196. 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 U.S.
  • 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
  • Joseph J. Sisco, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
  • Walter J. Stoessel, Jr., Ambassador to the USSR
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor of the Department
  • Winston Lord, Director, Policy Planning Staff
  • Arthur A. Hartman, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs
  • William G. Hyland, Director, INR
  • Jan M. Lodal, Director of Program Analysis, National Security Council Staff
  • Peter W. Rodman, National Security Council Staff


  • SALT

Gromyko: Mr. Secretary, perhaps we might then, as we agreed, continue our discussion on the question before us. As I recall I was the last to speak at the last meeting,2 so perhaps you might want to develop your views. The question is how can we overcome the very serious difficulties we have encountered, and they are indeed substantial.

Kissinger: I assume we’re talking about strategic arms limitation, or is it true on every subject?

Gromyko: We agreed [to discuss SALT this time].

Kissinger: Yes. I gave you a detailed explanation of our thinking; I didn’t give you any concrete proposals. But basically what we’re trying [Page 801] to do is take into account the various ranges of cruise missiles, so those launched from ships couldn’t be considered strategic.

The best thing would be to give you some of our new considerations, and go on from there.

But before I do, let me make some general comments, one procedural and one substantive.

The procedural one is, if we want to keep open the option of a visit by the General Secretary around December 15, some progress should be made in October, so that we’re not running up against a deadline. If we stick to our plan of a visit by me in November, we should shift most of the issues to Geneva. I think this is very important.

The second issue is: You mentioned to the President that the visit can be delayed until the spring. I recognize we’ve come up against some issues that make it difficult to see how it will be concluded. We, of course, welcome a visit by the General Secretary anytime.

From the point of view of our election, a visit next year is better for us. But from the point of view of making an agreement, if we have an agreement next April or May, we will be accused of making every concession under the pressure of electoral considerations. Ratification would be in a very unpleasant atmosphere. If it runs into ’77, we run into the end of the Interim Agreement. So if it isn’t finished in December, we can finish it anytime.

But we consider these summits important to our relations.

And I think after this agreement, we should consider not gearing them to particular negotiations. The Soviet General Secretary and the President of the United States have much to talk about without an agreement.

In SALT, we have the problem of air-launched cruise missiles; we have the problem of sea-launched cruise missiles. On air-launched cruise missiles we have the problem of those on heavy bombers and those on non-strategic bombers. We have the Backfire, but that’s our problem. Silo dimensions, and definition of heavy missiles.

On the date the 2400 goes into effect, that’s not a major problem. You propose 12 months; we propose the date the agreement goes into effect. I am sure it will be solved.

What other issues are there?

Sonnenfeldt: The reductions negotiations.

Hyland: Noncircumvention.

Gromyko: Start of the other negotiations.

Kissinger: That should be in Geneva. On air-launched cruise missiles, your position is that above 600 kilometers they should be banned on planes except heavy bombers, and counted on heavy bombers.

[Page 802]

Gromyko: Yes, on that issue, they should be banned on all aircraft except heavy bombers, but on those they should be counted.

Kissinger: Cruise missiles above 600 kilometers in range on aircraft other than heavy bombers should be banned, but those on heavy bombers should be counted.

Dobrynin: That’s right.

Kissinger: On ships, they should be banned above 600 kilometers.

Gromyko: Banned.

Kissinger: Backfire you don’t want to include.

Silo dimensions, you want to dig towards China.

Gromyko: Salvos?

Kissinger: Silos. You want to dig down. [Laughter] And you want to have the launching weight of missiles.

Let me go through our position. We will accept no cruise missiles above 600 kilometers on any plane except heavy bombers. So we accept your position. On heavy bombers, we have to maintain our position of 2500 kilometers but we are willing to limit the number of planes that will be equipped with cruise missiles above 2500 kilometers. We propose 300. We have about 600 bombers, so that’s about half.

We are prepared to ban those above 2500 kilometers. You wanted to count them. We propose to ban them. So it’s an attempt to come closer to your position.

On ships we accept 600 kilometers, with one proviso which I will explain.

With respect to Backfire, we have tried to think very hard, and we have tried to estimate what you’re likely to do, which may not be right, and we have tried to come up with a position that meets your concerns and some of ours, some of which are domestic.

We accept the General Secretary’s position that it is not a heavy bomber, but it is sort of a hybrid. We would like to propose—the number can be negotiated, but say 300 for purposes of discussion—that we could have 300 of such hybrid systems, in which we would propose to include 100 FB–111s. This would not be part of the 2400, by the way. It could be a separate protocol. One hundred FB–111s, and about 200 ship-launched cruise missiles of a range between 600 and 2000 kilometers. And any beyond 2000 kilometers would be banned.

So our proposal is that we create a separate category, of so-called hybrid systems, which we define as not being intended for strategic purposes. Two hundred of them between 600 and 2000 kilometers.

The numbers are negotiable. If the concept is acceptable . . . If the number is 300, if you wanted to have 200 Backfire, you could have 100 [Page 803] sea-launched cruise missiles. Each side could compose its 300 as it wanted.

This would be our basic proposal. I repeat, we have attempted to account for many of the considerations you’ve advanced. We have taken the Backfire out of the 2400. We have tried to estimate what you may do, which may not be right. If the concept is acceptable, we can work out the proportions.

So on sea-launched cruise missiles, the number of bombers carrying them, and taking Backfire out, and banning cruise missiles above 2500 kilometers on airplanes, we have also tried to take into account your considerations.

The way our forces are developing, there are four or five spaces where we could use cruise missiles above the 2500-kilometer range.

On silo dimensions and definition of heavy missiles. If we come to an agreement that we count both launching weight and throwweight together, then we could talk about silo dimension . . . that would not be such an issue of principle.

Here is a copy. [Tab A]3

I know you can’t give me an answer right away.

Gromyko [to Sukhodrev in Russian]: Translate it, and the figures.

[Sukhodrev translates aloud the paper at Tab A. They confer in Russian.]

Gromyko: First, I just wish to remind you of one fact: Our position on the question of verification—I say this because it is important and relevant to the whole issue and all elements of the agreement—will remain valid provided a solution is found on all the other questions on which we have come up against difficulties. So if there are other questions on which we have come up against difficulties, so our position on verification will become invalid.

Kissinger: I understand.

Gromyko: I just wanted to remind you. My second point is: As regards those new observations you have made, my first impression is that in your exposé there are some elements of clarification and some modification on some matters relating to cruise missiles. But you seem to be still clinging to those cruise missiles and you have not accepted our basic position of principle on these cruise missiles.

So, in short, this channel [of the arms race] is not cut off and it will continue to operate even if a new agreement is reached.

Kissinger: Which channel?

[Page 804]

Gromyko: Cruise missiles. In any case, those observations will require study and further discussion.

Three, on Backfire. At first glance your position is rather contradictory. On one hand you say you accept our statement that it’s not a heavy bomber, that it doesn’t have the characteristics inherent in a heavy bomber. That’s a positive aspect. On the other hand, you introduced quantitative limitations on their number; and at the same time, so that he doesn’t have too bad a deal [the Backfire] you throw in one of your comparable things to keep him company, so he won’t have too bad a time. You’re extending the Vladivostok agreement to other categories, one you call the hybrid system. To be consistent, since you accept that the Backfire isn’t a heavy bomber, it would be logical to conclude that the whole question simply drops off. As to your analogous systems, we are not raising this question, and we wouldn’t cry if our non-heavy bomber spent its life in a state of loneliness, without American companionship. And to add in cruise missiles would complicate things rather than facilitate them.

But on this, too, we will require further study and will give you a reply as soon as we have done so.

Kissinger: And make a counterproposal.

Gromyko: That will depend on the conclusion we draw.

Another matter that will require additional study on our part is your suggestion that a connection be made between the allowable increase in the volume of a silo and the criteria for the definition of heavy missile, that is to define it by both starting weight and throwweight.

Those will require study, and there are various aspects, including the purely technical.

Kissinger: On your various points, may I make a few observations.

We recognize that your acceptance of our verification criteria is linked to solutions of cruise missiles and other issues. If I don’t reiterate it, it’s because it’s understood.

Second, you say our proposal is to keep open the channel of cruise missiles. But it is also attempting to take account of some of your concerns.

First, however one interprets the Vladivostok agreement, there is no question that sea-launched cruise missiles are not included in it. So our willingness to include sea-launched cruise missiles is an attempt to meet your concern. Air-launched cruise missiles we have agreed to ban them over 2500, to limit those under 2500, and to ban them on other than heavy bombers. And fourth, by limiting the number of heavy bombers that can carry them.

Dobrynin: Are they included in the 2400?

Kissinger: They are included.

[Page 805]

The only channel we keep open . . . What we’ve given up is that under Vladivostok we could develop cruise missiles of any range and put them on heavy bombers as long as we count them. And that we’ve given up, and that is worth considering.

We have not kept the channel completely open. We have tried to meet your concerns, except one point.

On the Backfire, we didn’t say it is not a heavy bomber. We say we accept your assurance that it’s not intended as a heavy bomber.

Gromyko: It’s the same.

Kissinger: I’ll tell you our frank assessment. We believe it’s designed for peripheral missions, and that it has those characteristics. Unfortunately for the purposes of this agreement, your designers gave it a capacity for a greater range if you really want to. That’s why we call it a hybrid.

Gromyko: What is the range of the Phantom?

Kissinger: 500 to 600 miles.

Gromyko: 700.

Kissinger: The Phantom is much smaller.

Lodal [to Kissinger]: Depending on what it carries.

Sonnenfeldt [to Kissinger]: But it can’t reach there from the U.S.

Kissinger: We will trade you F–4s for Backfires.

Gromyko: If you want to be guided by that logic, even the Phantom can appropriately be listed in the category of a bomber that has a strategic purpose, while it is not strategic. Because from the Atlantic it can reach Soviet territory. One way, without coming back. So it’s a contradictory kind of logic.

Kissinger: On the Backfire, our thinking was to find a formulation, or concept, in which it is brought into relationship with other systems that are not basically strategic, such as short-range sea-launched cruise missiles, and to consider them with other planes which you didn’t mention. That plane we have already. It eases the situation here and it reflects the reality that there are some weapons that in an extremity can be used in a certain way even though not basically designed for it.

In your fourth point, you simply stated—correctly—the issue of definition of heavy missile and the issue of silo dimension and that we establish a sort of linkage.

In our proposal, if the concept is accepted, the numbers could be negotiated. Even the rate of deployment could be discussed, of certain categories of weapons.

Gromyko: Yes. The rate of deployment?

Kissinger: For example, suppose you accepted this concept of 300 against 300, we might agree not to deploy our 300 more rapidly than you deploy yours.

[Page 806]

Dobrynin: Within the time of the agreement?

Kissinger: Within the time of the agreement.

Dobrynin: There is no other time period.

Kissinger: But suppose you deployed only 100 Backfire by 1980. We wouldn’t deploy 300 by 1980.

[The Russian side confers.]

Gromyko: That was clarification.

Kissinger: One other thing. When you compare the Phantom to the Backfire. The Backfire in its dimensions is almost indistinguishable from the Bison, which you have agreed to consider a heavy bomber.

Gromyko: In its dimensions?

Kissinger: Range.

Gromyko: A stork has the same dimension as an eagle but it is not the same. Even the American eagle!

Sonnenfeldt: The payload is different!

Kissinger: No, in size, payload, range.

Gromyko: Range? That is one of the weak points of your argument. Because it’s not the same range.

Kissinger: Maybe we should sell you some engines. A plane that large . . .

Dobrynin: The F–111 isn’t the same as the Bison.

Gromyko: For some reason when the conversation gets around to display of the Phantom’s qualities in the Sinai, everyone praises it to the skies, but in negotiations everyone belittles them.

Kissinger: No, they are excellent tactical aircraft.

Dobrynin: And the Bison?

Kissinger: The Bison isn’t a tactical aircraft. The Bison is like our B–47.

Sonnenfeldt: Between Egypt and Israel the Phantom is strategic.

Kissinger: Not the range. Not the payload.

Gromyko: Let me say again that was my first reaction to your considerations. If we had more time at our disposal in our visit, we might meet again. But we need two or three days. So we’ll continue our exchanges in our channel.

Kissinger: I don’t exclude it if we could meet for a day in Europe, if necessary. But we can discuss that.

Gromyko: We shall talk.

What you said at the outset about the visit and its link with a new agreement, what I said earlier frees me from the need to add to it.

Kissinger: Good.

[Page 807]

[Kissinger and Gromyko conferred alone between 10:45 and 11:30 p.m. They spoke to the press in the lobby of the Soviet Mission. See Tab B.4 The Secretary then walked back to the Waldorf Towers.]

  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. Drafted by Rodman. All brackets are in the original. The meeting was held at the Soviet Mission to the United Nations.
  2. Reference is presumably to the September 19 meeting during which Kissinger and Gromyko discussed SALT at length. See Document 193.
  3. Attached but not printed. An earlier draft of the note is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXIII, SALT II, 1972–1979.
  4. Not attached and not found.