181. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Andrei Gromyko, Soviet Foreign Minister
  • Viktor Sukhodrev, Soviet Foreign Ministry (Interpreter)
  • Secretary Henry A. Kissinger
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff


  • Middle East; USGDR relations; Summit preparations;SALT; CSCE; MBFR; Trade; Brezhnev visit to Cuba; Pompidou and Brandt visits to USSR

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

Minister Gromyko: [Omitted here are unrelated comments.] Now on European problems.

Your representatives and ours at CSCE are in contact with each other, but we believe your representatives, even if they take a position favorable to success, should be nevertheless a little more active in bringing that success about. Particularly in view of the Summit. Because we should approach this Summit with more progress in this area. Secretary Kissinger: I will call our representative back and talk to him personally.

Minister Gromyko: We would appreciate it. We should do our very best, both sides, to bring this to a conclusion before March. Even the pessimists thought it could not end before March.

Secretary Kissinger: We are not the problem. The Europeans are crazy on the subject of human contact. I’ve told you I believe you are serious people and won’t be undermined by the introduction of newspapers in the Soviet Union. I’ll speak to our representative personally. He’s not in Washington now, but I’ll bring him back and speak with him. There should not be slow progress.

Minister Gromyko: Just in brief on the subject of the negotiations on the reduction of forces and armaments in Central Europe, we can in a sense understand why some pose the question in this way: “Let’s [Page 537] just set a ceiling and both go down to that ceiling and just cut off everything above that.” we’re convinced that kind of approach will yield no positive results; we need a more realistic approach. We need to keep the present alignment—preserving that correlation of forces, and non-harming each other, we can find some success.

You have said it will be a long journey; we agree it will be long. We for our part have patience.

Secretary Kissinger: If the correlation is the same but at a lower level, this gives a certain advantage for the offensive side. One approach is agreement in principle on a common ceiling and in the first step have a symmetrical cut, say 10–15 percent each.

Minister Gromyko: I should want to ask you to take another look at that entire area and at the positions made known by countries in Vienna. We were surprised by the oversimplicity of some Western nations in the talks. Perhaps you are not familiar with all the details.

Secretary Kissinger: Did I make that obvious?

Minister Gromyko: I said “perhaps.”

So probably some of the countries are proceeding from the fact that this road will be a long one. If so, neither of us should regard that as a tragedy, even if it is long.

Secretary Kissinger: I’ve scheduled a review meeting when I get back. Then I’ll have a more considered view.

[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 71, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Gromyko 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Drafted by Rodman. The conversation took place at the Soviet Mission in Geneva. Kissinger arrived in Geneva on December 18 for the opening 3 days later of the Geneva Conference on Middle East peace. 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.