38. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Soviets:
  • H.E. Andrey Gromyko, Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • H.E. Anatoliy Dobrynin, Soviet Ambassador
  • The Honorable Georgiy Markovich Korniyenko, Chief, USA Division, Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Mr. Viktor Mikhaylovich Sukhodrev, Counselor and Interpreter, Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • U.S.:
  • The Secretary
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor
  • Walter Stoessel, American Ambassador to USSR
  • Arthur A. Hartman, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs

Secretary: We certainly described all the nuances of CSCE to the President but I think he was a little confused by Basket III.2

Gromyko: Yes, I’d like to cut the bottom out of that Basket.

[Page 115]

Secretary: Have you heard the news that Mao has been appointed either Commander-in-Chief or Defense Minister?3 That seems strange to me after looking around for three years that he would make himself Defense Minister. By the way, is he going to be in Moscow when I’m supposed to be there? Is that the reason for the conflict?

Gromyko: No.

Secretary: It certainly is unusual that he should take such a post.

Gromyko: Does General Haig have four stars? Do any of your Generals have five stars?

Secretary: Omar Bradley is the only one still alive.

Gromyko: I remember awarding a medal to General Marshall.

Secretary: I have a lot of applications from Colonels now who want to be Generals. You can see what being a Deputy to me does for your military career. Have you ever seen General Bokassa?4 He wears medals on his back he has so many of them.

Gromyko: Yes, I have seen him.

Secretary: Have you ever met General Amin?5 When I talked to your Syrian allies they told me when General Amin was in Damascus he insisted that his dreams be broadcast on the radio each morning. He said that that was what they always did for him at home.

Gromyko: I like Kaunda.6

Secretary: Seriously, on CSCE, can we discuss that a little further? I was a little confused by something you said when we were talking to the President. You said that the Germans mentioned something about voluntary observers.

Gromyko: Yes, they said that the observers would be invited by the country in which the maneuver is taking place. Then there is the question of troop movements. Can’t we agree that that matter can be postponed for later discussion and study?

Secretary: We’re relaxed about that problem. We know what you’re doing anyway. We think that the size of the force which should be notified for maneuvers should be a reinforced division of, say, 40,000.

Hartman: I think you mean 20,000. A division is about 15,000 and a reinforced division would be roughly 20,000.

[Page 116]

Gromyko: That is an artifical number. It would be impossible. We would have so many clerical problems.

Secretary: Do you move a division that often?

Gromyko: What importance does this have to Luxembourg? This is like using a microscope.

Secretary: How can we proceed in CSCE?

Gromyko: We have to agree on the question of maneuvers and troop movements. On the latter we should put it off for further study. Maybe we should examine this question of voluntary observers. This would be a moral obligation and would be much more flexible.

Secretary: Are you saying that a moral obligation is heavier than a legal one or are you saying if it’s moral you don’t have to carry it out?

Gromyko: As a rule it will be carried out.

Secretary: Just when you maneuver with nuclear weapons and we want to observe, you will not want us to.

Gromyko: As a rule it will be carried out. I have a feeling that the Basket III problem is behind us.

Secretary: Why?

Gromyko: Because we agreed on the Finnish compromise which makes it easier. Then we have the question of the relations among the principles. We think that the formulation should be “the principles should be equally strictly observed.”

Hartman: We have been talking about the equal validity of the principles.

Gromyko: Equal validity is nonsense. How can you say that the question of frontier inviolability and giving visas are equally important. Some of the principles are fundamental.

Secretary: All of the principles are equal but you are saying equally strictly observed. The thing that concerns us is that they be observed. I would be willing to examine your formulation. What did Genscher say?

Gromyko: Genscher’s attitude was positive.

Secretary: I am not intelligent enough to understand all these matters. To me it sounds all right. I will take it up with Callaghan and Genscher.

Gromyko: On the peaceful change formula you have now tabled a new text which seems to imply that the most important purpose of international law is to change frontiers. That is the current U.S. draft.

Secretary: Where did you get that this was a U.S. draft? What did Genscher say?

Gromyko: He said that it was an American proposal.

[Page 117]

Secretary: You can see that Hartman has a lot to learn about diplomacy. Historically, let me say that we pointed out that it would be difficult to change the language we had originally agreed. This change is a German proposal. They are the ones who have the main concern. On maneuvers we will look at the problem again and I will talk to you on Tuesday.7 On the MBFR negotiations in Vienna, you made the observation which implied to the President that if we include air and nuclear forces you would be willing to include a tank army. Is that correct?

Gromyko: Other countries must be prepared to reduce their forces.

Secretary: In the first stage?

Gromyko: If not in the first stage, then we should define the second stage and specify what will happen.

Secretary: You mean that we should decide what is the end result of the second stage? For example, we could agree that the first stage has a certain numerical reduction or are we just talking about the principle of the second stage?

Gromyko: No, we would have to have numbers and precise times.

Secretary: Then we are talking about negotiating both the first and the second stage.

Gromyko: If numbers are not mentioned, then when will we reach agreement on this? My idea is to agree to reduce X and then X should be multiplied by 10.

Secretary: In practice you would then be negotiating both stages but there would be a difference of timing.

Gromyko: What we would be doing is leaving some details for later decision, for example, the kinds of forces and armaments.

Secretary: What you are saying is that following the reduction of this first stage, there would be a second stage. The only difference is timing.

Gromyko: It will be a question of fulfillment and the degree of specificity.

Secretary: If you are worried about escaping obligations, you want to specify what happens in the second stage.

Gromyko: Yes. Otherwise we are talking generalities. There should be a general obligation to reduce by all countries.

Secretary: I don’t believe we are going to finish this year. We haven’t even begun to look at the second stage.

Gromyko: It would be helpful in getting through the CSCE to be able to have progress in Vienna. Politically, it would help us. Why is that difficult?

[Page 118]

Secretary: Are you prepared to accept a common ceiling at the end of the second stage?

Gromyko: At the end? That would depend on the ceiling. I do not reject it.

Secretary: If you can accept that we can discuss this in greater detail, we are prepared to include tactical air if that would help.

Gromyko: What kind of ceiling are you talking about? Is it possible to avoid a ceiling? You could have American and Soviet cuts and then other countries could reduce numbers as well. After that, it would be much easier to discuss a ceiling.

Secretary: I am talking about a common ceiling.

Korniyenko: What the Secretary means by a common ceiling are equal forces on both sides.

Gromyko: No, that is not what I mean.

Secretary: But then you are offering me nothing. Obviously if you agree to a cut there is a ceiling but you cannot argue in the strategic field that we have more warheads than you do and therefore must cut greater numbers, while at the same time you argue that you cannot cut your forces more when you have greater numbers. We are prepared to be realistic and specific in the categories where we have an advantage. If we are ahead, we make a greater cut. For example, in air forces and nuclear forces we would cut more in such a program—that would not be excluded. This is not a proposal but I am just citing an example.

Gromyko: The general idea of an equal ceiling I do not like.

Secretary: But as I said that is no concession. You are just talking about an agreed ceiling.

Gromyko: Yes, an agreed ceiling.

Secretary: It is not clear to me how we can consider both stages if at the end of the second stage we don’t reach agreement on a common-equal-ceiling.

Gromyko: That is impossible. Maybe after five stages. Why, after the second stage?

Secretary: We could have a first stage only or we can have a first stage plus agreement to a second stage whose ultimate objective is a common ceiling.

Gromyko: At the end of the second stage? How long would that take?

Secretary: We are open-minded.

Gromyko: I do not see the possibility. This would be against our security interests because we will reduce more than you.

Secretary: This is not just a common ceiling of U.S. and Soviet forces. This would be the whole NATO area versus the Warsaw Pact.

[Page 119]

Gromyko: You would have all of the advantages. You tell us we have more tanks.

Secretary: We do not insist on an equal ceiling in all parts including equipment. What we are talking about are equal numbers of personnel. Maybe you have a tank for every three men and maybe we have a tank for every ten men. It is up to each side.

Gromyko: I do not think this will facilitate an agreement.

Secretary: Maybe we shouldn’t agree on a second stage but agree on a first stage and no principles and say that the negotiation of the second stage would begin in three to six months.

Gromyko: What if it doesn’t come about?

Sonnenfeldt: We have no interest in stopping because we are interested in moving toward a common ceiling.

Gromyko: With a common ceiling we go down more.

Secretary: How can you maintain the principle of equality in the strategic area and not here. I remember your General Secretary telling us that we have 10,000 warheads and you only have 3,000 warheads. He insisted that we move toward a common level.

Gromyko: We like equality but we mean equal security.

Secretary: In the strategic field you tell us that we are ahead in a ratio of three to one and that we should move to an equal level.

Gromyko: No, we wish to take in many factors. What we must do is to define the correlation of the numbers. We want equal security, not equal numbers of personnel.

Secretary: We will have to look at all this again. Now let us turn to SALT. Over the long term, the basic point I was trying to make in my statement yesterday8 is that it would be impossible to maintain a realistic détente while increasing armaments. The arguments which we would have to use to increase our defense position are inconsistent with détente. People would begin asking why we should trade with you just in order to help build your military strength.

Gromyko: We will have to take a fresh look and then come to some conclusions. The West wants an equal ceiling especially in the beginning but we don’t reject this concept for later. We will continue to examine it. We attach importance to this problem. Do not be pessimistic.

Secretary: (Reading from a ticker): My colleagues at the State Department have just released the information that I have flown an average of 500 miles a day since I became Secretary of State. They say I have flown 200,000 miles since I became Secretary.

Gromyko: I am sure it will become a million.

[Page 120]

Secretary: Let me tell you about the status of my talks with Senator Jackson. We would send a letter which would say that our understanding of the Soviet position is that there would be no restriction on applications, no harassment and no serious restriction on national security grounds. Dobrynin told me that these are only one percent of the cases.

Dobrynin: That’s right. I gave you the figure.

Secretary: You said one to one and a half percent. The Senators also want something about harassment—there will be no loss of apartments, jobs or other punitive action. What we plan to do is as follows: 1. We will write a letter to the Senators embodying our understanding of the Soviet position; 2. They will answer that letter; 3. I will write that I understand what they have said. Then they will agree to a waiver provision in the Jackson Amendment. The real dispute is internal and does not concern you. Jackson wants to have the Congress vote each year to extend the waiver. We want the waiver to be extended subject to a veto by Congress. Now what do we need? You can say that the Americans can publish whatever they like. But you cannot say that what we have published is a lie.

Dobrynin: Are you going to put figures in?

Secretary: Jackson may say in his letter that he has a yardstick in his mind of 60,000.

Gromyko: If he mentions a figure, that’s just an estimate, his guess.

Secretary: He will say that he has a figure in mind and play that into a guideline. We will not mention a figure and we will not be bound by his figure but it will be in his letter.

Dobrynin: But he will say after a year, when the figures are not as high as his, that the agreement has not been fulfilled.

Secretary: Let’s be realistic. If we can show that our relations are improving and he cannot positively show restrictions or harassments, he can’t very well insist on a figure.

Gromyko: If a figure is mentioned by Jackson or others that is his responsibility. The Soviets have no responsibility. There is no harassment. There has been no harassment and there will not be any harassment. Some people may say that there is. Person X will write or make a statement that he lost his job but maybe he just doesn’t like to work. He prefers to make propaganda and politics. But the charge will be made that he has lost his job because he wanted to emigrate. But the reality is different. We cannot take responsibility for such acts. Certain actions might be called harassments but maybe they are criminal acts but these will always be limited cases and we should not be held responsible. It is not harassment.

[Page 121]

Secretary: I think that is clear but it is important that we understand certain things. First, there is no question that Jackson will try to make trouble but if our relations are good—if we make progress on SALT, CSCE and MBFR—then he won’t be able to make any arguments in favor of stopping the waiver. Jackson will be looking for examples. A few of them won’t hurt us but if there are 500 we will be in trouble. Second, something must happen to the numbers. If the total drops significantly or if there is evidence that people want to come and can’t come then we will have difficulties. Third, we could also drop the whole idea. The Senators want to put in a special provision that denial of emigration for security reasons can only go on for so many years, three or four. They want to put that in their letter.

Dobrynin: How long is it before you let your classified scientists leave the country?

Secretary: There are various categories but you give us the number of years.

Gromyko: I saw Jackson at the White House.9

Secretary: I saw that you spoke to him. Think what you could accept on the national security point.

Gromyko: We have to look at concrete cases. This could come up in a hundred forms.

Secretary: Maybe you could agree to review the security status of applicants from time to time.

Gromyko: That might be possible. Some people have already received permission. Some are connected with production or other occupations in restricted fields. But time passes. Five to ten years and they have lost their skill. Who is to judge when the security problem disappears? We are the ones who will judge that. But it could be reviewed. Three years ago it might have been impossible for a person to leave but today it is possible. That may happen. In practice it takes place.

Secretary: We will leave this up to them. I think we have carried this as far as we can. We will have a longer talk Tuesday night.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 8, Soviet Union, Aug–Sept 1974. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Hartman on September 21. The memorandum is a corrected draft that includes handwritten changes from several officials, notably Hartman himself. These changes are not substantive and have been incorporated into the text. The meeting was held at the Soviet Embassy.
  2. See Document 37.
  3. According to recent press reports, Mao was named commander of the armed forces in the draft of a new Chinese Constitution. (“China Said to Name Mao Defense Head,” The New York Times, September 21, 1974, p. 11)
  4. Jean-Bédel Bokassa, President of the Central African Republic.
  5. Idi Amin Dada, President of Uganda.
  6. Kenneth Kaunda, President of Zambia.
  7. September 24. See footnote 3, Document 43.
  8. See footnote 3, Document 28.
  9. According to a newspaper account: “Mr. Jackson, a long-time skeptic of détente with the Russians, was introduced to Mr. Gromyko on his way out of Mr. Ford’s Oval Office at the White House. They shook hands and exchanged pleasantries.” (Bernard Gwertzman, “Ford and Gromyko Join in Vowing ‘Continuing Efforts for Middle East Peace,’” The New York Times, September 21, 1974, p. 9)