193. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Andrey A. Gromyko, Member of the Politburo of the Central Committee, CPSU, and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR
  • Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Ambassador to the United States
  • Georgiy M. Korniyenko, Member of the Collegium and Chief of USA Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Vasiliy G. Makarov, Chef de Cabinet to the Minister
  • Viktor M. Sukhodrev, Counselor, Second European Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (interpreter)
  • Yuliy M. Vorontsov, Minister-Counselor, Soviet Embassy
  • Aleksandr Bessmertnykh, Counselor, Soviet Embassy
  • Yuriy E. Fokin, Special Assistant to the Minister
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Walter J. Stoessel, Jr., American Ambassador to the USSR
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor of the Department of State
  • Arthur A. Hartman, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs
  • William G. Hyland, Director, Bureau of Intelligence and Research
  • Jan M. Lodal, National Security Council Staff
  • Peter W. Rodman, National Security Council Staff


  • SALT

[From 4:00 to 4:30, Secretary Kissinger, Foreign Minister Gromyko and Ambassador Dobrynin conferred alone in Secretary Kissinger’s office, then the meeting began in the Conference Room.2 Photographers were admitted briefly and then dismissed.]

Kissinger: Mr. Foreign Minister, I don’t have to welcome you here. You are always welcome. I thought your meeting yesterday with the President was very fruitful.3 And I want to reaffirm what the President said, in a larger circle: Our policy of détente is a fixed policy. Our aim, as the General Secretary said, is to make it irreversible. We want to find ways of working together in practical ways and to continue the practice of meetings and consultations, particularly at the highest level. Occasionally there are disappointments and irritations, but we both share a [Page 772] responsibility to ease international tensions. And if we look over the long-term future, we can see fewer issues where our interests will conflict and more issues where our interests will be coming increasingly together.

So it is in this spirit I welcome you here and look forward to our meeting here and on Sunday.4

Gromyko: Thank you for those words of welcome, Mr. Secretary. I certainly share your opinion that yesterday’s meeting was a useful one. We touched upon several important matters and I set out the policy of the Soviet Union on several questions. The main thing was that on both sides it was reaffirmed that our two countries will continue the line that has been developing over the past two years, mainly as a result of the Soviet-American summit meetings. In this spirit we will take part in our meetings today and on Sunday.

Kissinger: I proposed that we would start with the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks and reserve for this evening discussion of the Middle East.

Gromyko: I think that would be the right thing to do. The question then is how specifically should we organize our discussion on SALT. I proceed from the view that our position was set out in detail and is known to you, just as your position was set out in detail and is known to us. I suggest we set forth those items that are not agreed.

Kissinger: That would be useful. Let us do an inventory of the issues and why we disagree. Then on Sunday we will have another opportunity to discuss.

Gromyko: That would probably be the best way.

If we agreed on that, who starts? Do you want to, or let me speak?

Kissinger: Perhaps you would like to make a few remarks.

Gromyko: All right. You will remember the reply we gave to the repeated statements made by the American side that the question of verification [kontrol’] is very important for the United States and that it is a question that seriously impedes an agreement, and the fact that there was no understanding on verification was a serious impediment to an agreement. At that time you formulated your position, and the American side—the President—stated that you were proceeding from the assumption that if a missile of a certain type was tested with MIRVs, all missiles of that type would be treated as MIRVed. That meant all three types of ours you are familiar with would be counted as MIRVed, that is, counted in the 1320 as agreed in Vladivostok.

[Page 773]

No, we thoroughly discussed that problem—it was not an easy one. But we took a decision to meet the United States half way and we gave a positive response, as you recall. At that time we thought this was a major concession of principle—and I repeat, there are concessions and concessions and this is a major concession of principle—but the U.S. took no steps that are comparable to the concession we made. And this was surprising. The figures you later gave us regarding missiles on heavy bombers and surface ships showed no change of any significance, and there is no possibility to underestimate the seriousness of the present situation.

Kissinger: What do you mean by “underestimate the seriousness of the present situation”?

Gromyko: How do we assess your position? We assess it this way: We believe that after Vladivostok you reoriented yourselves and decided to open up a new channel of the arms race. You felt that in some respect you had traveled a greater distance than we had and you decided to exploit that in your unilateral interests. If that is so, it would be hard to count on an agreement being reached on that basis.

The problem of cruise missiles in that respect has become a very serious brake on the path of reaching an agreement. We formulated our specific proposals on this matter and those are the ones we abide by to this day. And we believe there is a possibility to find a mutually acceptable solution, provided you leave aside your aim of achieving a unilateral advantage. But to achieve it, you must withdraw from your one-sided position. As for cruise missiles on heavy bombers, our position is that all cruise missiles of over 600-kilometer range should be counted in the number of vehicles, and there is no possibility of even considering 2500. Or any intermediate figure between 600 and 2500 could not be accepted. Regarding sea-based cruise missiles, we also believe a solution can be found on the basis that all of a range of over 600 kilometers be banned.

Kissinger: Banned or counted?

Gromyko: Banned.

Let me remind you of another matter. You recall at Helsinki, at the discussion there, on five points on which our positions coincided or were almost coincidental we decided we would instruct our delegations at Geneva to formulate the final words on those points. Unfortunately, your delegation did not receive instructions on all those five points. To my knowledge. Perhaps there was not enough time, I don’t know.

Kissinger: What are the points?

Gromyko: Let me list the five points.

Point 1: intercontinental range cruise missiles we agreed would be banned. There is no problem here. Your delegation did receive instructions and they are working on this now, on the form of words.

[Page 774]

Point 2: ballistic missiles of ranges exceeding 600 kilometers on vessels—except submarines, because as you know that’s a different matter. There too, it was agreed they would be banned and the delegations would be instructed. There is no problem here; the delegations are at work.

Point 3: cruise missiles with ranges in excess of 600 kilometers on any flying machines except heavy bombers. We agreed here too they would be banned. Except heavy bombers, because they are a different matter altogether. Here, on this point, your delegation has said it has no instruction to engage in any discussion. We are rather surprised by this. Perhaps it is just a matter of time, or you changed your position on it.

Then there was Point 4, that related to both ballistic and cruise missiles. We agreed it would be forbidden to deploy them on the seabed and ocean floor, including internal and territorial waters. We agreed at Helsinki, but your delegation says it has no instructions on this point regarding cruise missiles.

Kissinger: Do we want to put cruise missiles on the ocean floor? Crawling cruise missiles? We didn’t understand cruise missiles could be put on the ocean floor.

Gromyko: Not to put.

Kissinger: That is a misunderstanding. There is no problem on that.

Gromyko: Your delegation doesn’t work on it. It says it has no instructions.

Then there is the last point, point 5, which concerns the nonplacement in orbit of nuclear weapons or any other weapons of mass destruction. On this we thought alike at Helsinki, and we are pleased to see that your delegation has instructions on this and is working on it.

So work continues on three, and on two there is no movement.

Kissinger: The two points are cruise missiles on aircraft other than heavy bombers and cruise missiles on the ocean floor.

Gromyko: Right. That is all I wanted to say regarding cruise missiles.

Now, about the heavy bomber. We want to say quite frankly you must be guided by some sort of consideration of diplomatic bargaining because we cannot believe you really regard that plane—the Backfire—as a heavy bomber. So if someone from some agency is whispering in your ear that it is, you should—in a loud voice—make clear that it isn’t. We wish we did have a plane with the characteristics you ascribe to the Backfire! So when you give us a bonus of 100 extra aircraft, that is of no consequence because the question is one of principle. So that is the case for the Backfire bomber.

[Page 775]

Now, on the question of modernization of missiles and our agreement that we would leave in the new agreement the clause of the Interim Agreement, that is, that in modernizing missiles the two sides would be allowed to increase the size of the silos by 10–15%. In effect, we accepted your idea, which did not in fact run counter to our own wishes, to provide a limit in terms of volume to the possible increase in the dimensions of a silo, that in the final analysis the volume of the silo should not be increased more than 32%.

As we see it, you want to introduce, guided I guess by certain one-sided considerations that maybe your military people have prompted you, a limit on vertical changes in the dimensions of a silo by not more than 15%. Regarding horizontal, there is no problem of a limit of 10–15%. We believe such a view is not justified and will serve only a one-sided interest. It is quite right that both sides would undertake not to increase the total volume by more than 32% but it would be up to the side concerned to decide how that figure of 32% would be reached—either by only a vertical change or only horizontal or a combination of both—being limited by 32%.

Kissinger: If you go 32% only vertical you will reach China and we’re trying to prevent that.

Gromyko: We are not saying that there can be no increase in the horizontal by 10–15% or that the vertical would be unlimited. That is not what we are asking. The joint position should be fair and equal, that is, that both sides should be free to do it either vertical or horizontal or in combination but without exceeding 32%. That we feel is a fair and neutral position. And we hope you will take a more objective position in this matter.

Now on the question of conversion of non-heavy to heavy missiles and on the conditions which would prevent such conversions.

The starting points for this already have been discussed and there is no need to repeat ourselves. You know the basic unit is taken to be our SS–19 missile. Our view is, and we have already set it out to you: here the basic figure establishing a certain limit should be launching weight, starting weight, not throwweight. That we feel is the simplest. But simplicity isn’t everything in this matter; it is the simplest and most reliable way of guaranteeing this limit. If that method is applied, fewer parameters will have to be verified, and that itself yields a certain advantage.

You know that insofar as throwweight is concerned, that figure can change depending on the range or distance the missile is expected to fly. You can throw a bigger weight smaller distances or a smaller weight bigger distances. So that would complicate matters and make it harder to get accuracy.

[Page 776]

Kissinger: Maybe we can let you throw any weight you want a short distance.

Gromyko: Also, the earth unfortunately has the drawback that it revolves. Very long ago it took it into its head to revolve, so you can throw a missile in the direction of the rotation or against. And that too does affect the measurement if you are measuring by throwweight. So regardless of how you treat the whole matter, one cannot fail to agree that this would be a less reliable means of control than the starting weight.

There are certain other matters on which there was some exchange of views, maybe insufficiently complete. On some you have not finalized your position. But I would like to close on that. But the main thing is that in giving you our reply on the question of verification, we stated—and you will recall this—that our position and our readiness were being extended in the context of agreement being reached on certain other questions, foremost being cruise missiles.

I would like to make one other point: I am sure this applies to you and it certainly does to us, but we want to reach an agreement that is most effective, that holds back and slows down the arms race in this important field and makes the peoples of both our countries and the entire world feel this. We want it to exert a positive influence on the state of affairs in the world. But if in stopping one channel of the arms race you open up another one—cruise missiles—then all the positive elements that would have been reached in other areas will be reduced to zero. And in fact, we will be worse off materially and even strategically, because we don’t know, we might be worse off.

But I emphasize that our interest in reaching an accord has not diminished. I said that to the President and I repeat it now emphatically. We are ready to do it now and to work as long as necessary to do it. But we want an accord to be as effective as possible, and we want it—as both agreed—to serve the purpose of holding back the arms race.

Kissinger: Mr. Foreign Minister, this was a very clear exposition and very helpful to our analysis of the problem. Let me make a few observations and go into detail on some. I will say a few things to let you know our thinking, for your colleagues in Moscow.

On the instructions to our delegation. On the issue of cruise missiles on the ocean floor, this is not a problem. We had never considered the possibility of putting cruise missiles on the ocean floor so we had no formal government position on the issue. It is not something that will hold up an agreement. It is just a conceptual problem here.

On cruise missiles on aircraft other than heavy bombers, this is related to the question of how we settle cruise missiles on heavy bombers. So this is easily soluble. And I will come back to this Sunday. If we solve the cruise missile issue in general, we will easily solve this. This [Page 777] will be a 15-minute discussion. But it is difficult to issue instructions on one without solving it all.

So on the issues that were agreed in Helsinki, we can consider them substantially solved.

Now, on the relatively less crucial issues. Silo dimensions. Our difficulty is that under the present agreement, it can’t be modified more than 10–15% in any one direction. There is no dispute. The question was whether you can do it 10–15% in both directions. If you can, it means something like a 52% increase in volume. And this seems to us excessive.

Gromyko: This is not the case.

Kissinger: In the existing agreement, that was agreed to in Geneva, the rule was that it can’t be more than 15% in one direction.

Korniyenko: It doesn’t say anything about directions.

Kissinger: You are quite right. There are three possible interpretations: You can either increase it 15% in volume, which is absurd; 15% in one direction; or 15% in both. But under no possibility can it mean 32% in one direction. Under your interpretation, you could reach a 52% increase in volume by a 15% increase in both directions.

Gromyko: Yes. 52%.

Kissinger: I had the unworthy thought that when you offered 32%, making it much deeper, you weren’t doing something to hurt yourself. What you are now proposing is a volume change of 32% and you would prefer to feel free to take it in any one direction. If you take it only horizontally, you could do it 15% horizontally. But if you go deeper, you could theoretically take it 32%. Theoretically you could go deeper than 15% and increase the volume to 32%.

Gromyko: Either, or in combination.

Kissinger: Yes. You could do any number of things to get 32%. And that is something we have great difficulty with. Because we believe, quite candidly, it would give you . . . it is less favorable for limiting the size of missiles than the Interim Agreement.

Gromyko: So you would agree to the continuation of the present situation, the volume can be increased by 52%?

Kissinger: No. We can agree to a volume limit of 32% as long as you don’t take more than 15% in one direction.

Gromyko: Your idea is an advantage to yourself.

Kissinger: We don’t want any increase.

Gromyko: It is for your advantage.

Kissinger: Anatol, the Foreign Minister sprung a double negative in the car that took me 15 minutes to figure out.

[Page 778]

We cannot accept 52%. We in Moscow in ’72 didn’t want any change. We frankly thought it would be 15% in any one direction. We never defined it, but it was our thought. If we change it, we are adding quite a new dimension. We are prepared to continue the Interim Agreement limit but add to it a 32% volume limitation. That we are prepared to do. But we can’t accept that the whole volume can be taken in one direction.

Regarding throwweight, we are of course talking about missiles of intercontinental range. The SS–17 has a considerable increase in its throwweight by increased propulsion. So if you increase the SS–19 by propulsion you will get a considerable increase in throwweight; it would approach the throwweight of the SS–9.

[Kissinger and Lodal confer.]

Mr. Lodal feels you are not cleared for figures on Soviet throwweight. Be that as it may, that is our estimate. So any further increase in throwweight in the SS–19 will make it practically identical to the SS–9, which by common agreement was heavy in ’72. And it hasn’t become light in the interim.

We are prepared to combine the launching weight and throwweight, so we don’t insist on one. But we would have obliterated the distinction between light and heavy if we permit any increase in the throwweight of the SS–19.

These are two matters which aren’t as much issues of principle as the other you raised.

As for discussion of what each side has done since Vladivostok . . .

Gromyko: You deliberately omitted Backfire.

Kissinger: No, I’m coming to it. I am doing it in a different order, Mr. Foreign Minister, to throw you off stride. [laughter] I am taking the easy ones first, then the issues of principle. Actually I was coming to Backfire next.

On the Backfire there is a difference in the assessment of the two sides, but we will take seriously what you have said, that it is not a heavy bomber. We had another intelligence assessment made, and had another study. We agree with you that it is obviously not intended for an intercontinental role, but it has the capability of an intercontinental role. We will take your view seriously, and we will return to it.

Let me turn to cruise missiles. Did I deliberately leave something else out?

Gromyko: There are other minor issues. Like when the figure of 2400 will be reached. I didn’t mention that.

Kissinger: That one will be settled.

Gromyko: Other countries being used to outflank the agreement . . .

[Page 779]

Kissinger: But you didn’t raise it. I believe they will be settled, not without difficulty, but they will be settled.

Now, Vladivostok, and its aftermath. You correctly stated that you made an important concession of principle in accepting our verification proposal. But I cannot accept that the U.S. has made no effort to solve problems.

First, at Vladivostok there was no discussion of sea-based cruise missiles. So in theory they were free. In fact, there was no serious discussion of cruise missiles in general, so in this sense there was ambiguity. And there was no discussion of cruise missiles on planes other than heavy bombers. So to put severe limits on both is a significant concession by the U.S. We deliberately put a limit which would put the Soviet Union out of range of any sea-based cruise missiles. So in effect we have said the Soviet Union will be out of range of sea-based strategic cruise missiles. We have said 1000; you have said 600. This is the range. This is not a great difference. But to put a limit on it not only goes beyond Vladivostok but is a significant concession. We have said we will not deploy strategic cruise missiles.

On cruise missiles on aircraft, we have accepted a range limit.

Thirdly, the reason we are reluctant to accept your position on cruise missiles is that bombers have been counted as a unit. Bombers can carry 10 bombs, or a substantial number of bombs. So all bombers can carry more than one weapon. This is inherent in bombers. So whether we deliver it by a missile or drop it, the strategic significance is not very different.

The reason we do it obviously is because of your very heavy air defenses. But we have agreed on no ABM defense. We can agree on no air defense. We can change our position on air-launched cruise missiles. I am giving you our position. I am not making a specific proposal.

So we have accepted a range limit on air-launched missiles, on sea-based missiles, and a ban on ballistic missiles on surface ships. And I would like to point out that we have progressively reduced the ranges, and we have made a major effort to meet some of your concerns.

We will study what you have said and we will see whether we can take more of your concerns into account and will make a serious proposal Sunday night.

But I wanted to explain our reasoning for you and your colleagues. We have accepted severe range limits on air-launched and sea-based missiles, and we will come to agreement on missiles on heavy bombers. We are concerned about your air defense; we are not trying to open up a new area for strategic competition.

On entry into force, we will find a compromise solution.

[Page 780]

There are a lot of other issues I don’t want to raise. So I will look at the Backfire and the others and I will give you some ideas, perhaps with concrete numbers, when I see you Sunday.

Gromyko: Good. Good.

Kissinger: The press will be downstairs.

Gromyko: How many times should I speak to the press in the United States? Maybe I will do it at the end of the evening. So now I can go to the roof and parachute down. [laughter]

Kissinger: We can take you out through the basement. But it will . . . I can say something.

Gromyko: If you met with them alone, they might think Gromyko was angry.

Kissinger: I would prefer you say something. Say we continued a detailed review of SALT positions.

Gromyko: Let’s perhaps be very brief. List the headings we discussed. There was only one question. If we are to mention it, I will probably say we discussed the problem. Naturally, both sides considered that the Vladivostok understanding is a very good basis for an agreement. Each meeting, including a meeting of the Ministers, is useful and is a step forward in the direction of working out an agreement.

Kissinger: That is absolutely enough, and would be very good.

Gromyko: Then I would close my eyes. Or maybe one eye.

Kissinger: I will move my lips while you are speaking. [laughter]

I will say the same thing. There was a detailed review; it was a useful discussion.

Gromyko: If there is a question regarding the visit, I will make reference to yesterday’s statement5 and say I have nothing to add.

Kissinger: All right.

Gromyko: That there is no concrete basis for a precise date.

Kissinger: I will say the same thing and add two points—that we had a detailed discussion and I agree it was a useful meeting.

[The meeting concluded at 6:04 p.m. The Secretary accompanied the Foreign Minister downstairs. Their brief remarks to the press are 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, September 18–21, 1975—Talks with Gromyko. Secret; Nodis. All brackets are in the original. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s Conference Room at the Department of State.
  2. No record of the private meeting has been found. See, however, Document 195 for a brief account of what Kissinger told Gromyko privately about the “Palestine question.”
  3. See Document 192.
  4. September 21.
  5. See footnote 5, Document 192.
  6. Not attached and not found.