[Page 370]

93. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • Leonid I. Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU
  • Andrey A. Gromyko, Member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR
  • Ambassador Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Ambassador to the United States
  • Andrey M. Aleksandrov-Agentov, Assistant to the General Secretary
  • Viktor M. Sukhodrev, Interpreter
  • President Gerald R. Ford
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Ambassador Walter J. Stoessel, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to the USSR

SUBJECT

  • Nuclear War

President: Shortly after I became President, Dr. Kissinger briefed me some on what you and President Nixon discussed.2 I would like to know more about what you told President Nixon, and then I would like to ask some questions. There are some things I have to get straight in my mind. Then we could go to negotiations, or whatever. But first I need to know more about what you discussed.

Brezhnev: This was in the Crimea. As I am at all times, I was guided by the basic principle that there would be no nuclear war between us or nuclear war in the world in general. I told President Nixon that there are some countries which had not joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty and do not observe it. Therefore a situation could arise where you or we could be threatened with a nuclear attack. I thought it might be good for us to conclude a treaty dealing only with a nuclear attack on one of our countries. In the event of a nuclear attack on one, the other would come to its aid with all the resources at its disposal.

President Nixon, I recall, said that this was interesting and that he would look further into it. I had some further talks with Dr. Kissinger[Page 371] on this [in Moscow on October 26],3 but for various reasons nothing came of it. That is where we stand.

In the preamble we could say something like: we are aware of what a nuclear war would mean in such circumstances and, desirous to avoid such an event, the two sides, et cetera. We could do it so as to avoid giving offense to allies—and in fact it would give a reassurance of protection to our allies.

President: As I told you, I was briefed on this in general terms. I want to ask a couple of questions, and then Dr. Kissinger and Minister Gromyko can discuss it further.

I agree with President Nixon; it is an interesting idea. One question is, does it mean strategic nuclear attack, tactical nuclear attack, or any nuclear attack?

Brezhnev: Under the treaty we would each agree not to use nuclear weapons against anyone.

President: They would be defensive only?

Brezhnev: Yes.

I agree to Dr. Kissinger continuing with subsequent discussions. My concept is related to any use of nuclear weapons. What is the difference whether they are tactical or strategic? Because in either case there would be a nuclear war, and we want to prevent that.

President: I asked because I wanted to know if it were a tactical nuclear attack whether it would be an “all-force reaction,” and I wondered whether the response to different kinds of attack should be different. That is of some importance.

Brezhnev: The important thing is not to have a nuclear attack on us or our allies. If we entered this kind of an arrangement, nuclear war would be impossible for decades to come. The basic thing is to talk the general concept. We can then work on the details and go into it deeper.

President: Let me ask: what about an attack by a nuclear power on a third party that is not an ally? What would be the situation?

Brezhnev: It is hard to give a precise answer. Perhaps we could agree to enter consultations as the best course. A lot would depend on who attacked whom. This proposal hasn’t been elaborated in detail. But since the United States and the Soviet Union are the most important powers, an agreement like this between us would eliminate nuclear war for many years to come.

President: We do want to prevent nuclear war, and your country and mine have a great responsibility. We should talk further. Mean[Page 372]while, I think we should make a major effort to get the laggards to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. There are some laggards.

Brezhnev: I fully agree.

President: Let’s have it between Dr. Kissinger and your Ambassador to work on that.

Brezhnev: We are putting the Non-Proliferation Treaty into the communiqué.

Let’s think about it little by little. It should be discussed energetically.

[The private conversation ended and the principals rejoined the larger meeting.]4

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger Reports on USSR, China, and Middle East Discussions, 1974–1976, Box 1, USSR Memcons and Reports, November 23–24, 1974—Vladivostok Summit (2). Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. All brackets are in the original. The meeting was held in Okeanskaya Sanatorium near Vladivostok.
  2. See footnote 5, Document 71.
  3. See Document 73.
  4. See Document 92.