298. Memorandum From the Counselor of the Department of State (Sonnenfeldt) to Secretary of State Kissinger 1


  • Your Luncheon with Dobrynin and Secretary-Designate Vance, January 4, 19772

Herewith a Checklist of the issues that may come up. I will provide you with a detailed discussion of some of these items tomorrow morning.3


SALT. Brezhnev has said that conclusion of a SALT Agreement is the primary item of business with the new Administration.4

JacksonVanik. Brezhnev has given revision of this legislation almost as much priority as he has conclusion of SALT Agreement.5

MBFR. During the closing days of the last round, the West finally tabled revised data on the forces of the direct Western participants. The Soviets have said they will be ready to start a data discussion next round.

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Soviet Force Buildup. You may wish to tell Dobrynin that the pace and scope of the Soviet buildup has obviously become a matter of considerable public and official debate, both here and in NATO, about Soviet intentions.

TTBT/PNE. The treaties are before the Senate for ratification. The Soviets may be concerned that they will be dead letters.

CTB. The Soviets have given some indication of increased flexibility on verification and their position re participation of all nuclear powers.

Non First Use of Nuclear Weapons. The Soviets have expressed disappointment over NATO’s swift rejection of their proposal.

Chancery Construction. The ball is in the Soviet court. We have given them a list of things we want them to do for our people in Moscow before they can begin construction of their apartment complex here.

CIVAIR. We have proposed January 24 for the opening formal talks. We expect a response tomorrow.

Maritime Agreement. The Soviets have met our concerns and Assistant Secretary of Commerce Blackwell is now in Moscow to wrap up the formal agreement.

Thrust of Soviet Media Comment. Soviet year-end output has begun to give negative slant to judgments on the outgoing Administration (arms race, artificial Soviet threat, Southern Africa) and to treat the incoming Administration with cautious respect. It is customary for Soviet publicity to put an incoming Administration under pressure to respond to forthcoming Soviet gestures (e.g., StalinReston, 1952; Dartmouth Conference, 1960; SALT/Summit proposals, January, 1969).

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973–77, Box 20, Nodis Briefing Memos, 1977, Folder 1. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. During a telephone conversation on December 20, Dobrynin agreed to Kissinger’s suggestion for a meeting with Vance on January 4. (Department of State, Electronic Reading Room, Kissinger Transcripts of Telephone Conversations) Kissinger called Vance 4 days later to confirm the appointment. (Ibid.) No substantive record of the meeting has been found.
  3. A January 4 memorandum from Sonnenfeldt to Kissinger providing a more “detailed discussion” of these issues is in National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 91D414, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973–77, Box 20, Nodis Briefing Memos, 1977, Folder 1. Excerpts are provided in footnotes below.
  4. In his January 4 memorandum, Sonnenfeldt noted: “There appears to be high confidence in our government that a SALT agreement based on the negotiations to date could be wrapped up very expeditiously, were the cruise missile and Backfire issues to be resolved.” He added that, since the Soviets had a “vested interest” in SALT II, “[t]hey would be intensely concerned about the next Administration’s willingness (or lack thereof) to pick up the threads of negotiation. As a corollary, they will also be wondering how long it will take the next Administration to fix its policies in this area, with the expiration of the Interim Agreement much in mind.”
  5. In his January 4 memorandum, Sonnenfeldt discussed the recent meeting between Dobrynin and Vanik; see Document 297. He also added the following parenthetical comment: “Neither Vanik nor Dobrynin seem to appreciate the domestic political burden such an approach would put on the President, who would have to defend his action against critics who would cite refused immigration cases as evidence that his waiver was ill advised.”