201. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Andrei A. Gromyko, Member of the Politburo, Central Committee, CPSU, and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the USSR
  • Anatoli F. Dobrynin, Ambassador to the U.S.
  • Georgi M. Korniyenko, Member of the Collegium, Chief of USA Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Viktor M. Sukhodrev, Counselor, MFA (Interpreter)
  • Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor, Department of State
  • Arthur Hartman, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs
  • William A. Hyland, Director, INR
  • Robert J. McCloskey, Ambassador-at-Large
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff


  • CSCE; ABM Limitation; Threshold Test Ban; Environmental Warfare; Bilateral Agreements; Jackson Amendment

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

Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Kissinger: Let’s talk about Europe.

Gromyko: Good. The fact that we are not fully satisfied with the way things are going at the All-European Conference is well known. I said so in my meetings with you and the President in Washington;2 General Secretary Brezhnev said so to you in Moscow. We think it is time to end the All-European Conference.

Kissinger: I have made an appointment tomorrow, after our discussions, with our Ambassador to the All-European Conference so I can talk to him personally about the direction we will go.

Gromyko: Good. That, I feel sure, would be useful. It is certainly high time to end it. The end of the second stage should be in the nearest possible future—to be more definite, in May. That depends only on the governments and peoples actually at the Conference.

Further, understanding should be reached on holding the third and final stage at the summit level and as soon as possible. It is best of all to hold it before the forthcoming Soviet-American summit meeting.

Kissinger: First, on the Conference. I agree the work now depends on the efforts governments are prepared to make. We could perhaps run over some of the topics while we are here.

As for the level, our position is the one we discussed in Moscow, and has not changed.

As for timing, as a practical matter, looking at the President’s calendar and my calendar, there is no possibility of doing it in June. But I said this to you in Moscow.

Gromyko: What about the first half of July?

Kissinger: As far as we are concerned … the President will be in the Soviet Union from the 24th of June to the 1st of July. I think he should return to the United States. So closer to the middle of July would be better. But it would depend on the course of events at the summit and on the decision, of course, of many other governments.

[Page 612]

Gromyko: What is the general mood of your European friends on that? This is the first time we have gone into concrete dates.

Kissinger: My impression is, I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me Brandt has already told you he wants a summit.

Gromyko: With regard to Chancellor Brandt, even previously he spoke in general terms about holding it at the summit, though he always mentioned minor reservations.

Kissinger: I don’t say it as a criticism.

Gromyko: Very minor, minor [reservations]. He was sympathetic.

Kissinger: To tell you candidly our problem: We don’t want to be in the position of being accused of having forced our allies to go to the summit if they don’t want to go. If they want it, we won’t be the obstacle, to put it mildly.

Gromyko: You have now worsened your position—a little bit worse. Before, you spoke lucidly; now you say it is only if your allies agree. We think United States should have a say in this and not just follow, just follow.

Kissinger: “Just follow” is not my style.

Up to now, the West European governments have used the formula that they will go to the summit “if the results of the Conference warrant”—even while it is perfectly clear what the outcome will be. We believe the probable outcome is sufficiently clear so that we will next week take formal soundings of what their view is. Then we will inform you, when we know concretely what their attitude is.

Gromyko: Good.

Kissinger: Because I suspect we will see each other before too long.

Gromyko: Very good.

I recently had discussions with the representatives of a difficult country at the European Security Conference. Guess which.

Kissinger: Romania, or France. [Laughter]

Gromyko: No. The Netherlands.

Kissinger: Oh, the cabaret! [Laughter] Will you try to get a cabaret in Moscow?

Gromyko: He said to me: “I believe the complications which existed until now will be overcome in the very near future.” He spoke of there being certain forward movement at the Conference in the recent period. Regarding the level of the third and final stage, he didn’t express himself definitely.

Kissinger: We didn’t want to take a formal sounding until the results would be more clear. My impression is the Europeans are a little more negative. There is no sense speculating, because in a week we will know. We are not bound by them.

[Page 613]

Incidentally, our impression is also that things are moving forward at the Conference.

Gromyko: Let’s agree then that if, for example, one, two, three small countries—maybe the Netherlands—decide not to send their Head of Government or Head of State to the third stage, all right; every country will be free to decide whom to send at the highest level. But if the major countries decide to send their highest officials, we are free to do so. Why be slaves to our procedural structures? The President I know is accustomed to think in terms of big categories.

Kissinger: It is true that one or two or three won’t be able to veto, especially if they are the smaller ones. I agree with this general observation.

Gromyko: We are sympathetic with that idea. Brandt is. And even France.

Kissinger: That would be hard to verify.

Sonnenfeldt: By national means.

Gromyko: Pompidou was, and whoever wins will not go backward. And thank God China is not represented. Thank any God.

Kissinger: As I said in Moscow, I would think the chances are very good. Actually we have not taken concrete steps with our allies, but it is time to proceed.

Gromyko: Good. Now I think the time is more appropriate than before for you to do that—to get in touch with others. And not simply to compare yours with theirs.

Kissinger: But let us do it before your people ask them.

Gromyko: All right.

Kissinger: My reaction is that West European judgments on the level will depend on their assessment of Basket III. Our view doesn’t depend on that to that degree. But I told you that in Moscow.

Gromyko: With the greatest of pleasure I would simply cut the bottom out of that third Basket, not because it is bad as such but because the questions in it have been inflated 100 times bigger than their real merits. The purpose of the Conference is to strengthen peace and security in Europe.

But I am sure there has been progress. In short, if all of these matters are tied in with the relevant principles and if it is indicated that the Basket doesn’t represent an attempt to interfere with the sovereignty, then the problem is solved. I think the main difficulty will be in the area of so-called military détente—as regards troop maneuvering, and so on.

Kissinger: On Basket III, on the issue of domestic legislation, we are making good progress and it seems to be reaching a solution. I mentioned it not because we won’t agree, but because for some West Europeans to go to the summit, the decision depends on what they can say is in Basket III. What are the issues? Art?

[Page 614]

Hartman: We haven’t really started on the details yet.

Kissinger: But something short of the Dutch cabaret would help. But we will be constructive.

Gromyko: What we should do now is take up specific forms of words. We are not far from you on this. We have looked at your formula, the one you gave through Stoessel.3

Kissinger: That is the preamble. That I think we can bring to a close reasonably quickly. Then we should do the content. We should have Stoessel get together with Korniyenko.

Gromyko: It would be better not to waste time and to decide the matter between our two representatives here. Ours came with me and you say you are meeting with yours. We have our Deputy Prime Minister, and you have your man.

Kissinger: I agree. Art, why don’t you and Hal meet tomorrow morning with …

Sukhodrev: Kovalev.

Kissinger: When we are talking about the Middle East tomorrow. I agree.

Gromyko: I would like to ask you to look into the question of military détente once again. I recall what you said previously; it seemed reasonable. But there are some states in the Conference who are putting forth unreasonable proposals. Why don’t they just say they are out to wreck the Conference?

Kissinger: Tomorrow, on the preamble, our people should resolve how it is to be introduced.4

On military détente, I told you I would talk to the British about modifying their proposal.

Gromyko: What was their reaction?

Kissinger: Their reaction was not negative. They said at the time they needed time to study. We urged that they not insist on all of western Russia and not insist on the smallest types of units, but something like a division. And there is the issue of the number of days.

Sonnenfeldt and Hartman are going through London Tuesday morning, and if you think this is a positive step, they can do it.

Gromyko: [referring to Sonnenfeldt] We shall certainly be expecting major results to come from his discussions with the British. All our eyes will be upon him.

Sonnenfeldt: You should talk to the neutrals, who are really the problem.

[Page 615]

Kissinger: Who? Sweden?

Hartman: Yugoslavia.

Kissinger: What is Monaco’s position? If you can assure me that the Princess is coming …

Gromyko: Your influence on the ladies is more limited now.

Kissinger: More covert.

Are there any other issues in the Security Conference of any major consequence?

Gromyko: The main issues with respect to military détente are the zones and the definition of large-scale troop movements. Because the tendency now is to define as large scale something that is negligible. We cannot adopt the scale of Monaco or Luxembourg.

Kissinger: We agree that on the zones, the definition proposed by some is too sweeping, and on the scale, a battalion is too small.

Gromyko: All right. Look into the matter and see what you can do. We certainly believe you can do much.

Kissinger: We will keep in touch, and we believe we can move in the direction we have indicated.

Gromyko: It would certainly be good if this entire question of the European Security Conference would be something we could see behind us. You can tell this to the President. Our cooperation since the beginning of the Conference has been on a rising scale, and this fact, that we could complete the Conference in that spirit, would give even further reliability.

Kissinger: What length of time do you foresee for Stage Three?

Gromyko: It should be short. We are open-minded. Brezhnev discussed it but never in terms of days.

Kissinger: Could we keep it to two days?

Gromyko: Two to three days.

Kissinger: Does everyone have to speak?

Gromyko: Two to three days.

Kissinger: It is not important, but psychologically. That is procedurally manageable. We can exchange ideas on this but I wanted to get your impression.

Gromyko: So you know our way of thinking.

Kissinger: And we will be in close touch with you.

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

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Box 1029, MemCons—HAK and Presidential. Secret; Sensitive; Nodis. Drafted by Rodman. The conversation took place at the Soviet Mission in Geneva. Kissinger was in Geneva to discuss bilateral relations with the Soviet Union. 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.
  2. See Document 199.
  3. See Document 185.
  4. See Document 200.