66. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Andrei A. Gromyko, Member of the Politburo, Central Committee CPSU, and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR
  • Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Ambassador to USA
  • Georgi M. Korniyenko, Member of the Collegium, MFA, Chief of USA Division (at end)
  • Vasili Makarov, Aide to Gromyko (at end)
  • Viktor M. Sukhodrev, Counselor, MFA (interpreter)
  • Secretary Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to President for National Security Affairs
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor of the Department (at end)
  • Robert McCloskey, Ambassador at Large
  • Arthur Hartman, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs
  • William G. Hyland, Director, INR
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff


  • SALT; Joint Statement


Foreign Minister Gromyko: Could I say a few words, first?

Secretary Kissinger: Of course.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: All of the discussions that have gone on until now on this subject [SALT] were certainly necessary and useful since, of course, it is necessary to clarify the positions of each side. Without that, no agreement is possible. But I must say, frankly, that so far we do not see an agreement materializing. The latest considerations you gave to us [U.S. Note of April 23, Tab A],2 frankly, are not the basis for an agreement, because, frankly, they are one-sided.

Secretary Kissinger (laughs): May I say that the Joint Chiefs are completely in agreement with the Politburo on that.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: I understand what you mean. I would like to make several observations to show why we think as we do.

[Page 259]

Secretary Kissinger (interrupts the translation): You know how many submarine missiles the Joint Chiefs would like? 856.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: There are almost no figures, within the limits of what is realistic, that could compensate us for the one very big advantage which you have, which is forward-based weapons. And if you really want to know, within our own circle, a lot has been said that the agreement that has been achieved does not fully coincide with the interests of both sides. In your country many voices can be heard, but we have a different view on that score. Nonetheless, we deemed it possible, on the basis of the proposal which was made by General Secretary Brezhnev to you in Moscow,3 to reach agreement by the time of the forthcoming Summit on the continuation of the Interim Agreement with the addition of certain figures. These figures are known, so I needn’t go into detail.

Secretary Kissinger: The figures General Secretary Brezhnev gave me on MIRV?

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Yes. 1000, 1100. Apart from that, there is the second factor, which we have mentioned on several occasions—though we could have mentioned it but once, we did so several times—that there are certain third countries, and we cannot but take that into account. You know their names and we needn’t go into detail.

Secretary Kissinger: France.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: And you know about the so-called “eastern factor.” If we didn’t take account of this, we would be acting contrary to our own security interests, and that we cannot do.

And therefore we should certainly like to believe that you still have the possibility to give some additional thought on this matter and will find it in you to take a more realistic position. As for the possibility of an agreement, we both know its importance and needn’t say more. We, for our part, want an agreement by the time of the forthcoming Soviet-American summit, which would serve the cause of peace.

Secretary Kissinger: What aspects of it did you see as one-sided? So we can understand.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: In your latest proposals you seek to revise the Interim Agreement and you alter the figures in such a way as to considerably improve your own situation and considerably worsen our own.

Secretary Kissinger: I can’t believe that 26 weapons considerably worsen the security of the Soviet Union.

[Page 260]

We are now entitled to 710 missiles; we now propose 736. So in effect the total number permitted under the Interim Agreement is increased by 26. We don’t mind your increasing yours by 26.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: The Interim Agreement is the Interim Agreement. As I said, you have voices in the United States saying it’s slanted in favor of the Soviet Union. We don’t accept that. In fact, we maintain the opposite view, that you are in a better position. But the Agreement is there. Now you want to slant it in favor of the United States.

You will have 26 more plus an additional 250 MIRVs and then another 54 missiles in the letter—which I want to go into.4

Secretary Kissinger: In the overall forces of the two sides we’ll get only 26. We can’t use the whole 30; only 26. To get those 26, we have to destroy 54 land-based. So the Foreign Minister is not correct that we get 26 plus 54. We get a net of 26. We are shifting the 54 from land to submarines.

Ambassador Dobrynin: What about the 44 submarines?

Secretary Kissinger: The agreement allows 44; there is a side agreement that we’ll stay with 41, or 756. We propose that the side agreement just lapses in 1977.

Ambassador Dobrynin: So this is the second change in your proposal.

Secretary Kissinger: We don’t get 54 extra; we get 26 extra. Concretely we want three submarines with 72 missiles. 72 minus 54 is 18. By 1980 we can do it with 728. By 1982 we can do it by 736. But at any rate we’re talking about either 18 or 26 net gain in missiles, not 54.

Ambassador Dobrynin: But there was the assumption that there were three out [on the basis of the letter].

Secretary Kissinger: If the agreement lapses, we’ll build many more.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: We are probably talking in different languages. What we’re talking about is the letter—which I assume all the gentlemen here are familiar with . . .

Secretary Kissinger: Yes.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: So you have the right to 54 missiles but the letter says you won’t make use of that right. Then there is the Trident; now you say you want to go full steam ahead on implementing that program. We will draw the necessary conclusions. That means both sides will go ahead. What you say in effect is that you want unilaterally—or rather, in the interests of one side—to change in your favor [Page 261] the material content of the agreement. Of course we realize perhaps it may be good for you. But what we’re talking about is a mutually-acceptable agreement and it certainly couldn’t be acceptable to us.

[Secretary Kissinger goes out to take a phone call. In the meantime Mr. Hyland explains the numbers to Ambassador Dobrynin. Secretary Kissinger then returns.]

Foreign Minister Gromyko: The Pentagon was calling?

Secretary Kissinger: (laughs): Yes. If they only knew! We have a serious problem, Mr. Foreign Minister. Simply on numbers. The total number of missiles by which our forces would increase by 1980 is 18. These Tridents wouldn’t be in the force; they’d be only on sea trials.

The only reason we mentioned it is that under the definition of the agreement the old ones have to be destroyed once the new ones go on sea trials. On the assumption of three Trident submarines.

[Sonnenfeldt comes in]

The total force increases by 18, land and sea-based. The sea-based increase by 72; the land-based decrease by 54. Even those figures are not correct: The land-based would be destroyed before the others become operational. So the strategic effect is zero.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: I can’t quite understand your line of reasoning. According to your latest proposal—1100 for you, 850 for us—what’s in it for us?

Secretary Kissinger: MIRVed?

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Yes. So then, according to the corrections you now want to introduce to the agreement itself, your combination with sea-based missiles, you want 30 more than us plus 54 according to the letter, whereby you turn the right into an actuality. Which means 250 plus 30 plus 54. All told, it means 334 more than us.

In reality, take the 250 [advantage] related to the MIRVs—and you do have the right to install them all on submarines—that means each would have 10. This means 250 times 10, which is 2500. Again, plus 30, plus 54 which are not MIRVed. This means 2800 more than us.

That is the arithmetic we reach from your figures. Tell us where we’re wrong.

Secretary Kissinger [laughs]: A masterful dialectic

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Subject to correction.

Secretary Kissinger: Let’s separate the number of missiles from the number of MIRVed. You lumped them together.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: All right. Separate them.

Secretary Kissinger: In the agreement, there are 1054 ICBMs and 656 submarine missiles. You have the right to 1409 and 950, which is 2359.

[Page 262]

This is incontrovertible. We are entitled to 1710. By our proposal, by 1980 we would have 1000 instead of 1054, and we would have 728 instead of 656. Making a total of 18 missiles gained. In terms of missiles.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Missiles.

Secretary Kissinger: We’re not accumulating the 54; we’re destroying 54.

Ambassador Dobrynin: The only question he asks is, if it’s the agreement as it is now, and a prolongation, you’re saying we should just forget the letter. If you just held to 41, you wouldn’t have to ask us.

Secretary Kissinger: If we held to 41, we would still keep 54 Titans. We can still get Tridents under the Interim Agreement by giving up Polaris.

Ambassador Dobrynin: Right. But for two Tridents, not three. Then there is the separate case my Minister made about MIRVs.

Secretary Kissinger: That’s separate.

Ambassador Dobrynin: But you would have 2500 warheads, as he showed.

Secretary Kissinger: But your warheads are bigger.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Yes, but if you believe the obligation regarding 54 will cease to operate after 1980, that’s wrong. Because if we prolong the agreement, we have to prolong it in its entirety. Otherwise, it’s like buying a horse and you find yourself holding the bridle and the horseshoes but the horse isn’t there.

Let’s try to understand each other in matters of substance. I see that here the matter lies not in the distribution of figures or how you read the figures but in the desire on your part to alter the material substance. It is a different approach in principle. We propose that the agreement be prolonged in its entirety, with an additional document.

Secretary Kissinger: We consider this change a very minor modification of the agreement; it does not go to the material substance of the agreement.

Ambassador Dobrynin: How can you treat it as additional correction? You just seem to want another Trident. If you wanted a correction just on MIRVs, that would be easier.

Secretary Kissinger: I understand. If we widen the gap on MIRVs, we could hold to the existing agreement.

I think both our General Staffs won’t allow a ban in an agreement on something they don’t want to do anyway! All hell breaks loose when this is even suggested.

On MIRVs, we’re making a very considerable concession. We could build more Tridents; and we could MIRV 500 more ICBMs. On [Page 263] the other hand, if the gap in MIRVs is larger, then we don’t have to play around with the Interim Agreement.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Well, I think we have understood each other very well. There is no misunderstanding here; it’s simply that there are different approaches.

[Omitted here is discussion of the joint statement to be issued after Kissinger’s and Gromyko’s discussion. The statement as agreed upon is printed in the Department of State Bulletin, June 24, 1974, p. 677.]


Foreign Minister Gromyko: As I see it, we understand each other well enough [on SALT], and there is no misunderstanding here. Nothing changes according to what end you start listing your figures from. You are altering the material content of the agreement, but what we’re talking about is prolonging it, and changing it only by an additional protocol or something.

Secretary Kissinger: I understand this. I explained to your Ambassador why for us to accept figures of 1100 or 1200 is a major concession for us. I won’t go into it now; he can write it down for the consideration of your colleagues. It is a concession not only regarding MIRVs but also regarding types of missiles. If we do it, it will be less like the ones we have now and more like the ones you’ve tested so successfully recently.

I understand your concerns on the Interim Agreement. We have to study whether by changing the replacement formulation [i.e., using the time when submarines become operational rather than the beginning of sea trials] we can accomplish the same result as we sought in the formulation we gave you. But we are sincerely attempting to limit the escalation that is sure to take place.

We will be in touch with you shortly after I return. Hal [Sonnenfeldt] and Bill [Hyland], you and Lodal will do the studies.

[Omitted here is additional discussion of the joint statement.]


Foreign Minister Gromyko: I have one final question regarding your last remarks on SALT. What version do you have in mind? Are you referring to 1100–1200, or to what you said to Ambassador Dobrynin on the increase of 84 missiles by 1983? You can get in touch with us.

Secretary Kissinger: In light of your considerations, we had better think in terms of 1980 rather than 1983. I can tell you your proposal of 1100–1000 can’t be accepted. It means a reduction of our program; there is no real equivalence.

Let me give you my impression of what you have said. Our impression from what you said is that we have suggested two categories [Page 264] of changes—one in the numbers we presented to the General Secretary and one in the numbers of the Interim Agreement.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Yes.

Secretary Kissinger: You find it difficult to discuss both changes simultaneously.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: [Laughter]: They are difficult to be considered taken separately too

Secretary Kissinger: I understand your point. Let us see whether we can—in terms of replacement, the categories in the Interim Agreement, and modifications of the MIRV numbers—come up with a scheme that we might be prepared to sign. I’ll let the Ambassador know within days of my return. Maybe if we meet again, I’ll have a preliminary view.

[Omitted here is discussion of the timing of the release of the joint statement.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1028, Memcons–HAK & Presidential, March 1–May 8, 1974. Secret; Nodis. All brackets, except those inserted by the editor to indicate omitted passages, are in the original. Kissinger was in Geneva on April 28–29 to discuss bilateral issues with Gromyko. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s Suite in the InterContinental Hotel.
  2. Printed as Document 65.
  3. See Documents 60 and 61.
  4. A reference to Tab A, printed as Document 65.