212. Letter From Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev to President Ford 1

Dear Mr. President,

After this recent visit to Washington Mr. A. A. Gromyko informed me and my colleagues in detail about the talks he had had with you and with Secretary of State H. Kissinger in Washington and New York.

We note with satisfaction the determination that you expressed, to firmly adhere to the course which has shaped up in the Soviet-American relations for the last years. This fully corresponds to our own intention as our Minister has already told you. He also set forth our po[Page 844]sitions on the issues which are the subject of the exchange of views between our countries.

Now I would like to dwell only on one of them—on the question to which, as I understand, both sides attach paramount importance. The matter in question is how to convert into a concrete Agreement the understanding on limitation of strategic offensive weapons which was reached at our meeting with you in Vladivostok last November.

You recall, Mr. President, that it was meant from the very beginning—and it was mutually confirmed in Helsinki—that the signing of such an Agreement should be the main outcome of the forthcoming visit to the United States. We are still of the same opinion.

However, I would like to tell you frankly, that we are concerned with the state of affairs regarding the preparation of the Agreement in view of the position taken by the US side.

I have in mind above all the attempt by the US side actually to leave outside the limits of the Agreement, i.e. not to place limitation on a whole kind of weapons—cruise missiles which are capable to perform the same missions as are the weapons included by the US into the Agreement.

There is a strange situation here: we are negotiating a limitation by certain ceiling of the number of delivery vehicles for strategic weapons, but at the same time the development of a new category of delivery vehicles for such weapons is started. In other words, a new channel of arms race is being opened. But did we have that in mind in Vladivostok?

The subsequent modifications in the American position—the setting of a 3000 km range limit for such missiles then 2500 kms, or certain limitation on the number of aircraft equipped with such missiles—hardly change anything in substance. The new channel of arms race would any way remain opened. To agree with the latest American proposal to the effect that up to 300 heavy bombers could be armed with such missiles would mean that above 2400 strategic delivery vehicles, agreed upon in Vladivostok between us, the sides could have thousands, literally thousands of units of weapons intended for striking the territories of each other. What kind of strategic arms limitation is it?

Or let us take another question. Refusing to take into account the cruise missiles on heavy bombers, i.e. the type of weapons which is most directly related to the task to be solved by the Agreement, the US side is at the same time trying to include Soviet Backfire bombers into the category of heavy bombers, although those aircraft are not of such type and have no relationship whatsoever to the Agreement.

As I have already told you personally in Helsinki, those Soviet planes are of twice as less maximum range as the bomber you refer to [Page 845] (Bison) and, consequently, are not capable of carrying out missions at intercontinental distances which are assigned to heavy bombers.

However the latest American proposals contain limitations on those aircraft under the guise of so called “hybrid systems”, and at the same time the deployment of sea-based cruise missiles with a range up to 2000 kilometers is legitimized. So what we have got here: the Soviet Union is offered to limit the number of weapons which have nothing to do with the task to be settled by the Agreement and we are also expected at the same time to give our sanction so that the US side is allowed to have additional quantity of weapons which are very directly related to the Agreement.

Such proposals can only lead us aside but in no way can they move ahead the working-out of the Agreement.

And all this is going on even after we have expressed, on our part, readiness to meet the US position on the matter to which you attached so great an importance—to count against the ceiling for missiles with MIRVs (1320) all missiles of the kinds which have been tested with MIRVs. It was not a simple matter for us, Mr. President, to take that decision. But we took that step, and we took it in the hope that the US side will duly appreciate it and would take such a position on other remaining issues—first of all on cruise missiles—which would make it possible to find quickly mutually acceptable solutions.

But unfortunately, it has not happened. A reciprocal step from the US side—not only equal to ours but even comparable with it—has not followed so far.

At the next meeting of the representatives of our countries the Soviet side will be prepared to continue the exchange of views on concrete issues of strategic arms limitation. But we consider it important that you have clear understanding already now of our attitude to the approach on which the American position rests as well as to the latest American proposals on the main unresolved questions.

I would like to hope that it will help you, Mr. President, to see better the substance of the differences between the USSR and the USA in this field, and that you will make decisions which will allow to work out such an Agreement that would fully correspond to the goal set—to put in a real way a limit to the build-up of strategic weapons.

Sincerely,

L. Brezhnev 2
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Counselor of the Department, Box 6, SALT, Nov.–Dec. 1975. No classification marking.
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.