194. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Leonid I. Brezhnev, General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee
  • Andrei A. Gromyko, Member of the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR
  • Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Soviet Ambassador to the U.S.
  • Andrei M. Aleksandrov, Assistant to the General Secretary
  • Georgi M. Korniyenko, Member of the Collegium of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chief, USA Department
  • Mikhail D. Sytenko, Member of the Collegium of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chief, Near East Department
  • Andrei Vavilov, USA Department
  • Oleg Sokolov, USA Department
  • Viktor Sukhodrev, USA Department (Interpreter)
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Walter J. Stoessel, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to the USSR
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor of the Department
  • Arthur A. Hartman, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs
  • Carlyle E. Maw, Legal Advisor, State Department
  • Alfred L. Atherton, Jr., Assistant Secretary-Designate for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
  • William G. Hyland, Director, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, State Department
  • Jan M. Lodal, Senior Staff Member, NSC
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff


  • SALT; Other Arms Control; CSCE

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


General Secretary Brezhnev: Perhaps we could have a brief survey of the European Conference.

Secretary Kissinger: Good idea.

General Secretary Brezhnev: If we delve a little into the past, we both recall in our meetings we agreed to consult with each other and coordinate actions regarding the basic objective of both of us, that is, to assure the success of the All-European Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. This was the policy principle we agreed upon and set in communiqués in Washington and Moscow. It would be correct if in this present meeting we carried out a brief survey, with a view to bringing the Conference to a successful conclusion in the nearest future. I would go even further and say that if we can bring about the completion of the European Conference before President Nixon’s visit to the Soviet Union, this fact would give still greater significance and weight to the President’s visit, and would be a greater political asset. It would lessen tensions and be in the interests of the United States and its allies and ourselves and our friends in the socialist countries. It would resound very well around the world. We have had occasion to speak of the significance of Europe and the importance of cooperation and peace in Europe.

Secretary Kissinger: We have spoken a lot of Europe unilaterally lately.

General Secretary Brezhnev: But, you will also recall, there was a time when we did our best to secure a successful end to the Conference by 1972. Then we decided to end it by 1973. Now we’re in 1974 and the Conference has not yet ended. And a situation has developed where some people have tried to inject into the Conference elements which are alien to the principles the Conference is trying to establish—principles of cooperation and good-neighbor relations. I won’t recall who they are; they are either opponents of the Conference, or people who want it to drag its heels, or who don’t want anything to result. Surely that was counter to what our two countries have agreed upon.

[Page 579]

Lately there are rumors that the United States and the Soviet Union lost interest in the Conference. I can’t speak for the United States, but it’s not the case for the Soviet Union. We are making every effort to conclude the Conference successfully and making preparations for its conclusion at the highest level.

Several days ago I met President Pompidou of France,2 and I criticized those who are submitting proposals at the Conference that can only impede the work of the Conference. As a matter of fact, I read to him a proposal submitted by his own delegation—it suggested the right to open a company or a theatre in the Soviet Union, not subject to control of the Soviet Union. Surely that was counter to the first principle, that is, noninterference in the affairs of other countries. He was surprised at this and didn’t know it had been submitted.

If it is allowed to drag on for years and years, people will lose interest, and people will speak of it like the old League of Nations, where so many words were spoken. President Pompidou listened to my words; he agreed on the need to sweep aside all obstacles to its rapid success. In my earlier meetings with Pompidou, he was reluctant to agree to a meeting of heads of state. This time he agreed that the leaders could sign the document provided the document was good enough. To this I replied, if the document were not good, I wouldn’t allow the Foreign Minister to sign it either. [Laughter]

Regarding the United States delegation, it’s not impeding the work of the Conference, but neither is it showing any great activity in the work of the Conference. That is something we could perhaps talk about.

Another thing I talked about with Pompidou: In the past, in increasing confidence in Europe, I suggested the possibility of foreign delegations being invited to observe various maneuvers of troops. But no sooner did we come out with that than we were presented with demands to give out information about all, even insignificant, troop movements, even in the Soviet Union, down to the regimental level. But that would require a Pentagon-like apparatus to observe.

Another matter: What if the states in Europe wish to bring about a change in frontiers? How do we reconcile this with the principle of inviolability of frontiers? Surely France has no intention to give up territory, or Belgium. we’ve heard rumors the United States is eager to give up Florida or California.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Florida is gone already!

Secretary Kissinger: To Cuba. [Laughter]

General Secretary Brezhnev: Who will support that reference to change in frontiers? The only country interested in that is the FRG, [Page 580] because they are nervous about the GDR. But that question is already resolved, because there is a treaty between the FRG and the USSR, and Poland and the FRG, and the GDR and the FRG—both of which are now members of the UN.

What we could do is agree on something like voluntary change in frontiers by the consent of the states concerned. But reference to that should not be in the part of the final document regarding inviolability of frontiers, but in some other part of the final document, so there will be no intimation of one state imposing its will on others. So that’s how we see the solution to this question.

If Bonn and France act as has been promised, and if the United States acts in the same spirit, we think it would be a good thing to bring the European Conference to a close before President Nixon’s visit to the Soviet Union. This would be a good and significant thing, because it is a fact that the United States is present in Europe. That is a fact.

We feel the All-Europe Conference has at present reached a stage where it is possible, given the mutual consent of all the parties, to end its work as quickly as possible, and then the Conference would yield its result as a contribution to the lessening of tension. That’s my first point.

The second point is the United States has been pursuing a consistent line. The task is to find a way to prepare the final document. We are adding no controversial issues and we are adding no new legal considerations to the guarantees of existing frontiers in Europe. That is a very important fact.

On the basis of consultations between us, we agreed to introduce this element of confidence, that is, that of military observations. But that has now been turned into God knows what. We should eliminate those accretions and retain what is really useful. That is the task we now face. And I trust you realize the need today is to remove all these unnecessary and trumped-up elements and leave in only those elements which are truly necessary and useful.

Finally, there are the questions regarding Item III, regarding culture, information, human contacts, and so forth. I have already had occasion to speak publicly on this subject, but I want to repeat here in our official conversation. I want to emphasize we are in favor of human contact and increase of tourism, etc., but on condition of basic respect for the traditions and customs of every country and respect for whatever social order exists in that individual country. And if anyone is counting on being able to interfere in our internal affairs through the Conference, those hopes are to no avail, I can assure them. I will not conceal my satisfaction that after Comrade Gromyko’s last visit to Washington, an understanding was achieved to act in that spirit, and [Page 581] in accord. That would indeed display yet again the desire of both governments to strive for true understanding between the United States and the Soviet Union, in a matter of political importance.

I could speak at greater length on this, but I trust this exposition would be sufficient—unless Comrade Gromyko has anything to add.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: I would say Comrade Brezhnev has been very exact on this.

Secretary Kissinger: Mr. General Secretary, we agree with much of what you have said. Above all, we agree a major effort should be made to bring the Conference to a conclusion this year, and within this year as soon as possible. We also share your evaluation that the objective conditions exist for bringing it to a conclusion. Finally, we also agree our two representatives in Geneva, working together tactfully, can speed up the work of the Conference.

General Secretary Brezhnev: That is exactly what I am calling for.

Secretary Kissinger: Let me talk first about various items you mentioned, Mr. General Secretary, and then we can talk about the level at which the Conference can be concluded.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Please.

Secretary Kissinger: Incidentally, I think the consultations between our representatives in Geneva should be handled with the same care we used at the time of the Berlin agreement. But I will work that out with your Foreign Minister and your Ambassador. And, of course, Ambassador Stoessel and Korniyenko have also been in active contact to work out the basic approach. [Korniyenko beams.]

Korniyenko is pleased I can say something positive about him. They’ve had useful talks.

On the individual items: On so-called confidence-building measures. You’re quite right; they were introduced after an initial exchange between our two governments. We share your evaluation that too many items have been introduced that aren’t really central to the main subject. So we believe we should concentrate on the question of maneuvers on which we started—maneuvers of a substantial size, for example, of units of 15–20,000 men. We think a practical means of achieving it would be by means of the British proposal at Geneva, which would be appropriately amended. Not the exact proposal, but …

Ambassador Dobrynin: Division or strengthened division.

Secretary Kissinger: Sixty days’ notice. We would be prepared to amend it.

We’ve not incidentally, discussed any of this with our allies. This is what we are prepared to do on our own.

On the issue of inviolability of frontiers, we find that idea of the General Secretary has considerable merit. That is, we could put the [Page 582] phrase about peaceful change in, for example, the section on sovereignty, or some other section than the frontier section. And I think the proposal …

[Brezhnev reads an article in Izvestiya about Secretary Kissinger.]

Secretary Kissinger: Is it friendly?

General Secretary Brezhnev: No. We knew you would reject all our proposals. This is Izvestiya, our evening paper.

Secretary Kissinger: It is a good picture. It makes me took thinner. That was before I came here this afternoon.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: It can be corrected.

Secretary Kissinger: The article, or the picture?

Foreign Minister Gromyko: The picture.

Secretary Kissinger: So tactically—I don’t know whether it is worth talking about—I like the proposal of your delegate in Geneva, to write that sentence on a separate piece of paper, with the understanding that it will not be in that paragraph on frontiers. And we could cooperate in that effort.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Let me say we feel the most convenient thing would be to write it in that section on sovereignty.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Where sovereignty is mentioned. Sovereignty extends to frontiers.

Secretary Kissinger: The United States and Libya. Your intelligence is too good. You found it out. We wanted to make it a surprise.

I have not studied the exact formulation. We agree that the concept of peaceful change should not—need not—be in the section on frontiers. We agree it could be in the section on sovereignty. And it has to have some specific reference to peaceful change and not simply be related to the concept of sovereignty. But it is not primarily an American problem, let me say. Anything the Germans accept, we will accept.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Why must one country hold the key to the problem?

Secretary Kissinger: We will use our influence to move that sentence. This we promise you. What that sentence is, we will discuss. I think we will find a reasonable solution.

General Secretary Brezhnev: What’s your view on ending the Conference before President Nixon’s visit?

Secretary Kissinger: It will be difficult, for technical reasons. But we won’t exclude doing it shortly afterward. For example, at the end of July. I am talking about the signature.

General Secretary Brezhnev: I take it you are agreeable to signing the document at the highest level?

[Page 583]

Secretary Kissinger: This raises the following problem, about which I will be quite candid.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Please.

Secretary Kissinger: We don’t want to be accused of giving up the position of our allies. So let me separate our formal position from what you can expect—if you do not use it with other countries …

General Secretary Brezhnev: That goes without saying. Unless we stand on that assumption, then there is no possibility of confidential communications between us.

Secretary Kissinger: Our formal position is, like President Pompidou’s, that the formal document could be signed at the Summit if it is an adequate document. Let me say that if the document, which we are now working on, is finished in the sense we are now discussing, we will consider it a satisfactory document. This is to explain, on a private basis, the thinking of President Nixon to the General Secretary. And we would work in that direction.

That gets us to the part on cultural exchange. I have said on many occasions to your Foreign Minister that a social system that was established with so many hardships and that has overcome so many obstacles is not going to be changed through cultural exchange.

So for us it is the problem of how to bring it to a conclusion. We think the best solution is the one discussed between Ambassador Stoessel and Mr. Korniyenko. I mean the solution proposed by Ambassador Stoessel, not the one proposed by Mr. Korniyenko! That is, to have the reference to national laws in the basic principles, and then refer back to it at the beginning of Basket III. And we would urge our allies to accept such an approach. We would still have to give some content to the whole basket, but we don’t think that is an insoluble problem.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Let me just say, the solution as you explained is a possible one, that is, in the principles to make reference to national legislation and then to have a reference back to those principles, including the principle on domestic legislation, in the section on so-called human contacts. But since we are not dealing with a work of fiction, the link should have meaning. Namely, in the section dealing with cultural exchange, etc. there should be reference to the fact that these ties proceed on the basis of the principles set out at the beginning.

Secretary Kissinger: Exactly.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: We had no doubt of your understanding. But we were more than surprised that the representative of Holland came up with a proposal that included reference to the principles but the two are separated and there is a link between the two. And we were even more surprised when the other delegations—and yours was no exception—came out in support of that of Holland. What you just said is in accord with our thinking.

[Page 584]

Another observation on another matter, that is to add to what Comrade Brezhnev has correctly pointed out, that other delegations have brought out of all proportion the so-called “confidence military measures.” You mentioned the British proposal. The first aspect is volume, that is the figures, the question of the size or figures starting from which information would start. We are told it starts from a division, or a reinforced division, though no one seems to know what a reinforced division means. If we take that approach, as Comrade Brezhnev said, we would have to have an enormous bookkeeping apparatus. The second aspect is geographic—the regions where this would operate. It is one thing to refer to a strip of land adjacent to borders; it is another thing if it includes the whole of European Russia. That is nonsense.

Secretary Kissinger: Certainly everything west of Vladivostok.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Some even include Vladivostok! Fortunately, the Urals are the limit of Europe.

You seem to take a realistic approach.

Secretary Kissinger: We want to be constructive, in the spirit of the agreement reached between the President and the General Secretary. Our preliminary view is that some distance from the frontier is more realistic than the whole of European Russia.

General Secretary Brezhnev: When I discussed this with the President, we talked only about foreign observers coming to maneuvers on a voluntary basis. But what is discussed now has a different aspect. In form, what Dr. Kissinger says makes sense, in the spirit of what was agreed upon. But in substance, Dr. Kissinger introduced a certain element of vagueness.

Secretary Kissinger: No, I’m trying to be constructive. I’m saying that what the Foreign Minister says, about a certain distance from frontiers, is what we will support as opposed to all of European Russia. I think the Foreign Minister will recognize it is an attempt to take into account the Soviet point of view, and it is not identical with the view of other delegations. And I believe on that basis a solution can be found.

General Secretary Brezhnev: I spoke about the basis for agreement; the question now is to find a concrete formula. And I certainly don’t want Holland to dictate its terms to the Soviet Union. I will never accept that. Holland should be grateful for our attitude toward it.

Secretary Kissinger: I was not familiar with this particular action of Holland. I think a solution is possible.

If I may make a concrete suggestion, Mr. General Secretary …

General Secretary Brezhnev: I think my meeting with President Pompidou at Pitsunda showed that Pompidou himself recognizes the absurdity of some of these ideas. And President Pompidou himself said: “Of course I realize the proposal now is that information be given about [Page 585] all of the European part of the Soviet Union, but I realize the territory of the USSR is not limited to Europe but extends to Vladivostok.”

Secretary Kissinger: That is an ambiguous statement.

General Secretary Brezhnev: He said it in a concrete context.

Secretary Kissinger: May I suggest—if Ambassador Stoessel and Korniyenko can work out concrete formulas on these questions and agree on the tactics. Otherwise all Europe will act as Holland did. But if we can agree, we can manage it like the Berlin negotiations.

General Secretary Brezhnev: I agree completely.

Secretary Kissinger: We may need a little time to convince our allies, but if Stoessel and Korniyenko agree, we have a very good chance.

In fact, if Korniyenko agrees to anything, it will be a historic event.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Korniyenko always agrees with correct positions.

Secretary Kissinger: He is a very good man. We admire his work very much.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: Stoessel too.

Secretary Kissinger: It is not your fault that Korniyenko always gets the better of Sonnenfeldt.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: I’ve never seen an instance of that.

Secretary Kissinger: We think we can meet that Dutch problem in the framework we described.

Foreign Minister Gromyko: You hope.

Secretary Kissinger: We think.

General Secretary Brezhnev: What kind of proposal is it if they want to arrogate to themselves the right to open theaters in the Soviet Union without any control by the Soviet administration? It is not a matter of our being budged from our positions; there is no danger of that. It’s just wrong to have ideas like that.

Secretary Kissinger: As we discussed, it can be solved with a reference to national laws in the basic principles and then refer back to it in Basket III.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Good. I certainly agree. Let Stoessel and Korniyenko talk about it.

Secretary Kissinger: I think we can find a solution.

General Secretary Brezhnev: I think so too.

Secretary Kissinger: Then the problem of the level will also be satisfactorily solved.

General Secretary Brezhnev: The question of the level is, to a certain extent, also an important problem. If the document is signed by the Foreign Ministers, that is one thing. On no account do I want to belittle the importance of our Foreign Ministers; they are empowered [Page 586] to sign anything. But for the nations of Europe, Canada, United States, I believe signatures of the leaders will be of more significance.

Secretary Kissinger: We have understood your view, and if the document is finished as we discussed, it can be solved in that spirit and at that level.

General Secretary Brezhnev: We certainly wouldn’t empower Gromyko to sign a bad document.

Secretary Kissinger: Mr. General Secretary, we all know what the document looks like.

General Secretary Brezhnev: We can’t have two policies in this country, one that is the Foreign Minister’s policy and the other that is official policy.

Secretary Kissinger: We have had that on occasion. We have recently united them!

We will consider it a satisfactory document.

General Secretary Brezhnev: That is the way I look at it.

Secretary Kissinger: I don’t think you and President Nixon will disagree.

General Secretary Brezhnev: I don’t think so.

I think we have had a useful exchange of views today. It has been useful because what Dr. Kissinger has been doing is to advance proposals that are to the advantage of the United States and to the disadvantage of the Soviet Union. But it is not difficult because we now know you better. It is now our sixth meeting.

Secretary Kissinger: I didn’t have the impression that the proposals of the General Secretary threatened the security of the Soviet Union.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Whatever I put forward, I had one underlying motive, that is, strengthening peace.

Secretary Kissinger: That is in both of our interests. We will think over our discussions in that spirit.

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

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, Entry 5403, Box 20, External Classified Memcons, 9/73–4/74, Folder 1. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Rodman. The conversation took place in Brezhnev’s office at the Council of Ministers Building in the Kremlin. Brackets, with the exception of those indicating omission of unrelated discussion, are in the original. 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. Kissinger was visiting the Soviet Union to discuss the upcoming summit meeting in Moscow.
  2. Pompidou visited Moscow March 11–13.