158. 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 Gromyko

This could be a rather bizarre encounter: barring progress on SALT—and the signs are not promising—this meeting will be largely atmospheric, with a risk that the Middle East or CSCE or an accumula[Page 616]tion of bilateral irritants could produce some recriminations and acrimony. Given probable Soviet chagrin over American Middle East diplomacy and apprehension over the rise of anti-Sovietism, perhaps the most you can do in this meeting is:

—to provide some reassurance to Gromyko that recent events (discussed below) do not portend a deterioration of the Administration’s commitment to détente;

—to stress that we regard Brezhnev’s visit and another SALT agreement as a new turning point;

—to explain that the President’s prospects for reelection are growing stronger;2

—and that both our elections and their Party Congress can become opportunities to confirm for an extended period the improvement in relations, if there is a solid basis in SALT, the TTB, and movement in MBFR.

—You ought to point to your Atlanta speech3 as a significant restatement of the Administration’s position (particularly since you can expect some quarrelsome complaints from Gromyko).

But you should point out that Soviet policy also gives ground for concern, permitting critics of détente to charge that the improvement in relations is largely one-sided: stonewalling in SALT, obstructionism in the Middle East, complete intransigence over emigration, an erratic performance in Vietnam, exploitation of unsettled situations (such as arms supplies to the MPLA in Angola, the Soviet base in Berbera, considerable clandestine support and sympathy for the Portuguese communists), needling over Berlin, intractability in MBFR, and interminable haggling for minor gains in CSCE. You could point to the numerous articles on SALT violations as an indicator of disquiet; critics who raise questions about Soviet compliance with the spirit of SALT I (i.e., the size of the SS–19 compared to the SS–11) will not be silenced unless the next agreement is a sound one.

Since both sides may have reasons to be apprehensive or dissatisfied it is important in the period leading up to the General Secretary’s visit that some genuine substantive movement be made in our relations.

[Page 617]

Your Main Objectives:

—To determine whether the conciliatory remarks about SALT at the end of your last meeting will lead to any movement;4 of the main issues, verification probably is the softest Soviet position.

—To decide which direction the PNE talks will take: as suggested in your unanswered note proposing 150 KT and lesser verification, or as developed in the formal talks, with different thresholds and extensive verification.

—To foreshadow an expectation of a Soviet response in MBFR if we make a new proposal.

—To dampen somewhat expectations of an early Congressional breakthrough on trade.

—To keep the Soviets at arms length in the Middle East, while offering some face-saver.

The Current Soviet Mood

One could expect that the Kremlin may be dismayed and certainly irritated (as their recent private notes suggest) about the tenor of American comments and behavior toward the USSR:

—There have been a series of leaks concerning American intelligence and reconnaissance activities including the most recent allegation that a US submarine collided with a Soviet submarine near Petropavlovsk.

—There was the highly publicized arrest of two Americans for espionage, with charges against three Soviet UN officials; plus accusations about Soviet embassy intercepts of US telephone conversations.

—There was the publicity on the Soviet base in Somalia.

—There was the statement by Schlesinger about a “first strike”5 which Brezhnev allegedly told Brandt could not be forgotten. (No doubt Gromyko will bring this up.)

—There was the reception of Solzhenitsyn in Washington attended by Cabinet officers.

—There was the acrimonious exchange between the Soviets and the HumphreyScott delegation6 concerning the link between emigration and trade.

—There are probably Soviet suspicions about our foot-dragging in CSCE and certainly suspicions that we have once again out-maneuvered them in the Middle East.

[Page 618]

In sum, there are ample reasons for the Soviets to conclude that in the US there is a perceptible hardening of opinion against détente, particularly in the wake of Vietnam, and that this trend is being weakly resisted by the Administration. Indeed, our Embassy suggests that the Soviets may be having second thoughts about President Ford and, of course, they are apprehensive about Jackson’s candidacy.7

On the other hand, and perhaps related to this general apprehension, the Soviets have been rather conciliatory on a number of secondary, though not unimportant, issues, particularly in the period since you saw Gromyko:

—they moved fairly quickly to meet our demand on CSCE;

—they wrapped up the Environmental Modification talks along the lines we proposed;

—they began to loosen up their position in the Threshold Test Ban talks;

—on some bilateral issues they have been accommodating;

—in their public pronouncements, and in their treatment of the US Senate delegation, they have been conciliatory;

—they are planning a considerable show in connection with the space launch and rendezvous.

Thus, there has been no wholesale reaction to accumulated grievances; most likely the top leadership still wants to project a favorable image of US-Soviet relations and to make the Brezhnev visit a success (the fact that it is now being referred to regularly in public print is a strong indicator).

Your basic bargaining position has thus not deteriorated and, ironically, may have even improved because the Soviets are apprehensive about a post-Vietnam shift in American opinion. They must regard you and the President as the best guarantee that any such shifts will not lead to a strategic change of course.

For this reason, you need not feel constrained to placate Gromyko, and you may be able to build up some further pressure, particularly on SALT.


Unfortunately, we cannot predict the status of the issue—CSCE—that is of most immediate concern to Gromyko and Brezhnev. By Thursday morning8 it could be virtually wrapped up (the most likely) or it could be a chaotic mess, or still a cliff hanger. All of the major powers seem to be planning in their own minds for a meeting about July 28, [Page 619] or even the 31st, but none of the Western powers wants to bear the onus for bludgeoning the other participants. In any case, none of the remaining questions are at issue between the US and USSR.

—If things are, in fact, turning sour, you could point out to Gromyko that the Soviets have themselves to blame: the concessions they made in June on CBMs and Basket III could have easily been made months ago; their sharp tactics have, in effect, backfired.

—On the other hand, there is no reason not to take some credit if things are proceeding to a conclusion in July—which is, after all, the basic promise that we made.

—In either case, you may want to warn Gromyko that the Soviet’s treatment of the final stage in Helsinki ought to be modest, and not play into the hands of critics in Europe and in our Congress, who are increasingly skeptical of CSCE and are ready to attack the final documents if they are interpreted in a distorted manner by the Soviets.

—Our own position will be forward-looking, emphasizing putting principles into practice, rather than trying to give them any particular interpretation.

Middle East

On the Middle East you are in the catbird seat: since only you will know the real prospects for another interim agreement.

—Your main problem is that Gromyko has some reason to believe that this meeting was to be a pre-Geneva planning session, where the substance of a comprehensive settlement would be discussed.

—The record shows, however, that you left open the possibility of an interim step.

—In any case, the Soviets have been remarkably quiet since Salzburg.

—They maintain a fine distinction between step-by-step agreements and shuttle diplomacy, which presumably is outside the Geneva framework.

—The trick is, thus, to persuade Gromyko that your current effort is not outside Geneva, because of a deliberate attempt to exclude Moscow, but is something both parties obviously wanted, and thus could not be turned aside simply because the forum was not the one desired by the Soviets.

—Perhaps a more basic question is whether, faced with another interim agreement, the Soviets will throw their weight against some step in the Golan, where they may be able to exert some influence or make it a condition for the Sinai being ratified in Geneva.

—If prospects are not so bright for an Egyptian-Israeli agreement, then you may want to draw the Soviets into explaining how their no[Page 620]tion of a final settlement differs from the propagandistic position they have taken and why Israel should have any incentive to make the required concessions; about all you can do is put the Soviets on the defensive about their official position.


As you well know, Gromyko is a poor interlocuter on this issue. Since you last saw him, Dobrynin has complained about the difficulties in arriving at a Soviet position; while this could well be true, it is also likely that the Soviets are stalling, awaiting CSCE; they purposely passed up a chance to send someone to Washington.

—Judging from Semonov’s opening remarks at the resumed meetings,9 he has been given no new instructions (this could be meaningless, since Gromyko may want to bargain with you); yet, it is strange that rather than waffling for a week, Semonov felt free to come out strongly on Backfire, cruise missiles and verification as “firm positions” on the very issues you discussed with Gromyko.

If there is to be movement, it is mostly likely to come in the MIRV verification area.

(1) it costs the Soviets little to accept some sort of complex approach on SS–18, if in fact they intend to deploy 100 or so single warhead versions; the real problem will be if they extend the complexes to SS–17 and SS–19;

(2) concessions on the Backfire would revolutionize the meaning of the 2400 ceiling, costing the Soviets dearly; thus there is practically no room for Soviet concessions, and they are likely to go down to the summit wire, if need be, to avoid the implication that this bomber qualifies in any way as strategic;

(3) concession of the cruise missiles is conceivable, but it is highly unlikely that the Soviets can go as far as we propose.

Thus, unless Gromyko shows some unanticipated flexibility on Backfire or cruise missiles, you ought to stress that if this channel fails to make any progress, there will be a stalemate well through the summer and the chances of completing an agreement will recede.

At a minimum, the political channel has to provide some instructions that will break the deadlock on verification.

It is possible that Gromyko will make only a tentative response and propose carrying on the negotiation between the President and Brezhnev at Helsinki. While you cannot refuse such a proposal, at a minimum Gromyko should agree what, precisely, should be discussed, given the time constraints in Helsinki.

[Page 621]

—It would be very unwise and risky to have a wide ranging SALT discussion that ended in no progress at the Helsinki summit.

A better procedure would be for you and Gromyko to isolate one issue and, if at all possible, agree on the general concept for solving it, thus allowing the President and General Secretary to confirm it, and perhaps discuss how to proceed over the summer.

In sum, your main point is that in the political channel it is now imperative to break the logjam and make progress on at least one issue—verification—and preferably agree on a general direction for resolving the cruise missile issue.


We have had no answer to the proposition you put privately in a note through Dobrynin June 12:10 namely, that we could forego our more stringent verification requirements, if the Soviets could accept a 150 KT limit on individual PNEs, both excavation and contained. Under this approach we could also agree to higher aggregate yields for salvos, providing we agreed on adequate verification procedures to assure verification of individual shots within the salvo.

—This has the virtue of not permitting high yield individual shots which the Soviets propose, as high as 500 KT for excavation PNEs.

—The verification techniques are not all that valuable compared to the controversy generated by an agreement to limit weapons tests to 150 KT, but encourage other “peaceful tests” well above this threshold.

Ironically, as this note was passed through your channel, the Soviets began to make concessions to our verification demands, accepting the idea of a fission yield limit for excavation shots, agreeing on exchange of data, agreeing to the technique of collecting “melt samples” at the site to verify fission yield, and to drilling back for such samples.

—Thus, if the talks continue in this vein we will soon have to decide on the remaining question concerning yields of excavation shots and contained shots.

In the formal talks the positions are:

Limits on Contained PNEs. The US has proposed an upper yield limit of 100 KT for single contained PNEs while the Soviets propose 150 KT. The Soviets have argued that higher aggregate yields are needed for some applications. The US has responded it could accept aggregate yields up to 500 KT provided that each explosion can be distinguished and its yield determined (i.e., the Soviets must accept observers, infor[Page 622]mation exchange and the electrical yield measurement technique called SLIFER).

Limits on Excavation PNEs. Our delegation has proposed a salvo yield limit of 500 KT on excavation PNEs but, as instructed, has not specified an individual yield limit. The Soviets have recently proposed a 3MT limit, but indicated privately earlier that 1MT might be acceptable. The Soviets have proposed a limit of 500 KT on individual excavation shots and have also indicated they have some flexibility in this figure.

The Soviets have argued that a small number of higher yield shots above this figure should be permitted noting in private discussions that pending resolution of some legal problems, you and Gromyko agreed to such a provision. (In October 1974, we returned to this issue and agreed privately that there should be a small “mistakes” quota for the TTBT of perhaps two or three tests per year that might exceed the threshold by perhaps 30 percent.)

The US has proposed a 0.2 KT limit on the fission yield of each excavation device. The Soviets have been receptive, although they indicated a preference for stating such a limit in terms of a range rather than a single figure.

Verification. The information exchange requirements are now largely agreed as is the depth-of-burial limit. The Soviets have accepted the concept of collecting and analyzing melt samples to verify the fission yield limit, but insist that the analysis be carried out on the host side’s territory which would be acceptable to us. They have not addressed in detail the SLIFER technique we have proposed. The principle that on-site observers will be required as an integral part of verification is now firmly accepted for contained events near the threshold, and near or above the threshold for excavation and for any salvos where the individual yields cannot otherwise be distinguished. However, the detailed rights and functions of observers are still under discussion.

The point to emphasize to Gromyko is:

—While either course—as indicated in your note or as delineated in the Moscow talks—is acceptable, we have a political preference for the former; it would reduce the opportunities for criticism in the Congress and elsewhere that the TTB was not really very effective. You should press for an answer through Dobrynin.

Environmental Warfare

We have agreed on a draft treaty, and only a few minor issues remain to be cleaned up. The Soviets were uncertain whether it would be best to hold this agreement for the summit, or to table it in the current CCD session as a joint draft. Because of American press leaks, it would be difficult to withhold the agreement from the current CCD session, [Page 623] especially since an experts meeting on the subject is scheduled for early August.

You might ask Gromyko for his views on procedure. It might yet be possible to announce the agreement at the summit as a joint initiative for tabling in the CCD, thereby following up the joint statement on environmental modification signed at the summit a year ago.

Chemical Warfare

We are still not in a position to make any proposal to the Soviets because no decision has yet been made by us on production of binaries. We have attempted to hold off the Soviets by asking a series of questions on a draft Vorontsov gave you last August. The Soviets recently responded to our questions and asked for expert talks in Geneva at the CCD. We were forced to say such talks would be premature.

If Gromyko raises the issue, you should tell him that we are studying the replies to the questions on their draft and will be back to them soon.


Discussions in NATO on Option III are proceeding apace. The Soviets obviously know about and are waiting for Option III (you hinted in February on our readiness to introduce nuclear elements into the talks).

—You might note that we hope to make a new proposal but before proceeding we need a more definitive idea of a Soviet response. While this is not a summit item per se the Germans and British have broached the idea that we raise Option III on behalf of the Alliance with Brezhnev when he comes to Washington. We have told the British that we might be willing to do this during the summit, but not necessarily at the level of the President and Brezhnev.

—You could say that in light of Soviet insistence on including a nuclear element, we will be reluctant to take this step, unless we have a clear idea of Soviet counter-concessions, and that you would appreciate a Soviet reply through the Dobrynin channel.

Berbera–Indian Ocean

This general subject is not scheduled to be pursued, but it is possible that Gromyko will upbraid you about all the American publicity over Berbera. Why the Soviets have gone so far in their public denials is rather strange, but in any case it is possible that they will try to turn this issue around by reviving the Indian Ocean arms control idea.

—If this should be raised, you could respond that it is impossible to discuss this, if the starting point is an established Soviet base in Somalia.

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—You could point out that a “zone of peace” etc., means nothing, unless we know whether we are dealing with the removal of bases, or with restrictions on number of ships, or kinds of ships, etc.

—But in any case, we are not going to freeze the status quo of a Soviet permanent presence in Somalia, while we discuss how to negotiate.


Our commercial relations with the Soviets have proceeded smoothly in recent weeks. On July 1, they paid their third obligatory installment on lend lease. Meanwhile, we have obtained COCOM clearance for two of the three computer deals—for the Kama River factory and Aeroflot. A third computer sale—for Intourist—is still under interagency consideration, but prospects look good. The Soviets have not followed through with their earlier expressed intention to award the air traffic control contract to a non-US firm. The LNG projects look less promising, mainly because of Congressional concerns. It is still uncertain whether private financing will meet the Soviet condition for US participation in the exploratory stage of Yakutsk project, and on North Star, we have counseled the US firms involved to delay signing their Letter of Intention with the Soviets.

The Soviets remain adamant on the emigration–trade link. They are aware of the President’s letter, and the Administration’s intention to seek a revision of the JacksonVanik amendment.11 But it is crystal clear that the Soviets will not make a concession on the substance. Thus, it may be risky to build up hopes that there will be an acceptable compromise.

—If, in fact, there is little hope for a resolution of this issue until after the American elections, the most that you might do is ask Gromyko whether the Soviets would prefer some easing of MFN, or EX-IM credits, since it is hopeless to expect to roll back both.

—Finally, you should use the Humphrey conversations to underline the depth of Congressional sentiment on the Jewish issue, and to remind Gromyko that two years ago they spoke in terms of maintaining a rough level of emigration, and that the continuing decline only worsens an already bad situation.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 7, Soviet Union, Jun–July 1975. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Shortly after noon on July 8, Ford announced his candidacy for the 1976 Republican nomination for President.
  3. On June 23, Kissinger delivered an address entitled “Constancy and Change in American Foreign Policy” before the Southern Council on International and Public Affairs and the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. For the text, see Department of State Bulletin, July 14, 1975, pp. 49–56. On the same day, Scowcroft forwarded a copy of the address to the President, who commented in the margin: “Excellent speech.” (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Subject File, 1974–1977, Box 9, Kissinger Speech, 6/24/75)
  4. See Document 150.
  5. See footnote 12, Document 150.
  6. On the visit of U.S. Senators to Moscow, see Document 167.
  7. The Embassy provided background for Kissinger’s upcoming meeting with Gromyko in Geneva in telegram 9426 from Moscow, July 7. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  8. July 10.
  9. The SALT II talks resumed in Geneva on July 3. In telegram 214 from Geneva, the U.S. Delegation forwarded the text of Semenov’s statement on the occasion. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  10. A copy of the note is in Ford Library, National Security Adviser, KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, 1974–1977, Box 28, USSR, The “D” File.
  11. Reference is presumably to President Ford’s May 1 message to Congress transmitting the Annual Report on the Trade Agreements Program. For the text, see Public Papers: Ford, 1975, No. 226.