88. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • US
  • The President
  • The Secretary of State
  • Mr. Akalovsky
  • USSR
  • General Secretary Brezhnev
  • Foreign Minister Gromyko
  • Ambassador Dobrynin
  • Mr. Sukhodrev (interpreting)


  • SALT II, Cyprus, Middle East, CSCE, Trade Bill

The President: Mr. General Secretary, I have consulted with not only Dr. Kissinger but also others. In a spirit of progress in the area of strategic arms limitation as well as other areas in our relations, we considered the various issues before us, including that of bombers. I know you have deep concern about counting ballistic missiles on aircraft. In the spirit of progress in our negotiations and broader aspects of our relations we can agree to count any ballistic missile with the range of over 700 kilometers within the 2400 ceiling. This in effect will mean a serious limitation on our capability to use such systems.

General Secretary Brezhnev: So what you are suggesting is that any ballistic missile over 700 kilometers in range should be counted as one launcher?

The President: Yes.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Mr. President, I have here a small souvenir for you. We also have some more souvenirs elsewhere, but I know that you are a pipe smoker and I thought I would give you this one now. It is a set of pipes and a pipe stand, which I hope you will enjoy.

The President: I will very proudly have this on my desk. I really don’t know how to thank you.

[Page 382]

General Secretary Brezhnev: There will also be a souvenir for Mrs. Ford from Mrs. Brezhnev.

The President: Thank you very much. I talked with Mrs. Ford this morning and I told her that we were having very constructive discussions in an excellent atmosphere. She is looking forward to meeting Mrs. Brezhnev in the United States.

General Secretary Brezhnev: For our part, we would be very pleased to see Mrs. Ford in Moscow and we will accord her a very warm welcome when she comes here.

The President: When you come to the United States, I would like to take you to the Merriweather Post Estate in Florida. I’ve never been there myself but I’m told it’s a most beautiful place. It was given by Mrs. Merriweather Post to the American government.

The Secretary: To be used as a government guest house.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Mr. President, where is your home?

The President: I was born in Nebraska, but the home where I was born has been torn down. I didn’t live in Nebraska too long and spent most of my life in Michigan.

General Secretary Brezhnev: The house in which I was born was an apartment building housing a number of families, including ours. Later, when I was on the City Council in my hometown, I was once told that there was a house in very bad repair and that in fact it was a hazard for the fifteen or so families living there. So I went to look at the house and it turned out to be the one I was born in. As I inspected the house, I saw props in the basement to support the first floor, then props on the first floor to support the second floor, and so all the way up to the top floor. When I said let’s get trucks and move out everybody, however, all those families came to me and demanded three room apartments.

The President: When I went to Omaha, Nebraska, I found just an empty lot where my house of birth had been. It had been leveled by a bulldozer.

Mr. General Secretary, I hope you will recognize that over strong objections of many of my people, although not all, I have made a really significant move which is in the spirit of what we want to achieve here. It is a major shift on our part when we agree to include in the aggregate ballistic missiles on aircraft. Frankly, this move is not unanimously approved on our side, but I made this decision myself in order to break the impasse we got into last night after five or six hours of generally constructive talks.

General Secretary Brezhnev: When I went to bed last night, I had difficulty falling asleep and kept thinking about our talks. I thought they had been fruitful and reflected a spirit of frankness and respect, [Page 383] both personal between ourselves and between our two nations. As I was thinking, all kinds of figures came to my mind, although in some respect I believe it is really regrettable that we have to discuss atomic arms at all. Personally, I did not have the impression that we were in an impasse. After all, these issues have many serious implications and we should not make hasty decisions. Last night, we did not specify bombers, we discussed them only in general terms. Today, you put forward an interesting suggestion. What we have in mind is that bombers, specifically the B–1’s, carrying missiles with a range of up to 600 kilometers be counted as one launcher. Bombers carrying missiles with a range from 600 to 3000 kilometers should be counted according to the number of missiles they carry. All bomber-carried missiles over 3000 kilometers should be banned. Perhaps this could resolve this entire problem, and then we could say that we have made a great contribution to détente. I believe this golden medium could solve this problem.

The Secretary: Ambassador Dobrynin is an expert as regards the design of our weaponry.

General Secretary Brezhnev: He’s your chief designer

Ambassador Dobrynin: What the General Secretary has just suggested is basically what you, too, have in mind; the only difference is whether the lower range should be 600 or 700 kilometers.

General Secretary Brezhnev: This would be a beautiful solution, especially for your side.

The Secretary: If we abolish the B–1, it would sound even better

The President: Mr. General Secretary, a total ban on anything over 3000 kilometers is a principle that is very hard for me to accept. It would look as if we had capitulated in an area where I believe many of our people think we should go forward. As far as counting as one unit missiles from 600 to 3000 kilometers, I don’t think that should be any problem. But I know that a total ban on everything over 3000 kilometers would be seriously objected to by some of my advisors. In order to come to what I believe is a fair proposition in this very important, indeed vital, area I would make a counter-proposal that I think would fit very well into what we want to achieve. I would suggest that there be a limit of 200 on your MIRVed heavy missiles so that while we would give up aircraft-carried ballistic missiles with a range of over 3000 kilometers, you would limit the number of your MIRVed heavy missiles to 200.

(At this point, the members of the Soviet group engaged in a lively discussion among themselves, with Dobrynin arguing in favor of the President’s suggestion and Gromyko, on the contrary, telling Brezhnev that a limit on Soviet heavy missiles with MIRVs was out of the question.)

[Page 384]

The Secretary: To be quite candid, the problem of strategic missiles is both strategic and political. Strategically, whether you have a limit or not—whether you have 200 or 300 heavy missiles with MIRVs—would make no difference as regards the strategic equation. Politically, however, our limit on B–1’s should be counterbalanced by your limit on heavy missiles. This would be of great help politically and of significant symbolic importance in the United States. In principle, you could retain 300 heavy missiles but MIRV only 200 of them.

The President: I believe you should recognize that I am making a very basic decision in banning missiles over 3000 kilometers on our bombers. Many of our experts will object to this, but I believe I can make this move provided I can say that you have agreed to limit the number of your heavy MIRVed missiles to 200.

General Secretary Brezhnev: But the principle of equal security is not observed under such an arrangement, and this is a very important point.

The Secretary: How is that?

General Secretary Brezhnev: Missiles over 3000 kilometers can reach from Leningrad to the Urals. The distance from Moscow to Kiev is only 700 kilometers. Moreover, frankly speaking, such long range missiles would be launched from an area not covered by our anti-aircraft defenses. The fact is that bombers could fly 5000 kilometers, and if you add the range of the missile, which is over 3000 kilometers and could be even 5000 kilometers, you can see that our entire country would be covered. After all, the distance from Moscow to Vladivostok is 9,000 kilometers! So there would be no equal security.

The President: But, Mr. General Secretary, we would count ballistic missiles on aircraft as part of the aggregate of 2400 missiles. So I don’t understand the strategic difference, because in order to put a missile on a bomber we would have to give up a land-based missile. Our land-based missiles have the same range capability, so that it is only a question of choice on our part.

The Secretary: I have the impression that Mr. Gromyko is rejecting the General Secretary’s proposal. Let me sum up the President’s suggestion.

On the lower end, the difference is 600 versus 700 kilometers. I’m sure we could find a solution to this 100-kilometer problem very quickly, perhaps in 5 minutes. Then you said that everything over 3000 kilometers should be banned. The President said that this would be all right provided there is a limit of 200 on your MIRVed heavy missiles. But we would still count everything between 600 and 3000 kilometers as part of the aggregate of 2400. So the only problem is the limit of 200 on your MIRVed heavy missiles. I don’t believe you want to MIRV more than this number anyway. So this is the only issue. You should [Page 385] keep in mind that if there are 10 ballistic missiles on an aircraft, and those missiles have a range of over 700 kilometers, they will count against the aggregate.

(At this point, members of the Soviet team again engaged in consultation among themselves, with Dobrynin pointing out that the Secretary was right that the USSR would not want to MIRV more than 200 heavy missiles. Brezhnev, supported by Gromyko, maintained that while this might be so, the Soviets should retain the right to exceed that number.)

General Secretary Brezhnev: Could we have a fifteen minute break?

The President: No objection.

(After the break, the meeting resumed with Mr. Sonnenfeldt joining the U.S. group. The break lasted almost an hour.)

The President: I smoked one of the pipes you gave me, Mr. General Secretary, and I find it excellent.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Doesn’t a pipe have to be broken in?

The President: Yes, it has to be done slowly.

General Secretary Brezhnev: I have the following question: how would the liquidation of one of your submarine bases, that is Rota, we agreed upon yesterday be implemented in practice after 1983?

The Secretary: We would give you a letter just as we did as regards the 54 Titans. That is our intention.

General Secretary Brezhnev: When would you give us such a letter?

The Secretary: When we sign the agreement, in the summer.

The President: Our intention is to preclude the use of Rota by nuclear submarines.

The Secretary: You would get a letter from the President that our intention is not to use Rota after 1983 for submarines equipped with nuclear weapons.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Mr. President, do you believe that the new agreement should be signed in Washington?

The President: Yes.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Alright, so let’s sum up. The U.S. would have the right to have 2400 launchers of all types, on land, on the sea, and in the air. The same would apply to the Soviet Union, which would be entitled to 2400 launchers of all types, land, sea and air. As regards MIRVs, the United States would have 1320 MIRVed vehicles, and the USSR would also have 1320 such vehicles. United States aircraft carrying missiles up to 600 kilometers would count as one launcher, [Page 386] whereas aircraft carrying missiles over 600 kilometers in range would be counted according to the number of missiles they carried. In other words, if an aircraft carried 15 missiles, it would count as 15 launchers—if it carried 20, it would count as 20 launchers. All this would be counted against the ceiling of 2400. Under this arrangement, we would meet each other half way. As regards heavy missiles, there would be no limit either for us or for you. Also, as was agreed yesterday, neither we nor you would build new silos. Nor would there be a limit on our heavy missiles as regards MIRVing. This is what you proposed this morning.

The Secretary: But these limitations regarding bombers would apply to both sides, wouldn’t they?

General Secretary Brezhnev: Of course, on the basis of reciprocity.

The President: There would be no limit on our capability of over 3000 kilometers?

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Correct, but each missile over 600 kilometers would be counted within and against the ceiling.

The Secretary: I just whispered to the President that I would be willing to bet any amount that the Soviet Union will not MIRV over 200 heavy missiles and the United States will not build air missiles with a range of over 3000 kilometers. But it seems that weapons designers have won.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Well, each side will retain the right to proceed in these areas.

The President: This is fine with us. I would suggest that Dr. Kissinger come to the Soviet Union sometime in the spring, prior to your visit, Mr. General Secretary, so that there would be no difficulty later.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Agree.

The Secretary: But this time I will go to Leningrad! I believe we should give this agreement in principle to our Geneva negotiators to work on it for two or three months in order to develop all the details, and then we can finish whatever is left when I come to the Soviet Union in the spring, so that the agreement can be signed in the summer.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: When would Dr. Kissinger come to Moscow?

The Secretary: Perhaps in early April.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: That would be all right with us.

General Secretary Brezhnev: So, Mr. President, this meeting was not in vain

The President: Certainly not, it has been very constructive.

[Page 387]

General Secretary Brezhnev: Mr. President, we have another souvenir for you, this time from a local artist. It is a portrait of you made of inlaid wood.

The President: Thank you very much, but this portrait makes me much more handsome, and Mrs. Ford will think she is married to a new man. It is really amazing how an artist can find different shades of wood to render the color of the skin, hair, and eyes. This is really true art

Ambassador Dobrynin: Well, Mr. President, this man found a picture of you in a newspaper, and frankly speaking not a very good picture, and did this portrait from it. He then sent the portrait to comrade Brezhnev and asked him if he would like to present it to you.

The President: Well, I would like to meet the artist and thank him personally, if that is possible.

Ambassador Dobrynin: I don’t know where he lives, but I’m sure we can find him. Mr. Aleksandrov can do that.

The President: But I don’t want to make too much trouble for you, so perhaps you can find out his address and I will write him a note.

Ambassador Dobrynin: Yes, that might be simpler.

The Secretary: Time is getting short, so may I raise a few practical questions before we move to the next topic. My impression is that you, Mr. President, and the General Secretary have agreed that a separate statement on strategic arms limitation will be issued in addition to the communiqué.

General Secretary Brezhnev: That’s right.

The Secretary: We can ask Sonnenfeldt and Kornienko to work on this.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: That would be fine. We have a draft of such a statement that is based on the draft you had given us.

The Secretary: We should release this statement a few hours before the President departs, so that our press can use it.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Simultaneously with the communiqué?

The Secretary: Yes, at the same time. Then, perhaps during the banquet, I can brief the press. Our press will leave with the President and won’t have opportunity to file unless it gets the statement before then.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: That is entirely up to you.

The Secretary: Perhaps we can release the communiqué sometime around 3 o’clock with an embargo until 5 o’clock?

Foreign Minister Gromyko: No, that would be too early. I suggest that the embargo be until 6 o’clock, because otherwise our press in Moscow, given the time differential, will have problems.

[Page 388]

The Secretary: That wouldn’t make any difference to us.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Well, then, it will be still better if we embargo until 7 o’clock local time.

The Secretary: No problem. Where is the signing of the communiqué going to take place?

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Here, in this room.

The Secretary: As regards numbers, Mr. President, my instinct is that you will have to brief congressional leaders. Thus the figures will come out, but only 2400 and 1320 and not those about bombers.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: This is not a good idea, because there is much yet to be clarified. After all, the agreement will be signed only in the future.

The Secretary: But we can use the language we suggested without figures, can’t we?

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Yes.

The Secretary: All right, but after the President talks with congressional leaders the numbers are bound to come out.2

The President: The document we’re issuing will have to refer to equivalence regarding both missiles and MIRVs.

Mr. Aleksandrov (who had just joined the group): We have language on this point.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Perhaps Mr. Sonnenfeldt can now meet with Kornienko to work on the text.

The Secretary: As regards the communiqué, there are two points that are still unresolved.

(At this point the Secretary asked General Scowcroft to join the U.S. group.)

General Secretary Brezhnev: Perhaps after our return to Moscow and Washington respectively we could exchange, through our embassies, aides-mémoire on the figures we have arrived at.

The Secretary: Yes, that is very important.

The President: We will do this as soon as the Secretary returns from his trip.

The Secretary: A week from tomorrow, would that be all right?

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Agree.

[Page 389]

The Secretary: We would state it exactly as the General Secretary has summed it up.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Yes.

The Secretary: To return to the communiqué, perhaps we could complete it now and then we could discuss other subjects. I know that the President and the General Secretary also want to discuss a restricted subject.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Then Sonnenfeldt and Kornienko should come back to the room.

The Secretary: Sonnenfeldt yes, but not Kornienko! But maybe they deserve each other

General Secretary Brezhnev: They sure do! Mr. President, may I excuse myself for 10 or 15 minutes, I have some personal business to attend to.

The President: I’ll also leave the room for a while.

(At this point, Ambassador Stoessel and Assistant Secretary Hartman were invited to join the U.S. group.)

Foreign Minister Gromyko: In the draft communiqué, you have a bracketed reference to strategic arms limitation. I think we should drop it, now that there will be a separate statement on this subject.

The Secretary: I think the communiqué without any reference to the most important subject of strategic arms limitation would look rather peculiar. I believe we should have some language stating that the subject was discussed and that a separate statement on it is being issued.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: All right, perhaps we can have a sentence reading as follows: “A joint statement on the question of limiting offensive strategic arms is being published separately.”

The Secretary: That sounds all right.

[Omitted here is discussion of Cyprus and the Middle East.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Lot File 81D286, Box 6, SALT, November–December 1974. Secret; Sensitive; Nodis. Drafted by Akalovsky. The meeting was held in the Okeanskaya Sanatorium near Vladivostok.
  2. When Ford briefed Congressional leaders on the agreement on November 26, he emphasized that the figures were “off the record.” The memorandum of conversation is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Vol. XVI, Soviet Union, August 1974–December 1976, Document 94.