91. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • US:
  • The President
  • The Secretary of State
  • Ambassador Stoessel
  • Mr. Sonnenfeldt
  • General Scowcroft
  • Mr. Hyland
  • Mr. Akalovsky
  • USSR:
  • General Secretary Brezhnev
  • Foreign Minister Gromyko
  • Ambassador Dobrynin
  • Mr. Aleksandrov, Special Assistant to Brezhnev
  • Mr. Kornienko, Chief, USA Division, MFA
  • Mr. Oleg Sokolov, USA Division, MFA
  • General Mikhail M. Kozlov, Soviet General Staff
  • Mr. Makarov, Assistant to Gromyko
  • Mr. Detinov, Member of the CPSU Central Committee Staff
  • Mr. Sukhodrev (interpreting)
[Page 330]



General Secretary Brezhnev: You know, Mr. President, we were just mentioning Pepsi Cola and this reminds me of the fact that when Mr. Kendall was here he gave me a belt with a Pepsi Cola buckle.

The Secretary: You should wear that belt with the two colts you have.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Mr. President, did you have lunch?

The President: Yes, thank you. I had a very light lunch.

General Secretary Brezhnev: We’ll have more to eat tonight. There’s all the more reason for doing so because I see that Dr. Kissinger has lost so much weight.

The President: I’m looking forward to it, thank you. Incidentally, I see no sweets on the table for Dr. Kissinger.

General Secretary Brezhnev: We’ll have some brought in, so as to keep Dr. Kissinger busy and thus prevent him from interfering with our talks. You know, the more I meet with Dr. Kissinger the better I get to know him. In fact, I have here a whole dossier on him.

The Secretary: They used to say of Dewey,2 who was running for President at one time, that one could not dislike him until one got to know him.

The President: Dewey would have been a good President, but he never made it.

The Secretary: He was a good lawyer, but not a very good politician.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Yes, he was not a very clever politician.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Mr. President, to open the discussion, I would like to recall what was said during our last conversations with Dr. Kissinger. First, we want friendly, stable, and mutually advantageous relations with the United States. Not only I but our entire party, government, and all of our people want friendly relations with the United States. What is required to achieve this is that we, our governments, do everything in our power to ensure that things proceed in that direction regardless of what some people may say or write. During the past several years, I had numerous conversations with different US personalities except, of course, Jackson.

The President: I have also had differences with Senator Jackson.

[Page 331]

General Secretary Brezhnev: I may be mistaken but my firm impression is that American businessmen, congressmen and other personalities I’ve talked to want good, businesslike relations with the Soviet Union.

The President: Mr. General Secretary, this is the consensus of all the American people, including businessmen, the majority in Congress, and the American people at large. I would like to reaffirm what you said about your last discussion with Dr. Kissinger.

General Secretary Brezhnev: I would like to return to our conversation on the train.3 It was perhaps somewhat disorganized, but let me return to it just the same. We want to respect, value, and even assist the President who wants to continue the American policy vis-à-vis the USSR pursued over the past several years. Therefore, we promptly responded to the letter you sent us.4 We will continue our policy of friendly relations with the U.S. This was the second point I made to Dr. Kissinger. Thirdly, we will do all we can to prevent war from ever breaking out between our two countries. My fourth point is that the interim agreement on limiting strategic arms remains in force until 1977, with each party observing it faithfully. A further point is that our next meeting should produce an agreement on strategic arms limitations until 1985, an agreement that would show our peoples and the entire world that we are pursuing a course of not only limiting but also reducing strategic arms. I mention only these points of our discussion with Dr. Kissinger at that time, although there were other points as well. But it is these points that I wish to emphasize now. Dr. Kissinger was in agreement with us and said that our suggestions contained much that was reasonable and that could be taken as basis for a future agreement. We did not discuss the domestic situation in our countries. When we come to other questions, I will tell you what we said on them in our meeting with Dr. Kissinger.

As regards strategic arms limitation, we believe that the best variant would be to prolong the duration of the present agreement. Frankly speaking, however, on this point we had arguments with Dr. Kissinger. We raised the question of how the forward based systems should be dealt with, but we finally agreed to leave that issue aside. As a result, we ended our discussions with Dr. Kissinger by agreeing in principle on certain points which I’m sure Dr. Kissinger has faithfully reported to you. But since this is a very serious matter we also decided [Page 332] to send you in writing what we thought we had agreed upon with Dr. Kissinger.5

The President: Mr. General Secretary, what you have just recounted was reported to me by Dr. Kissinger. May I say, and this goes back to my comment on the train, that it seems to me that we have made substantial progress since 1972, and that we have momentum for further progress. It is important to determine if we should follow this momentum or stop it and proceed along a different path. As far as we are concerned, we are generally optimistic. Therefore, before I left Washington, I deferred certain decisions regarding our defense budget so as to see first how our present discussions will end. I would prefer to base my decisions concerning the defense budget for the next year and the following years on a successful outcome of our discussions. Otherwise, obviously I will have no choice but to make different decisions. In this connection, it must be recognized that we must proceed on the basis of the specific political situation in the United States. As your Ambassador and Foreign Minister probably have told you, an agreement to be acceptable must be based on the principle of equivalence. Anything different would be politically impossible in the United States. But the proposition you gave Dr. Kissinger and our counter suggestions fit in that pattern. If we were to reach agreement we could gather such momentum for 1975, ’76 and ’77 that would permit me to continue the movement in our general relations with the Soviet Union. This would be in the best interests not only of our two countries but also of the entire world. But if the possibility for agreement in principle exists, then this momentum is irresistible.

Dr. Kissinger just indicated to me that our last proposal had been transmitted to you.6 I believe that the combination of your and our suggestions gives us a foundation on which to build future negotiations.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Well, a basis exists, but the latest U.S. suggestions make the United States’ position as we discussed it in Moscow more stiff. That is the situation.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: The United States’ position has stiffened on a number of points.

The President: Mr. General Secretary, it is perhaps true that our point regarding the last 200 missiles makes a stronger position, but as I indicated earlier, in order to make an agreement politically acceptable and to satisfy our experts it is essential to include those 200 missiles and [Page 333] make the aggregate number 2400 for both sides. It is extremely important for me, in order to get full support for an agreement from Congress and the American people, that we have numerical equivalents as indicated in our latest proposal handed to Ambassador Dobrynin.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Throughout our discussions on this subject, your side spoke all the time about heavy missiles. But both your side and ours are permitted under the existing agreement to improve their missiles within the limits of the diameter of existing silos, although they are prohibited from making new silos. It would not be entirely forthright on your part if you were to deny that the United States is converting its medium-size missiles into heavy ones within the 10 to 15% limit allowed under the agreement, but also even beyond that limit. On the other hand, what we are doing does not involve any widening of the silos. As a matter of fact, in modernizing our missiles—including the so-called heavy ones—in many instances we are even making the silos narrower. Thus we are fully abiding by the agreement.

The Secretary: But you are making your silos deeper.

General Secretary Brezhnev: I don’t know if our silos are being made deeper or shallower. What we have talked about was only that the silos shouldn’t be widened, and certainly not beyond the 10 to 15% limitation.

The Secretary: We have made no accusation that you are violating the agreement as regards the width of the silos.

General Secretary Brezhnev: We know it for a fact that you are converting medium missiles into heavy ones. We have remained silent, however, because we believe that you are entitled to do so under the provisions regarding modernization.

The President: Mr. General Secretary, I want to assure you that we are acting in every respect strictly in accordance with the existing agreement. I can assure you of this with full responsibility because I was personally involved in this matter.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Thank you, but I don’t really need your assurances because you can see what we are doing and we can see what you are doing.

The Secretary: It is incorrect to say that we have heavy missiles, at least in comparison with Soviet missiles. But such missiles are bound to appear if the Soviet programs continue.

General Secretary Brezhnev: As you know, we agreed not to build any more heavy missiles. This whole issue arose because of the fact that with respect to MIRVs the United States was somewhat ahead of us. The question was what to do after ’77. The United States would have completed its own program whereas we would be continuing to build our MIRVs. Dr. Kissinger should be honest about this.

[Page 334]

The Secretary: I don’t think that was the main issue. It is true that we were temporarily ahead of the Soviet Union as regards MIRVs. It is also true, however, that the Soviet Union can very soon deploy its MIRVs and even accelerate such deployment. It is incorrect to say that we cannot continue MIRVing after ’77. We could also continue MIRVing a number of missiles every year. The fact is that any agreement we reach with the Soviet Union will make it possible for the Soviet Union to reach parity regarding MIRVs and would therefore be criticized in the United States. Nevertheless, the President has authorized a proposal on this basis because he wants to put a lid on the arms race. There’s no law that we must stop in 1977. We have 450 Minutemen we could put MIRVs on and we could continue this process indefinitely.

General Secretary Brezhnev: And what are we supposed to do? We could do the same!

The Secretary: Of course. We believe that the basic point in the proposal we gave you is that it offers the Soviet Union the possibility to reach equality regarding MIRVs. Also, as I explained to Ambassador Dobrynin, our proposals would put a ceiling on most of our current programs—MIRVs, B–1’s, and Tridents. So even if we are ahead in one field or another, during the period of the agreement the Soviet Union will be able to catch up with the United States.

General Secretary Brezhnev: I don’t see how.

The Secretary: You don’t see what?

General Secretary Brezhnev: Equality.

The Secretary: Well, the Soviet Union would have the right to have 1320 MIRVed missiles by 1985, and we believe that you could easily accomplish that by 1985.

The President: Mr. General Secretary, even if there is a differential at the present time, there’s nothing we can do at this table to change the situation. But we believe that the Soviet Union has the capability to catch up quickly with the United States and eliminate this MIRV differential. We don’t want such differential.

(Long pause, with Brezhnev looking very pensive.)

General Secretary Brezhnev: Under the United States proposal, you would have the right to build new silos, although you have the possibility of placing heavier missiles in existing silos and also building additional 180 heavy missiles. Moreover, when we discussed the Trident and Typhoon programs, we started with three for each side, but then the number of 12 appeared. That means 288 launchers.

Ambassador Dobrynin: The latest proposal is for 10 submarines, which would mean 240 launchers.

[Page 335]

The Secretary: One should keep in mind, however, that these 288 launchers would be counted against the total MIRV level and the aggregate of 2400 launchers. So what we are talking about is certain levels and organization of our forces. This has to do with some analysis in Washington, where it was felt this was needed. On the question of 180 new ICBM’s, you are right that careful reading of our proposal suggests that, but we have no such intentions.

Ambassador Dobrynin: Your formulation isn’t very clear.

The Secretary: The Secretary General is correct in reading our text, but we can refine this formulation to make it clear that we have in mind only such new missiles as would fit in the existing silos permitted under the current agreement and that there would be no new silos. Thus, the United States would in effect have no heavy missiles.

(Turning to Dobrynin, Gromyko said that the United States would probably deepen its silos. Dobrynin replied that deepening the silos was permitted in the Interim Agreement but Gromyko maintained that such a proposition should not be accepted.)

The Secretary: Let me make this clear once again. I agree, Mr. General Secretary, that your interpretation is reasonable, but we are not asking for the right to build 180 heavy missiles. We will not build 180 new holes. What we may do within the Interim Agreement is put heavier missiles in the existing holes during the duration of that agreement. In any event, we would not build weapons of the SS–9 or SS–18 category—and given my previous experiences I’m now leery of describing Soviet weapons—during the duration of the agreement.

(A lengthy consultation on the Soviet side of the table, with General Kozlov drawing diagrams for Brezhnev to explain how the U.S. is deepening its silos.)

(In a further exchange among members of the Soviet group, Dobrynin and Kornienko explained to Brezhnev that the United States formulation was misleading but that it had now been clarified. Brezhnev argues that the Soviets could see the silos and the missiles but not the number of warheads on the missile. Dobrynin—and Gromyko, who now seemed to understand the U.S. proposition—pointed out that the number of warheads was not an issue and repeated that the U.S. side had now clarified the meaning of its formulation. Brezhnev said that in that case the Soviets could agree. Gromyko and Dobrynin commented that on this point they could. General Kozlov then drew a diagram for Brezhnev to explain how heavier Soviet missiles can fit in existing silos, pointing out that this involved reducing the gap between the top of the missile and the silo cover. Brezhnev then got a lengthy briefing from Aleksandrov but its contents could not be overheard.)

General Secretary Brezhnev: Well, Dr. Kissinger, what do your calculations tell you?

[Page 336]

The Secretary: That we are in bad shape.

General Secretary Brezhnev: I just wanted to offer you some tea, but now you’ll get just plain water.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Perhaps we should turn to stronger drinks.

General Secretary Brezhnev: In Moscow, I thought we were coming closer to reality but now I see that the United States position is stiffening.

The Secretary: In practice, we are close to what was discussed in Moscow. My instructions then were not to accept any MIRVed heavy missiles but then the General Secretary gave me in a private conversation some figure which he said could serve as a basis for agreement. I believe that we are close to what was then discussed. Our amendments to the Soviet proposition do not affect the situation as regards the aggregate number of launchers or the level of MIRVs.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Let us have some tea, or else these military men will take us God knows where.

The President: I’m scared of all these calories.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Don’t worry, one day you eat too much, another day you eat less, so the weight stays the same.

The President: Unfortunately, it doesn’t even out.

General Secretary Brezhnev: My weight doesn’t change.

The Secretary: I believe you’ve lost some weight since two years ago.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Then I weighed 82 kilograms, and now I weigh 79 kilograms.

The Secretary: That’s what I would like to achieve.

Ambassador Dobrynin: By 1985?

General Secretary Brezhnev: That’s easy to do. Just add 400 missiles and Dr. Kissinger will become skinny right away.

Mr. President, the reason I have been meditating is that we’ve been saying that we want to limit strategic arms and that in so doing we should have that many MIRVs, that high an aggregate, etc., whereas what we should be doing is ensure mutual security. I remember Dr. Kissinger telling me in one of our conversations that once the United States detected one Soviet missile with three warheads, it assumed that all Soviet missiles had three warheads. In fact, I think Dr. Kissinger even talked about five warheads. But this is not so. Moreover, as an experienced man, Dr. Kissinger must know that if one were to put five warheads on a missile, one would lose some of its range because of the added weight. Also, you are paying very little attention to what we said [Page 337] regarding the geographic factor and the forward based systems. They do exist and should be taken into account.

(Dobrynin prompted Brezhnev to mention the strategic capabilities of third countries as well.)

The Secretary: Maybe I did not make myself entirely clear, maybe I spoke in my professorial way. What I meant was that if we detect a MIRVed missile—we don’t care if it has three or 23 warheads—we have to count it as a MIRVed missile regardless of the number of warheads. Perhaps that number is 3 today and will be 23 tomorrow, depending on the purpose of the missile. You said that our MIRVed missiles have 12 warheads. This may be true theoretically, but in practice it is not. We distinguish between single-warhead and MIRVed missiles. If it is a single missile we don’t care about the weight, if it is a MIRVed one, we don’t care about the number of warheads.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Not every missile can carry the same number of warheads.

The Secretary: We are not counting warheads, only missiles. Nor are we prescribing how many warheads there should be on each MIRVed missile.

The President: Perhaps we should arrange for something on a somewhat different basis. Today the Soviet Union has a throw weight that is greater than ours. Perhaps we should base our concept on this factor.

General Secretary Brezhnev: We tried but nothing came out of it.

The Secretary: The basic concept is that we are counting MIRVed missiles but not the number of warheads on such missiles.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Correct, but MIRV warheads cannot be counted anyway. The basic point is that we are not allowed to widen our silos. I can assure you, and perhaps I should take you somewhere to show you, that we are not widening our silos even by one centimeter. In fact, we are making them narrower.

The Secretary: But you are deepening them?

General Secretary Brezhnev: No, we are using a different principle.

The President: We have both assured each other that the agreement is not being violated.

General Secretary Brezhnev: I must say that in the initial stage the United States acted with greater foresight than we did. You have Minutemen in silos that are 25 meters deep. Since the missile is only 18 meters long, there is five meters left. (sic) So what you are doing is using that extra space for an enlarged engine. As a result, you’ve got a new missile without changing the silo. Your missile used to weigh 35 tons and now it weighs 120 tons. What should that missile be called—light, medium or heavy? Outwardly, you don’t violate the agreement, [Page 338] but in effect you have a new missile, and this makes a tremendous difference that cannot be swept under the rug. At first you were bashful and put nettings over your silos—Dr. Kissinger said that this was to protect cement from rain while it was drying—but now you’ve stopped doing that. Nevertheless, the difference between 35 and 135 tons (sic) is there. But we are not complaining, because if we have agreed that modernization is allowed, so be it. In fact, however, the United States is gaining advantage, not to speak of the fact that you don’t want to take account of the forward based systems. You say that France is out of NATO, but it is us and not you whom French missiles can reach. We want to make the Mediterranean a sea of peace, and you reject that proposal. Nor do you want to take account of your bases in Japan. But I don’t want to create an impasse, I want to find a solution. So after my remarks have been translated, let us have a ten-minute break so that both our and your groups could consult. Before we break up, however, I would like to ask why you have suggested the intermediate date of 1984 and not simply 1985.

The Secretary: We have an interim date because, as Ambassador Dobrynin will surely confirm, for internal reasons we will have to show that we have reached equivalence in terms of aggregate levels and MIRV levels. Moreover, our additional 120 missiles would be of inferior quality, not capable of being used against the Soviet Union. In other words, we are giving the Soviet Union a differential for the longest period possible in the context of our domestic situation.

The President: Also, while we are permitting a differential to the Soviet Union, we want that differential to be eliminated by 1985. This differential is a major problem from the standpoint of our domestic situation but I believe the situation will be manageable if equivalency is apparent by 1985. I think it is a good idea to take a 10 or 15-minute break.

(After the break, the meeting reconvened with only the President, the Secretary, and Mr. Akalovsky on the U.S. side, and Brezhnev, Gromyko and Sukhodrev on the Soviet side, in attendance.)

General Secretary Brezhnev: Dr. Kissinger has thought out everything, I’m sure. I have a lot of experience negotiating with him. He always starts by asking too much, but then eats cake and softens up.

The President: I’m glad you told me how to soften up Kissinger.

General Secretary Brezhnev: But sometimes he doesn’t soften up, perhaps when he has had too much cake.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Perhaps Dr. Kissinger is angry when he is hungry.

The Secretary: If I eat too much I get sleepy.

General Secretary Brezhnev: In any event, we must look for a solution. I personally and my colleagues both here and Moscow, highly [Page 339] value your statements that you intend, Mr. President, to continue a policy of improving relations between our two countries. This is very important and we will do everything to support a United States President who wants to follow this course. Now, what could we do after our earlier discussions? After all, we are important world statesmen and should not waste our time arguing over trivia. So perhaps we could agree on 2400 launchers for each of our two sides, provided we get a letter from you regarding the 200 pieces about which Dr. Kissinger has probably reported to you. But by the end of 1985 you will get the full 2400 aggregate. That means that you do not actually build those 200 but by the end of 1985 you will have 2400. I carefully recollected what Dr. Kissinger had told us. Now, how does this look to you?

The Secretary: You say by the end of 1985 we can have 2400. But there has to be a time when we can go ahead, and that’s why we included the date of January 1, 1984. Since we will need one or two years for moving forward, why not make this point in the agreement instead of a letter.

The President: That would be much more preferable.

General Secretary Brezhnev: I don’t know if I understood Dr. Kissinger correctly, but I actually repeated what was said in Moscow.

The Secretary: I know that the General Secretary proposed in Moscow to include 2400 in the agreement but with a letter from the President that we would not have 2400 by 1985. This would be extremely dangerous given the present political situation in the United States. Therefore, we have proposed that since we will have the right to have 2400, we should provide time for building them. This is the reason why we included the interim date in the proposed agreement. In fact, this would be better even from your standpoint because the agreement would go beyond President Ford’s tenure. A letter, on the other hand, would not necessarily be binding on President Ford’s successor. Moreover, since all the important systems will be limited in practice, if you analyze the situation you will see that, in order to reach the 2400 level, we will have to keep some older systems because we will not be able to build new ones by the end of the agreement. In any event, we are accepting disparity for the longest possible time before 1985, given our political situation.

General Secretary Brezhnev: How then should we proceed?

The Secretary: I believe that a letter from the President during a ten-year agreement would be dangerous. It might not bind the future President, especially if the Congress didn’t know about it. So that’s why we are proposing an agreement with a differential for a maximum period of time, in fact even longer.

General Secretary Brezhnev: President Ford should simply stay in office, why should he go?

[Page 340]

(Gromyko whispered to Brezhnev that a U.S. President cannot serve three terms.)

The President: Thank you very much. I would certainly be much more interested in a détente that would indeed serve U.S. and Soviet interests rather than in some of the alternatives that are sometimes discussed. Mr. General Secretary, here is our problem. In the United States, there is strong insistence on the part of public opinion, also reflected in the Congress, that we have equivalence in final figures. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to have such equivalence by 1985. If we were to have 2200 until 1983 and you 2400, it would be very difficult to sell this to the American people and Congress. But if we state in the agreement that we can achieve equivalence by 1985, that—coupled with the MIRV differential the Secretary referred to—would make the proposition much more practical and I believe I could convince the Congress and the American people to accept it.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Dr. Kissinger, what do you think of a variant that would involve a differential in both launchers and MIRVs?

The Secretary: For the entire period?

General Secretary Brezhnev: Yes.

The Secretary: I have to tell you honestly that from the strategic standpoint of the United States I would personally prefer it. Speaking very frankly, if we have equal numbers, our last 200 would not be very good systems. They could be used perhaps against China or God knows whom but not the USSR. But from the domestic standpoint such an arrangement would not be possible. The President knows that I had suggested to him the proposition you have just made.

The President: Let me supplement what the Secretary has just said. I agree with him on substance. But have to crank into it the political aspects of the situation, and they involve the question of which administration in Washington can ensure irreversible détente. Without mentioning any names—and you can imagine whom I am talking about—if the United States Government were to accept an agreement on the basis of disparity, that would be extremely difficult to sell to the American people, and in the political environment in Washington such an agreement would be severely criticized. It could be used against me and against détente and could bring in the elections an administration that would not be as committed to pursuing détente on a continuing basis. So I do have to take the political aspects into account.

The Secretary: Besides, we look at this as being two agreements. Until 1983, the Soviet Union would have advantage in launchers and we in MIRVs. After 1983, both sides will reach equivalence in terms of both launchers and MIRVs. But I would like to repeat that some of our systems will be old, for to reach the aggregate level we will have to retain some B–52’s and Polaris submarines.

[Page 341]

The President: It really comes down to the point you made, and I agreed to, regarding the need for momentum and irreversibility of détente. In order to achieve this, an administration in Washington like mine, just as the one under Mr. Nixon, has to succeed politically. If one looks at substance, your suggestion makes sense. But our variant takes account of broader political factors, including the need to continue and develop détente.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Mr. President, you say that if the levels were unequal, you would be asked various questions at home. But we, too, would be asked many questions if the agreement were to include the numbers suggested by you. After all, people will say, what about the forward based systems, the United States bases in Europe, the nuclear weapons possessed by France and the UK, the United States fleet with nuclear weapons in the Mediterranean, and the U.S. submarines with nuclear weapons in Western European ports? So we have much more reason to invoke the domestic factor. Our people can ask many questions. Thus, when you invoke such factors you are being one-sided, for we, too, would have to face questions. You should try to see the situation from our standpoint, because these questions would surely be asked of our leaders and certainly of comrade Brezhnev, who would sign the agreement.

General Secretary Brezhnev: This has been a very pleasant conversation, the friendly tone of which I certainly appreciate, and I am very happy to have made your acquaintance. But, unfortunately, no solution has yet been found. And I would like to find it. In Moscow, it seemed as if we had almost agreed, but this stiffening of the United States position seems to be breaking apart everything we had agreed upon.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: The finale in Moscow seemed to indicate that a basis for agreement had been found.

The Secretary: We have accepted your thesis regarding what should happen until 1983. We only ask you to accept a change for the remaining two years for the reasons indicated by the President.

The President: I understand the arguments of Mr. Gromyko. But my understanding of Dr. Kissinger’s conversations with you, Mr. General Secretary, and your Foreign Minister was that the forward based systems would not be included in any agreement. In the spirit of mutual understanding, however, I would be willing to give up our naval base in Rota in 1984. I believe this would meet some of the problems Mr. Gromyko referred to. I must say that I’m doing this with some reluctance—in fact, most reluctantly—but I am taking this step to further détente and to achieve other things we’ve talked about. Of course, you know that this is a nuclear submarine base.

General Secretary Brezhnev: One of the points of principle is that we must agree that neither the Soviet Union nor the United States will [Page 342] build a single additional silo. We should even discuss reductions, and certainly we must not build any additional ones.

The President: We can agree not to build new silos.

General Secretary Brezhnev: If so, perhaps a solution could be found through a differential between the levels of launchers and MIRVs. This is a very important statement you made, Mr. President.

The President: Of course, Mr. General Secretary, you must understand that our military would much prefer to put new missiles in new silos. But in order to promote and strengthen détente, I am taking a position which does not necessarily accord with that of our military.

General Secretary Brezhnev: I don’t know about your internal procedures in the United States, but in our country the military cannot determine policy. They can determine the doctrine, but policy, including military policy, is decided at the political level. In other words, the military decide what to shoot at while the political leadership decides whether or not to shoot. But it is true that the military always want more.

The President: Do you also have this problem?

General Secretary Brezhnev: The military always want as much as they can get. I don’t think there are any holy people in the military.

The President: If we were to agree not to build additional launching sites would the Soviet Union do the same?

General Secretary Brezhnev: Without any question. Neither side should be allowed to do so.

The President: I just wanted to make this point clear.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Both sides, yours and ours, would be allowed to modernize. You will modernize, and we will also do some modernizing. However, we will not violate the agreement in the process. You are, of course, widening your silos but this is a question of different technology.

The Secretary: May I correct you? We are not widening our silos.

General Secretary Brezhnev: You should not cover your silos with netting! I want to stress that we would not be building any new silos whatsoever. We would not allow any violation of the agreement. When such important issues are involved, we intend to treat our agreement as a gentlemen’s agreement to be observed scrupulously.

The President: I can reaffirm fully Dr. Kissinger’s statement. We have not violated the agreement. I looked into this personally because I had heard allegations to the contrary. In the future, too, we will abide by the agreement 100 percent.

General Secretary Brezhnev: I believe you. But I have another suggestion. You should convince Dr. Kissinger that we should become [Page 343] allies in the field of nuclear weapons, and then everything else would fall into place. Then we could make a concession and sign the agreement not here but in Washington. Then there would be no problem about nuclear weapons since we would be allies and our respective allies would also be reassured.

The President: Let’s do it step by step. We are already cooperating in many areas and are doing so even in space. So we never know where we might go.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Our joint strength would suffice for 100 years—I will make a concession and say even 200 years—and there would be no need for any new holes.

The Secretary: As the President said, when we finish this, this is a topic on which we should spend some time.

General Secretary Brezhnev: If we were to reach such an understanding, everything would be clear.

The President: Mr. General Secretary, do I understand correctly that until the end of 1983 we would have 2200 and you 2400 launchers, and that after January 1984 we would go to 2400 and reach that level by 1985? Given the MIRV differential that would be easy to get approved. There would also be no new silos and no widening of existing silos. It seems that we agree on everything, that there is nothing more to do.

General Secretary Brezhnev: I have a question. How can you reach 2400 by 1985 without building new silos?

The Secretary: Let me explain this to you. It is a very good question, because we ourselves had to think it out. What we would do is slightly delay our Trident and B–1 programs. Because if we were to put these in before ’83, we would have to take out some B–52’s and Polaris submarines. Then, after 1983, we would increase the B–1 and Trident systems and keep some B–52’s and Polaris.

The President: Which are older systems!

(Following an inaudible conversation between Brezhnev and Gromyko, the former excused himself and left the room.)

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Dr. Kissinger you are going to China. Will you brief the Chinese on our discussions?

The Secretary: That depends on you. Any success here will make them unhappy. But I will not tell them anything beyond what’s published here.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Your answer makes sense. Another question. Do you believe that Japan will sign a treaty with China?

The Secretary: Perhaps. But I want to tell you that we ourselves would view with great misgivings close relations between China and Japan. I’ve already talked with Ambassador Dobrynin about this. Perhaps we can discuss this further next spring. A combination of [Page 344] Japan and China would be a very unhappy one, because it could acquire racial overtones. Do you agree?

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Yes, I do.

The President: Dr. Kissinger has discussed this problem with me.

The Secretary: What we should keep in mind is not tactics. Tactical problems, such as Cyprus, for example, will solve themselves. But this issue—I have discussed this with President Ford when we were in Japan now—is of historical, not tactical significance.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Will Tanaka resign?

The Secretary: Yes. Quite frankly, we know that he will resign within 48 hours of President Ford’s departure from here.

(There followed a brief exchange between the Secretary and Gromyko on who was most likely to succeed Tanaka.)7

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Do we understand correctly that, as the President seems to have indicated to Dobrynin in Washington,8 that the United States favors expansion of economic cooperation between the Soviet Union and Japan? I’ve in mind such things as gas and oil exploration, etc. Or was that just an off-the-cuff remark?

The President: That is correct. Incidentally, I seem to have read in one of the newspapers that you have reached agreement with one of our companies on an arrangement involving the Export-Import Bank.

The Secretary: That agreement has not yet been consummated. But in principle we favor such arrangements and the Senate will have to be turned around on this issue after the Trade Bill is passed.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Will you embrace Chou En-lai?

The Secretary: I do that only to the Arabs. I’m told I’ll see him, but he is ill.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Do you know the new ForeignMinister?9

The Secretary: Yes. He’s a very close collaborator of Chou, and he is a very intelligent man.

The President: I met him in 1972.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: China is a big boiling pot.

The Secretary: It is really hard to figure out who is doing what to whom there. During my last visit there, I told Chou at dinner something philosophical about Confucius and he got excited, which he seldom does.

[Page 345]

Foreign Minister Gromyko: This subject has been so artificially pulled in that it is obvious it is being used for personal rather than ideological purposes.

The Secretary: Frankly speaking, I believe that what Mao is pursuing is modern day Confucianism. Confucian ethics call for regulation of every aspect of human life, and so does Mao to fit his ethics. I’m going to China, but I don’t know whom I’m going to talk to over there. Perhaps Teng. Incidentally, do you know anything about how Lin-Piao died?10 Was he dead before the plane crashed, was the plane shot down?

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Generally, the circumstances were quite mysterious, but it seems clear that the plane simply crashed.

The Secretary: Lin-Piao was not a special friend of the Soviet Union, was he?

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Well, when we knew him, he was rather friendly to us.

(At this point Brezhnev returned to the room.)

General Secretary Brezhnev: I’m very sorry, this was a forced pause in our discussion. What is the time in Washington now?

The Secretary: 8:00 a.m. Saturday.

General Secretary Brezhnev: When do you normally get up, Dr. Kissinger?

The Secretary: I normally get up at seven and go to bed at one. I want you to know, Mr. General Secretary, that now everything is settled, because while you were out, Gromyko agreed to everything.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Well, Gromyko is very unreliable, he softens up too easily.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: But Dr. Kissinger told me that after his trip to China our relations would improve radically. So how could I resist?

General Secretary Brezhnev: I feel sorry for Dr. Kissinger. He constantly travels all over the world to improve relations. Isn’t he tired of that?

Well, Mr. President, what can we do? I fully appreciate the fact that your internal situation differs from ours, but I would also be asked questions, such as why there is no equal degree of security. So let’s do it this way—we’ve had a tranquil discussion and obviously we can’t settle everything in two days. What we should do, however, is attempt to agree in principle on the following: 2400 launchers for you and 2400 [Page 346] for us; 1320 MIRVed missiles for you and 1320 MIRVed missiles for us. With Mr. Nixon, we proceeded from the premise that we should do everything on the basis of equality. In fact, we even delivered our speeches and wrote our papers on that basis. Both you and we could easily explain this to our peoples. Of course, it is always possible that some people will nitpick, but it will be difficult to argue against such complete equality of security. In any event, these figures are of no practical significance to you because we don’t intend ever to attack you. But from the standpoint of military concept, nothing better can be devised. So let’s agree and have dinner.

The Secretary: Certainly. But would the 2400 figure be for the entire duration of the agreement? Because a side letter would be impossible.

The President: So 2400 and 2400 for launchers and 1320 and 1320 for MIRVs. But do you have in mind to get there at any time during the agreement?

General Secretary Brezhnev: After ’77.

The President: As far as your comment about your intentions, we also do not want to attack the USSR. What we want is to cooperate.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Under this proposal, there would be no need for a letter, because the ceiling could be reached at any time until 1985. Both you and we will reach the levels of 2400 and 1320 during that period. So you can return and report to your people that you have reached agreement on the basis of full equality.

The Secretary: No other restrictions?

General Secretary Brezhnev: None. I’ve always said—and we have a record of that—that the primary question is not that of missiles, that the main point is peaceful cooperation between our two countries. So in any communiqué we might write, we should start with this cardinal point and then go down to this specific issue. We want to write this tomorrow, and we could state that by June or July next year both sides will finalize an agreement based on the principle of equal security. Then President Ford could return home with achievements no less important than those Mr. Nixon had brought back. But I want to add that neither side would be allowed to build new silos, except for such modification of the existing silos as is allowed under the Interim Agreement.

The Secretary: Under these conditions I believe a separate document on SALT should be put out.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Agree. Then the world would see that our intention is to strengthen peace and not to whip up the arms race.

The Secretary: May I ask a few questions? How about limitation on B–1 bombers to 250—do we retain this?

[Page 347]

General Secretary Brezhnev: I believe we should discuss aircraft separately. You would be allowed to build B–1 bombers but they would have to count against the ceiling.

The Secretary: No sub-limit? You remember, Mr. General Secretary, that we had talked in a preliminary way about restricting B–1’s to 250, Trident launchers to 288, and MIRVed heavy missiles to 180.

(Gromyko prompted Brezhnev to the effect that there should be complete freedom to mix.)

General Secretary Brezhnev: It seems that we will have to discuss this separately, for it appears that you will need more aircraft or Tridents to reach the ceiling. Also, we must discuss aircraft from the standpoint of whether they will carry one or ten missiles. As to submarine and land-based launchers, there would be full freedom to mix for both sides. Both the United States and the USSR would also be free to MIRV either submarine or land-based missiles as they wish. Regarding aircraft, it is obvious that an aircraft with one missile is different from an aircraft with six missiles. If we see six bottles on the table, we cannot say we see only one. So we must distinguish between launchers with single missiles and those with several ones. I shall be happy to inform my colleagues of your intention to dismantle Rota; that will reduce this talk about United States aggressive intentions.

The Secretary: The President said we will do it after 1983.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: It should be stated “in” 1983, because “after” could mean the year 2000.

The Secretary: No, what we have in mind is between ’83 and ’85.

General Secretary Brezhnev: That’s fine.

The Secretary: How about the limit of 180 for heavy MIRVed missiles? We do not insist on your building them but we want to clarify this point.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: This was in the context of the differential of 200 launchers.

The Secretary: I understand, but I just wanted to clarify this point. Could I suggest a short break?

The President: This has been a very encouraging session.

(After the break, the meeting resumed in the same composition.)

The President: I think we can agree, but we need to have an understanding on two sub-limit problems. It is very hard for us to agree that there be no limit on heavy MIRVed missiles. And, therefore, in return for our concession on this point, we would need your agreement that there be no limitation on bomber armaments. We are making a concession on a very difficult issue, and it would be only fair if you made a concession to us as well. Otherwise, I believe we can agree as regards the aggregate and MIRV levels, that is, 2400 and 1320. If we can agree [Page 348] on this basis, we would have made great progress in this field and for peace in general. I think that with this kind of agreement and the announcement we would make on it the world would breathe more easily and the heritage of the agreement would be very significant.

General Secretary Brezhnev: I cannot understand one thing. How can we fail to impose limitations regarding bombers? Each missile on aircraft would count against the ceiling, so if you build more bombers, you will have to reduce Tridents, just as we will have to do if we build Typhoons. I think, Mr. President and Dr. Kissinger, we should not discuss aircraft today. In principle, we know that you will build bombers, but we will have to clarify whether they will carry five or ten missiles, which might be the case in a year or so. But we can now reach agreement in principle on levels.

The Secretary: The President did not say there should be no limit on bombers. What he said was that there should be no limit on armaments carried by bombers.

The President: To compare a bomber with a Trident or Typhoon is like comparing apples and oranges. We would consider a bomber as a unit within the 2400 ceiling just as we would consider each Trident missile within that ceiling.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Without taking into consideration the range or the number of missiles on aircraft?

General Secretary Brezhnev: Dr. Kissinger, do you really believe this is a fair proposal?

The Secretary: If there is no limitation on heavy missiles, this is a fair proposal.

The President: To drop limitations on heavy missiles is a great concession on our part but we are prepared to take this risk. However, we believe that there should be compensation and we are therefore asking you to make a similar concession.

General Secretary Brezhnev: You’ll have the right to build aircraft and deploy missiles on them but if there are 10 vehicles on an aircraft, how can you count them as one? This would be very difficult to explain.

The President: But don’t you have the same problem with heavy missiles with greater MIRV capability? And you do have missiles that are heavier than ours and with greater MIRV capability. So there is no equality.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: But we have given up the 200 differential on missiles. This is an enormous concession on our part. Before we had 2200 for the United States and 2400 for the Soviet Union. But now we have equal levels, and this is a great concession.

General Secretary Brezhnev: 200 missiles is of major significance.

[Page 349]

The President: It is unfortunate that we are getting into arguments back and forth of this kind, but since the Foreign Minister has mentioned your giving up 200 missiles, I can say that we have abandoned the limit on your MIRV capability with respect to heavy missiles. I believe that to reach an understanding, you will have the right to do what you want with heavy missiles. We know they are important to you. But we, for our part, will need flexibility regarding our missiles on aircraft.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Perhaps we are already tired and should resume tomorrow morning.

The President: That would be alright with me.

General Secretary Brezhnev: I am really tired. I had a hard day yesterday in Khabarovsk, where we were forced to land because of snowfall here. Do you have any fixed time for departure tomorrow?

The President: I am very flexible.

The Secretary: Whenever the President leaves, he’ll arrive in Washington before he leaves here.

General Secretary Brezhnev: I am going to Mongolia the day after tomorrow.

The Secretary: So we will remain close to each other.

The President: I’ve never been to Mongolia, but I’m sure that in some ways it is more pleasant than Washington, D.C. But we trust you will come to Washington next year—in fact, we are counting on it.

General Secretary Brezhnev: I consider myself having been invited and I have responded to that invitation positively.

The President: I’m sure your visit will be a great contribution to the development of détente. So I assume tomorrow morning we’ll continue our discussion of this subject, then take up that separate matter that exists, and then other issues of mutual interest.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Agreed.

The Secretary: I want to mention one thing. I promised to meet briefly with the press after we break up here. I intend to talk about the atmosphere in the spirit of the communiqué. Would it be appropriate for me also to say that we had a lengthy discussion on strategic arms limitation and have made progress. Our newsmen have something of a problem because in order to make the Sunday papers they have to file now.

General Secretary Brezhnev: That’s alright with me.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: If Kissinger says more, he’ll have to be punished.

The Secretary: No trip to Leningrad?

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Right.

[Page 350]

The Secretary: Well, now that I’m in the East I can slowly move westward.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Mr. President, I believe that today we should put it in somewhat more modest terms and say something like this: We have discussed the principles for a new strategic arms limitation agreement, the discussion was in a friendly and businesslike atmosphere, and our talks will continue tomorrow.

The Secretary: The communiqué to this effect is already being put out. Our problem is that whatever we say today will be in the Sunday paper and what we say tomorrow won’t appear for a day and a half.

General Secretary Brezhnev: But there’s some advantage in saving good news for the end, it would then have more impact.

The President: Alright, I’m more interested in substance.

General Secretary Brezhnev: We had planned to give a dinner in your honor tonight, but now it’s late in the night so perhaps we could have that dinner before you leave tomorrow afternoon.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: When do we start tomorrow, at 6 a.m.?

The President: Why do you want to begin so late?

General Secretary Brezhnev: Gromyko’s got it. He asked for it.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Well, again a big concession on my part.

The Secretary: I would like to see Gromyko negotiate with the Israelis.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: It is you who has been depriving me of that pleasure.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Shall we meet at 10 a.m. tomorrow?

The President: Agreed.

(The meeting ended at 35 minutes past midnight.)

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 6, SALT, Nov–Dec 1974. Secret; Sensitive; Nodis. Drafted by Akalovsky. The meeting was held in the Okeanskaya Sanatorium, near Vladivostok. Sonnenfeldt’s handwritten notes of the meeting are ibid., Box 5, Misc. Memcons.
  2. Thomas E. Dewey, Governor of New York, 1943–1954, and Republican nominee for President in 1944 and 1948.
  3. See Document 90.
  4. Documents 81 and 67, respectively.
  5. See footnote 3, Document 74.
  6. A copy of the proposal, which Kissinger gave Dobrynin on November 13, is in Ford Library, National Security Adviser, KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, 1974–1977, Box 27, USSR, The “D” File. It is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXIII, SALT II, 1972–1979.
  7. Miki Takeo replaced Tanaka Kakuei as Japanese Prime Minister on December 9.
  8. Presumably a reference to their August 14 meeting. See Document 12.
  9. Qiao Guanhua replaced Ji Pengfei as Chinese Foreign Minister on November 15.
  10. Lin Biao, once Mao Zedong’s heir apparent, was killed in an airplane crash in Mongolia on September 21, 1971.