40. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • USSR
  • Andrei A. Gromyko, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR
  • Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Soviet Ambassador to the U.S.
  • U.S.
  • President Gerald Ford
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

[The conversation began with greetings and initial pleasantries.]

Gromyko: Kissinger follows me very closely. I cannot afford to make a mistake.

The President: I enjoyed our talk,2 and Secretary Kissinger has filled me in on his talks with you.3

Kissinger: Just before this meeting, Gromyko gave me a response to the suggestion that we agree on nuclear reactor safeguards. That is very important.

The President: Would this have to be an agreement?

Kissinger: Yes, because the problem now is that each country sells reactors competitively.

Gromyko: On this, non-proliferation is a problem that is as important as it was ten years ago.

The President: Maybe so.

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Gromyko: Two-thirds of the states have ratified it, but the remainder haven’t. It would be good if we two did our best to get more states to ratify.

The President: I hope we could work effectively on this. I’m interested, Congress is, and if we could stabilize this . . .

Kissinger: These are two points. One is the spread of reactor technology. Maybe we can do something on this. The other is, the Foreign Minister wouldn’t want some of his allies to get the impression of condominium.

Gromyko: If you mean our real allies [smile], it is no problem. No one can predict how someone might act irresponsibly.

Kissinger: Speaking frankly, France has sold four reactors to Iran and we don’t know what safeguards there were. If we two can agree on safeguards, then we could go to the Europeans.

Dobrynin: Do you have sufficient safeguards?

Kissinger: In the Egyptian case, we have, we think, foolproof safeguards. If we two can agree and if we get the Europeans to agree, we can control the situation. We will tell you our safeguards—maybe you have better ones.

Gromyko: Sometimes Japan and Brazil are mentioned. What do you think?

The President: Japan has its own problems . . .

Kissinger: The line between weapons and peaceful uses is vague. The Indian explosion obviously has military implication.4 The Japanese have a big nuclear program but have not done any explosion yet. If they moved this way, they would go like India and could be a big power very quickly.

The President: The Japanese are having trouble with their ship.

Dobrynin: Leakage on their nuclear vessel.

Gromyko: Fukuda told me Japan would not do it.

Kissinger: We have no idea they are moving.

Dobrynin: In the PRC they have a new Commander-in-Chief.5

The President: One of the points we discussed yesterday. I agree with you and I think it was a constructive speech.6 I was looking over the report on our defense appropriations—that was my expertise in Congress. And Congress has given us a good list with what we need to move ahead. I want you to know that despite the strength they gave me to move ahead, we want to cooperate with you—but if we have to com[Page 125]pete, we will. The American people will accept a planned equality, but if we are going to compete, the American people will want me to—and I will—keep the country in a strong position.

Gromyko: There are two ways to go: if we move ahead while negotiating. We could say to our peoples we will work on some areas. The first way is to say: stay strong while negotiating; the other is to say: the main task is to find areas for cooperation. When you go the first direction, we ask how we should report to our people. Now we prefer the second approach.

The President: We believe in restraint. But we must assure the American people that while we go through this process, our strength is adequate. I must assure that the American people are not in jeopardy.

Gromyko: It is difficult to find a way to cut the knot. Partial solutions are the more practical way to approach the problem. We just discussed non-proliferation.

The President: Competition which drains you and us is not useful. But until we can see the progress which can be made, I must preserve our security. The American people want us to move forward, but want to be secure also. Don’t feel what I’m saying is to upset what I am talking about, but it is to assure the American people that as we move ahead our people are adequately protected.

Gromyko: I can assure you we will carry out our policy. We don’t like some things we see on the U.S. scene—like Jackson—but it will not dissuade us. The summit conferences and any other talks will continue. The U.S., Soviet Union, Europeans—and even the PRC—do not want tension. But we won’t give up what belongs to us. But we want to help be good neighbors. It is nothing directed against the United States. We want good relations with Europe—and with China, but we will not give up territory which belongs to us. We proceed from that assumption. We are not against your good relations with Eastern Europe, if it is based on mutual respect and security.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, 1973–1977, Box 6. Secret; Nodis. All brackets are in the original. The meeting was held in the Oval Office.
  2. See Document 37.
  3. See Document 38.
  4. India tested its first nuclear weapon at Pokhran on May 18.
  5. See footnote 3, Document 38.
  6. See footnote 10, Document 37.