174. Editorial Note

On September 28, 1973, after visiting New York for the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko called on President Nixon in the Oval Office. Earlier the same day, Secretary of State Kissinger forwarded Nixon a memorandum prepared by the NSC staff to prepare him for the meeting. The memorandum reads in part:

  • “2. Mutual Force Reductions.
  • Gromyko’s Position will be that if there is to be an agreement that does not damage either side’s security, the most reasonable approach would be to reduce by equal percentages. Moreover, he may say that both foreign and national troops should be reduced, though this could be done by stages, and that Moscow does not rule out some initial cuts for symbolic purposes.
  • “The Western Position, now being debated in NATO, is that the goal of these talks should be to reach numerical parity in Central Europe by setting a common ceiling (at about 700,000). This will mean far greater cuts for the Soviets and the Warsaw Pact than for NATO, in view of their advantage of about 100,000; in the initial stage US and Soviet forces could be cut by about 15 percent (29,000 for the US and 69,000 for the Soviets).
  • “—You may wish to say that the US and Soviet positions are not that far apart on an initial stage of reductions—that is, a reduction of our respective ground forces by the same percentage up to 15 percent
  • “—but that this must be done within the context of an overall goal of equality by moving to a common ceiling for both sides.
  • “—The virtue of numerical parity is that offensive potential is thereby reduced if there is no immediate numerical advantage in the area.
  • “3. European Security Conference.
  • Gromyko may revert to the summit discussion on completing the Conference (now in its committee phase in Geneva) as soon as possible, preferably by year’s end. He may also bring up the possibility of a summit level meeting at the end of the Conference. Finally, he may complain that we are not taking a position that would advance the work, but are trying to put pressure on the USSR through the Western proposal for an agreement to facilitate freer movement of people and information.
  • “Your position:
    • “—The pace and the form of the final meeting of the Conference depends on the substance. You have told the General Secretary that we will not be the obstacle to progress or to a summit meeting if others agree.
    • “—Your impression, however, is that the Europeans feel very strongly about the idea of reducing barriers to contacts among the people of Europe, and improving the flow of information.
    • “—Judging from recent speeches by the General Secretary, he is agreeable to something along this line as long as sovereignty is protected.
    • “—We can support this position.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 71, Gromyko, 1973)

At the meeting on September 28 in the Oval Office, Nixon and Gromyko, accompanied by Kissinger and Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin, discussed the European security conference and mutual force reductions:

Gromyko: Now with your permission, may I briefly turn to other matters, having in view the forthcoming summit. We would like very much to have the arrangements and understandings reached on European affairs to be carried into effect as they were talked about at the summit. We appreciate your efforts toward securing positive results for the CSCE. We believe there exists every opportunity for the Conference to achieve good and positive results. It all boils down to the policy of the countries concerned. They could, of course, just sit endlessly and talk. It follows from your discussions with the General Secretary that we have no intentions to prejudice your position in Europe and we feel it will be in both countries’ interests to have a positive outcome in the Conference. We should not pay too much attention to talk about US-Soviet deals. We must be above that and we should not be distracted from our policies, because the outcome will be in the interests of all countries regardless of what the shouters may say. After you took office, you yourself pointed to the importance of relations between our two countries.

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“Another European question is the agreement to reduce armed forces and armaments. We would like to see a positive outcome. There was a general discussion during the General Secretary’s visit and he advanced certain views. I have nothing in particular to add now, but it would be in the best interests of all concerned to make progress on this and the prospects are favorable.”

Later in the conversation the President responded.

“The President: On MBFR, I am pleased to say we are not too far apart.

“On CSCE, as I told the General Secretary, we would be pleased to finish by the end of the year and, if others agree, to have a summit for the conclusion, but it is not easy to get a conglomerate of nations together to agree. I happened to be reading a biography of Wellington last night. There were only four countries at the Congress of Vienna, Russia, Prussia, Austria and Britain, and four at the Congress of Paris after the defeat at Waterloo. But it was very difficult. On CSCE, there are very many views but you and we have no particular problems.

“Secretary Kissinger: Mr. President, we now have to get down to concrete issues on this.

“The President: We must agree where we want to come out—I don’t mean condominium—otherwise it will be a shambles. I will leave it to the Secretary of State to work out. I made that commitment.” (Memorandum of conversation, September 28; ibid.)