172. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Zbigniew Brzezinski, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Anatoliy Dobrynin, Ambassador of the Soviet Union

I had lunch today (12:40–2:50) with Ambassador Dobrynin, on his initiative. The luncheon was a compromise-picnic: I provided the White House meal and he provided vodka and caviar, a bargain that I felt was equitable to both sides.

[Omitted here is general discussion about U.S.-Soviet relations.]

Turning to SALT, Dobrynin emphasized that the Soviet position is that the United States is deliberately attempting to significantly affect the central component of the Soviet nuclear force, namely ground-based missiles. This he feels is unequal and one-sided. He also stressed that the Soviet Union made a deliberate bow to the President by proposing recently that both sides reduce their arsenals to 2250; he emphasized this point, stressing that this had not been the Soviet intention but that it was a goodwill gesture aimed at the President personally.

I stressed to Dobrynin that he should make it clear to his Soviet colleagues that there are certain things which the U.S. President can and cannot control. I cited the example of the Concorde as something which foreigners find very difficult to comprehend, and I emphasized that it is important for him to stress to Brezhnev that the Congressional defense budget process, and statements by legislators, are not under executive control in this country. Moreover, I indicated to him that the President’s desire to decrease nuclear weaponry is a very genuine one, and [Page 734] that it had been counterproductive for the Soviet side to misconstrue it as an attempt to gain a unilateral advantage. He acknowledged this point and stated that he was trying to convince his colleagues back home of this fact.

He became somewhat indignant when I cited to him the fact that some Soviet spokesmen had spoken of deeper cuts than those proposed by Gromyko, involving at least 10%. He spoke with some vehemence to the effect that we make a mistake in taking seriously Soviet academicians who pretend to speak for the top Soviet leadership. He pointed out that the most prominent one of them has seen Brezhnev only once a year and that it is really a figment of our own imaginations to consider them as serious spokesmen for the Soviet government. He noted, for example, that the Soviet academic who publicly proposed in Moscow a mutual 10% cut was reprimanded and will not make such proposals again.

While generally concerned with the nature of the U.S.-Soviet relationship, he was unwilling to be specific as to what ought to be done about it. He was rather inclined to press me for my views, which I did not elaborate beyond those summarized earlier. He agreed that it might be useful to try to see whether a more concerted effort could not be made in SALT in order to make certain that there is more definite progress by September; that it might be useful to take a closer look at some of the issues that provoked the greatest degree of sensitivity on both sides, differentiating between those which cannot be subject to governmental control and those which perhaps can be ameliorated by initiatives taken by the leaders; and that more thought ought to be given to the possibility of a Carter-Brezhnev meeting. We further agreed that it might be useful to have again a talk focusing not so much on specific issues but on the larger dimensions of the Soviet-American relationship, and that he would pursue this subject also in his conversations with the Secretary of State.

[Omitted here is general discussion on U.S.-Soviet relations.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 33, Memcons: Brzezinski: 1–9/77. Top Secret. The meeting took place at the White House. The memorandum of conversation is scheduled to be printed in full in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, Vol. VI, Soviet Union.