188. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • Andrey Andreyevich Gromyko, Member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR
  • Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Ambassador to the USSR
  • Georgiy M. Korniyenko, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Vasiliy Makarov, Chef de Cabinet to the Foreign Minister
  • Yuly M. Vorontsov, Minister Counselor, Soviet Embassy
  • Viktor M. Sukhodrev, Counsellor, Second European Department; Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Interpreter)
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • William G. Hyland, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor of the Department of State
  • Arthur A. Hartman, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs
  • Winston Lord, Director, Policy Planning Staff
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

SUBJECTS

  • FRG; Africa; U.S. politics; agrément for Toon; SALT; Middle East; MBFR; Law of the Sea; U.S.-Soviet maritime and civil aviation agreements; Iran

[Photos were taken. Then drinks and hors d’oeuvres were served in the living room.]2

[Page 564]

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Iran.]

Iran

Gromyko: Then Iran. There is one substantive problem.

Kissinger: I noticed the reference in your speech.3 I thought you meant India.

Gromyko: Your reference to my speech is correct.

I would like to say that however you assess your actions regarding Iran, it’s a matter of policy, and there is nothing commercial about these actions. What reason is there to supply arms to Iran in the amount of billions, billions of dollars? So far it’s $10 billion and the plan is twice that. Why do you want to cause tensions on the southern border of the Soviet Union? If you’re prompted by certain of your agencies, it’s not in the interests of peace or of a tranquil situation in that part of the world.

This isn’t in accordance with the words you use, or President Ford, or you at the table, on the need to find common language.

We have been observing your actions in Iran for some time. We thought your concern for US-Soviet relations would gain the upper hand. But it goes on. You know and we know and the leadership of Iran knows there is no security interest for Iran in this. But this line continues. I say this because it’s the line taken by our entire leadership, and the view personally of General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev.

Kissinger: First, at no conceivable level of armaments can Iran threaten the Soviet Union. The idea that Iran can want to cause tensions with the Soviet Union is inconceivable. And it has other neighbors than the Soviet Union who are armed by the Soviet Union. Iraq per capita is more heavily armed than Iran; India is armed by the Soviet Union. The idea that they (Iran) would take offensive action against the Soviet Union is beyond my imagination. Nor do they have weapons capable of taking offensive action. The Soviet Union is not its security problem but these others are. It lives in a world in which its neighbors are heavily armed; that’s its security problem.

Gromyko: We are raising this matter not because we are scared of Iran or of weapons placed in Iran’s hands, but because there are no reasonable grounds—and we have said this to the Shah many times4—for [Page 565]such a huge arsenal. Who is threatening Iran? Not the Soviet Union; the Shah knows. Iraq? But those two countries just signed an agreement. There is no threat from Pakistan; there are good relations. Is the threat coming from the seabed or outer space? No. If you take a cool-headed analysis, it is clear there are no grounds for it. Why this piling up of arms on the border of the Soviet Union?

If you were in the same position, you would react the same way. It’s not a matter of pure commerce—because they’re buying American arms. It’s a matter of policy. The major powers should not allow this, because in one part of the world we may stamp out the flames of war and tension would be generated in other parts.

So I wanted to call your attention to it, and President Ford’s attention, and the US Government.

Kissinger: We will note it. But I can’t accept that just signing an agreement means there can be no tension. And India is so heavily armed that it may even overcome the scruples which are so inseparable from Indian morality. Iran lives in a complicated environment.

But I’ll take note of it.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Iran.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P860112–0409. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in Secretary Kissinger’s suite at the Waldorf Towers. The full text of this memorandum of conversation is in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XVI, Soviet Union, 1974–1976, Document 289.
  2. Brackets in the original.
  3. Kissinger is referring to Gromyko’s speech before the UN General Assembly on September 28.
  4. Telegram 8487 from Tehran, August 22, transmitted the Shah’s report of a Soviet démarche on Iranian arms purchases, in which the Soviet Ambassador referred to the Humphrey subcommittee report (see footnote 4, Document 179) and expressed particular displeasure with the Iranian naval build-up. Although the Shah defended Iran’s right to arm itself, he concluded by expressing his concern to Helms that the United States meet its responsibilities and remember how important the Persian Gulf was to the Free World. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, D760321–0420)