195. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Leonid I. Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Central Committee, CPSU
  • Andrei A. Gromyko, Member of the Politburo of the Central Committee, CPSU, and 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 MFA; Chief of USA Dept.
  • Mikhail D. Sytenko, Member of the Collegium of MFA; Chief of the Near East Dept.
  • Viktor M. Sukhodrev, USA Dept. (Interpreter)
  • Andrei Vavilov, USA Dept.
  • Oleg Sokolov, USA Dept.
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Walter J. Stoessel, Jr. Ambassador to the USSR
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor of the Dept.
  • Carlyle E. Maw, Legal Adviser
  • Alfred L. Atherton, Jr., Assistant Secretary-designate for Near Eastern & S. Asian Affairs
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff


  • CSCE; Middle East

Conference on Security & Cooperation in Europe

Brezhnev: Dr. Kissinger, I got home late last night. I certainly can’t say I was satisfied in the way things went [on SALT]. We spent all day talking yesterday but we decided on nothing.

Dr. Kissinger: I don’t think that is correct. I think we decided on the European Security Conference very successfully.

Brezhnev: That may be true, but nonetheless I still have many reservations on that, and I like precision. When I say I was displeased, that’s of course a unilateral statement. There are two sides.

[Page 588]

Dr. Kissinger: My assessment is, on the European Security Conference, we’ll be able to bring it to an early conclusion along the lines and at the level we discussed yesterday.

Brezhnev: If we really wanted to bring the Conference to a successful conclusion, we could have done it long ago. As it is, we’ve had communiqué after communiqué. It was always said, “There is a possibility of doing it in 1972, and in 1973.” Now it’s 1974 and we’re saying, “There is a possibility.” What kind of a way is this to do business? Holland and Belgium are playing around. But who are we? [angrily:] We are nations too and we have our views on this. Also there is the GDR, Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria—they’re playing in the Conference and not being capricious—but others are saying they want to establish theaters in the USSR and another wants to know everything that’s going on in the USSR as far as the Urals. If they don’t want any positive results to come out of the European Conference, why don’t they say so? Then there will be, instead of security, insecurity.

Here we are, the second year passing, and no results. The United States in this time managed to fit out all its missiles with MIRV’s and we still haven’t managed to sign even a piece of paper. we’ve offered a straightforward proposal, and someone asks for a kind of freedom in someone else’s country! What kind of freedom is this? we’re not interested in other people’s affairs, in Belgium and Holland.

That is just in addition, Dr. Kissinger, to what we agreed upon yesterday. We and you can sign it.

Dr. Kissinger: As you know, we haven’t had success in achieving unanimity from our allies. And Senator Jackson yesterday made a speech accusing me of treating the Soviet Union better than our European allies. I know how pleased the General Secretary is to receive reports from Senator Jackson.

Brezhnev: Very happy indeed.

Dr. Kissinger: So as a practical matter, Mr. General Secretary, we are faced with the reality of a Conference of 35 nations. You yourself said we’ve put no obstacles to progress.

Brezhnev: That’s true.

Dr. Kissinger: I think what we agreed on yesterday will bring results in the next few months.

Brezhnev: I didn’t mean you to take my irritability to mean that all I said applied to the United States. I was simply saying I don’t understand why they’re taking all that time. They gathered in Helsinki, and the Ministers were charged with drawing up documents, and now they are sitting there drawing their per diems and doing sweet nothing.

Dr. Kissinger: I think we now have a procedure which should speed up the process.

[Page 589]

Brezhnev: Then I’ll proceed from the assumption our two sides will act more vigorously. After all, we’re not the last fiddles in the Conference. But if delegations from Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg put forward proposals, we’ll never get anywhere. I admire those people, but if they put forward proposals in a businesslike way, not if they make absurd proposals.

I’m not trying artificially to hasten the work of the Conference. But they’ve been dragging their feet three years now. I would like the Conference to end before President Nixon’s visit, because it would be a solid foundation for the visit. We would then truly demonstrate to the whole world that our two major powers have shown the world an example of cooperation in bringing the Conference to an end. That is my main design.

Dr. Kissinger: I propose Ambassador Stoessel and Mr. Korniyenko work together as we discussed yesterday, both as to tactics and as to substance, as we agreed. And I think we can operate jointly as we did during the Berlin negotiations.

Brezhnev: Yes indeed, but trouble is some delegations there are putting forward things that have no bearing on the substance whatever. France says: “We hold no military maneuvers whatever. What are we supposed to do? Stop all our soldiers? Put them in their barracks?” We always carry out maneuvers—now as 20 years before. It’s a war game of sorts, playing it out. Now they start addressing humiliating demands—giving notice three months in advance, and so on.

Dr. Kissinger: I said yesterday that the unit to be controlled should be of substantial size; second, that the territory should not include the whole of European Russia, and third, that notice should be reduced from that British proposal. And we’d be prepared to work with you in that sense.

Gromyko: One of the problems is the term “substantial size,” because a country like Holland says a division is already a unit of substantial size and we have to inform them. For Belgium or Luxembourg, the movement of one division is a momentous development, but for us it’s nothing.

Brezhnev: Look at it this way: in the final document of the Conference that we will sign, we are reaffirming such all-important principles as inviolability of frontiers, respect for sovereignty, non-use of force. Now someone comes up with a demand that we inform them of every military movement. Does it mean people don’t believe us? we’re signing it in seriousness. And can’t individual movements be detected with earth satellites?

I discussed this subject with President Pompidou and I said we would be prepared to invite foreign observers to observe them. Say, around Kiev, we have one, two, or three divisions playing out [Page 590] maneuvers, and we can give a few months’ notice. It was something I proposed. But now they’re putting forward impossible demands. It’s not that we’re not willing. Let them come watch them. I’m sure soldiers in Belgium go on maneuvers; I’m sure they don’t just sit around in their barracks.

As to free movement, just by way of a joke, in addition to Solzhenitsyn, we can give you a few more Solzhenitsyns. That’s free movement! [Gromyko and Brezhnev laugh]

Dr. Kissinger: If Solzhenitsyn gives a few more interviews, the New York Times will withdraw its recognition of him.

Brezhnev: Well, Dr. Kissinger, I accept what you say regarding this matter. I hope we’ll be able to bring our useful influence to bear on the outcome of the Conference. If so, it will do credit to us, and everyone will be grateful. The true importance and significance of a major effort and major achievement can usually be discerned the further you are removed from the time. If Jackson accuses you of something, it doesn’t mean the American people do.

Dr. Kissinger: I think improvement of relations between the United States and the Soviet Union has the support of the American people, and it is the fixed and determined course of this Administration. And it is our intention to fix it so firmly that it is an irreversible course.

Brezhnev: As I’ve said, our people and our party and its leadership value that very highly if that is the case.

Shall we now turn to the Middle East?

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

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Office Files, Box 76, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Secretary Kissinger’s Pre-Summit Trip to Moscow, March 24–28, 1974, Memcons & Reports. 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.