167. Editorial Note

Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko and Secretary of State Vance met in Geneva from May 18 to 20, 1977, to discuss SALT II and the Middle East. According to the memorandum of conversation of the first meeting on May 18 at 3 p.m., “the Secretary thought it would be a good procedure to start exchanging views without presenting anything as formal as a proposal. He thought that it would be useful for him and the Foreign Minister to think out loud together, as it were, in an effort to get a better understanding of each other’s views and to see if they could find common ground.” Gromyko commented in his introductory remarks, “Unfortunately, the proposals which the Secretary had brought with him to Moscow were of such a one-sided nature that their implementation would have been of benefit to the United States only. It would have harmed the security interests of the Soviet Union. The Soviet leadership had said this to the Secretary in Moscow, and yet, after the meeting some statements made in Washington concerning the results of the talks had clearly distorted the true state of affairs. The Soviet leadership could not understand why it had been necessary with lightning speed to offer comments on these talks, comments that were definitively one-sided. This had simply forced the Soviet side to respond.” At the end of the meeting, Vance proposed structuring the SALT II negotiations around three elements: an Interim Agreement, which would be valid for two years; a Treaty, which would be valid until 1985; and a Statement of Principles for SALT III, which would be signed by both parties. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Europe, USSR, and East/West, Box 17, 3/25/77–4/2/77 Vance Trip to Moscow: 5/10–31/77)

The second meeting, held on May 19 at 11 a.m., focused on Vance’s three-part framework. The memorandum of conversation noted: “The Secretary thought that Gromyko had indicated yesterday that in general terms the three-part structure would be acceptable. In his view, this was an important and constructive step, because it would allow us now to put our views in a structure and to move seriously to resolve remaining differences.” Gromyko, however, was not enamored with the three-part approach. Later in that same conversation, he remarked: “Suddenly three documents had made their appearance instead of one [Page 715] comprehensive document—a Treaty—which had been under discussion all along. Then the Secretary had proceeded to discuss a list of six specific items on which there were differences [long-range ALCMs on heavy bombers, mobile missiles, Backfire, heavy missiles, overall aggregates, and the Joint Statement of Principles]. He [Gromyko] had difficulty in understanding such an approach.” (Ibid.)

Later that day, Gromyko and Vance met at 5 p.m., to discuss the Middle East. In their fourth meeting, held on May 20 at 11 a.m., Gromyko responded to Vance’s framework and the six “problem” areas that he had discussed the previous day. Gromyko began by saying that “he and his colleagues had carefully considered everything the Secretary had said here in Geneva, in particular the positions presented at yesterday’s meeting. He had to say that on the whole these positions were still of a lopsided nature. In many aspects they were aimed at changing the balance of interests found during the Vladivostok meeting and in the course of subsequent negotiations to the one-sided benefit of the United States.” Gromyko also continued to take issue with the format, stating that “the Soviet side believed it to be most appropriate and correct to formalize and include all the questions relating to the subject of our negotiations in one single document, an Agreement or a Treaty, to last until 1985.” (Ibid.)

In their final meeting on May 20 at 5:45 p.m., Vance and Gromyko offered their concluding remarks. With regard to the framework, Vance said that the United States was willing to accept the proposed Soviet Protocol to the Treaty in lieu of an Interim Agreement. However, he continued to discuss SALT II in his three-part framework. Gromyko responded that he agreed to a treaty and a protocol, but no additional components. He reflected on the meetings by stating: “in spite of the fact that with regard to some questions the positions of the two sides had come closer together (and he noted that both sides had said so), a great deal of work would still be required, a great deal of assiduous and very hard and persistent work would be required in order to ensure a successful outcome of our negotiations.” A discussion of the communiqué concluded their negotiations. (Ibid.) The Joint Communiqué was issued in Geneva on May 21; for the text, see the Department of State Bulletin, June 13, 1977, page 633.