66. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Leonid I. Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Central Committee, CPSU
- Andrey A. Gromyko, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR
- Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Soviet Ambassador to the United States
- Andrey M. Aleksandrov-Agentov, Assistant to the General Secretary
- Georgiy M. Korniyenko, Chief, USA Dept., Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Viktor M. Sukhodrev, Second European Dept., Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Interpreter)
- Oleg Sokolov, USA Dept., Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President
- Walter J. Stoessel, Jr., US Ambassador to the USSR
- Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor, Department of State
- Alfred L. Atherton, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
- William G. Hyland, Director, INR
- Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
- Jackson Amendment; CSCE; Middle East; Nuclear War
Kissinger: I am sorry I’m so late. There is absolutely no excuse. Your Chief of Protocol told our people you were ready, and no one told me.
Brezhnev: No problem.
Kissinger: It is a problem. I’m profoundly embarrassed.
Brezhnev: Did Gromyko give you soup for lunch?
Kissinger: About eight courses. I had enough energy to get here, believe me.
Brezhnev: I was able to get some work done.
Kissinger: I thought the meeting was being delayed, and I was getting some of my work done. There was no reason for me to delay. Your Chief of Protocol told three or four of my people, and each of them thought someone else was telling me.
Dobrynin: They’re all afraid of Henry![Page 197]
Brezhnev: Jackson would accuse the Soviet Union. I’m not angry.
Kissinger: You should be angry at me. But I’m not well disposed towards [this].
Brezhnev: Let’s talk about logic, then. You remember we once discussed whether it was a science.
Kissinger: Yes. I don’t remember what conclusion we came to.
Brezhnev: That it was a science.
Kissinger: I studied logic, symbolic logic. Military logic I always had my doubts about. Wars are always lost by some general whose logic looked good at the beginning.
Brezhnev: Everyone loses.
[Brezhnev’s alarm bell goes off in the center of the table.]
Kissinger: I need one of those. Is it to stop people when they talk too much?
Brezhnev: No, it’s to start businesslike discussions.
At the end of this morning’s meeting,2 you named four points you wanted to comment on.
Kissinger: Well, I commented on the points that dealt with the domestic situation.
Brezhnev: Incidentally—[he gestures to the notetakers]—this isn’t for the record; don’t write it—how is the domestic situation now? Is the fever all over?
Kissinger: Your Ambassador is a better judge of it than I am. My judgment is that the high point of the fever has now passed. After the resignation of President Nixon, it continued to rise for a few more weeks. But now the high point has been passed, and as I pointed out earlier, after the [Congressional] elections we will be in a much stronger position. Regardless of the outcome. The Democrats will gain some seats, but I think we have public support on foreign policy.
Brezhnev: That’s interesting.
[Dobrynin explains to Brezhnev that the elections are for the whole House and one-third of the Senate.]
What is your forecast as to the Congressional elections?
Kissinger: One-third of the Senate and all of the House of Representatives will be elected.
Brezhnev: How many in the Senate?
Kissinger: It’s 100, so 33 or 34 are up for election—I don’t know which number is up this year. And the Democrats will make consider[Page 198]able gains. But this doesn’t prove anything for the conduct of foreign policy, because they will make their gains largely on the domestic economic situation. On the other hand, there was a recent poll in the last two weeks—which shows on foreign policy—in which my personal popularity was at 80%—which is extraordinary for a non-elected official. Or an elected official.
Dobrynin: Number one in history.
Kissinger: So that enables us, when we can make an issue in foreign policy, to be extremely effective. You cannot do that in a Congressional election because each representative runs in his own district, separately. So I think you will see a much stronger assertion of executive authority as soon as the election is over.
We would welcome, . . . for example, if we came to an understanding on strategic arms, we would welcome a debate on that issue to get started in America.
Dobrynin: After the election.
Kissinger: For example, when I made my statement on Soviet-American relations,3 we invited Senator Jackson to reply to it, because we wanted to get a debate started. And he refused to reply, because he was afraid of a confrontation. So I say this to you privately—we intend to provoke a confrontation at an early date on foreign policy. But not before the elections.
Brezhnev: There is one thing I really fail to understand: What are really the underlying motives behind the individuals and groups that oppose the betterment of Soviet-American relations?
Kissinger: I’ll give you my analysis. There are the conservatives, who have always been anti-Soviet, who represent the Dulles 4 position of the 1950’s. There is the Jewish Community, for two reasons: One on the question of Jewish emigration, and secondly, because they accuse me—which you may find amusing—of conducting our Middle East policy in too close cooperation with the Soviet Union. They would like a situation in the Middle East in which the Soviet Union is on one side and the United States is on the other side, so then there is unlimited support for Israel. Thirdly, there are the intellectuals, who were anti-Nixon and who had to find a reason to be against whatever he was for. And all these people combine for different reasons. And the intellectuals also because of what they claim is happening to intellectuals in the Soviet Union. But I don’t rate intellectuals all that high.
So these are the different forces that are for different reasons at work. But I think they can now be defeated, because they are not [Page 199] dealing with a President who has no public support. Our problem has been, with the pardon, inflation and the election, that we have not been able to get sufficiently organized to launch a counterattack. But there is no question that between now and the beginning of the year we can get our position organized.
Brezhnev: Does the President or Secretary of State have any opportunities to influence the results of the election in this one-third of the seats?
Kissinger: The President is campaigning, and he will probably reduce the defeat.
Brezhnev: I was asking just to clear my mind about the workings of the American political system.
Kissinger: I could have a big impact—perhaps more than the President because I’m not considered a partisan political figure. But it would be extremely dangerous. If we had an issue on foreign policy, on which we could start a debate . . . This was my intention during the summer, to start a debate on détente. I nearly succeeded, because at that time Senator Jackson agreed to debate. I could have hurt him badly. But the debate was supposed to start during the week President Nixon resigned. And then Senator Jackson used that excuse to avoid the debate.
For me to participate in a debate, there has to be an issue. I cannot appear against a candidate. But if I can identify a candidate with an issue, and I debate on the issue, I can be very effective for a candidate—or against.
For example, suppose we came to a SALT agreement in principle in Vladivostok. The strong probability is Senator Jackson will attack it. Then I can go around the country and defend the agreement, and thereby attacking Jackson. Or any other issue. But for me to be politically effective I have to have an issue; I can’t just attack him.
[To Dobrynin:] Do you agree with my analysis?
Dobrynin: Yes. But it’s not a question of the election, really, but of a public issue.
Kissinger: Yes, if I have a public issue, I’ll almost certainly win.
Brezhnev: Can we help you in any way, by throwing in a problem or two? [Laughter]
Kissinger: The best way is if you and I are on the same side and Jackson is on the other.
Brezhnev: I agree.
Kissinger: Then we’ll almost certainly win.
Brezhnev: Excuse me for this digressing, but I think it was useful. Now let’s return to the questions you enumerated this morning.
Kissinger: On the issues the General Secretary mentioned, there were two I didn’t reply to—one was the European Security Conference and the other was the Middle East.[Page 200]
Brezhnev: And MFN?
Dobrynin: He covered that.
Kissinger: I thought I covered MFN, but let me cover that too.
With respect to MFN, the reason we exchanged these letters was to make it possible to pass the Trade Bill before the end of the year. And we can be confident now the Trade Bill will pass before the end of December.
Brezhnev: The end of December.
Kissinger: Before the end of December, which will provide MFN as well as credits again for the Soviet Union.
Dobrynin: There are limitations there.
Kissinger: The limitations on credits were substantially eliminated. It has to be a Presidential determination . . .
Dobrynin: And there is a ceiling, over which the President has to go to Congress.
Kissinger: To report, not for approval.
Korniyenko: A $300 million limitation.
Kissinger: That was eliminated.
Dobrynin: Our impression is that that remains.
Kissinger: But you don’t understand. We have to notify Congress, but not for their approval.
Dobrynin: But they can raise it.
Kissinger: The point is, Congress has no mechanism for disapproving it. It’s not subject to Congressional vote.
Dobrynin: But to notify Congress, each Senator can say “look at this.”
Kissinger: But so what? What can he do?
Dobrynin: They can raise objections.
Kissinger: No, there are several ways Congress can give an opinion. Congress can give an opinion in an affirmative vote. Not here. Or stop something by a negative vote. Not here. Here all we do is inform them. So therefore this has no practical consequence.
Dobrynin: [To Brezhnev] Information.
Kissinger: As a practical matter . . . the ceiling is a different matter. There are two separate questions. We have no intention of paying attention to what we’re told up to $300 million. Beyond $300 million, we have the right to go back for more. Normally an authorization is limited, but this gives us the right to ask for more.
Dobrynin: They will have to vote again.
Kissinger: That is right.
[Dobrynin explains to Brezhnev.][Page 201]
Our intention is, as soon as this Trade Bill is passed, to begin entertaining requests for credits, and to deal with them in the most expeditious and constructive manner. And we’re prepared to ask for an extension beyond $300 million. But we expect this to pass by the middle of December. The Bank has already passed; the Bank is tied to the Trade Bill.
Brezhnev: I’ve only mentioned the fact earlier: the trouble is that some countries get trade concessions without strings attached, and there are some strings attached to the Soviet Union.
Dobrynin: He is speaking about MFN.
Kissinger: I’m not sure MFN will be granted to China, as the General Secretary asked about.
Brezhnev: I mean the 18-month clause.
Kissinger: There is no question the Jackson Amendment is intended to be discriminatory against the Soviet Union.
Brezhnev: That’s clear.
Kissinger: I have fought it for two years, as the General Secretary knows, and as you can read in the American press this week, it’s now described as a defeat for me. I say this only so the General Secretary knows my own personal views. It is our conviction that in the present Congressional situation this is the best we can do. And of course we have every intention, and I think every expectation, of renewing it when it comes up for renewal. And I’m sure President Ford will confirm this when you meet him. Nor do we have any intention—and I can assure of this now—of linking the renewal of MFN to any other conditions.
Brezhnev: All right, but as I understand it, the 18-month clause does relate only to the Soviet Union.
Kissinger: It relates technically to “non-market countries,” which means all socialist countries.
[Dobrynin explains to Brezhnev that it’s technical language and the Soviet Union is not named.]
The great anti-Communist Jackson is in favor of Most Favored Nation status for China, without conditions. Despite the well-known fact that emigration for China is absolutely free. But it is true there are no Jews in China who want to emigrate.
Brezhnev: Just the other day I heard there are about 200 million Chinese who want to emigrate to the United States.
Kissinger: [Laughs] If this were true, it would stop the emigration agitation immediately.
Gromyko: What would be the effect of 100 million Russians emigrating to the United States?[Page 202]
Kissinger: I tell you, if all your Jews wanted to emigrate to the United States, it would be a massive problem. It is true. I don’t think Congress would let anyone immigrate.
As far as Most Favored Nation with China, I’m not aware of any discussions with China about giving them Most Favored Nation status. We haven’t had any with them.
Brezhnev: Be that as it may, it is a fact—and let’s admit that in this narrow circle—that the discriminatory attitude toward the Soviet Union does remain, and this does run counter to the understanding we have reached on basic attitudes in each country towards each other.
Kissinger: I do not defend this particular arrangement, but it’s the best we can do, and we’re convinced we can continue it indefinitely.
Brezhnev: That doesn’t mean we must accept that.
Kissinger: No. Unfortunately, the question of credits also has been tied to the question of Most Favored Nation.
Brezhnev: That is true.
[Kissinger and Sonnenfeldt confer.]
I don’t want to run too far ahead; that would be wrong. But if we were to look 5–7 years ahead, the general picture—including energy, oil, gas, etc.—can change drastically.
Kissinger: I don’t get the point. Could you repeat that?
Sukhodrev: If we look ahead 5–7 years, we can see the general picture—with respect to energy, oil, gas—can change drastically.
Brezhnev: Anyway, I do understand the general situation, and your situation, Dr. Kissinger. Let’s end the discussion of that and turn to whatever you want to say on the Middle East or European Security Conference.
Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe
Kissinger: Let me turn to the European Security Conference.
Kissinger: The General Secretary stated we were insufficiently cooperative.
Brezhnev: That’s not right; I said “not enough activity [aktivnost’].” There is cooperation; “activity” is another question.
Kissinger: One of the difficulties, quite frankly, on the European Security Conference, is that some of the issues are so absurd that it’s very hard to apply political influence to them. On some issues there are only three people in the world—in whom the Foreign Minister belongs—who understand what they’re all about. I frankly, even after a night’s reflection, Mr. Foreign Minister, don’t understand the difference between “each principle has equal validity” and “each principle [Page 203] should be equally observed.” I tell you now I will accept either formulation if the other participants agree, whichever it is.
Gromyko: That is only part of the general formula being suggested. Because there is also “equally valid and interdependent,” which the Germans want.
Kissinger: [To Sonnenfeldt] Why do the nutty Germans want “interdependent?”
Sonnenfeldt: [To Kissinger] It’s a French point.
Gromyko: Actually we understand the line pursued by proponents of that formula. When they say the principles should be interdependent—actually it’s “each principle should be equally valid and interdependent”—they mean that if someone says, say, that a humane principle isn’t being observed, for example, means that the others should not be observed.
Kissinger: But it works both ways.
Gromyko: It’s like little wheels in a watch. If one stops revolving, the others do.
Kissinger: If you claim one isn’t being observed, you can also say the others aren’t applicable. It’s much more dangerous to the Germans than to you.
Gromyko: Our point of view is different. We believe that even if somebody doesn’t observe one principle, it doesn’t mean an end should be put to observance of all the rest. Let’s say some shouter, say in West Germany—but let’s not name any countries—says because some principle, say a humane principle—someone is refused an exit visa—then all the other principles, like inviolability of frontiers, shouldn’t be observed either. The objective position would be to say that all principles, from A to Z—10 or 11 or what have you—should be equally strictly observed.
Kissinger: My difficulty is I don’t understand half of the issues being argued about. I understand this one, but let me be perfectly frank. If you have a concrete negotiation, you can go and use influence. But when the issue is where to place one phrase, whether to put it before or after another one, it’s extremely difficult to use the prestige of the United States to put pressure and be accused of betraying an ally. What’s happened with the European Security Conference is that every government is using it for purely domestic purposes, proving how tough it can be because it’s running no risk. In Ottawa I told them what the result would be.5 But it’s impossible to put pressure on a stupid point.[Page 204]
Gromyko: Tell them more energetically.
Kissinger: I don’t want to go through all this before the General Secretary. Let me give you my own prediction. I believe it must be wound up. It’s impossible to keep it going on these issues. It’s an affront to logic. Probably the end of March is a reasonable time it should be wound up. Thirdly, what are the issues? On the principles, it’s “peaceful change” and this point about “equally observed” and “equal validity.”
Gromyko: That’s two separate questions.
Kissinger: That’s two separate questions. These are essentially German questions. No one else is interested in them. Then there is Basket III, and there is Confidence-Building Measures. Confidence-Building Measures will be settled, whatever the proposals are, because the difference between 50 and 100 kilometers, and between 20,000 and 40,000, can be compromised. So we’re talking about Basket III and peaceful change.
With respect to Basket III, after the first reading, we have the approval of our allies to develop a common position. Until there is a common position, we understand your reluctance to compromise.
Regarding the two German points, Mr. Sonnenfeldt is leaving to see Schmidt before Schmidt comes here. He will express my personal view.
Gromyko: [To Sonnenfeldt] We will look at you!
Kissinger: And he may even be on time for Schmidt.
And you’ll see President Ford, and he will see Schmidt in Washington. We think it has to be brought to a conclusion. And he’s between you, us, and Schmidt. Maybe also Giscard, whom we’ll also see on the 15th. December will be a good time to work this out.
I wonder whether the Foreign Minister’s fertile mind, aided by Korniyenko, can come up with an idea on peaceful change—even if it’s only to move the word “only” around in the center. So Genscher can say he’s got a victory on something. I frankly don’t believe that at the level of the Foreign Offices this can be settled, so when President Ford and Schmidt and Giscard meet, it can probably be settled.
Brezhnev: All right. Maybe we shouldn’t now endeavor to go into every detail on this. Perhaps you and Gromyko and Korniyenko can spend some time on it before you leave.
Kissinger: [To Sukhodrev] Did you translate what I said about the end of March?
Sukhodrev: Yes. The conclusion of the Conference.
Kissinger: All I can do is repeat: The President and you will discuss it at Vladivostok, and by the end of December we can bring it to a concrete point.[Page 205]
Brezhnev: Since the United States is also a participant in the European Security Conference, we have a very earnest desire to write into the European Security Conference that the United States should notify us about all movements of its Navy and all movements of its troops in the United States all the way to California.
Kissinger: Dobrynin knows it anyway.
Brezhnev: Dobrynin hasn’t told me about it. Because otherwise you say it doesn’t concern the United States; that it’s a German question, a French question. Let’s all build confidence.
Kissinger: But the summer house where Dobrynin spends all his time has more electronic equipment . . . It goes out to the Atlantic. You want to cover California too?
Brezhnev: All the way to California.
Kissinger: I think the question of military maneuvers will be settled.
Brezhnev: You know, the unfortunate thing is, I turned out to be the author of this proposal about notification of troop movements. It sometimes happens that a man proceeds from the best of intentions and makes a mistake in not predicting what form it takes in someone else’s eyes. I am admitting it very frankly. We had a discussion with the late President Pompidou at Zaslavoye,6 and the question didn’t even exist then. I said to him, “Let’s do something to strengthen confidence. After all, any army doesn’t just live in barracks and go out to mess room. They conduct maneuvers; they move tanks and planes. Let’s invite your representatives, and anyone’s representatives, to attend these maneuvers to observe them, and that would strengthen confidence.” No sooner did I say this than it was turned into an idea of opening up the whole Soviet Union, to the Urals. The question didn’t exist before I mentioned it.
Aleksandrov: You let the genie out of the bottle!
Brezhnev: I let the genie out of the bottle, and now every country is coming back at me—the Greeks, the Turks, the Dutch, Belgium.
Kissinger: Anyone who can get the Greeks and Turks to agree on anything has already accomplished something.
Brezhnev: If that is so, we have to report to you and Canada about any troop movement.
Aleksandrov: Let you and Canada report!
Kissinger: We already know what you’re doing.
Brezhnev: Of course.[Page 206]
Kissinger: Not every company, but every substantial movement.
Brezhnev: In the last ten years, we’ve had no more than two major military exercises, “Dniepr” and “Dvina.” One was “Dniepr,” when the Kiev Military District was supposed to mount an offensive against the Belorussian Military District. Who won, I can’t say, because there was no real firing. But all the general officers there watched the Air Force come in with correct precision, and other movements. So if Grechko favors the Kiev Military District, he just announces Kiev has won. If for some reason he supports Belorussia, he announces they won. Thank God I wasn’t present; I’d have said they both won.
The only extenuating factor for me is that I came out for that proposal guided by the noblest of intentions. But now others have turned it into a principle.
Kissinger: I’m aware of the differences of opinion that exist.
Brezhnev: Anyway, I raise the point by way of suggesting voluntary observers—that is, if we want to invite them, we do, and if we don’t, we don’t. In short, I think we should at some point discuss it in greater detail, especially taking into account your view of reaching a solution.
One thing that troubles me is that you seem to agree with those who emphasize the great difficulty of reaching agreement on peaceful change of frontiers.
The second point is I’m sick and tired of endless delays in bringing the Conference to a close. It was once to be ended in 1972. Then it was supposed to be in 1973, then in 1974. Now we hear it’s March 1975.
Kissinger: I myself think March 1975 is realistic. Don’t you?
Gromyko: If that is so, it’s only because there are some who artificially cling to that time limit, who try artificially to hold back on it.
Kissinger: There is no issue between the United States and the Soviet Union. If I had a major concern here, I’d insist on it. The General Secretary knows I’m not exactly bashful about stating my views. So it’s a question of how between the two of us we can manage the ending of the Conference. It’s now practically impossible to do it in November.
May I make a concrete proposal, Mr. General Secretary?
Kissinger: We will make an effort in the next two months to move our allies to a conclusion. You will see Schmidt and Giscard, and you let us know what you discussed with them with respect to this Conference. We will see Schmidt and Giscard, and we’ll let you know what we discussed. So as to avoid confusion. Then early in January, you may wish to send Korniyenko, or maybe you’d send Gromyko, to America, and we could after all these discussions see where we are.[Page 207]
Gromyko: The important thing is that in our contacts with Schmidt and Giscard we should act from one and the same position and not in different positions.
Kissinger: I agree. But I think we should do it in parallel, but not give the impression we have an agreement.
Gromyko: The French would be overenthusiastic if they felt we were acting jointly with you.
Kissinger: They would be delighted.
Brezhnev: I certainly agree we don’t need to use virtually the same words in expounding our position with Giscard and Schmidt, but we should act in parallel and in one and the same direction.
Kissinger: I agree.
Brezhnev: Perhaps you could have a word or two with the Foreign Minister.
Gromyko: The basic thing is to talk in parallel.
Kissinger: Our basic talk with Schmidt is not when Sonnenfeldt is there, but when the President meets with Schmidt in Washington. But I’ll send a message to Schmidt through Sonnenfeldt that we believe the Conference should be brought to a conclusion.
Brezhnev: When I say we should act along the same line, I mean while you are here in Moscow, you and Gromyko should agree on the main principles. Because if those basic principles are agreed on between us, Sonnenfeldt can be given more explicit instructions.
Kissinger: We can have a talk, but in our view the realistic time to make progress is when the President sees Schmidt.
Brezhnev: It’s certainly true that more concrete results can be achieved in a summit, but at the lower level some preliminary work can be done.
Kissinger: I agree.
Brezhnev: And I certainly could not conceive of this question not being touched upon when I meet President Ford.
Kissinger: No question. We are prepared to discuss it.
Are we finished with this question?
Gromyko: In effect, you were replying to the observations made by the General Secretary this morning.
Kissinger: That’s correct.
Gromyko: Because the questions we did mention regarding the European Security Conference are the issues that are now holding up the Conference.
Kissinger: I agree. And my point is that your basic problem is not the United States.[Page 208]
Can we have a two-minute break?
Brezhnev: Yes. Then we can take up the Middle East.
Kissinger: I don’t insist on it!
Brezhnev: Then tomorrow morning we can start with an easy subject—SALT. Things are simpler there.
Kissinger: All right.
Brezhnev: And Dr. Kissinger, if you’d like to have a break now . . .
[There was a break from 7:45–8:02 p.m.]
Brezhnev: I used the time in our interval to joke with my Secretary, Galya. I’m in a better mood.
Kissinger: I wish I could speak Russian.
Brezhnev: No, that’s not for you anymore. Please.
Kissinger: Should I say something about the Middle East? Of course you have had contacts with the Middle East more recently than I, so your information is more current.
Gromyko: [Laughs] Your contacts were broader!
Brezhnev: True, I met with Fahmy recently and with Asad before that.
Very briefly, what I learned during my contacts with Asad was, his basic philosophy is that he believes the problem of the Middle East has not been concluded yet. And according to him, Israeli troops and Syrian troops have dug in and are sitting in their trenches opposite each other. He asked us for assistance in the form of certain types of arms, and spares. But I did not discuss any specific matters with him in terms of such assistance. I asked him about his opinion on the fulfillment by us of deliveries on old contracts, and he said he was quite satisfied, and that’s all. And I didn’t meet with him again on his way back from Korea.
Kissinger: I’ve never heard him express a complaint about the Soviet Union.
Brezhnev: He certainly had no complaints about anything done under the old contracts. But when he was here last—I don’t remember when it was—he said he would look into what further requirements Syria had and he would send us any additional requests.
One thing that both Asad and Fahmy said was that the United States had not only restored Israel’s military might—that is, replaced equipment that was damaged during the war—but also considerably increased Israel’s military strength, to the tune of several billion dollars. Since it’s a very delicate matter, I didn’t question him about the types of [Page 209] arms the United States is supposed to have delivered to Israel, but that is what he said anyway.
As regards Sadat, you and I both know about as much about his position, because he has on many occasions stated that the airlift by the United States to Israel was much more intense than the Soviet airlift to Egypt.
Kissinger: If he didn’t say that, he would have to admit his army was defeated. It is easier to blame us than to accept the responsibility. Or to blame you.
Brezhnev: Dr. Kissinger, I’m just relating in good faith the gist of what he told me; I’m not going into questions such as the motives he had for various statements or whether he’s playing a double game.
Kissinger: [Laughs] No Arab would play a double game in this. [Gromyko suppresses a smile.]
Brezhnev: As I see it, Fahmy’s main question which he set out to settle was my visit to Cairo. The question is not a new one. They have been raising this question for quite a few years, without linking it outwardly to the military aspect. You know, aside from the military aspect, we also have economic cooperation. Sadat raised the issue of my visit to Egypt on several occasions, in writing and verbally, saying “I’ve been to the Soviet Union five or seven times, so why can’t Comrade Brezhnev come to Cairo?” True, I’ve never been to Cairo. So we discussed the question and decided I should perhaps go sometime in January.
Kissinger: I think it’s a good idea.
Brezhnev: There has to be some contact.
Kissinger: I think that’s right.
Brezhnev: Of course, in questions of principle nothing will change according to the place where we conduct talks, whether here where you’re sitting, or there—the question of the principle of settling the question. There was troop disengagement, and quite some time has passed since then, and we have been repeating our position all along. You have been able to see we don’t change our policy from week to week.
Kissinger: From our point of view, we have no problem on your going to Egypt, and we have told this to the Egyptians.
Brezhnev: I took this decision in consultation with my comrades. I had no wish to compete with representatives of other countries who go there often, like Dr. Kissinger. We don’t see it as competitive.
Kissinger: Mr. General Secretary, we have both seen fluctuating events in the Middle East in the last ten years. I in any event don’t believe in gratitude in foreign policy—but especially in the Middle East. I think neither of us can gain a permanent advantage at the expense of [Page 210] the other, and any attempt by either of us to do so is going to be entirely futile.
Brezhnev: We have never wanted to, not even as a distant objective.
Kissinger: And we don’t want to either.
Brezhnev: We have emphasized and reemphasized the need for all states in the region, including Israel, to be given guarantees of . . .
Kissinger: We noticed in the Foreign Minister’s address at the UN 7 . . .
Gromyko: I took part on behalf of the Soviet Union in working out the establishment of the State of Israel in 1947.
Kissinger: I noticed also in the speech of the Foreign Minister at the UN a reference to that. I think the Foreign Minister should visit Israel, because the demonstrators shouldn’t have only me.
Brezhnev: You didn’t pay attention to what I said?
Kissinger: I of course pay attention to what you said.
Brezhnev: You pay attention only to Foreign Ministers.
Gromyko: If I go to Israel, the Israelis will send me to Golgotha.
Kissinger: No, the reason is that there are groups of demonstrators there. The same groups that applauded President Nixon will be brought out to applaud the General Secretary in Cairo, and the same group that demonstrates against me in Israel will be employed against Minister Gromyko.
Brezhnev: If only we even contemplated acting against the independence of Israel, it would surely wreck our prestige in the whole world.
Kissinger: Let me make a few observations about the Middle East.
Brezhnev: If I may say two words, Henry.
Brezhnev: What I feel to be abnormal is this: You and we agreed on certain principles to end the conflict and establish peace in that area. We are grateful to the United States for having together with us, so to say, formalized our desire to seek a settlement in the Middle East through Security Council decisions and to seek a solution through the Geneva Conference formula. But then, gradually, this agreement began to be violated, and it is even now my view that a line is being taken to postpone the Geneva Conference and even to prevent it from taking place. But what alternative is there?
There is also a practical aspect of this question. You’re familiar with the situation in the Middle East—you have been there often [Page 211] enough—and I think you will agree with me that the explosiveness of the situation is still very much in evidence. What the explosion will be, I can’t say for the moment, or what consequences it will have for the general climate of peace. But a new explosion is certain to raise all the issues of war and peace, and accusations against the United States or the other side. Whether it will happen in one or two years, I can’t say. But the powderkeg is still there, and I must raise this for us as great powers. In short, I’m merely repeating what we asked Comrade Gromyko to communicate both to you and President Ford when he was in Washington.8
Kissinger: And this he did, with great . . .
Brezhnev: And what we have to do now is not to seek justification for our actions but find ways to solve the problems, because things are bound to move in the direction of war if no solution is found. Of course, if President Sadat or President Asad have given you their agreement to something we don’t know about, that is something else.
Kissinger: President Sadat and President Asad are so busy watching each other, they don’t have time to give agreements to third parties.
Brezhnev: That is a fact too. President Sadat thinks in one way and President Asad doesn’t agree with him. The Palestinians too are in disagreement with certain things. But they are a people, and their problem has to be resolved.
Kissinger: I have one achievement in the Middle East, which I claim as an American achievement, not under joint auspices. Which is that King Faisal says he prays for me five times a day, and I doubt he prays for the General Secretary.
Brezhnev: I don’t suppose he does, though they do of course pray a lot.
Gromyko: The question is which God to pray to, the right one or the wrong one.
Kissinger: He doesn’t pray for Gromyko either.
Brezhnev: I don’t know who it was, but a couple of years ago there was a high-ranking Libyan who was here negotiating with Kosygin. In the middle of his meeting he said, “Excuse me, I have to go to pray.” And right in Kosygin’s office he fell on his knees to pray. [Laughter]
Gromyko: By coincidence he chose the corner where there were busts of Marx and Engels!
Kissinger: Considering all the arms Libya got, this must be an effective method of negotiating with Kosygin.[Page 212]
Brezhnev: It must be. 15–20,000 tanks, 9–10,000 planes, and God knows how much else.
Kissinger: They will pave the Western Desert so they can keep it all there.
Have I ever told the General Secretary what Asad said to me? He told me the reason we arm Israel is because we don’t want Russian arms to defeat American arms. Therefore he says we should give him American arms, so then American arms would be defeating American arms and we would have no reason to intervene.
Brezhnev: That’s what you should do.
Kissinger: And I’d be impeached the next day!
Once I told him we would discuss strategic arms in Moscow. And he thought the best solution was that both of us deposit all our strategic arms in Syria, and Syria would be the trustee and would find good use for them. I accepted. But I told him your missiles were so much heavier than ours that you probably couldn’t move them down there.
Brezhnev: Their territory is too small.
Kissinger: [Laughs] That is true.
Brezhnev: And yet, Dr. Kissinger, the problem is still with us and it is a serious one. And joking apart—though joking has a role to play in our discussions—we should really have a serious exchange of views on what we should do to prevent a new war with unforeseen consequences.
Kissinger: I agree. I agree the situation is dangerous. And I’ve told the General Secretary that his analysis in San Clemente [in 1973] was more correct than ours.
Brezhnev: On my honor, I did not at that time know there was going to be a new war on that date. I had no discussion with the Arabs, either at that time or any other time, up to the beginning of the October war. I simply saw the situation developing.
Kissinger: I personally believe it, though there are many in America who do not.
Brezhnev: You certainly have my word.
Kissinger: No, I believe it. And I’ve had our intelligence people do an analysis of all the information we can piece together, and I believe it.
Brezhnev: Nothing. Nothing. [Nichevo]
Kissinger: We think you knew about three days before.
Brezhnev: Even less than that. We were simply notified, at such a time and in such a form that we were absolutely deprived of any possibility of doing anything about it. And added to this should be the fact that you knew for three years before that happened, that even though we helped the Arabs we did our best to moderate the Arab position. In [Page 213] the hope that we would find common language with the United States and act jointly. But unfortunately you didn’t take that position.
Kissinger: My honest belief is that until San Clemente you attempted to restrain the Arabs. After San Clemente you made no further effort to restrain them, but you did not particularly know they were going to attack. You even mildly encouraged them, but without specific knowledge they were going to attack.
Brezhnev: I deny even a mild form of encouragement. You know the events that occurred. Sadat by his own volition asked us to withdraw our military advisers. And we did it without a word. And that was a political action.
Kissinger: That we didn’t know about. Mr. General Secretary, let me go back to the subject.
Brezhnev: Let us indeed discuss ways to really ensure peace in the area so there is no detriment to Arabs or Israelis.
Kissinger: We would like to solve the problem, and whatever we have done has not had any intention of hurting the Soviet Union. Supposing tomorrow the United States would succeed alone, without the Soviet Union, to restore the ’67 boundaries, the West Bank, and Jerusalem, and return of the refugees. From your knowledge of the Arabs, do you believe this would give us any permanent advantage? I don’t. I don’t believe gratitude gives any lasting advantage. Now we give some economic aid to Egypt; for a few years you had a monopoly on economic aid to Egypt. Does that make us permanently more influential in Egypt? I doubt it. Whenever anything goes wrong in an Arab country, they blame their benefactors. And the only people for whom they have a nostalgia are their opponents.
I say this to you, Mr. General Secretary: You have to separate the tactical issues from the strategic issue. If we look at the situation realistically, in ten years we will both be present in the Middle East. And we are prepared to respect this and we assume you are prepared to respect this. That is the strategic fact.
Let me say a word about the tactical situation. In the tactical situation, we face a problem of unusual complexity which you probably cannot understand. We face the problem that we have a minority group in America of unusual economic and political influence. And therefore the problem of a solution in the Middle East has for us domestic connotations that it cannot have for you. I speak to you in great candor, so that you understand our problem. Secondly, we have a very particular relationship to Israel. And therefore it is inevitable that we have to proceed step by step.
If I review the negotiations before the October War between your Foreign Minister and us, there are two attributes to them. Your Foreign [Page 214] Minister has produced plans of great complexity and great detail, and secondly, their practical effect was that it was the United States that should impose them on Israel. So you’re asking . . . The end result was that the United States was asked to plunge itself into a major domestic crisis, for what? And since there was no difference between that plan and the Arab plan, why shouldn’t we deal directly with the Arabs? Since they were all asking us the same thing. So we have always had great difficulty understanding what it is that the Soviet Union was adding to the discussion. On the substance it supported every Arab position, and on the tactics we were forced to impose it unilaterally on Israel.
There are many objectives on which we agree with you. But it is a necessity of our situation that we proceed step by step. This is not a diabolical American maneuver. In fact I enjoyed foreign policy much more before I became involved in the Middle East. In fact for five years I refused to touch the Middle East. But then when necessity impelled us into it, I had to find a way to ease matters, and to avoid an unmanageable domestic situation.
I’m speaking very frankly with you; I could give you a long theoretical speech. I hope you reestablish diplomatic relations with Israel so you can have the privilege of dealing with the Israeli Cabinet at some point. I don’t know why I should bear it alone.
But this is the problem. So if we can ever work out concrete measures that don’t lead immediately to a comprehensive attempt to handle all the issues, we don’t exclude the Soviet Union from a settlement, let alone from the Middle East. We couldn’t anyway.
And since I’m certain every Arab tells everything to everybody, you know we’ve never said anything anti-Soviet to any Arab.
So this is the problem. We are willing to discuss a possible solution to it.
Brezhnev: [thinks] All right, well, what can I say to that? In fact I heard the gist of this explanation before.
Kissinger: From me?
Brezhnev: From our various exchanges of correspondence, from the actions taken in the Middle East, from the general state of affairs. But that isn’t the crux of the matter. No one wants to exclude anyone from anywhere. And every state decides for itself whom and in what measure it wants to deal with. You maintain relations with dozens of African States and so do we, and that question doesn’t arise. But here aggression has been committed, and Arab lands seized, and there has been war. And great hopes are being pinned on us, especially since we both came out before the world in favor of a joint position. We have taken the role of guarantors of a peaceful solution. Nowhere has it been [Page 215] said it would be done at galloping pace, and it was only by way of a statement of principle that it was said that both sides would act as guarantors of a peaceful solution.
You have been explaining, in fact, a different kind of problem, when you say that for domestic reasons you are acting on a different tactical plane. But those same domestic problems existed at the time we reached the agreement on those principles. Nothing has changed. There was a certain number of American citizens of Jewish origin, and that number continues to exist—maybe it’s increased a little, but they are still there. But now, instead of giving an explanation on the substance of the issue, you have been discussing something completely different. Instead of explaining why there cannot be joint efforts in the Geneva Conference, you talk about somebody trying to exclude somebody. But that’s not the crux of the issue.
Now you say you’re now giving economic assistance to Egypt. But we’ve never uttered a word of protest, because long before you, we have given economic assistance—the High Dam, and plants. When the President visited Cairo,9 we uttered not a word of complaint; Sadat is planning a visit to the United States, and we have uttered not a word of protest. We didn’t try to talk him out of going to the United States. So what the important thing here is, we should agree basically to joint and concerted action to bring peace to the area.
Kissinger: But this requires . . .
Brezhnev: [Interrupting] But all you’ve been saying just now leads me to the conclusion that you think nothing further can be done.
Kissinger: This is not my conclusion. My conclusion is . . .
Brezhnev: Although I appreciate the existence of your domestic difficulties in the area.
Kissinger: My conclusion is we should proceed step by step . . .
Brezhnev: That’s what we say—go step by step.
Kissinger: . . . and we shouldn’t be the only ones asked to exercise pressure on one party.
Gromyko: No matter how we discuss the Middle East—and here I agree absolutely with what Comrade Brezhnev has said—we should not bypass the paramount issues. What we’ve heard today is basically repetitions of your previous issues—your observations made to us in the past—and American Presidents have made observations to us in the same vein.
But basically there are two pivotal issues around which the Middle East issue is revolving: One is the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the [Page 216] territories they occupy, and second, the problem of the Palestinians becomes more and more acute and their rights must be restored. This is something you didn’t mention, and we would be interested in hearing any position you have. Our position you know well; it was set out in San Clemente and subsequently. It would be very good if you could set out the American position on these issues.
And there is a third problem—what prospects you see for joint action on these matters. Will matters continue to develop on the same basis, that is, your separate actions, or will we act in a concerted manner? Those are the questions you have so far omitted to discuss.
Brezhnev: Maybe, judging by what time it is, we should end for today—though not our discussion of this issue, because we may continue tomorrow. But night brings counsel. In any event, I’ll discuss it tomorrow.
Kissinger: I think we should discuss it further. We are not determined on isolated action in the Middle East. We don’t exclude joint concerted action in the Middle East. But we have to know for what. Maybe that’s what we can discuss when we return to it.
Brezhnev: We are prepared to discuss any aspect of this subject, frankly and confidentially and honestly.
And now I suggest we recess. Dr. Kissinger, you know Mr. Bhutto is in Moscow.
Kissinger: I really feel very guilty. I know it puts an additional strain on the General Secretary.
Brezhnev: I was to have been the main negotiator on this side, but I did my best to meet your schedule. You realize I cannot refuse to see him. I therefore did my best to find a way to incorporate a conversation with him but not to interfere with ours.
Kissinger: Maybe he could join these discussions. It would certainly liven it up.
Brezhnev: Maybe he could help with a solution. Maybe he should join the strategic arms discussions. [Laughter]
Brezhnev: Let me say this in conclusion: We for our part believe the Administration and Secretary of State Kissinger and in fact the business community of the United States, and Congress by and large, and the majority of Americans, who supported the reelection of President Nixon, want to continue the improvement of US-Soviet relations in all spheres and in the interests of our peoples.
Kissinger: I agree.
Brezhnev: And I feel we understand one another equally well.[Page 217]
In this connection, I’d like to ask you one question: What does it mean, and how should we react to, statements emanating from various US officials, including some Government leaders, that the United States must be second to none in terms of strength and only then will peace in the world be secured? [Dobrynin corrects the translation: “Samii Silhyee” means “strongest of all.”] How are we to understand such statements? If a practical import is ascribed to such statements, then tomorrow morning, while you are in your house on Lenin Hills, I could come out with a statement that only if the Soviet Union is stronger than any other state will peace be secured. Why add this element to the situation? We have not reacted to these statements. We have given our commentators no instructions on this score. Don’t look for information in your briefs; it’s something I thought to bring up. It’s something I wanted to bring up, taking the occasion of this personal meeting.
My second question is, since tomorrow we will be taking up the question of strategic arms: do you believe or admit of the possibility of atomic war between our two nations? Or the possibility of atomic war anywhere in the world, for instance in Europe or elsewhere? Hearing my question, you would be entitled to ask me my view. On that thought, I wish you pleasant dreams.
Kissinger: Without hearing my answer?
Brezhnev: No, not today.
Kissinger: But now suspense will make you very sleepless.
Brezhnev: No, I’ll sleep.
Kissinger: I’ll answer tomorrow. I’ll ask Sonnenfeldt.
Sonnenfeldt: Now I can’t sleep!
Kissinger: I’ll cable Washington for instructions.
Brezhnev: Tomorrow I think we should resume our discussions in the morning. Maybe at 11:00, as we did today.
Kissinger: Good, and I will be on time. Really, my apologies. It was inexcusable. It’s the sort of mistake that, after it happens, is inexplicable.
Brezhnev: This is what happens when you involve too many people.
Kissinger: I was sitting upstairs thinking you had delayed the meeting.
Brezhnev: Dr. Kissinger, I think 11:00 would be most convenient so we don’t drive each other to extremes of exhaustion, taking into account the time difference.
Kissinger: [Everyone rises from the table.] At the toast today I said I’m always among friends here.
Brezhnev: I don’t want to complicate things. Always clarity. So I’m acting in the framework of our previous agreements.[Page 218]
Kissinger: Both the President and I are committed to carrying out the policy we began.
Brezhnev: I believe that. Goodnight. My best regards to Mrs. Kissinger.
[Secretary Kissinger’s party then departed for the Guest House in Lenin Hills.]
- Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger Reports on USSR, China, and Middle East Discussions, 1974–1976, Box 1, USSR Memcons and Reports, October 27, 1974—Kissinger/Brezhnev Talks in Moscow. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Rodman. All brackets are in the original. The meeting was held in the Old Politburo Room in the Council of Ministers Building, Kremlin. Sonnenfeldt’s handwritten notes on the meeting are in National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 5, Misc. Memcons.↩
- See Document 64.↩
- See Document 28.↩
- John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State, 1953–1959.↩
- Kissinger discussed the CSCE with the U.K., German, and French Foreign Ministers in Ottawa on June 18. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXIX, European Security, Document 214.↩
- Reference is presumably to the 2-day meeting between Brezhnev and Pompidou on the Black Sea in March 1974.↩
- See footnote 2, Document 43.↩
- See Documents 37 and 38.↩
- President Nixon visited Cairo in mid-June 1974.↩