251. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • USSR
  • Leonid I. Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU
  • Andrei A. Gromyko, Member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU; Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Georgiy M. Korniyenko, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Ambassador to the U.S.
  • Andrei M. Aleksandrov-Agentov, Assistant to the General Secretary
  • Vasiliy G. Makarov, Chef de Cabinet to the Foreign Minister
  • V. G. Komplektov, Acting Chief of USA Dept, MFA
  • Viktor M. Sukhodrev, Counselor, Second European Dept, MFA (Interpreter)
  • Maj. Gen. Mikhail Kozlov, Deputy Chief of General Staff
  • Nikolai N. Detinov, CPSU Secretariat
  • US
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Amb. Walter J. Stoessel, Jr., Ambassador to the USSR
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor of the Department
  • Winston Lord, Director, Policy Planning Staff
  • William G. Hyland, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Arthur A. Hartman, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs
  • James P. Wade, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy Plans and NSC Affairs; Director of DOD SALT Task Force
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff


  • SALT

Brezhnev: I took a rest. I was reading some summaries, including about China, your friend.

Kissinger: They just gave you a helicopter.

Gromyko: Our own!

Brezhnev: They formed a committee for the funeral of Chou En-lai.2 It had 107 members, including Mao. But he didn’t attend anything or speak any word on behalf of Chou. He’s probably considering his next poem.

[Page 937]

Kissinger: The most dangerous position in the world is to be number two in China.

Brezhnev: I didn’t want to discuss China.

Kissinger: If you want a smaller discussion while I’m here, we can do it.

Brezhnev: We would just get into a state of confusion. We had better stay away from it.

Well, Dr. Kissinger, we’ll hear from you. These are weighty matters. If the time elapsed since our morning meeting is sufficient, maybe you could reply.

Kissinger: Could I ask one technical question on the Backfire?

Brezhnev: Please.

Kissinger: Because I’m trying to reconcile your estimates with ours. And we are trying to figure out how you arrived at 2200 kilometers. We thought the profile was for low-altitude flight, of which all except 20% would be high-altitude and supersonic and rest low-altitude and subsonic. Either an all low-altitude flight at 0.85 Mach or a high-altitude flight of which 250 nautical miles are supersonic would get you to 2200.

The thing that concerns us is high-altitude flight with subsonic speed—say about 10 kilometers [in altitude].

That’s our question.

Kozlov: What radius would you have expected if it flew at 0.85 and a height of over 10 kilometers?

Kissinger: Over 4,000 kilometers.

Kozlov: Those figures aren’t confirmed either by theoretical consideration or by practical testing. The figure of 2200 was taken at optimal altitude and speed. It is a figure that has been officially given to you and there really can be no other. And as you yourself said three hours ago, Mr. Secretary, you can go on to say the maximum range would be 5000 kilometers.

Kissinger: From those figures.

Well, let me go on to the General Secretary’s observations.

First of all, I would like to say I have been very impressed by the seriousness of the General Secretary’s remarks and the Foreign Minister’s remarks on the subject. And I also appreciate that the General Secretary has given us concrete positions which in some respects take into account considerations we had expressed.

Now let me deal first with the cruise missile. And we all understand that just as your agreement on MIRV counting is dependent on [Page 938] agreement on other issues, so is any summary I might make now on what we believe we have agreed dependent on an agreement. That goes without saying.

My understanding after listening to the General Secretary is that we agree that air-to-surface cruise missiles of a range greater than 600 kilometers can be deployed only on heavy bombers, that is to say, on those bombers that are counted against the total of 2400. This is what we seem to have agreed upon.

Brezhnev: Yes.

Kissinger: I’m just summing up, to see where we agree and where we disagree.

Brezhnev: I listen.

Kissinger: We also agree that no air-to-surface cruise missiles can be deployed of a range greater than 2500, even on planes that are not heavy bombers. They are banned completely.

Gromyko: Yes.

Kissinger: This morning we agreed that air-to-surface missiles on heavy bombers will be counted as MIRVed missiles—that is, each bomber counts as one MIRV—with cruise missiles of a range up to 2500 kilometers.

Gromyko: Between 600 and 2500 kilometers.

Kissinger: Any heavy bomber with cruise missiles of a range between 600 and 2500 will be counted as MIRVed. According to the Soviet proposal, each B–52 is counted as one MIRV and each B–1 is counted as three MIRV, if they are armed with cruise missiles. Now we cannot accept that—to disturb that harmony. That part we cannot accept. But I will make a proposal with respect to that in a minute. In fact, I’ll do it now. I will propose that we agree to deploy no more cruise missiles on a B–1 than we would deploy on a B–52. So they both (each) would be counted as one.

Senator Church will control it for you.

[Gromyko explains it to Brezhnev.]

In other words, we agree that on each B–1 we’ll put no more cruise missiles than we would put on the B–52. The same principle.

Gromyko: It’s clear.

Dobrynin: The speed is different.

Kissinger: The speed has nothing to do with the cruise missile. The cruise missile is subsonic; the B–1 is supersonic. You don’t want a bomber to outrun its cruise missile.

Gromyko: It makes no difference. The bomber delivers its missile in this length of time.

[Page 939]

Kissinger: If you study it, I think you’ll find the B–1 flies supersonically only part of the time. So you’ll find that the time it takes to approach the release point is of marginal difference.

Brezhnev: Terrible things we’re talking about—“approaching release points.”

Kissinger: It should be our highest goal to prevent such an event from ever arising.

Let me now go to sea-based cruise missiles. We agree now that no cruise missiles with a range greater than 600 kilometers should be deployed on submarines.

Gromyko: That agreement was reached quite long since.

Kissinger: This morning.

Gromyko: This was confirmation.

Kissinger: I’m just summing up. We do not agree on cruise missiles on surface ships.

On land-based cruise missiles of 5500 kilometers, of intercontinental range, should be banned. That usually means that they are permitted below that. And we accepted that. We accepted your proposal.

Gromyko: But there was no understanding reached on what would be permitted. It would be wrong to believe that missiles with other parameters would be allowed.

Kissinger: I admit I’ve not been in office as long as the Foreign Minister and don’t know all the subtleties of international diplomacy, but I’ve usually assumed that what is not prohibited is permitted.

Gromyko: Yes, but on both sides new elements are introduced.

Kissinger: I’m not complaining. You have every right to introduce new elements. But if you ban them of range above 5500 kilometers, you permit them below 5500 kilometers.

Gromyko: That’s wrong.

Kissinger: That’s wrong? Well, when I’m Foreign Minister for 20 years I’ll understand this. But I’m not going to pursue this now. It’s a lack of experience on my part.

Gromyko: [Laughs]: For you to judge.

Kissinger: We propose to ban everything of range above 2500 kilometers, to establish symmetry in the counting.

Brezhnev: The ban?

Kissinger: Above 2500.

Wade: It was our last proposal.

Kissinger: By “We,” I mean the United States. For symmetry.

Gromyko: That was your proposal of January 14, to which we objected.

[Page 940]

Kissinger: That’s right. So the only two proposals we’ve ever studied were your proposal of 5500 which you made in May [July] and our proposal of 2500 which we made on January 14.3

But can I assume in the rest of the proposal, except for land-based, that everything not banned is permitted? Or counted.

Gromyko: Yes, but you suggest that in exchange for something on our side.

Kissinger: Just to get the record straight. You proposed 5500; we accepted it. So we accept either 5500 or 2500, whichever you prefer.

[They confer]

Gromyko: Then missiles with ranges between 600 and 2500 kilometers remain outside the scope of the proposal, and second, you link it with proposals unacceptable to us.

Kissinger: That may be true. But the Foreign Minister in Geneva proposed 5500 and we accepted and sent it to Geneva. It was negotiated between Semenov and Johnson. It was never disputed by the Soviet side until this morning.

Brezhnev: Are you suggesting we be allowed land-based cruise missiles with ranges up to 2500?

Kissinger: All I’m saying is, we assume . . . Mr. General Secretary, I’m simply trying to get the record straight. You proposed 5500; we accepted it. President Ford confirmed it to the General Secretary in Helsinki. We then agreed to shift the implementation of this to Geneva. And they’re discussing it in Geneva. We never heard the figure of 600 until this morning.

In fact, they already agreed to it in Article IX in Geneva.

[They confer among themselves.]

Brezhnev: Dr. Kissinger, could I ask, what would be the purpose of having land-based cruise missiles with a range of 2500 kilometers?

Kissinger: What is the purpose of having them with a range of 5500 kilometers?

Dobrynin: They could reach each other. Intercontinental range.

Gromyko: Classic intercontinental range.

Dobrynin: This is why the General Secretary asked what you need them for, at 2500 kilometers.

Kissinger: We’ve never considered your proposal of 600 kilometers, because the Foreign Minister on behalf of your government made a proposal of under 5500. We accepted it. President Ford agreed [Page 941] at Geneva. Our delegation, on behalf of our government, negotiated it at Geneva.

Gromyko: That’s why we are now making this proposal. In fact, the first time we heard of cruise missiles was after we agreed at Vladivostok.

Kissinger: But the Foreign Minister made this proposal after Vladivostok, and our delegations agreed on it after Vladivostok.

[Brezhnev and Korniyenko go off and confer.]

Gromyko: But you raised the whole matter of cruise missiles at Vladivostok.

Kissinger: Let me read what was discussed at Helsinki. [He reads from the discussion of August 2, 1975:]4 Our President said: “We have agreed to ban land-based cruise missiles of intercontinental range.” We accepted. The General Secretary then said: “When you say cruise missiles of intercontinental range, do you mean land-based?” Then I said: “You wanted to ban them and the President has agreed.”

Then we listed a few other things and we agreed we’d send them to Geneva. And Brezhnev said “Very good.”

Gromyko: That was part of the question.

Kissinger: Yes.

Gromyko: And that part did not exhaust the question in its entirety. Haven’t both sides raised new points?

Kissinger: You have every right to raise a new point, but I’m only saying it was never considered in our government.

Gromyko: The whole question of the cruise missile was raised after Vladivostok. You can’t reproach us.

Kissinger: I’m not. Our delegations at Geneva have agreed on language. But that’s not a reproach.

Gromyko: And they’ll do that without any difficulty because this is a question they haven’t considered. What they agreed about 5500-kilometer-range missiles stands.

Kissinger: If you’ve agreed on banning them over 5500 kilometers range, what’s the point of banning them over 600 kilometers?

Gromyko: What you can ask us rightfully is: Why didn’t we raise this in the first place? But we can boomerang that to you, and ask why have you raised new points? We’ve raised new points too.

Kissinger: I’m just making a summary. This is a point we’ve not agreed.

[Page 942]

As to Backfire. It is clear that we have a disagreement but we appreciate the General Secretary’s official presentation on the range of the aircraft.

Brezhnev: And I confirm that is indeed official and a fact.

Kissinger: And we appreciate his willingness to include it in the official record.

[They confer]

Kissinger: Do you want to take a break?

Gromyko: Just for two minutes.

Kissinger: Do you want to translate that [last sentence]? [Sukhodrev translates the sentence about including it in the official record.]

Brezhnev: I confirm that too.

[There was a break from 5:57 to 6:07. Brezhnev and Gromyko go in the back room to confer, and return.]

Brezhnev: Why doesn’t Sonnenfeldt say anything?

Kissinger: The truth is, he speaks and I just move my lips.

Brezhnev: I didn’t know that. I keep attacking you, and actually the target should be Sonnenfeldt. I’m misaddressing all my comments.

Kissinger: Don’t think Sonnenfeldt doesn’t feel it. If you look closely at the photos in that album, you’ll see Sonnenfeldt is always leaning forward to block me out.

Brezhnev: There are some very great experts in that field.

Kissinger: Should I continue. Maybe we can agree on limiting the range of Sonnenfeldt. [Laughter] Or counting him. [Laughter]

Hyland: Three to one. Just don’t MIRV him.

Kissinger: The Soviet Union says the Backfire bomber with a range of around 2400 kilometers should not be considered a strategic bomber, but the US side considers surface ships with cruise missiles of a range of 600 kilometers should be included. We’re willing to consider a compromise.

Brezhnev: I said 2200.

Kissinger: The General [Kozlov] said with a tail wind. Let’s say 2200.

I will make the following proposal. On the whole business. We could agree on those aspects of the cruise missile that we’ve agreed to up to now, as part of the Vladivostok agreement, that is, on air-launched cruise missiles and on submarine-launched cruise missiles. Then we could make a separate interim agreement for five years which deals with the Backfire and ship-launched cruise missiles—and I suppose, now that you’ve raised the issue, land-based cruise missiles. And we would then propose that the total number of Backfires in that interim agreement, over five years, to 1982, should be limited to 275, and [Page 943] the total number of ships on which we could have cruise missiles of 600 kilometers should be limited to 25. And I haven’t figured out what to say about land-based cruise missiles. And as part of this proposal, I would propose that the total number of delivery vehicles be reduced to 2300 after three years.

Brezhnev: That is, to revise the Vladivostok figure?

Kissinger: After three years.

Brezhnev: I don’t think that could be an appropriate proposal. Why should we go back on our agreement?

Kissinger: In 1977 it would be 2400.

Dobrynin: Right.

[Sukhodrev explains to Brezhnev.]

Brezhnev: But in any event it does amount to revision of the classical Vladivostok agreement.

On such a basis it would be difficult to agree. We wouldn’t agree what had been revised at Vladivostok. I don’t see why we should have all these combinations. And then again, the Backfire in one way or another would be included in the agreement, while it’s not a strategic bomber.

Kissinger: No, outside the total.

Gromyko: But in the agreement. Makes no difference if it’s in a separate agreement or in the same basic agreement.

Brezhnev: Maybe we wouldn’t like to get into an impasse on this. Maybe we’re a little tired after a full day’s work.

Kissinger: Our theory is we would put the weapons in a gray area of similar range into a separate category.

Gromyko: You mean Backfire and surface-ship cruise missiles?

Kissinger: Yes.

Gromyko: In short, you want, in return for Backfire, to include another strategic weapon, while in principle we do not consider the Backfire a strategic weapon?

Kissinger: But we don’t consider a sea-launched cruise missile of 600 kilometer range a strategic weapon.

Gromyko: It will operate just as any other rocket of that category. And you realize full well what distance into Soviet territory those weapons could reach.

Brezhnev: So I think we should give some thought to that proposal. I don’t want to reject that out of hand.

Kissinger: Maybe that’s a good idea. Or make a counterproposal.

Sukhodrev: On 2300.

Stoessel: On the whole complex.

[Page 944]

[They confer. Korniyenko hands Brezhnev a paper, probably the communiqué on the second meeting. Both sides confer. The Soviets discuss the next day’s schedule.]

Brezhnev: Shall we perhaps take a recess, and take a rest? Do you have any objection to that?

Kissinger: No. I could get to see the ballet, which I also don’t know if it exists.

Gromyko: What will you do there? Compare ballerinas with Backfire?

Kissinger: I’m going to determine the range of the ballerina.

Brezhnev: But that is a methodology we don’t use. And we don’t even have it. [He draws a diagram]. It’s a triangle. If you sit in the box, it’s one distance. If you sit in the orchestra, it’s another. That is land-based. [Laughter]

Kissinger: I’ll make myself a forward-based system, and I want to be counted.

Brezhnev: I think we should meet tomorrow at 12:00.

Kissinger: Good.

[The meeting ended. The Secretary and his party, accompanied by Ambassador Dobrynin, went directly to the Bolshoi Theatre for a performance of “Giselle” in honor of the Secretary.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger Reports on USSR, China, and Middle East Discussions, 1974–1976, Box 1, USSR Memcons and Reports, January 21–23, 1976—Kissinger Moscow Trip (1). Secret; Nodis. All brackets are in the original. No drafting information appears on the memorandum. The meeting was held in Brezhnev’s office at the Kremlin.
  2. Zhou died on January 8.
  3. See Documents 159 and 160 and 243.
  4. See Document 173.