157. Editorial Note

Secretary of State Vance visited Moscow March 27–30, 1977. On March 28, Vance and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko met in the Kremlin for a meeting on SALT that lasted from 5:30 to 7:45 p.m. During that discussion Vance outlined the two preferred U.S. options as authorized in Presidential Directive 7 (Document 156) and presented Gromyko with written texts in English and Russian. Gromyko noted that since Vance had given him a formal proposal, he would need time to prepare an official response. The memorandum of conversation of the meeting is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, Volume VI, Soviet Union. In telegram Secto 3032 from Vance to the President, March 29, 1945Z, the Secretary reported that “the Soviets are clearly going through a very thorough analysis of our comprehensive proposal on SALT”—which Vance had presented Gromyko in their March 28 meeting. If the Soviet counterproposal could be the basis for negotiation, Vance asked to be able to use, at his discretion, option 3 as outlined in the PD. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 55, SALT: Chronology: 3/25/77–5/9/77) Vance met with Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. on March 30 at the Kremlin to discuss SALT and other issues. The memorandum of conversation of that meeting is also scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, Volume VI, Soviet Union. After the meeting, Vance sent telegram Secto 3053 to the President, President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Brzezinski, and Acting Secretary of State Christopher, March 30, 2150Z. Vance reported:

“1. As I reported earlier, Brezhnev and I met today for an hour, and he read through a formal written rejection of both of our SALT proposals. Though he used some strong language about inequitability and inconsistency with Vladivostok, he was very careful to tie his presentation in with our agreement to resume discussions with Gromyko in May. At one point he said that we should not conclude that negotiations were doomed and that there was still time to think and talk about the question before my meeting with Gromyko in May. He was also careful to take note that we had made progress on other issues, which, in fact, is quite true.

“2. He spent the remainder of his half-hour presentation on the Middle East and MBFR. He stressed that we must cooperate in the Middle East, and again referred to my meeting with Gromyko. On MBFR, he spoke, I believe for the record in attacking our proposals.

“3. One note of concern was his statement that in light of the developments, he believed that FBS problem, which had been deferred, [Page 688] would not [now?] have to be settled within the framework of the present negotiations. This may be real trouble.

“4. I carefully rebutted his characterization of our proposals as one-sided, noting that deferral was consistent with Vladivostok, and that the comprehensive proposal was a bold new step in the interests of both sides. Brezhnev had no negotiating room. He obviously wanted to end the session, and did not appear very happy with the outcome. I took on his statement about FBS pointing out this would cause us to bring in the IRBMs including the SS–20 if they persisted.

“5. My view is that they have calculated, perhaps mistakenly, that pressure will build on us to take another position. One of their problems apparently is they feel that we have departed too far from the basic Vladivostok framework. They may believe that this reflects on Brezhnev personally, since he was the cosigner of the Vladivostok accords. Indeed, one constant theme of theirs was that agreements are made by governments, not personalities.

“6. In any case, although the results on SALT were definitely disappointing, we should not be discouraged. A certain testing period was probably to be expected. The Soviets have not ended the discussions, and, indeed, seem eager to keep SALT as a key element in my next meeting with Gromyko.

“7. We made some progress on other arms constraints which will be tested when the various expert working groups get under way. You will have received the joint communiqué which strikes a neutral tone, and indication that the Soviets still wish to keep the door open.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Box 69, USSR: Brezhnev-Carter Correspondence: 3–5/77)

At a news conference in Moscow on March 30, Vance said that he was “disappointed that we didn’t make progress and establish a framework.” Transcripts of his news conferences on March 27, 28, 29, and 30 and en route to London and Paris on April 1, and the Joint Communiqué of March 30 are in the Department of State Bulletin, April 25, 1977, pages 389–408. After Vance’s departure the morning of March 31, Gromyko held a televised news conference in which he rejected the “so-called narrow alternative proposal of the United States” and accused the Carter administration of distorting the Soviet position. Excerpts of Gromyko’s statement were published in The New York Times, April 1, 1977, page 9.