71. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Leonid I. Brezhnev, General Secretary, Central Committee of the CPSU
  • Andrey A. Gromyko, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR
  • Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Soviet Ambassador to the United States
  • Andrei M. Alexandrov, Assistant to the General Secretary
  • Georgi M. Kornienko, Member of the Collegium, Head of USA Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Generals Kozlov and Afonofsky, Soviet General Staff
  • Viktor M. Sukhodrev, Interpreter
  • President Richard Nixon
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Gen. Alexander M. Haig, USA (retd.), Assistant to the President
  • Maj. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor, State Department
  • William G. Hyland, Director, INR

[Note: Conversation begins as other participants join the President and General Secretary who have been meeting alone.]

Brezhnev: I was telling the President that we appreciate him sending Dr. Kissinger to Moscow. He took a tough line with us in March, and we candidly told him our view. We told him our limits. The truth is there somewhere, so he should tell us where we should start to reach agreement.

President: As far as the conversation the General Secretary and I were having—we have left the issues for a larger group to discuss; if there is to be any agreement, we have to discuss the specific problems in this group.

Brezhnev: I confirm that.

President: I made the point only that the failure to reach any agreement will inevitably lead us to step up US expenditures and programs in the November budget, with an inevitable Soviet response and this kind of increase in the arms race could jeopardize our relations in other areas as well. Consequently, it is important, in addition to agreements [Page 279] already reached, to see what agreements are possible in this area, and to see what are the points of view. In fact, we have a Wednesday2 deadline. If nothing can be agreed upon, we had better learn it now. I presented the themes, we both recognize our positions are far apart, that is where we stand.

Brezhnev: (To Dr. Kissinger) This is one occasion where the best possible answer is not to comment.

President: We agree we ought to agree, but Dr. Kissinger should tell us how.

Brezhnev: Suppose we take as the starting point the agreements already achieved, but we can’t start from the very beginning.

President: All right.

Brezhnev: Since we have already discussed with the President, through Dr. Kissinger that time he was here, we have set out our point of view. He promised to think it over and come back to us, but since then we have had nothing. Perhaps by now some new considerations have matured; some principles, because failure of this talk would be quite detrimental, but let’s proceed in an attitude of confidence and belief in our goal.

Kissinger: Mr. President, we made an informal suggestion to the Soviet side that represented our own best thinking. We said we would do our utmost to continue the Interim Agreement. Continuing this agreement, with its numerical advantage to the Soviet side, would be agreed along with limitations on MIRV that gave us a slight advantage. Thus we accept the basic principle that the General Secretary developed.

President: Only a slight US advantage?

Kissinger: Substantially a US advantage.

Brezhnev: Well, let me recall it: We suggest that the US be limited to 1100 MIRVs and 1000 for the Soviet side. This means 100 MIRV missiles more for the American side.

Kissinger: We pointed out that this was impossible for us. We will have to stop our MIRV programs next year, but the Soviets will continue for four more years at their maximum capacity. This will be represented in the US as our freezing while permitting the Soviets to catch up.

Brezhnev: Well, let’s talk about it.

Kissinger: This agreement should be seen not only in terms of the numbers that are established but in terms of what each side could do [Page 280] without an agreement. Without an agreement, for example, we could put MIRVs on 500 more Minuteman missiles.

Gromyko: In this period?

Kissinger: Yes, in two years.

Dobrynin: After two years?

Kissinger: Let’s talk concretely: the numbers we propose are expressed as a percentage of the base, but amount to the equivalent of 1150 for the US and 750 for the USSR, and no large missiles with MIRVs. In this agreement, we will be accused of stopping the US while not stopping the USSR. We will be at the level of 1050 by next year which means that for the 4 years thereafter we would add only 100 MIRVs, so in terms of what we are refraining from doing this is a very major concession on our part.

In addition to this part of our proposal we agree to continue the Interim Agreement numbers which are favorable to the Soviet Union. So that is our basic proposal. What we can do in addition is to express this proposal in a manner so that the actual numbers do not appear. This is the paper I gave informally to your Ambassador.3

Gromyko: However you express it the results are the same.

Kissinger: No, you are getting more MIRVed missiles. Formally, the results are the same but the percentages are different.

Brezhnev: Dr. Kissinger wants a vast supremacy which can’t be met by equality in percentages. I don’t see any basis for equality in this. If this is the final US position there is no sense wasting time. We negotiated an agreement in principle about not using nuclear weapons against each other. This was the principle. This was a great achievement. Without being unnecessarily modest we can say this agreement affected the entire world situation. In SALT we also have an agreement which registered a numerical level in terms of launchers. We did not publish those figures but you did. The agreement stated that we would have more submarines than you have and the Protocol indicated which levels we agreed on. And we also agreed that we could make the necessary improvements. Now you are a little ahead in perfecting some weapons. And you have found a way to use the same silo for a bigger Minuteman though with some violations. You have also tested 5 RVs and under our agreement you have this right.

Kissinger: Unfortunately, our missiles do not have 5 MIRVs.

Brezhnev: I think I am right in this. You do not have the right numbers.

[Page 281]

Kissinger: On the Minuteman we have 3.

Brezhnev: You know I told you in March about this.4

Kissinger: (To the President) He is referring to a test of an ABM which exploded into several parts.

Brezhnev: I don’t know about this but if you say it exploded . . .

Kissinger: Let’s be specific. One basis for cooperation is the proposal we now suggest in which we refrain from improving our weapons whereas you suggest you would have MIRVs and eventually overtake us in warheads.

Brezhnev: You already have them on the Minuteman.

Kissinger: On one half of the forces only.

Brezhnev: So where do we go. To an increased arms race or to a freeze or to use the time for reductions. This is what we were talking about last time but now you say you will add 500 more Minuteman. That would be an arms race.

Kissinger: I am saying that in the absence of an agreement we can add 500 more.

Brezhnev: If that is to be the basis for our relations I can’t say how many more we would add. We don’t want to MIRV a single missile.

Kissinger: You don’t want MIRVs?

Brezhnev: But getting rid of them is another matter.

Kissinger: To return to our proposal, under our approach we would add only 100 MIRVed missiles while the USSR would build up to 750. In effect you are allowed to MIRV 650 more missiles than we would.

Brezhnev: But generally the point is on what basis do we have equal rights. Why do you want to restrict our rights to armaments under an agreement. We knew you had Poseidon with MIRV missiles at the time of the Interim Agreement, but we didn’t allow this to interfere with our calculations. But now you want to overrule our rights.

Kissinger: But in the Interim Agreement you had a larger number of launchers than we did.

Brezhnev: But you have other factors.

Gromyko: There are the forward base weapons in the Mediterranean and in Italy and Greece. We agreed not to take that into account. If we don’t count them so who is being generous. How will it look to our people if we do not talk about these bases.

[Page 282]

Brezhnev: We hope to achieve restrictions and not get into arguments whether we get advantages or not. Overall it was the same. I stand by what I pledged even though I could be accused of having given privileges and advantages.

Kissinger: We recognize that the Interim Agreement was fair to both sides. We are not saying that you got the better of the bargain. But, obviously, if we are now to create limits on MIRVed missiles our purpose must be to restrain each side below the buildup to their maximum. Even in our proposal, in the US many would say that we will be going at a much slower rate than the USSR. We are restraining our possibilities much more so than we are asking for your restraint. We would have enormous difficulties with this type of agreement domestically. You may have seen some of the columns in our press yesterday that reflect the views of a vocal minority.

Brezhnev: But we cannot let newspapers decide. We can publish our views in Pravda too.

Gromyko: The New York Times would crucify you for any agreements.

Kissinger: It is not a question of The New York Times but the extent that it reflects views of many of our own people. If we look at the next five years in terms of disparities you could say that the proposal we are making is more favorable for you but we consider it fair. Some will say you can deploy more rapidly than we can.

Brezhnev: I agree that we can deploy rapidly. By tripling our efforts we could catch up but this is not what we want.

Kissinger: We consider our approach as fair in this regard.

Brezhnev: But how many MIRVs do you have and nuclear weapons overseas. If, as you say, you will complete your program within one year you will have several thousands of weapons and we wouldn’t have any MIRVs.

Kissinger: What we are saying is that if you go for your maximum capability and we do what we can do on our side then there will be a tendency to have very high warhead numbers on both sides.

Brezhnev: But you say you will complete your program in one year.

Kissinger: I am saying that within one year’s time we can complete our MIRV program up to the level of the proposal we are making. Within some years thereafter we can add another 500 Minuteman but which we would not do if you agree to the numbers we are talking about in our proposal. So you have a certain percentage of your numbers in MIRVs and we have about 1/2 and we could do more but we would not do so. That is the agreement we are proposing to you.

Brezhnev: But this is an old proposal you made in March.

[Page 283]

Kissinger: No, this is different. The figures are different. What we discussed in March in terms of throw weight for the Soviet side the figures would have translated into only about 300 MIRV missiles.

Brezhnev: It is important to preserve equality. You have the Minuteman and you are replacing it with an even more powerful weapon.

Kissinger: No, this is not true. We could do it but we are not doing it.

Brezhnev: But you are covering the silos.

Kissinger: But we are not covering the silos to put in a more powerful missile.

Brezhnev: We would not oppose if you did as long as you stayed within the limit that we agreed.

Kissinger: We do have the right to put in a more powerful missile and we could do it without violations.

Brezhnev: That is what you are doing.

Kissinger: No, the missile we have is essentially the same as the Minuteman II only it has MIRVs. Under the proposal we are making we limited [listened to?] what you had to say about SLBMs so we have proposed that you be limited at 750. Under this you may have more land based than sea based if you choose. We have made the assumption that you will not have MIRVs on SLBMs until the end of the period we are talking about so that in land based there will be near equality.

Brezhnev: But I didn’t give you any assurances about our SLBM MIRV.

Kissinger: No, only you spoke of your plans.

Brezhnev: I told you we would be building a new type but I gave you no assurances.

Kissinger: It does not make any difference under our proposal because our numbers combine sea based and land based. You choose as you see fit between the two.

Brezhnev: Right, that is how we agreed.

Kissinger: Right, we do not need an assurance on sea based.

Brezhnev: Well, it is very hard to talk on that basis of your proposal. We will have to think afresh but I think it violates an underlying principle of our relations.

Nixon: First, as far as accuracy is concerned, when we get into numbers of this magnitude it is almost beyond comprehension. It really doesn’t mean too much. The fundamental thing is to reach an agreement.

Brezhnev: I agree. It is important to reach an agreement but it should be one that restrains the race, slows it down. Under the proposal [Page 284] Dr. Kissinger is making the US does not do far less than they would do without an agreement.

Kissinger: No, the US would do far less than we could do without an agreement. The Soviet Union would do somewhat less than they could do otherwise. There would be actual restraint. The restraint would be greater on the US than on the Soviet Union. The other point is, and we do not put this as a threat, but we can MIRV an additional 500 more Minuteman and without an agreement there will be pressures to do so and the Soviet Union should think about that.

Brezhnev: Mr. President, let me say that if what Dr. Kissinger has outlined is the last word on this subject there is no basis for an agreement. I will tell you why. The US has in land based MIRVs now 1200 and with another 2530 on submarines. You already therefore have 4720. You are suggesting 1150 which means 8500 warheads. You are suggesting we have only 750 and with a great effort we can have 4500 warheads. Therefore, you will have 4,000 more than we do.

Dr. Kissinger: With all due respect, you have to add your other warheads. From the 2380 or so you have, 750 will have MIRVs and you will have 1630 single warhead missiles left and if you add that in you have 6100.

Brezhnev: But you are adding things that can’t be added. You know full well that if you add up all you have that you have 16,498 nuclear charges including the forward based systems and the strategic force. When I spoke of 1100 for MIRVs we were proceeding on the assumption that we are not going to war. That enabled you to have a certain quantity and you know that in that time we would have to make a very great effort to reach our goal.

Kissinger: Our military would make the argument quite differently.

Brezhnev: And you have a MIRV submarine.

Kissinger: Yes, and we are supposed to stop at our level and we are talking only of the next five years. If you are speaking only of equality we could say you are violating it under this principle.

Brezhnev: How come?

Nixon: If you want equality some in our country will argue that we are giving you the right to do more under the present agreement than we could do.

Brezhnev: But we have the right to do so under the agreement. We agreed on the numbers that were registered in the Protocol and we agreed to overlook your forward bases. I don’t see the logic of this argument. The figures I gave you are incontrovertible.

Kissinger: 16,000 is much too high.

[Page 285]

Brezhnev: You only have to check this to verify it. I am always very meticulous about figures. I am never erroneous.

Kissinger: It depends on what you count. But we would have to count figures on your side that are comparable. Our first figures we gave you are correct.

Brezhnev: I know that you have certain information on the Soviet Union and I do not like to play word games. What you say leads to inequality. It leads to unilateral advantages and to the arms race.

Kissinger: The basic point is that we are prepared to move more slowly in MIRVs than the USSR.

Brezhnev: What kind of concession is that? You can afford to be tranquil because you are well ahead and don’t think we don’t know it.

Kissinger: In this proposal we are going far beyond the view in our government and this proposal would produce a great debate. It would not be construed as taking advantage of the Soviet Union. Quite the contrary.

Brezhnev: You can’t blame me for what Jackson’s interpretations are.

Kissinger: I am not talking about Jackson. He certainly would be one of them. But there are others. I am saying it would be very difficult to get approval and could not be done without a bitter struggle. And some would say we are giving you an advantage in land-based MIRVs. What we have tried to do is to construct a fair proposal that takes into account all factors.

Brezhnev: When we negotiated and signed the previous agreement we took into account all factors including geography. Nothing new has occurred to change this.

Kissinger: As long as we were talking of only single warhead then your level of throw weight was not so much, but with the advent of MIRVs this changes.

Brezhnev: But it is a fact you are using the same missile to increase from .2 to .4 megatons.

Kissinger: This is not yet a fact but it will be done if we cannot agree. This is a fact. Why do you say that the Minuteman is not the same.

Brezhnev: It is not.

Kissinger: No, but there will be changes.

Brezhnev: How could you complain about violations.

Kissinger: The fact is that your new SS–19 is half again as large as the Minuteman. It has six warheads.

Brezhnev: Dr. Kissinger, why do you keep inventing things that do not exist. Why do you give me figures where we have six warheads.

[Page 286]

Kissinger: You said you would have 4500 under our proposal which limits you to 750. If you divide 4500 by 750 this equals 6 warheads for each missile.

Brezhnev: You know when we have our tests and we know when you have yours. You have your observation ships and you know that we have 3 warheads, not six.

Kissinger: But the figures you gave equal six warheads.

Brezhnev: But this is only if we complete our program. It will be many years of work and you already have five times more than we.

Gromyko: We have heard your argument that if there is no agreement and that if the US goes ahead and that if the USSR goes ahead, that the gap will increase. Let us leave aside this argument. If we resort to this kind of agreement at our discussions we are talking about a broad proliferation of weapons, not disarmament. You say you will forge ahead but we are a big people and the disparity may increase but I hardly think such arguments will instill confidence in our minds about the need for an agreement. We are talking now about an important issue of disarmament and second, generally speaking, on the entire question of limiting MIRVs, on the proposal you raised with our Ambassador, if we accept the point that the agreement already achieved is based on fairness and is equal then why not extend it in its present form because the figures and content do in fact reflect equality and I fully agree with Comrade Brezhnev that all factors must be taken into account. And if we could ask an unbiased judge to weigh all the advantages to the US of forward based systems the advantages would clearly be on the US side. This is a factor of great importance. It takes no great strategist to realize who has the advantage, the US or the USSR. So what is being said by the American side about advantages is not sufficient to characterize the true impact of all the factors that give the US an advantage. It is very hard for us to justify the fairness of the existing agreement if you look at the map and see all your bases in Europe and Asia. The numbers in the existing agreement hardly compensate adequately. When we were negotiating we knew that you had MIRV and you knew that we would have MIRVs so we agreed to change silos without increasing their dimensions. Now this is being taken out of context and isolated and so turned by you to make equality disappear.

Kissinger: That is not exactly my statement. We tend to repeat each other’s arguments about the agreement. We are not saying we will continue to increase the gap but the obvious reality is as follows: without an agreement for two years we would increase the gap. After that two years you will then close the gap under our proposal. After both sides have tens of thousands of warheads as the President said, it doesn’t make much difference because there are no targets. We certainly have no targets for 16,000 weapons. Even if we did have 16,000 which we do [Page 287] not have, there would be no targets. What we are trying to do is put a limit on this situation and that is better in our view than no agreement.

Gromyko: To cite one thing to illustrate the problem of forward based systems, Secretary Laird5 stated that if the Soviet Union had a submarine base in Cuba this would be tantamount to a 30 percent increase in our weapons. Even if he exaggerated, you see what we mean.

Kissinger: This is one reason why the Soviet Union has more submarines in the Interim Agreement. But even with increased launchers for SLBMs this is no longer a correct analogy.

Gromyko: But geography has not changed.

Kissinger: But you have an advantage of 62 submarines to our 41.

Gromyko: But that is another matter, as we discussed in March. This involved quite a few other questions.

Brezhnev: Now Dr. Kissinger is bringing up new questions.

Nixon: I think the General Secretary had planned that we recess about now and perhaps go out on the water. This has been an important discussion and we will have to give it serious thought.

Brezhnev: I agree it is time to go out on the water.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 77, Country Files–Europe–USSR, Memcons, Moscow Summit, June 27–July 3, 1974. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Brackets are in the original. The meeting was held at Brezhnev’s Beach House Grotto in Oreanda. On the afternoon of June 29, Nixon traveled with Brezhnev from Moscow to Oreanda, located in the Crimea near Yalta. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary)
  2. July 3, the last day of the summit.
  3. Not found.
  4. See Document 60.
  5. Melvin Laird, Secretary of Defense until January 1973.