203. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Andrei A. Gromyko, Member of the Politburo, Central Committee, CPSU, and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR
  • Mikhail D. Sytenko, Member of the Collegium of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Georgi M. Korniyenko, Member of the Collegium of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Vasili Makarov, Aide to Minister Gromyko
  • Viktor Sukhodrev, Interpreter
  • Sergei T. Astavin, Soviet Ambassador to Cyprus
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Joseph J. Sisco, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
  • Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker, Ambassador at Large
  • Ambassador Robert McCloskey, Ambassador at Large
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff


  • Middle East; CSCE; SALT; ABM and Test Ban; Bilateral Agreements

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


Gromyko: All right. On European matter, anything new?

Kissinger: On European matters? First, let’s talk about the European Security Conference. As I understand it, what is holding up agreement on Basket III is the notion of what country should advance it.2 I understand it will be Country X, say Finland. We will accept whatever solution Country X proposes but we do not want to propose it.

Gromyko: Do you have any idea?

Kissinger: We think perhaps Finland. We have no later reports?

Sisco: No.

Gromyko: Maybe Finland.

Kissinger: Maybe the German situation will affect it. I do not know whether Brandt will not change his mind.

Gromyko: All I have is factual information.

Kissinger: Yes. I have information that he sent in his resignation.3

Gromyko: And it was accepted.

Kissinger: They have to designate someone by the 15th.

Gromyko: All right, maybe Finland, maybe Finland. Somebody should approach them.

You think in your and my absence from Geneva, our people did something?

Kissinger: No. Why don’t we have Sonnenfeldt and Hartman work out the tactics of who will approach them? Maybe the Netherlands.

Gromyko: I had a conversation with their Foreign Minister. I had the impression that the weakest part of his position is the Third Basket and the level of the third stage—especially the level. I do not know why; he did not give any reason. He said “Difficult, difficult.” I know other countries have difficulties, but he did not develop this idea. At the end, he told me at the airport that he would look into the matter we discussed and it probably would be resolved. In this general form, he described it.

[Page 620]

Kissinger: We have one other tactical problem with Basket III, Mr. Foreign Minister. When Kovalev talked with Sonnenfeldt and Hartman, he adopted the tactic somewhat borrowed from our Geneva discussion—to start with a proposal somewhat less favorable than the position we agreed on, and then the Soviet Union would make concessions. But if we choose Country X, we would have to give them more or less the same language.

Gromyko: Yes.

Kissinger: If the Soviet Union were to do it, we would play it like the Berlin negotiations, and move slowly towards it.

Gromyko: We would prefer the third—Country X.

Kissinger: We would prefer the third. How shall we do it?

Gromyko: What do you think?

Kissinger: Our idea is maybe you should approach Finland. But let me check in Washington how to proceed. It is a bureaucratic problem. I will let you know by the end of the week. Through Dobrynin.

Gromyko: Or your Ambassador.

Kissinger: But Sonnenfeldt knows the details. Let me sum up our understanding: that Country X will be Finland, that you will approach it, and we will support it. We may not come right out and say we support it, but you will understand. We do not want to appear to be pressuring our allies.

Korniyenko: It is not just the preamble, but some of the details in administration.

Kissinger: That is correct.

Gromyko: Please look at the matter of military détente.

Kissinger: That is what I wanted to tell you next. Sonnenfeldt saw Callaghan.4 They were rather difficult. I will see Callaghan either on the way back to Washington, or on the 21st in Washington when he comes for the CENTO Conference. Not later than 21st will I see Callaghan; not later than the 23rd I will get in touch with you.

Gromyko: All right.

Kissinger: On this I think I can be helpful.

On the substance of Basket III, there is one other matter. On the basis of our discussion at Geneva, we began consulting with our allies on the level of stage three.

Gromyko: You consulted?

Kissinger: We began the process. As you may know, it seems that [Page 621] most Europeans are now opposed to a summit; they say it depends on the substance of Basket III. But on my personal judgment, Brandt was, of all European leaders, the most favorable to a summit. My instinct is Schmidt will be less favorable. What Giscard’s view is, I have no way of knowing—I haven’t even studied it.

As far as the substance of Basket III, the United States has never pressed you on it. I would not even know what it would look like. We have never even submitted a paper on it, have we, Korniyenko?

Korniyenko: No.

Kissinger: So this is a purely tactical question. Our position is not to oppose it, and to create a climate for it.

Gromyko: I do not see why Schmidt or Giscard would oppose it.

Kissinger: It is not a question of opposing it. Brandt I felt was inclined towards it and at an appropriate moment would have moved in that direction.

Gromyko: You have not finished the process?

Kissinger: No, we only began. With Britain, and Holland.

Gromyko: What is Britain’s view?

Kissinger: Reserved. But dependent on Basket III.5 I do not know what good substance would be. I have never studied it. I do not think there is a United States view. I know the substance of Basket III has never been discussed.

Korniyenko: A great number of papers have been submitted.

Kissinger: But there has been no negotiation on it.

Korniyenko: Not yet.

Kissinger: I am in no position to be helpful here. I will immediately ask my associates what in their judgment good substance would be to make the Europeans more cooperative.

Gromyko: Just 5–6 pages.

Kissinger: It is not going to be a formal U.S. proposal just our judgment. I will make it a formal U.S. proposal, if you. … I will send it to you for your comment.

Gromyko: It is not needed to be a U.S. proposal.

[Page 622]

Kissinger: I am in the embarrassing position that if you now asked me what we wanted, I couldn’t tell you. But in my judgment, that is the key to the European view of the summit, the substance of the third point. You know my view on it, several times.

Gromyko: The question of peace and war is reduced to: “Mr. Smith should marry Mrs. Brown and should be allowed to meet and complete it in a specified period of time.” The question of war and peace! Kissinger: You have proved your ability to stay in control of your country for sixty years.

[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 71, Gromyko 1973. Secret; Sensitive; Nodis. Drafted by Rodman. The conversation took place at the Presidential Palace. Kissinger was in Nicosia to discuss the Middle East and U.S.-Soviet relations with Gromyko.
  2. See Document 202.
  3. On May 7, Brandt resigned as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.
  4. No record of this conversation has been found.
  5. During a meeting between Kissinger and Callaghan in London on March 28, Brimelow said: “On the subject of the level of the III CSCE stage. We have been saying that the level should depend on the progress made in the II stage. As Dr. Kissinger points out, there is no agreement on the level of progress. There is only one set of papers on the table. The question is whether the USSR will hold the line firmly on Basket III. We have doubted whether they will make sufficient concessions.” (Memorandum of conversation, March 28; National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, Entry 5403, Box 7, Nodis Memcons, Mar. 1974, Folder 5)