147. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Andrei A. Gromyko, Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • Anatoli F. Dobrynin, Ambassador to USA
  • Georgi M. Kornienko, Head of USA Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Victor M. Sukhodrev, First Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Interpreter
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Mr. Helmut Sonnenfeldt, NSC Senior Staff
  • Mr. William Hyland, NSC Staff
  • Peter Rodman, NSC Staff
  • Richard Campbell, NSC Staff
[Page 453]


  • CSCE, MBFR; Nuclear Agreement, UN Membership for FRG and GDR

Gromyko: As I said as you came in, I suggest we talk about European affairs. That is how we agreed with the General Secretary,2 and if we have time we might pass on to other matters.

Kissinger: Yes.

Gromyko: I would like to put forward the general idea that we might start off by talking about the all-European Security Conference. Here, strokes all that consider preparatory work, but the consultations seem to be lacking the necessary dynamism, if I may use that word, and considering the understanding we reached to begin the Conference in June. That seems to be the general view.

Several days ago your representative at Helsinki suggested to our representative, that perhaps it would be wise at this time to officially inform the Finns in the nearest future that we have in view convening the actual Conference at the end of June, so they could start the necessary preparations.3 That suggestion made by your representative is certainly in line with our wishes. And if that is the case perhaps we can reach an understanding among our two delegations to exert their efforts with allies and friends to give it that dynamism which I said the consultations lack.

Kissinger: Who handles the Swedes?

When we were here in September, we agreed in principle to the convening of the Security Conference at the end of June. We maintain our position. There is no reason to delay the opening of the Conference. We believe it is possible to open then. We have already talked with Brandt in Washington in that sense; we expressed our view. We see no obstacle on his side.

The difficulty on the Security Conference is not between you and us. The difficulty is that the Foreign Ministries in almost every country that have been inactive before, now have been given something to do. There are endless papers and preparations. There is no issue between you and us. The problem is in other countries.

[Page 454]

We believe the schedule we agreed upon with the General Secretary will be kept.

There is another question of whether the final meeting will be at the Head of State level or the Foreign Minister level. It will in any event be at the Politburo level. [Gromyko and Dobrynin smile]

Gromyko: We are certainly pleased with your confirming the time limits we agreed upon last year, to hold the Conference at the end of June. We believe we should on both sides continue our efforts to stick to that time limit and to act accordingly with allies and other participants to the Conference. So if there are any waverers, we can bring influence to bear.

As regards the suggestion to have the Conference in three stages, Comrade Dobrynin informed me that just before his departure you informed him of the idea of the first two stages—the Foreign Ministers and then the Commission.4 You have reservations with the third stage—but are giving it sympathetic consideration.

Kissinger: If the first two go well, it will be all right for the heads to meet. If not, the Foreign Ministers.

Gromyko: We think to hold the final stage at the highest level would be in the interest of all sides. No one could deny that a meeting at the highest level would be significant. The very fact of a meeting of the highest statesmen would be of paramount importance. Therefore I wish to say on behalf of the General Secretary, we are earnestly hoping that the President and you as the closest assistant will have that goal.

We appreciate your remark that it will be—at least in the Soviet Union—at the Politburo level.

Kissinger: I told your Ambassador the American equivalent of the Politburo, but I doubt he reported it.

Gromyko: He didn’t. It is the most confidential part of the confidential channel!

Kissinger: We won’t be the obstacle to such a meeting, I believe, if matters take a reasonable course. This is one subject that the President and the General Secretary might discuss in the United States. It is not a matter of principle for us.

Gromyko: We don’t think that a meeting at the highest level will be protracted. It should be well prepared.

Kissinger: How many heads are there?

Sonnenfeldt: Thirty-one.

[Page 455]

Kissinger: I insist that Princess Grace be included. I already consulted her preliminarily in Washington. Her attitude was positive.

Gromyko: Thirty-four heads.

Kissinger: Including Liechtenstein and the Vatican.

Sonnenfeldt: The Vatican can give an invocation.

Kissinger: All thirty-four will want to speak. They are not usually selected for their retiring natures.

Gromyko: Who will represent Spain?

Kissinger: Franco. [Laughter]

Gromyko: Maybe we should stop there and not go deeper!

Kissinger: San Marino will be there too.

Dobrynin: Yes.

Kissinger: Did you know that San Marino’s Foreign Minister was in China?

Gromyko: Really? Did they conclude a Treaty against us?

Kissinger: I don’t know, but the Chinese Foreign Minister was going to go there on his European tour. I don’t know why.

We will give it sympathetic consideration. If all goes well, there won’t be any problem.

Gromyko: As for representation at the highest level, there can be cases where a country can choose who it wishes to represent it. As for the United States and the Soviet Union, it is clear who will represent them.

Kissinger: We will give it sympathetic consideration. It is not a question of principle for us. It won’t be a problem.

Gromyko: We could briefly discuss certain other matters—I list them not in order of importance. I recall you had a conversation with Ambassador Dobrynin on the possibility of exchange of information on military maneuvers, and the possible exchange of observers at those maneuvers, with the aim of lessening tensions. Also we mentioned an exchange of observers on a voluntary basis. The suggestion was then made by others at Helsinki, not by the United States and the Soviet Union, on the exchange of information on large scale troop movements, within borders or without, regardless of maneuvers. This goes beyond the understanding between us, and we accepted your idea. It would lead us into a jungle which we could not escape. The problem of what is considered a large-scale movement. Where is the criterion by which to judge? So we think the suggestion is an unconvincing one, and we should abide by our previous understanding.

We want to raise this because we think the U.S. representative at Helsinki doesn’t always stick to the understanding we reached.

Dobrynin tells me instructions have been sent to your representative at Helsinki, but we don’t know what the instructions are.

[Page 456]

Kissinger: Let me explain. We have discussed with Ambassador Dobrynin the scenario we plan to follow. Our difficulties arise from the fact that our own allies are taking extremely strong positions. It is difficult for us not to support our allies in the discussions. Our instructions are for our representative to talk to your representative on the suggestion of maneuvers. We expect you will reject our proposal. If our intelligence is correct, you won’t accept—though we don’t tell you how to run your Foreign Office. Our representative will then tell our allies that we made a major effort.

Gromyko: Thank you for that clarification, which concerns your tactical approach. I appreciate your understanding of our situation.

Kissinger: But our Ambassador doesn’t yet know this. After he reports your negative reaction, we will send him new instructions.

Gromyko: It is clear, clear. I trust you will agree that regarding the question of large-scale maneuvers, there will be as many views as there are states in the world. It is not in our interest to engage in a dispute on this.

Kissinger: If there are any difficulties, your Ambassador will let me know and I will straighten it out.

Gromyko: I trust most probably your attention has been drawn to the question of the principle of inviolability of borders in the list of major political principles. You know one of the Commissions at work in Helsinki is at work on political principles. In our view, the principle of inviolability of boundaries should occupy the principal place, and we are operating from the assumption that our two sides have an understanding on that.

Kissinger: When did we do that?

Gromyko: There is no need to go into the positions of previous U.S. Presidents, but suffice it to say it was in the Communiqué last May.5 Suffice it to say, we expect the United States and the Soviet Union will proceed from the joint line as expressed in the Communiqué and that it will be reflected in the principles and will occupy the first priority place it deserves.

Kissinger: In the Communiqué we had both the inviolability of frontiers and the renunciation of force. The German position is to accept the inviolability of frontiers in the context of renunciation of force, but in a sense that preserves the possibility of German reunification or European unification. The Germans are prepared to have the same language as in the Moscow Treaty.

[Page 457]

Gromyko: Nothing in the Moscow Treaty has that language about the context.

Kissinger: Basically this is a matter between you and the Germans, whom you will be seeing soon. We are not urging the Germans in any particular direction.

As the Germans explained to us in Washington,6 their concern is that they want inviolability linked sequentially with renunciation and we of course agree. But this is a matter for you to discuss with them.

Gromyko: The notion that the principle of inviolability of boundaries should be reflected in context with the question of the non-use of force is a false and artificial invention. It suffices to read the Soviet-Federal Republic of Germany treaty to see they are listed as two separate points. In fact we drew West Germany’s attention to this fact, and they agreed with us there were no grounds for the view. This is what they said to us, and they have abided by this understanding. But they have said since that non-use of force should be in the first position and inviolability should be in the second. You can’t have it that one principle absorbs or swallows the others; they should be equal. The West Germans corrected their position—at least they say they understand our position. But they still say they want non-use first and inviolability second—not in the sense of interdependability but by enumeration.

[Kissinger:] You know how wars begin. We think inviolability should be first. But in the Soviet-German Treaty you listed non-use first and non-violability second.

Gromyko: They are not listed in that way to show any interdependability—but because that Treaty was written in ascending order. [laughter]

Kissinger: [Showing Gromyko the final page of the Soviet-FRG Treaty, on which his signature is the last] I must point out that your ego is rising to my level: The signatures rise to Gromyko! [Laughter]

If I may quote the Foreign Minister, it would help us with Bonn. Because they pointed out that in the Moscow Communiqué we listed the non-use of force last. We neglected to point out that it was written in rising order and that your Treaty had it first.

Gromyko: We are not suggesting in any way that in listing principles we should explain that the first one is of the first importance and that the others are in declining scale. But surely as politicians we must realize what the situation is. When I referred to the Soviet-German Treaty, I did so only as …

[Page 458]

Kissinger: It is an almost Talmudic point. I think that if non-violability is second and renunciation is first it could be solved. But it is between you and the Germans. I must tell you the Germans made an extremely strong case to us, and you can expect very strong representations from them in Bonn.

Gromyko: In what sense?

Kissinger: The Germans claim that the implication of Articles 2 and 3 [of the Soviet-German Treaty] is that they have agreed to inviolability only in the context of nonuse—“in accordance with the foregoing purposes.” That is their view. They can’t agree to something which prevents changes of frontiers by peaceful means. It also would rule out the unification of Europe. They haven’t explained to me how they can achieve both the unification of Germany and the unification of Europe. But I can’t solve all problems.

Gromyko: Let me give you the precise explanation on this score. That is their unilateral interpretation. It is not a bilateral one. In the negotiations, we did not set that as an objective. That is my first point. My second point is that when the Treaty was already drafted and in the final stage and Foreign Minister Scheel came to Moscow and raised it in conversation with me whether it might be possible to make even some slight and weak linkage—not even in the sense of interdependence or subordination, but just some weak linking—to that I said there is no question, and we will not accept any moving of any comma or anything in this Treaty. That was the only time this came up.

Third, it is sometimes asked, what is the situation? Does the Soviet Union categorically rule out completely the possibility of any voluntary corrections or rectification of borders? This was something that the West German representatives raised during the negotiations with them on the Treaty. We said that wasn’t the issue at stake; we didn’t want the Treaty to include any clause which could in any way justify a revanchist political struggle in favor of a change of boundaries. We could not give our blessing to a struggle for a change of boundaries. This was what we wanted. They are trying to substitute one question for another.

You say this is primarily between the Soviet Union and West Germany. We are in contact with them on this point. What they say is, let’s list that principle [inviolability] but as a separate and independent principle. But recognizing it as separate and independent they are taking a realistic stand. But we think it should be first and we want to support our stand. This reflects the view of President Nixon, because it is in the US-Soviet Communiqué. I keep showing you the document but you don’t want to look.

Kissinger: I understand it. I am following the theory of the Foreign Minister who said that in the Soviet-German Treaty it was rising.

[Page 459]

Kornienko:It doesn’t mean every doucument is in that form!

Kissinger: Don’t you have a standard form?

I won’t play any games. We don’t think any one is more important than others. [In the US-Soviet Communiqué] they are also related because they are in the same sentence.

In our nuclear document we try to link Article I and II with the language “in accordance with the purposes of Article I.”7 I would be disconcerted to hear that these are not interrelated, since the Foreign Minister says Article 2 and 3 of the German Treaty are not interrelated.

Gromyko: All the principles are interrelated. All principles of international relationships are, and one can’t say that some are for the short term and the others last for 150 years. We would have complete chaos.

[Omitted here is discussion of matters other than the European security conference or MBFR.]

Kissinger: [Omitted here is an unrelated comment.] Back to the Germans. You get in touch with us after your consultation with Bonn. We have no fixed view on the order of clauses and principles. We will certainly place no obstacles to the Germans and you. Let us know through your Ambassador.

Gromyko: We will certainly inform you after our visit on how matters stand.

So we can end our discussion of this.

Now another question that arises is one that concerns the Mediterranean and the Middle East in the context of the European Conference.8 We proceed from the fact that it would not be in either your or our interest to make the subject of the Middle East a subject of the discussion of the Conference or reflected in the document in any way. We have enough business on Europe. Otherwise we would have to invite representatives of the Middle East, North Africa and Israel. We would have to stop up our ears because they would all be willing to swear.

[Page 460]

Kissinger: We basically agree with you.9 It may be that Cyprus or Greece may want some reference, but we basically don’t want to get into the Mediterranean.

Gromyko: We are pleased to hear your attitude. If a country like Greece wants to say something in its statement, that is okay. But no discussion of the issue or inclusion in the final document.

Kissinger: We see it the same way—no wide-ranging discussion. But if when we meet, we find some countries won’t sign the document without some reference in the document, then you and we should have reference. We can leave it to the Conference. I notice that some Africans are invited to submit written views.

We won’t encourage that.

Gromyko: The important thing is not to discuss that question. Princess Grace might want to circulate a document and we can’t prevent her.

Kissinger: I must confess that I am more interested from the point of view of personality than in her documents.

I would have to go to Monaco to explain the intractability of the Soviet Foreign Minister. It is a long subject.

Dobrynin: Two weeks it would take!

Gromyko: Then we would have to go to explain our position.

Kissinger: Peaceful competition! We don’t claim exclusive rights!

Gromyko: Another question relative to the European Conference, which will probably come under item 3 of the agenda as it is today—exchange of people and cultural ties. We want you to know we are in no way afraid of the cultural exchange of people. But the sole point is—here, no one should try to grab someone by the throat and claim that one has forced that. The sole point is, this should take place on the basis of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. We are not the only one. There are many other countries who feel the same way. If this is the view of our two countries then there will be no difficulty at the Conference. We should rule out being bogged down in detailed discussions and trying to trip up someone.

[Page 461]

There have never been any difficulties in negotiating cultural exchanges with the United States. We are doing it right now.

Kissinger: I can assure the Foreign Minister we are not approaching human contacts particularly with the aim of embarrassing the Soviet Union. We approach it concretely, not as a means to accomplish something abstract. We will treat it as embodying and reflecting the principles we have agreed upon.

Gromyko: I listen to that with satisfaction. That is exactly how we see it.

Kissinger: On many of these, after we have stated our general principles, we should stay in contact as specific issues come up.

Gromyko: There is another matter: we gave you our draft of the possible final draft of the document on political issues [Tab A].10 I am sure you have reviewed it. We did it with the aim of setting up on common ground.

Kissinger: We have studied your proposition and we have many comments and amendments and suggestions.

There are two problems: the evolution of the preliminary Conference has affected some of your draft.

We have not informed the French and the Germans. Have you?

Gromyko: Not concretely.

Kissinger: Not to the French at all. Some to the Germans. I was talking about it with Bahr in September.11 But I didn’t show a draft.

Gromyko: You have studied it completely?

Kissinger: What we would like to do is do a counterdraft, after consultation with our allies. We would like your authorization to do it in a formal way.12 We will talk to the three and we will let you have our views by the end of the month.

[Page 462]

Gromyko: All right.

The draft we handed you dealt with preliminary matters. It is not a principal question whether it would be one or two. You are free not to wait until our new draft. Let’s leave it open, whether it will be an all-embracing document or two documents—on political matters and then on economic and cultural matters. Maybe one, maybe two.

As to the agenda, now we should look about the possibility of establishing some kind of organ—a committee, or commission. I would like to say a few words.

As I said at Camp David, we have no special interest in an organ. The Soviet Union will continue to exist even if it is not set up—but nevertheless, we feel it could be useful linkage between the Conference and a later meeting on troop reduction. Just a consultative, purely consultative organ for preparation for consultation by governments. This would be all right. We think at least there is nothing bad in it.

Kissinger: How do you visualize the consultative organ?

Gromyko: Since it will function between the first Conference and the second, in idea it will be permanent. It is a matter of convenience and open for consideration. We are open minded. One thing more: it should be written that it will be consultative.

Kissinger: We will reserve our judgment. We had thought of some kind of administrative organ for distributing papers—as a sort of a clearing house.

Gromyko: All right. In Vienna, it looks like the Hungary question has been solved. What is going on?

Kissinger: It took three months. It nearly broke up the NATO alliance. Our debates with our allies are more serious than with you.

Gromyko: If you ever need advice on allies, let us know.

Kissinger: We will help you.

Gromyko: By September–October, the all-European Conference will be over. I hope, in view of the mountain of paper. Last fall we agreed on September–October.

Dobrynin: Can we at least agree on a time interval between the end of the CSCE and the beginning of MBFR?

Gromyko: And you suggest?

Kissinger: Say one month?

Gromyko: I think it would be acceptable. I will tell the General Secretary.

Kissinger: Good.

Gromyko: Do you have any bright ideas for this?

Kissinger: It would be constructive if you pulled your forces out of East Germany. It would create a good atmosphere.

[Page 463]

You are asking me in what direction the Conference should go and what it should accomplish?

Gromyko: Yes. It is a sort of goal.

Kissinger: We submitted our analyses to our allies. Do you have it? My understanding is that whenever we distribute something to our allies you get in it in 48 hours. Is it true?

Gromyko: Why 48?

Dobrynin: Sometimes we get a distorted view from the allies and want to hear it from the horse’s mouth!

Gromyko: You can wait until you are ready.

Kissinger: No, we are ready. We want to treat this as seriously as SALT. We are genuinely trying to examine what proposals we can make which both sides can feel improves their security or at least doesn’t hurt it. One question is whether the reductions should include only stationed or also national forces. The difficulty with national forces is it is hard to monitor reductions. And national forces are not of the quality of stationed forces. I am thinking of the Polish Army band.

The second point, what I said about maneuvers in connection with the CSCE—if it is not addressed in the CSCE it will at least have to be addressed in MBFR.

Another issue is whether we speak in terms of units or in terms of numbers. Do you say three regiments, or 50 men from each regiment? If we say 50 men it is harder to verify whether they have left. This will have to be addressed—for both sides.

Then ceilings. I joke about all Soviet forces. We won’t reject it. But probably they will be smaller margins.

In the President’s Foreign Policy Report we discuss this quite openly. In the Arms Control section.13 It discusses our philosophy, though not the numbers.

We are genuinely interested in achieving some common ceiling.

Then the countries in the area should not be used to circumvent the agreement. Some allies fear you might put into Budapest what you take from Central Europe. I asked why would they do it in Budapest if they can put them in Brest, which is closer to Central Europe.

Dobrynin: When?

Kissinger: June, July. When the General Secretary comes we can begin discussion.

[Page 464]

Of course, we look at it from our point of view. And certainly we are approaching it without giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt. But we also consider your point of view. So we are not making insolent proposals.

Once we know the views of our allies—by June or July—we can begin to exchange ideas.14

[Omitted here is discussion of matters other than the European security conference or MBFR.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 75, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Kissinger’s Conversations at Zavidovo, May 5–8, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting took place in the Winter Garden at the Politburo Villa. All brackets, with the exception of those that indicate omitted material, are in the original. Kissinger visited Moscow May 4–9. The full text of the memorandum of conversation is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XV, Soviet Union, June 1972–August 1974.
  2. Kissinger wrote to Nixon about his trip in a memorandum on May 11: “There was not much to discuss on Europe, since most of the issues are tactical, and Brezhnev left them to Gromyko. Their main interest is that the European Security Conference start in late June. On MBFR, they offered to begin some discreet bilateral talks during the summer. They seemed unprepared to discuss the substance of MBFR and frankly, I think they are quite unsure of how to proceed.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 68, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 17) The full text of the memorandum is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XV, Soviet Union, June 1972–August 1974.
  3. No record of this conversation has been found.
  4. No record of this communication has been found.
  5. See Document 98.
  6. See Document 145.
  7. Kissinger was in Moscow mainly to discuss a draft U.S.-Soviet agreement on the prevention of nuclear war. For Kissinger’s account of the conversations and the final agreement, signed on June 22, see White House Years, pp. 282–285.
  8. Telegram 836 from Helsinki, March 30, reported: “Turkish MPT del is pressing for language which would lay heavy emphasis on link between European and Mediterranean security and is suggesting that specific reference to Mediterranean appear in each mandate.” The telegram noted that several Allied representatives “reacted adversely” to this approach. The telegram continued: “Canada and US cautioned that such an openended approach could ‘lay a trail of powder’ right to the Middle East tinder box, and Norwegian rep was not enthusiastic about even mentioning Mediterranean aspect. UK noted strong reservation of the Nine towards any far-reaching formulas concerning the Med.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  9. An undated briefing paper prepared by the NSC staff for Kissinger’s trip to Moscow, entitled “Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe,” reads in part: “It appears that the Allies will be successful in heading off pressures by some MPT participants for active discussion of Mediterranean issues at CSCE, and for representation of interested North African states, by: supporting the inclusion of very general references in the mandates on agenda items I and II, along the lines proposed by the Swiss (‘the committee should not lose sight of the close connection between security on the continent of Europe and in the Mediterranean region’); and by proposing a formula for certain North African states to make their views known (short of direct participation as observers) in the second stage of CSCE, e.g., the right to have written views circulated, as has been done at MPT.” (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 77, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Moscow Trip, CSCE)
  10. On January 15, a Soviet Embassy official hand-delivered to Kennedy of the NSC staff the Soviet draft “General Declaration on Foundations of European Security and Principles of Relations Between States in Europe.” The Soviet draft declaration is ibid. For a summary of relevant portions, see Document 124.
  11. See Document 125.
  12. The briefing paper on CSCE prepared by the NSC staff for Kissinger’s trip reads with regard to the “Soviet draft declaration”: “The draft Dobrynin gave you remains dormant, and to some extent has been overtaken by the changes in the Soviet position and the work of the Conference since the Soviets submitted it to us in January.” The paper continued: “The main problem is that within NATO we have a parallel document, which will eventually be tabled, and is substantially different from the Soviet draft. When this comes up, you might say: —We have treated this confidentially, even though some of our Allies also seem to have a Soviet draft; —To make any progress, we need permission from the Soviets to discuss it with the French, Germans and British; —In reviewing the text, it would seem that some of it is outdated by developments in Helsinki, where there has been a convergence on a number of principles; —If the Soviet side agrees, we could prepare a draft in the West and submit it to the Soviet side. All of this seems premature, however, since the Conference is in an early stage and the working group will begin developing texts this summer.”
  13. For the relevant section of the President’s Fourth Annual Report to the Congress on United States Foreign Policy, May 3, see Public Papers: Nixon , 1973, pp. 498–500.
  14. In a letter dated May 13, which Dobrynin handed Kissinger on May 15, Brezhnev wrote Nixon with regard to Kissinger’s visit and the European security conference: “No special difficulties appeared in the exchange of opinion with Dr. Kissinger on European questions, including those related to the preparation and the holding of the all-European conference. Apparently, our representatives have to continue to maintain regular contacts on these matters. There will be, of course, enough here for you and me to talk about—in a wider and more long-term perspective.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 72, BrezhnevNixon Exchanges, 1973) The full text of the letter is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XV, Soviet Union, June 1972–August 1974.