ll be elected with a large majority.

Gromyko: In the Senate, Jackson and others of his ilk are still walking with arrows trained against you.

Kissinger: He’s running against you and against me.

Gromyko: 50–50! Or is it 60–40 against us?

Kissinger: I think 60 against me. [Laughter]

Gromyko: 40 is enough for us!

Kissinger: We’ll handle Jackson. If our relationship deteriorates, he will gain. If our relationship improves, we’ll handle him. But he’s the best financed candidate—he has support from Labor and Jewish groups.

Gromyko: To end it, I think this meeting was both necessary and useful. As we say, Moscow was not built at once—it was built brick by brick. More effort will be required. We are prepared to work from our [Page 603] side. The tunnel must be built from both ends, and this is a longer tunnel than under the Hudson.

Kissinger: We agree it was useful and we’ll meet again in July.

To the press, we’ll say: We will publish a communiqué and we need not say more. We had good talks, and we will meet again.

[At 3:40 the meeting ended and the Minister escorted Secretary Kissinger to his car. They spoke briefly to the press waiting at the car. See remarks attached.]6

  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; Nodis. Drafted by Rodman. Brackets are in the original. The meeting was held at the Soviet Embassy.
  2. See footnote 12, Document 150.
  3. May 27. For the U.S. instructions on this issue, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXIX, European Security, Document 292.
  4. Kissinger and West German Foreign Minister Genscher visited West Berlin on May 21.
  5. See footnote 4, Document 137.
  6. Attached but not printed. For the text of Kissinger’s and Gromyko’s remarks, see Department of State Bulletin, June 16, 1975, p. 810.