200. Telegram From Secretary of State Vance to the Department of State1

Secto 4122. For Christopher from the Secretary. Department pass White House for the President and Brzezinski and DOD for Secretary Brown. Subject: Private Discussion With Gromyko April 20.

1. After morning and afternoon sessions with our full delegations,2 he and I had a productive private meeting this evening. We covered the following points:

2. Non-circumvention: Gromyko agreed to our fallback language. To his argument that we must agree on the meaning of the language, I replied only that the language speaks for itself and that we will not circumvent the agreement.

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3. Aggregates: Gromyko agreed to the 1200 limit on MIRVed ballistic missiles provided we accept the 2250 SNDV level.3 (Incidentally Gromyko seemed confused on how the 1320/1200/820 numbers worked, e.g., whether they were compelled to build up to the various levels. I finally straightened him out on this.)

4. New types: He delayed any response on our revised definition of “new type” until tomorrow. I made clear that our discussion of other new types issues proceeded on the assumption that we would reach a satisfactory agreement on definitions. On the exception, he tentatively agreed that the excepted ICBM would be either MIRVed or not but he said he would have to consult with his colleagues before he could respond to my proposal that the new types limits would apply for the full period of the agreement through 1985.4 He promised to give me a position in our next meeting. The question of ICBMs new types did not come up; I will seek to clarify the issue tomorrow.

5. Backfire: This was hard going indeed. The Soviets suggest in their position that the Backfire lacks the range for CONUS missions. (Ogarkov wanted Rowny to try to fly a Backfire from the USSR to Cuba without refueling and promised flowers for the widow.) They insist they will not go beyond their “good will” unilateral statement—though they accepted our proposal for an oral response stating that we are signing the SALT agreement in part in reliance on the Soviets’ Backfire statement, and recognized that it would be given to Congress. However, in the text of the statement as they read it to us, they said they were giving us the production rate assurance only “as a matter of information.” They insist that phrase was in their September statement, but it is not in our memcons. As to the rate itself, Gromyko refused to offer a number, but proposed that we state the rate in our oral response and they would not contradict it.5

6. On the whole, I am convinced they want an agreement, that we can solve the numbers/duration issue and that we cannot settle the Backfire question here. We may know their reaction to the conclusion of the new ICBM ban in the treaty tomorrow.

7. My next private meeting with Gromyko is at 11 a.m. Moscow time Friday (3 a.m. Washington time).

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8. Action requested:

A. I recommend that you authorize me to accept the 2250/1200 package, if it includes a Soviet agreement to the duration/timing position I presented this morning, that is reductions beginning January 1, 1980 and proceeding at a steady pace to completion not later than Dec 31, 1980, on which date the Protocol would expire.6

B. Dismantling and reduction of excess systems:

Gromyko has indicated a Soviet willingness to consider an arrangement whereby systems to be dismantled or destroyed might be rendered inoperable before the end of the Protocol period if we could accept a longer period for complete dismantling or destruction. Should we indicate an interest in extending the period for complete dismantling or destruction beyond Dec 31, 1980, in the context of such earlier “deactivation”? This is clearly a political decision, particularly if we were to get responsible, verifiable assurances regarding early deactivation of systems to be destroyed at the outset of the period. I recommend I be given authority to exercise my judgment in light of the then existing circumstances.7

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 56, SALT: Chronology: 11/23/77–4/20/78. Secret; Nodis; Cherokee. Vance was in Moscow April 19–23. Memoranda of conversation of his discussions in Moscow are in the Department of State, Marshall Shulman Files, Jan 21, 77–Jan 19, 81, Lot File 81D109, Vance to Moscow, 4/20–22, 1978.
  2. See Document 201.
  3. Carter underlined “provided we accept the 2250” and wrote in the margin “2220 enough.”
  4. Carter underlined “new types limits would apply for the full period of the agreement through 1985” and wrote in the margin “most important.”
  5. In the margin, Carter wrote, “Make clear to Br. that this issue is crucial to US public acceptance and ratification.” Brzezinski wrote in the margin, “i.e., subject to change.”
  6. Brzezinski wrote, “No, 1200 was trade-off for 1320 ALCMs and MIRV; 220 is a compromise between 2160 and 2250. Yes—provided earlier=late.”
  7. At the bottom of the page, Brzezinski wrote, “Vance, convening a meeting with Harold and the JCS prior to Presidential decision. Suggest you discuss wider issues in our relationship and we shall develop our response by Friday morning our time. Brzezinski.”