41. Editorial Note

Secretary of State Henry Kissinger met with Soviet leaders in Moscow October 22–23, 1973, primarily to discuss the Arab-Israeli War. During a meeting on October 22 from 8:45 to 9:45 a.m., he had the following exchange with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko concerning SALT II:

Gromyko: In Geneva our representatives at SALT seem to be doing an honest job.

Kissinger: It is completely stalemated.

Gromyko: But in some time we should review where we are.

Kissinger: In the US we’re having a debate about whether to make proposals that are as outrageous as yours, or stick with ours. As extreme as yours. I will assume we will have some considerations. And you’ve not yet completed your studies.

Gromyko: About half way.

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Kissinger: We’ll stick with ours. There is no need to introduce any new ones. We’ll wait until you have something to say.

Gromyko: It doesn’t mean you should stop thinking.

Kissinger: No. It’s a very tough problem, as you must have discovered in your deliberations. The ideas I’ve discussed thinking out loud with your Ambassador we could consider.”

On November 3, Kissinger handed Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin a letter from President Richard Nixon to Leonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In the letter, Nixon wrote:

“The negotiations for the limitation of strategic arms have not progressed as rapidly as I had hoped following our agreement on basic principles in Washington last June. Secretary Kissinger has told me of Foreign Minister Gromyko’s comments to him on this subject during your most recent meeting with him in Moscow. I will of course look forward with keen anticipation to the results of your own review of the difficult issues involved but I want to assure you that for our part we are not standing still. We are seeking to establish the elements that would make up a meaningful and equitable agreement which would place permanent limitations on the strategic offensive arms of both sides and which would place the strategic relationship of our two countries on a basis of enduring stability. I recognize, as I know you do, that the complexities involved are great because the technology of strategic weaponry is difficult to bring under control and because there are many differences in the military requirements of our two countries which any agreement must take into account. Because of these complexities it is important that we continue our frank and informal exchanges and Ambassador Dobrynin and Secretary Kissinger keep in close touch, so that neither sides ‘freezes’ itself into rigid negotiating positions. I would like you to know, incidentally, that it is precisely for this reason that our side has not tabled a new proposal in Geneva following the submission of your most recent proposal.”

Brezhnev replied to Nixon in an undated note hand-delivered to Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, by Yuri Babenko, Soviet Third Secretary, on November 10. The note reads in part:

“As for the negotiations on the limitation of strategic arms going on in Geneva, indeed, no special progress has been shown as yet there. Attaching great importance to that question, we are considering all its aspects now. We shall be also prepared to review carefully those concrete thoughts which some time ago Dr. Kissinger promised to send us by the end of October but which we have not yet received. In this question as well, the main thing now as it was in the past is that, while taking any steps on the limitation of strategic arms, the interests of nei [Page 126] ther side are infringed upon and equal security for them is provided, taking into account as well the unequal strategic position of both sides. Proceeding from that main premise, we would like to find real points in common between our respective positions and to work out a joint good basis for agreement. Of course, we agree that a confidential exchange of views on that question should contine between Ambassador Dobrynin and Secretary of State Kissinger.”

The full text of the memorandum of conversation and the letters between Nixon to Brezhnev are printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Volume XV, Soviet Union, June 1972–August 1974, Documents 144, 152, and 153.