256. 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 of the USSR
  • 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 Department, MFA (interpreter)
  • Maj. Gen. Mikhail Kozlov, Deputy Chief of General Staff
  • Nikolai N. Detinov, CPSU Secretariat
  • U.S.
  • 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
  • Roger Molander, Program Analysis Staff, NSC Staff
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff


  • SALT; Angola; MBFR

Brezhnev: I don’t think we need to ask each other questions. There is enough to think about.

Did you convey my greetings to President Ford?

Kissinger: I did last night. I also told him we had a very serious meeting. And he asked me to convey his greetings to you.

Brezhnev: Thank you.

Maybe we could proceed a little faster today.

Kissinger: All right.

[Page 952]

Brezhnev: Here is a match. [He lights a match and makes a motion to ignite all his talking papers.]

Kissinger: I thought you were going to bring out your cannon.

Brezhnev: There is a cannon in my office?

Kissinger: You threatened me with it last time.

Brezhnev: As long as America threatens us, we have to threaten America. We now have MIRVed warheads on that cannon. And one is aimed at your house.

Kissinger: I’d better get my dog out of there. [Laughter]

Brezhnev: [Looks through his papers] You have an enormous number of forces. Horrors! I can’t imagine where you get them all. And so many in Europe.

Kissinger: If your generals count like our generals count, Mr. General Secretary, there will be an amazing computation.

Brezhnev: Apart from his greetings, did the President convey anything interesting? I think I know what he said. He said, “Dr. Kissinger, go ahead and decide all questions yourself.”

Kissinger: [Laughs] I fear not!

Brezhnev: The President has changed!

We discussed quite a few issues yesterday2 but did not discuss all of them. Perhaps we should go through some of the other matters we didn’t discuss, and later get to the decisive ones. But considering your own desires, maybe we could go through them.

Earlier Dr. Kissinger said he was afraid of me. I want to say I’m afraid of him. So I guess I’d better give him more of these cookies, to make him kinder. [He passes over a plate of snacks.] And there is one other request: Could we have Sonnenfeldt seated further in the back? [Laughter]

Kissinger: Under the table!

Brezhnev: That would be too polite. He’d be at the same level.

Kissinger: I’ve been trying to do that for seven years.

Brezhnev: During the war, soldiers had the habit of taking out their wrist watches and holding them out and saying: “Let’s trade without looking.”

Kissinger: Do you want to trade Korniyenko for Sonnenfeldt?

Brezhnev: No, it would be unfair to Korniyenko.

Sonnenfeldt: I went to one of your dentists this morning. You missed your chance.

[Page 953]

Kissinger: They put a transmitter in. If you had to listen to everything Sonnenfeldt had to say, you’d need a whole staff.

Brezhnev: A whole Pentagon! Why did they call it that?

Kissinger: It has five sides, the building.

Brezhnev: Could I see your watch?

[Secretary Kissinger gives it to him.]

Gromyko: Very cheap, very cheap.

Stoessel: Mine is a Soviet one.

Kissinger: When we made the ceasefire in the Middle East [in October 1973], you gave me a Soviet watch.

Brezhnev: I’ve had this electronic watch several months now.

Kissinger: A Soviet one?

Brezhnev: Soviet made. [He hands it to the Secretary.]

Kissinger: Very nice. [He hands it back.]

Strategic Arms Limitation

Brezhnev: Mr. Kissinger, let me say again: Although we did have very thorough discussions yesterday, we were not able to touch on some matters relating to strategic arms limitation. Therefore, if you agree, I’d like to dwell on some of them.

Kissinger: Please.

Brezhnev: First, there is the question of the definition of a heavy ICBM and the question of the limits of increase in the dimensions of silos for ICBM launching. We, as hitherto, proceed from the assumption that what is considered to be a heavy ICBM would be any ICBM with a launching weight in excess of the biggest of the light ICBMs deployed by either side as of the date of the signing. Launching weight is a criterion which allows of quite definitely distinguishing between light and heavy missiles. The delimitation of missiles according to both launching weight and throw weight, as suggested by the American side, in our view excessively complicates the question due to the need to count the additional number of parameters and number of factors affecting throw weight beyond launching weight.

We also wish to confirm our readiness to specify the agreement that was achieved in connection with the Interim Agreement on the increase in dimensions of ICBM launching silos in the process of their modernization by not more than 10 to 15 percent in such a way that initial volume should not increase by over 32 percent. Within the limits of that volume, the dimensions of a silo could increase in diameter, in depth, or in both directions, at the discretion of each side.

You see, Dr. Kissinger, we’re giving you complete freedom again.

Kissinger: The only reason we don’t agree earlier is we enjoy each other’s company so much we don’t want to leave earlier.

[Page 954]

Brezhnev: Which is true. But on the one condition, Dr. Kissinger, that you accept what I say. [Laughter]

Kissinger: Yes.

Brezhnev: I will say more, Dr. Kissinger, with a view to achieving a mutually acceptable understanding simultaneously on two questions—that is, on the dimensions of ICBM launching silos and on the definition of a heavy ICBM. We would be prepared to agree that light and heavy ICBMs be distinguished both by launching weight and throw weight, having in view that the American side would agree to our proposed formula specifying the understanding under the Interim Agreement concerning an increase in the dimensions of ICBM launching silos in the process of their modernization by no more than 10 to 15 percent.

Kissinger: As I understand your silo proposal, it is that the dimensions of the silo can be increased by 10 to 15 percent in any direction, as long as the increase in volume is not greater than 32 percent. In other words, if you go down 15 percent . . .

Brezhnev: I will repeat. On silo dimensions we also confirm our readiness to specify the understanding achieved in connection with the Interim Agreement on the increase in dimension of ICBM launching silos by no more than 10 to 15 percent, in such a way that the initial volume of ICBM launching silos should not be increased by more than 32 percent. Within the limits of that volume, the dimensions of a silo could be increased in diameter, in depth, or in both directions, at the discretion of both sides.

Kissinger: But not 10 to 15 percent.

Gromyko: The initial calculation starts out with 10 to 15 percent.

Kissinger: I think we can settle it. The Foreign Minister wants to dig towards China. This is where we have our disagreement.

Gromyko: How did you read my thoughts?

Kissinger: I know you.

If you increase the diameter by 15 percent, that’s 32 percent in volume. That’s no problem. On the other hand, if you dig down, then you could dig down 32 percent under this.

Gromyko: No.

Kissinger: You can only go down 15 percent? If you go down 15 percent, then you can go out 5 to 7 percent.

Gromyko: You can dig down so far as you have to to get your 32 percent increase in volume, which is more than 10 to 15 percent.

Kissinger: That’s what I want to understand.

Gromyko: This is strict mathematics.

[Page 955]

Kissinger: If we have limits of 10 to 15 percent, you can say the following. If you have a diameter of 15 percent, that’s 32 percent. If you go down 15 percent, you can also go in diameter another 5 to 7 percent.

Gromyko: You can, that is right, to make up a totality of 32 percent. But you can make up that totality by digging down 32 percent without changing the diameter at all.

Kissinger: Have you consulted the Chinese?

Gromyko: It’s a little hard for us to do that. Your relations are better!

Kissinger: Let me understand your total proposal. You want to increase the volume by a total of 32 percent, however you do it. This is not the Interim Agreement; this is a new agreement.

Gromyko: The starting point is the Interim Agreement. Because 32 percent makes an increase in volume.

Kissinger: Let me get your proposal.

[Both sides confer.]

Then if we agree to your definition of volume, you agree that both starting weight and throw weight would be frozen.

Gromyko: Exactly right. The only difference being we turn it around. We agree to defining it by both throw weight and launching weight.

Kissinger: The division would be between starting weight and throw weight.

Let me make clear: These changes in silos can be made only once. Once and not again.

Dobrynin: “Of the original.”

Kissinger: All right.

Sukhodrev: “. . . in such a way that initial increase in volume . . .”

Kissinger: All right. Then we accept this.

Brezhnev: Good. It’s agreed?

Kissinger: Yes.

Sukhodrev: On the whole . . .?

Kissinger: On the package. You’ll give me a translation. But to sum it up, the volume of original silos can be increased by 32 percent.

[Both sides confer.]

All right. So we understand each other. I mean, they’ll have to work out precise language in Geneva.

Gromyko: Textually it should be worked out in Geneva.

Kissinger: I think we understand what we mean. You accept both throw weight and launching weight; and you get 32 percent in volume. What do you get when you strike oil down there?

[Page 956]

[Both sides confer.]

Brezhnev: Yesterday, Dr. Kissinger listed the questions on which the positions of the two sides coincide. Let me just name them again:

—First, permission to deploy cruise missiles with a range of over 600 kilometers only on heavy bombers, that is, only on those that will be included in the total number of 2400 vehicles. Agreed?

Kissinger: Yes.

Brezhnev: And second, prohibition of all air-to-ground cruise missiles with a range of over 2500 kilometers. Also agreed?

Kissinger: Agreed.

Brezhnev: Third, the banning of deployment of cruise missiles with a range of over 600 kilometers on submarines.

Kissinger: Right.

Brezhnev: We want once again to confirm that we, for our part, regard these questions as being settled.

Kissinger: Right.

Brezhnev: Voroshilov would have said, “Good [in English].”

Let me now turn to the questions in which Dr. Kissinger yesterday set out new proposals. We have had to give them very intensive study and great attention. We have thoroughly weighed those proposals and to frankly and directly set out our attitude to them.

Dr. Kissinger suggested that each B–1 aircraft with cruise missiles be considered equal not to three MIRVed missiles as the Soviet side suggested, but to only one missile, coupled with the obligation of the American side not to deploy on the B–1 more than it would deploy on the B–52.

Kissinger: Correct. “Good.” [Laughter]

Brezhnev: I must say it is hard for us to regard that proposal as acceptable. I have to say why. Left completely unclear is so important a factor as the number of missiles aboard each bomber. And surely a great deal depends on that. And furthermore, quite undoubtedly there is a vast difference in technical characteristics and combat capabilities of the old B–52 aircraft and the new B–1 aircraft.

I have given deep thought to this proposal of ours regarding the equalization of one B–1 carrying cruise missiles to three MIRVed missiles. We maintain that proposal. And if that approach is taken, we believe, of course, that the undertaking of the Americans not to deploy more missiles on a B–1 than on a B–52 should likewise be maintained.

Kissinger: He maintains the 3:1?

Sukhodrev: Yes.

Kissinger: And on top of that we have to limit deployment?

Brezhnev: Yes.

[Page 957]

Kissinger: That’s impossible. How they get to the launch point is irrelevant. We will agree not to deploy no more on the B–1 than on the B–52. Frankly, we haven’t decided to deploy any on the B–1.

Gromyko: Well, if you haven’t decided on that, it’s easier to settle.

Kissinger: From the point of view of the problem you face, whether a cruise missile is dropped from a B–1 or a B–52 makes no difference at all. Because what will determine your strategic problem is the number of cruise missiles, not how they’re brought to the launch point.

And therefore, we agree that no plane should have more cruise missiles than the B–52. That we agree to.

Brezhnev: But, Dr. Kissinger, you’re ignoring one important element.

Kissinger: Which is what?

Brezhnev: Speed.

Kissinger: First, supersonic airplanes fly at supersonic speed for only very short distances. And like your supersonic planes, our supersonic planes would fly at subsonic speeds most of the time. But even if it’s one hour faster to the launch point than the B–52, or two hours, what difference does it make? The cruise missile itself flies at subsonic speed. It will take longer to get to the release point than it will take your missiles to reach the United States.

Gromyko: But what you say applies to the speed of cruise missiles, and that is right—whether they are launched from a B–1 or a B–52. But take the difference in time it takes to get to the launch point. That is important. Even 15 minutes matter.

Kissinger: Why? If it takes four hours then to reach the destination, what difference do 15 minutes make?

Gromyko: That’s true. Once launched, it will take equal time, but the time from delivery to the launch point is different.

Kissinger: Maybe an hour.

Gromyko: It relates to nuclear collision.

Kissinger: Mr. General Secretary, Mr. Foreign Minister, but neither bombers nor cruise missiles can be used for a surprise attack.

Gromyko: If not for a surprise attack, then simply attack—even if they’re used in the process of tragic events unfolding.

Kissinger: Then 15 minutes make no difference.

Gromyko: No military man would agree with that. I would think that in a nuclear war, even minutes count.

Kissinger: We’re not counting the SS–19 for more than the SS–18. We can’t make a distinction between the B–1 and the B–52 and count the B–1 for three MIRVs. But we can agree not to deploy on the B–1 more cruise missiles than on the B–52.

[Page 958]

Brezhnev: Mr. Kissinger, let’s leave you to think that over officially.

Kissinger: Okay.

Brezhnev: Let me return to the question of the Backfire bomber. Dr. Kissinger yesterday proposed, apart from the agreement on limitation of strategic arms on which we have long since been working, to conclude an additional so-called interim agreement. In that interim agreement, he would like to limit the number of our medium-range Backfire bombers and give the United States the right to equip 25 surface ships with cruise missiles with a range of up to 2500 kilometers.

Kissinger: Correct.

Brezhnev: I must say outright that that proposal is absolutely unacceptable. It would limit a type of our armament which can in no way relate to strategic arms, and at the same time it would open up for the United States the opportunity to create a new type of weapon which in substance would be nothing short of strategic.

Kissinger: You should hear our generals, Mr. General Secretary.

Brezhnev: Oh, they say lots of things. Our viewpoint is that all cruise missiles with a range of over 600 kilometers on surface ships should be banned.

Dr. Kissinger, I have given this some thought for a long time. We understand that having artifically created the so-called question of the Soviet Backfire, which bears no relation whatsoever to the question of strategic arms, and having allowed a propaganda storm to arise over this, the American administration finds it difficult to extricate itself. To enable you to do so and to create a more favorable atmosphere for reaching rapid agreement, we are prepared to do the following. We could reflect in the materials of the negotiations an understanding that the Backfire aircraft would not be given a capability to operate at intercontinental ranges.

Aleksandrov: In addition to what was said on that score yesterday.

Brezhnev: It goes without saying that such assurances could not be given without the understanding that the total question of the Backfire would be finally removed from the negotiation.

Now, on land-based cruise missiles. Here I would like to confirm the position we set out yesterday in our first day of discussion, that is, in addition to the already-achieved banning of land-based cruise missiles of intercontinental range, all land-based cruise missiles with a range of over 600 kilometers should likewise be banned.

Furthermore, yesterday, Dr. Kissinger, you proposed we reach agreement to the effect that the total number of strategic arms vehicles as agreed at Vladivostok, that is, 2400, be reduced by 100 vehicles, that is, reduced to 2300 for each side.

[Page 959]

Kissinger: By 1980. But I don’t insist . . . Go ahead.

Brezhnev: Now, we have given some thought to this too, and we believe that to speak about reducing the number by 100 in conditions where the right would be preserved to build thousands upon thousands of new strategic missiles, that is, cruise missiles, would simply be a self-delusion, and a delusion of public opinion.

This is how we would think it possible to go about this. We would agree to discuss the question of reducing the total number of vehicles on the scale that Dr. Kissinger has suggested, or—and I emphasize this—even on a larger scale, if the United States accepts our proposal to ban land-based and surface-ship-based cruise missiles with the range of over 600 kilometers. As to the question of how an agreement on reduction of the number of strategic arms vehicles, given this stipulated condition, would be formalized, this is something I am sure we could agree upon ourselves without difficulty. Either a separate agreement, or a side letter, or a letter exchanged afterwards, or some kind of appendage to the operative agreement. That is, we would immediately initiate a discussion of this matter. An exchange of letters in which the sides express their intent is a normal matter. We have done it before.

Kissinger: Why not do it in the agreement? I want to understand.

Brezhnev: Dr. Kissinger, I would right now believe that could be done—enter it into the agreement—if you accept our proposal.

Kissinger: Of course. I mean, I understand.

Brezhnev: That, Dr. Kissinger, is in summary what I wanted to tell you. And I feel if we take into account yesterday’s discussion and today’s, we have room for agreement. So it’s not been just a routine visit.

Kissinger: I think, Mr. General Secretary, given the complexity of the subject, you have made some very major proposals. I agree with you that we are moving towards each other on many issues.

Could I ask for a few minutes interval?

Brezhnev: Certainly. And I trust that all these Comrades here are writing this very faithfully to convey it to President Ford.

Kissinger: The question is to whom else they’re conveying it. [Laughter]

Brezhnev: So Senator Jackson doesn’t get any food for his thing. If one gives up one’s conscience altogether, one can agree to anything.

I read some of the reports that TASS gave me about the coverage of the question and answer session we had with the correspondents yesterday. I think it’s quite good.

Kissinger: We have told our press that the Soviet Union has made a very serious effort.

[Page 960]

Brezhnev: I think that’s right. We do keep beating at this common goal, and the general direction of our effort is toward achievement.

[There was a break from 7:34 to 7:46 p.m. and the meeting resumed.]

Brezhnev: Let’s compare watches. [He gets up and shows his again. He and Sonnenfeldt compare. Kissinger takes Dobrynin aside. Brezhnev goes over and shows Dr. Kissinger his watch.]

It’s still early. Do you want 10 minutes more?

Gromyko: Let’s have a little intermission after the intermission.

[They all get up. Brezhnev goes to the curtain at the far end of the room.]


Brezhnev: Dr. Kissinger, you know what’s here? A map of our attack on the United States. [He shows the map on the wall behind the curtain.]

Kissinger: Of course. From Angola! [Laughter]

Brezhnev: Don’t mention that word to me. We have nothing to do with that country. I cannot talk about that country.

[Brezhnev then moved away and Gromyko and Amb. Stoessel came up to talk with the Secretary.]

Kissinger: The Cubans were in Angola before the South Africans entered. We asked you a question: if the South Africans withdrew, would the Cubans withdraw?

Gromyko: We have nothing to do with that. We have given some equipment to the legitimate government—that’s all.

Kissinger: You transport the Cubans in your planes. They are chartered Soviet planes.

Gromyko: What planes are you talking about? The ones which transported equipment? We have sent no troops.

Amb. Stoessel: No, the Soviet planes used to transport Cuban troops to Angola.

Gromyko [avoiding a direct answer]: The South Africans are still there. They make no move to leave.

Kissinger: The South Africans are in the process of withdrawing.

Gromyko: If this is announced, we will react to it.

Kissinger: I wish to tell you in all seriousness that we can never accept 8,000 Cuban troops in Angola.

Why don’t you come to Brussels with me tomorrow and brief NATO?

Gromyko: But you refuse to let us join NATO!

[Page 961]

Kissinger: But we’d begin by having the General Secretary come with me tomorrow, as a surprise.

Brezhnev: On another matter, I’m sorry to hear your wife is in the hospital today. I will send something appropriate to Dobrynin. But give her my best wishes. Tell her that story from Zoshchenko about giving up smoking.

Kissinger: She’ll be out for the weekend, but they’ll have to operate.

Brezhnev: I’ve had three operations. I had one under a local anesthetic, for curiosity’s sake.

During the war when I was on the front line I had a car to drive me around. I also had horses. I don’t mean when attacking. But when there was free time, I liked to saddle up and ride around. A relative of Troyanovsky—our Ambassador to Japan—who was a newsreel cameraman was with me. On our holiday on November 7, I said to him, “I want to take a ride.” And I had a very beautiful horse. And I was riding full tilt, and suddenly there was a trench, and the horse’s legs fell into the trench. I fell, and the saddle got me. Two weeks later I was all right. You know, 25 or 30 years passed, and I felt nothing. Then the doctor was looking me over on a different matter and said I needed an operation. And when they were cutting me open, they found some clotted blood that had turned to stone. It was quite unexpected.

Strategic Arms Limitation

How many times have you been here?

Kissinger: This is the seventh or eighth time.

Brezhnev: But this time you go back with the biggest package ever.

[They were all seated again at 8:05.]

Brezhnev: Dr. Kissinger, you would, I suppose, like to say a couple of words on Vienna.

Kissinger: Right.

First, on the question of throw weight and volume, we need to say no more.

Now let me sum up your proposal. On the discussions we had yesterday, the General Secretary confirmed the points I said we had agreed. Of course we all understand that all the agreements are in the context of a total agreement. That goes without saying.

Brezhnev: Yes.

Kissinger: . . . regarding air-to-surface missiles and regarding cruise missiles on submarines.

Gromyko: And surface-ship missiles.

Kissinger: No. This is what we agreed upon.

[Page 962]

Then, as I understand the General Secretary, he was rejecting the proposal I made yesterday about a separate category with Backfire aircraft and surface-ship cruise missiles.

Brezhnev: I developed that by saying we would undertake not to give the Backfire in the future any strategic capability; that is, its range would be limited to 2200.

Kissinger: I understand it. I’m coming back to that. And the General Secretary said you would undertake not to give the Backfire intercontinental range. About that I’d like to ask some questions at the end.

Brezhnev: Of course.

Kissinger: With respect to sea-launched cruise missiles and land-launched cruise missiles, the General Secretary wanted them reduced to 600 kilometers—banned above 600 kilometers. Surface-ship-launched and land-based cruise missiles. And in return for this, the General Secretary indicated that the Soviet Union would be prepared to discuss a reduction of the number from 2400 to 2300, or even below 2300.

Brezhnev: Yes, on certain conditions.

Kissinger: On condition that we agree on the limit to 600 kilometers for surface ships and land-based cruise missiles.

Gromyko: And there is also the time factor, that is, after the agreement comes into force.

Kissinger: Yes. At a date to be agreed upon.

Brezhnev: Otherwise no one would understand what we were trying to do.

Kissinger: May I ask the General Secretary what that lower number is that he has in mind below 2300, or has he not thought about it?

Brezhnev: I haven’t given any thought to that yet. You named a figure of 2300 instead of 2400, and I just responded to that. Politically, that would be a good thing for both the United States and the Soviet Union because it would mean we are both gradually reducing our forces.

We are discussing the whole thing in complex, and perhaps this isn’t the appropriate time, but where would you discuss forward-based systems? Because, for example, you said you’d be willing to withdraw 2000 warheads from Europe, leaving 7000 behind. You’d probably take out your most obsolete.

Kissinger: That’s in a different negotiation. No, we wouldn’t leave 7000 behind.

Brezhnev: 5000. [Kissinger laughs.] Is that a small number?

Kissinger: Can I ask the General Secretary? On ship-launched cruise missiles, surface-ship-launched cruise missiles, we propose that [Page 963] ships be counted as MIRVs, in our original proposal [if they carry cruise missiles], of range between 600 and 2500 kilometers. We are prepared to include the ships in the total. The question is what your reaction is to this particular proposal.

Gromyko: Negative.

Kissinger: That means in practice we have to dismantle other MIRVed missiles to do it.

Gromyko: Negative.

Kissinger: All right. I’m through asking these questions, because all of these will have to be reviewed in Washington. Because the General Secretary has introduced so many new elements that we couldn’t conclude it here.

Dobrynin: To clarify.

Kissinger: Now may I turn to Backfire. As I understand the General Secretary’s remarks, we will get a formal statement signed by the General Secretary that its operational radius is 2200 kilometers maximum. Did I understand this correctly? I’m really asking for my understanding and for the understanding of my colleagues. Will that include a statement of on what assumptions this statement is derived?

[Gromyko explains to Brezhnev.]

Brezhnev: I don’t know what else you want.

Kissinger: Let me ask a few more questions.

Brezhnev: I’ve given you the figures of its actual operational radius and assured you we will not turn it into an intercontinental bomber.

Kissinger: May I ask, with respect to the second [point], does that mean there will be no changes in the airframe?

Stoessel: Contours.

Kissinger: I think the General [Kozlov] knows what I mean.

Brezhnev: We will lengthen the fuselage so that it stretches from Archangel to Washington! If we make a fuselage that long, we’d probably be sunk. It would take about 50 years to build one.

Dr. Kissinger, look, what I’ve said on this is really waterproof.

Kissinger: I have two other questions, if the General Secretary’s patience holds out. One is easy, because he’s already answered. The first is: The Backfire cannot have air-to-surface missiles of more than 600 kilometers because it’s not counted in the total. That’s your own definition. [They confer.]

Does Gromyko object to it?

Gromyko: That question is completely outside the discussion. It will not be given any intercontinental range.

[Page 964]

Kissinger: The General Secretary said that only heavy bombers included in the total of 2400 can have them.

Gromyko: This is completely irrelevant.

Kissinger: Is it yes or no?

Dobrynin: He says it is irrelevant.

Kissinger: But “irrelevant” is not an answer.

Gromyko: Why should that question arise? That relates to all heavy bombers, yours or ours.

Kissinger: All right. Then the answer is yes.

Sukhodrev [re-reads]: “Air to surface missiles can be placed only on heavy bombers, that is, only on those included in the total of 2400.”

Kissinger: I understand your proposal now, Mr. General Secretary. We will study it. We will no doubt give you our considerations within a few weeks. I believe we have made significant progress on a number of important issues.

Brezhnev: But one earnest request! Don’t think up anymore problems. Or else you leave and suddenly I get a telegram from Washington with some entirely new problems invented. Let’s be decent children of our epoch.

Kissinger: We will discuss it in the framework of our discussions here. We will review our position in light of your position.

Brezhnev: Even if you look at those through a magnifying glass, you’ll see they are very good proposals. If you see it through Jackson’s or Reagan’s magnifying glass, it will be a very bad mirror.

Kissinger: Jackson and I meet very infrequently. I think Jackson will make peace with you before he makes peace with me.

Brezhnev: He just keeps talking as much as he can. He raises all the money he can so he speaks on radio and television. He’s trying to fight Ford and trying to fight you.

Kissinger: He was on television yesterday saying I made too many concessions.

Brezhnev: We can’t adapt ourselves to his views because we deal with America and the American Government—with those in whom the American people invested their trust. We want to deal with the American people, and devil take the rest. Tomorrow there will be another 10 fellows saying things.

Kissinger: There are already 12 candidates. We count them in the 1320 total. And we promise you not to give them intercontinental characteristics.

Brezhnev: I think some of them should be put into one of these missiles.

[Page 965]

Kissinger: So I believe, as I have said, we have made some progress. We will study it. We will look at our proposals in light of what you have said. We will study it very seriously.

Brezhnev: I appreciate that and I know that, whatever the situation is, I feel sure, and I know I’m right, the President does value your abilities in the international field very highly and I’m sure he will be influenced by what you are able to do. And you know, as many times as I’ve met you, I’ve never allowed myself to interfere in American domestic matters.

Kissinger: Except on our side.

Brezhnev: If I only could.

Kissinger: Mr. General Secretary, we’ve had many meetings and we’ve settled many important questions between us.

Brezhnev: I said at the outset, we have gone a long way. And whatever ramifications there have been, it’s to the credit of the leaders of both countries that we have managed to preserve our relationship, despite the adversities of fate.

Kissinger: So we’ll be in touch with you in two or three weeks. Two—no more than three weeks.

Brezhnev: The sooner that happens, the sooner my visit to the United States, sometime after the Party Congress. After the Party Congress, when things get down to normal and we have this agreement, I can visit the United States. And I shall certainly try to act in as favorable a way as possible, so it will be no less successful than the last visit.

Kissinger: If we reach an agreement, it will be of historic significance.

Brezhnev: So long as we have as few official ceremonies as possible. I’m a simple man and don’t like these ceremonies.

Kissinger: We’ll have a schedule.

Brezhnev: Camp David I like. It’s quiet; you can take walks.

Kissinger: We should spend some time at Camp David.

Brezhnev: It would be a good thing to come a day or day and a half before.

Kissinger: To get used to the time change. Camp David, or is there any other place you prefer, like Williamsburg? It is more quiet in Camp David.

Brezhnev: I’m a man of few requirements.

Kissinger: I see the General Secretary is very sure he’ll be reelected at the Party Congress.

Brezhnev: That is hard to say.

Kissinger: You’ll have to teach us.

[Page 966]

Brezhnev: Let me say in the presence of my colleagues that I feel confident of the support of the local party people.

Gromyko: And we don’t have 12 candidates!

Brezhnev: But when it comes to voting, you can reach into a hat and they’re not there.

Kissinger: You need some technical assistance.

Brezhnev: Once, when the secret ballot was first introduced in this country, I was working at a factory. And there was a party conference at the factory. And when they were nominating candidates, they nominated more than were needed to fill the posts. Like in your election. When they started the counting, they found that one less had been elected than was needed. So everyone shouted: “Tsibulski! Tsibulski!” So he was written into the list. But again they counted and there were not enough votes. So then he gets up and says, “I’m an old man. I’ve worked my fill. Strike me off.” But everyone says: “You’ve got to run.” Then again they voted and again they counted, and again there were not enough votes. They voted again for three days!

Kissinger: Did he make it?

Brezhnev: No. [Laughter] They nominated someone else. But this was a time when everyone was suspicious of everyone else. Like in your country. [Laughter]

They nominate, say, Brezhnev, Kissinger, Sonnenfeldt.

Kissinger: He’d certainly get elected. [Laughter]

Brezhnev: So someone gets up and asks the question, “Did Comrade B have a mother?” The answer is yes. Then they ask: “Where does she live?” “Odessa.” They want to know: Why do you ask? The answer is: “I was just asking.” So then they’d send someone to Odessa to check on his mother.

That is just joking.

Kissinger: In our country when they ask if a man has a mother, they have other things in mind, and they won’t be satisfied with checking in Odessa. [Laughter]

Brezhnev: Why don’t we send Kissinger tomorrow morning to Leningrad?

Kissinger: In a Backfire. It doesn’t have the range.

Gromyko: It could be refueled.

Brezhnev: Dr. Kissinger, let’s devote at least some minutes to Vienna.

Kissinger: It would confuse our press if we reached agreement on the Vienna negotiation.

Aleksandrov: A great-power diktat!

[Page 967]

Kissinger: May I ask one procedural question about SALT? Should we task this one thing we agreed on—on volume and throw weight—to Geneva? On the 32 percent?

Brezhnev: We can.

Kissinger: All right. We’ll pass it next week.


Brezhnev: Dr. Kissinger, the talks on force and arms reduction in Europe have been going on for two years now. And I have spoken on this subject whenever I possibly could—in meetings and abroad, on many occasions. We have been consistently emphasizing that both sides should achieve these reductions without harming the security of either.

We have carefully studied the proposal of the West.3 The positive element in them is the fact that it recognizes the need for reduction of nuclear weapons, as well. This is something the USSR has favored from the very outset. However, the implementation of that is made contingent on acceptance by us of the entire Western scheme of reduction, which we have repeatedly made clear cannot be the basis for agreement. We have given much thought to a way we could move these negotiations off dead center.

Meeting the wishes of the Western side, we would agree that in the first stage, that is, in 1976, this year, there be a reduction in Central Europe of the armed forces of only the USSR and the United States by an equal percent, let’s say 2 or 3 percent of the total strength of the armed forces of countries of the Warsaw Pact and NATO in that area. We would be showing an example to all the others. Their forces would be frozen—not increased. We would be setting an example. It goes without saying that an agreement on such a reduction of Soviet and American forces should include the clearcut obligation of all other countries having forces in Central Europe on freezing their forces at the present level, and subsequent reduction in a later phase.

To implement this proposal, as well as to achieve agreement on subsequent reductions, it would be necessary to reach agreement on what forces would be subject to this agreement and an understanding on the strength of forces in Central Europe.

I should like to hope our new proposals aimed at achieving progress at Vienna will meet a positive response on the part of the United States and other states. We believe they are a step toward reaching a mutually acceptable agreement. So I think we do have im[Page 968]portant things to consider, and a possibility here of moving the thing off dead center.

Kissinger: May I ask the General Secretary a few questions?

Brezhnev: Please.

Kissinger: By 2–3 percent, you mean of U.S. and Soviet forces or of all forces?

Brezhnev: No, of all forces. The forces reduced would be Soviet and American, but the percent would be a percent of all forces, NATO and Warsaw Pact.

Kissinger: By a fixed percent of the total forces. Of all forces or of ground forces?

Dobrynin/Gromyko: Of all.

Gromyko: Further specification will be done at the talks. Our delegation will receive appropriate instructions.

Kissinger: So will our delegation. That doesn’t mean they’ll agree!

Brezhnev: The next time we meet we’ll speak English. Because Gromyko and Sukhodrev keep confusing me.

Kissinger: I’m convinced the General Secretary understands perfect English.

Brezhnev: Maybe 90 percent.

Kissinger: So he has an advantage. And I speak in German.

Brezhnev: Auf Wiedersehen. Sehr gut. [Laughter] I have two English-speaking people in my house. My daughter, who is a teacher of English, and my son-in-law is studying English in the Foreign Trade Association.

Kissinger: They all speak English when they don’t want you to understand.

Brezhnev: That’s right! What can I do about it?

Kissinger: Well, I don’t think this proposal will be rapidly accepted.

Gromyko: Well, accept it slowly. [Laughter]

Brezhnev: Take two to three weeks and accept it!

Gromyko: For friendship’s sake, take a month!

Kissinger: We’ll do it in the spirit of our special relationship.

Brezhnev: As I said at the outset, we do value the fact that in spite of differences and nuances, and while it is easier in our country than in yours, both are pursuing the line of détente, and we appreciate that.

Kissinger: Does this mean we’ll get a formal response to our proposal in Vienna?

Gromyko: There is now a recess. When it resumes, our delegation will give the formal reply to the Western proposal—which will be neg[Page 969]ative. Our delegation will then be instructed to set out in greater detail the proposal that was set out in general terms by the General Secretary.

Hyland: They’re meeting next week.

Brezhnev: What time will you be leaving town?

Kissinger: I think at 12:30.

Strategic Arms Limitation

Brezhnev: In a friendly spirit, can I ask are you pleased with our discussions?

Kissinger: I think we made progress in our SALT discussion. You introduced interesting ideas today. It remains to be studied and to think of how to reconcile the two sides’ approaches.

Brezhnev: Are we finished?

Dobrynin: Yes.

Brezhnev: I guess we can finish on that. I’d like to ask you once again to give my good wishes to the President, and my best wishes in his arduous duties. And I trust when you report back, he will appreciate the great efforts we have made and the constructive character of our discussions.

Kissinger: You can be sure I will do this. There has been definite progress made. Your side has made a great effort. If we continue this effort on both sides, we can achieve an historic agreement.


I must say one thing. I don’t want to mislead you. You said you didn’t want to discuss the subject [Angola] beyond what you said at the end of the table.4 But we will not be able to accept the increasing number of Cuban troops and we will have to take measures in that respect.

Brezhnev: That’s a diplomatic question. Discuss it with Gromyko.

We have in fact set out to the American side and to the President personally our approach to events in Angola.5 And yet the American side, as will be seen from your recent statement to our Ambassador,6 is continuing to depict our position in a distorted light, seeking to equalize the intervention of South African racists and assistance by the Soviet Union and other states to the legitimate government of Angola to resist aggressors and their abettors.

There are no Soviet troops. We have sold a limited number of tanks. That is the role we are playing there, and no more.

[Page 970]

Kissinger: We asked you a question two weeks ago,7 to which we have not received an answer.

Gromyko: Let’s meet at 9:30 tomorrow morning. You won’t be asleep?

Kissinger: No. The Italian Prime Minister has never been awake in any meeting I’ve had with him. Unless we discuss women. [Laughter]

Brezhnev: I trust the President will also discern interesting points that have come up in my visit.

Kissinger: I am certain. And we’ll give the press a generally positive account.

Brezhnev: I guess you will be saying something to the press tomorrow.

Kissinger: Yes, along the lines I have said to you—that we have had positive discussions on SALT, that in certain important areas progress was made, that the General Secretary presented some new and interesting ideas that we will now study in Washington, and that some of the issues that we have agreed in principle here will be transferred to Geneva. In this sense.

[At this point the Secretary handed to the General Secretary a set of copies of a photograph of himself taken by David Kennerly at Helsinki, which Mr. Kennerly hoped he would autograph. Brezhnev looked them over and got up abruptly and went in the back room. Amb. Dobrynin explained that Brezhnev did not like the candid photo and went out to find a better one.]

Sukhodrev: Could I read out what we suggest as a final communiqué?

[He reads out the draft at Tab A:]8

“On the results of the talks between L. I. Brezhnev, A. A. Gromyko, and Secretary of State of the U.S.A. H.A. Kissinger.

“On 20–23 January in Moscow discussions took place between General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee L.I. Brezhnev, Politburo member and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR A. A. Gromyko and the U. S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger.

“The talks touched upon a broad range of questions of mutual interest to the Soviet Union and the United States of America. Taking place in the discussions were, on the Soviet side . . . and on the American side . . .

“Both sides expressed their firm intention to continue the further strengthening and development of relations between the USSR and the [Page 971] USA in keeping with the course which has been defined in joint Soviet-American agreements and understandings. It was noted that this course serves the interests of the peoples of both countries and is an essential factor in the cause of relaxation of international tension and the strengthening of peace.

“In the course of the negotiations special attention was devoted to examination of concrete questions relating to the working out of a new long-term agreement between the USSR and the USA on limitation of strategic offensive weapons, on the basis of the agreement reached during the negotiations between the General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee and the President of the USA in Vladivostok in November 1974. Progress was attained on a number of these questions, and it was agreed that negotiations will be continued with the aim of finding mutually acceptable solutions to the remaining problems.

“During examination of the status of negotiations on reduction of armed forces and armaments in Central Europe, both sides had in mind the task of facilitating progress in these negotiations.

“There was also an exchange of views on a number of other urgent international problems.

“The negotiations took place in a business-like and constructive atmosphere. Both sides consider the exchange of views to have been useful.”

Kissinger: Could we keep this for a couple of hours and give you some ideas? Then tomorrow Sonnenfeldt and Korniyenko could meet.

In essence, there are just some one or two sentences we would like to add.

[Brezhnev returns with his official photo and two watches for Sonnenfeldt.]

Kissinger [looks at the watch given to Sonnenfeldt]: This picks up whatever his tooth doesn’t.

Brezhnev: This is a good photograph.

Kissinger: I’m very grateful.

Brezhnev: I think nothing should be done to cast any shadow over the work we have done together. This would be both wrong and not in the interests of either the Soviet Union or United States.

[He shows Sonnenfeldt how the watch band can be adjusted.]

And I guarantee its accuracy.

Kissinger: I know it sends. Can it also receive? [Laughter] Between his Soviet tooth and his Soviet watches . . .

Brezhnev: It’s just a watch!

Well then, we thank you. These two days were not easy.

[Page 972]

Kissinger: I want to thank you for taking two days from your schedule. After many changes in your schedule to set the dates of the meeting.

Brezhnev: This often happens. The most important thing is to act in good faith.

Kissinger: This you can be sure.

[The meeting ended.]

  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 (2). Secret; Nodis. All brackets are in the original. Drafted by Rodman. The meeting was held in Brezhnev’s office at the Kremlin.
  2. See Documents 249 and 251.
  3. The proposal was tabled in Vienna on December 16, 1975. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXIX, European Security, Document 367.
  4. See footnote 7, Document 249.
  5. Presumably a reference to Document 230.
  6. See Document 233 and footnote 2 thereto.
  7. See Document 241.
  8. Attached but not printed.