227. Letter From President Carter to Secretary of State Vance1

To The Secretary of State

Your next meeting with Foreign Minister Gromyko is potentially the most important of all the discussions we have held with the Soviet Government since this Administration came into office. We have the opportunity to conclude, at least in principle, a SALT II agreement, to encourage the appropriate political environment for its positive acceptance by the Congress and to begin preparations for a summit meeting in the United States.

You will be receiving separate instructions covering the principal outstanding issues in SALT.2 Our willingness to show flexibility on the cruise missile definition, on the number of ALCMs per heavy bomber and on the modalities of dismantling are all designed to facilitate prompt conclusion of a SALT agreement which meets our concerns on verification, Protocol duration, ICBM fractionation and the Backfire bomber. I want to emphasize the importance I attach to the Soviet Government accommodating our concerns regarding telemetry encryption on the basis of our proposed common understanding. If necessary, you should explain to Foreign Minister Gromyko that unwillingness to meet these concerns could lead to a breakdown in negotiations since adequate verification goes to the heart of a viable SALT process and is essential3 for SALT ratification.

I also want you to address recent international developments in particular, China, Iran, the Middle East and Africa. On China, you should reiterate my personal assurances to Brezhnev that the step of normalization with Peking is not aimed at any other country. As we develop a more normal relationship with China, we also look forward to strengthening relations with the Soviet Union. On Iran, you should reiterate the main points of my private message to Brezhnev: we intend to maintain our close bilateral relationship with Iran, but we do not intend to intervene in Iranian affairs and expect that other countries will abstain from any interference in Iranian affairs. Any Soviet interference in Iran would be a matter of utmost gravity to us. In the Middle East and [Page 915] Africa, as in other parts of the world, it is extremely important for U.S.-Soviet relations that restraint be exercised toward areas of turbulence and tension. You should draw Foreign Minister Gromyko’s attention to the fact that the ratification of a SALT agreement will in some measure be a referendum on U.S.-Soviet relations and the exercise of restraint is therefore of central importance.

Assuming that satisfactory progress has been made in SALT you should begin privately to address the following ideas for a summit meeting.

The completion and signature of the SALT II Agreement will be the center piece of the Summit. However, I would also like to use this opportunity to have full discussion of the overall U.S.-Soviet relationship and the range of bilateral and international issues of interest to the two sides.

For these purposes, I would like to invite President Brezhnev to the United States for a Summit lasting five days, January 15–January 19. The first day and a half and part of the last day would take place in Washington. During the middle of the period envisaged for the Summit, I would like to invite President Brezhnev to St. Simons Island, Georgia, to pursue our discussions. Should President Brezhnev wish to arrive in the United States before the formal opening of the Summit on January 15 (e.g., January 13 or 14), we would be happy to arrange suitable accommodations.

I envisage four broad headings for the substantive discussions:

—The general relationship: I would like to begin the Summit meetings with a discussion of the general relationship and its future development. This general theme, in particular the future development of the relationship, could be further discussed in a final meeting at the end of the Summit.

SALT and arms control: The completion and signature of the SALT II Agreement would be the main objective. I wish in addition to have a substantive exchange of views on the directions for SALT III. The result might be a strengthening of the SALT III Principles accompanying the SALT II Agreement and added impetus for SALT III.

—Bilateral relations: I envisage discussion of economic and commercial relations. Questions concerning the state of our bilateral exchange agreements could also be addressed.

—International issues: I propose a full discussion of major international problems, including the Middle East and Africa, the Helsinki Accords, and the contribution the sides might make to global stability and development.

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You should seek Gromyko’s response to this approach and solicit any suggestions he may have on either substantive issues or procedural arrangements.


Jimmy Carter
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 53, SALT: 12/78. Top Secret.
  2. Document 228.
  3. Carter underlined “essential.”