185. Briefing Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Hartman) to Secretary of State Kissinger1

CSCE: Meeting with Vorontsov on Issue of Respect for National Laws and Customs

Pursuant to the agreement you made with Gromyko in your recent conversation,2 Hal Sonnenfeldt, Walt Stoessel and I met with Soviet Embassy Minister Vorontsov on February 15 to present our proposal for dealing with the Soviet desire to include a reference to “respect for national laws and customs” in the documents emerging from CSCE as they relate to human contacts.

We told Vorontsov that we had earlier tried with the Allies to introduce such a reference into the declaration of principles. However, the Allies were unreceptive and, in consequence, we did not underestimate the difficulties of finding a compromise. In our view, we said, a possible way to agreement was to build into the declaration on principles governing interstate relations more precise wording with regard to sovereignty. It will be easier for us to bring the Allies along, we said, if in the period immediately ahead the Soviets indicate willingness to agree to some specific measures in the third basket on humanitarian cooperation, particularly increased human contacts. If the Allies are in a position to point publicly to Soviet movement on those issues, the Soviets, for their part, could point to the strengthened language on sovereignty in the declaration of principles.

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We handed to Vorontsov the following language, which you had approved, building on the sovereignty paragraph in the French draft declaration of principles:3

“The participating States recognize each other’s sovereign equality with all the rights deriving therefrom. Each of them will respect the rights inherent in sovereignty in the case of each of the others. They will respect the right of each of them freely to determine its political, social, economic, (and) cultural, legislative and regulatory system and to define as it wishes its relations with other States. In particular, they will respect the right of each of them to belong to an alliance.”

We pointed out that the phrase, “legislative and regulatory system” was more concrete than “customs.” Virtually any practice can be referred to as customary, whereas rules or regulations were more than customs but less than laws, and therefore may be less objectionable than “customs.”

After a quick reading of the text, Vorontsov said that it may cover the point, but he would need authoritative guidance from Moscow.

We underlined that it was very important that the fact of our discussions be kept completely private, and we concluded by agreeing that there would be no contact between our delegations at Geneva on this subject, but only in Washington or with Walt Stoessel in Moscow

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, Entry 5403, Box 3, Nodis Letters, HAK 1973–74, Folder 3. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Streator and sent through Sonnenfeldt.
  2. See Document 183.
  3. See Document 176.