84. Briefing Memorandum From the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Armitage) to Secretary of State Kissinger1
Impact on Vladivostok Talks of New Chinese Initiative
The background on the Chinese initiative has been spelled out in the INR paper on the subject.2
EUR agrees that one likely effect will be to add a further measure of caution to Soviet positions vis-à-vis the US. But we regard the Chinese move as something of an opportunity for Moscow rather than a dilemma. A Soviet gesture toward Peking need not conflict with their continuing to seek détente with the US; on the contrary, it could help by putting Moscow back into the triangular play, thus improving the Soviet bargaining position vis-à-vis the US. We therefore would expect the Soviets at Vladivostok to take some advantage of the Chinese move in order to shift to us a greater share of the burden of maintaining momentum in the détente relationship.
The mere fact of a positive response, however hedged, to Peking would in atmospheric terms put Moscow back into the play. Such a response would not need to deal with the troop withdrawal question but could simply welcome Chinese willingness to talk about a nonaggression treaty and propose talks on this and related questions without preconditions.
While we would expect that talks would quickly get hung up on the troop withdrawal question—possibly even before an agreement to talk was reached—the fact that talks were possibly in the offing would itself serve both Soviet and Chinese interests vis-à-vis the US.
A major change in the Sino-Soviet relationship could have an obvious bearing on Moscow’s third-country argument in SALT, but the present Chinese initiative does not warrant a judgment that such a change is in the offing. Thus we see no significant impact on SALT discussions at Vladivostok.