226. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Leonid I. Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU
  • Nikolai V. Podgorniy, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR
  • Aleksei N. Kosygin, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR
  • Andrei A. Gromyko, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR
  • Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Soviet Ambassador to the USA
  • Andrei M. Aleksandrov, Assistant to the General Secretary
  • Georgiy M. Korniyenko, Member of the Collegium of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chief of USA Division
  • Leonid M. Zamyatin, Director General of TASS
  • Viktor M. Sukhodrev, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Interpreter)
  • Andrei Vavilov, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • President Nixon
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Walter J. Stoessel, U.S. Ambassador to the USSR
  • General Alexander M. Haig, Jr., USA (Ret.), Assistant to the President
  • Ronald L. Ziegler, Assistant to the President and Press Secretary
  • Major General Brent Scowcroft, USAF, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor to the Department of State
  • Arthur Hartman, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs
  • William G. Hyland, Director, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Department of State
  • Jan M. Lodal, NSC Senior Staff
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff


  • Test Ban; Mediterranean Nuclear Ban; CSCE

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


Brezhnev: Well, could we then turn to the European Conference?

Nixon: All right.

Brezhnev: We have already had several consultations on this matter. Now, when we are sitting across the table, we should try and gain a clear idea as to our joint actions and aims in this matter.

Nixon: Before the General Secretary raises European matters, I want to reiterate what I said to the Foreign Minister.2 We made a commitment to try to get our European allies on track so there is sufficient substance to get a summit. That is our goal. We have had a problem, quite candidly, getting our European allies to agree on the substance. We could discuss among ourselves what can be done to get the substance straight. We can agree on certain things as on supporting the Finnish proposal, which has been a very constructive development.

The various items which are in question, I would like for Dr. Kissinger to run over briefly, and I will state positions as we go. Movements and maneuvers, for example, where our positions are more in tandem than with extreme positions, and so forth.

Kissinger: Well, Mr. President, we have been discussing with the Soviet Union how to move the European Security Conference forward. First, on specific issues and then on the level of Phase III. On specific issues, there are three major ones.

What is generally called confidence-building measures—maneuvers and so forth, and notification. On the so-called confidence-building measures, we have stated our view to the Soviet leaders, and as you correctly said, we have tried to move matters into a more reasonable framework, that is, to limit the area in which notification is necessary, to increase the size of the unit about whose movement notification [Page 671] is required. We have worked primarily with the British on this, when we were in Brussels with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister.3

The second issue is what is generally called Basket III. This has two aspects. How to relate the general principles of Basket III to specific clauses. [Gromyko and Brezhnev confer behind Podgorny’s back.] The Foreign Minister and we worked out a compromise solution, the so-called Finnish solution, that on the basis of close coordination was tabled. We are supporting the Finnish position. But we are having massive difficulties with our European alies. I think the only way to solve this deadlock is to agree on the content of Basket III and link it to the Finnish position.

The third issue is: Germans have raised the issue of peaceful change. They would like it in the same paragraph as inviolability of frontiers; or if it goes into another paragraph, on sovereignty, then they would like to change the sentence. We have taken the position with our allies, Mr. President, that if these changes can be achieved, then we would approve a high-level meeting for Phase III.

At the NATO meeting we agreed we should reach an agreement concretely on the content of Basket III.

This is where we stand on the issue of the European Security Conference.

Gromyko: Here I must say this area, CSCE, is really one where we should invent an artificial heart, because the pulse is really not there.

Nixon: And brain too.

Gromyko: The trouble is, each participant in the Conference thinks his brain is the best one too. But that can be handled.

I would like to explain our position. With respect to the so-called Basket III, which includes social, humanitarian, information, culture, etc., the situation briefly is as follows: Some of the participants in the conference are advancing dozens and I would even say hundreds of second-rate proposals. Literally piles of proposals: Reuniting families, cultural ties. Some go so far as to say we have the right to open a movie theatre, a club, in another country.

Kissinger: A cabaret.

Gromyko: Or the right to sell newspapers at news stands whether they like it or not. Some of them have such an obsession with this that they have completely forgotten the objective of reducing the war danger in concentrating on these second-rate matters.

How do we react to these innumerable proposals? We say in response that we are in favor of development of scientific and cultural and all other ties. We are in favor of solving all humanitarian issues; [Page 672] we are in favor, within reasonable limits, of lower fees for visas; we are in favor of Mr. Smith being allowed to marry Miss Jones.

We are not against measures. But we believe it is necessary in all this to respect national laws and regulations. This is the principle of the UN Charter. If this principle is embodied in a document, this will take care of the matter. Because whether a large country or a small country, its laws must be respected. [Brezhnev gets up and goes out.]

Therefore if this question is resolved, the question of respect for the laws of each country concerned, all the problems that relate to Basket III will be solved and no country that participates in the Conference will have anything to fear. This is the subject of many discussions with the United States, and we worked out a formula ensuring respect for laws and administrative regulations in each country. We found a third country to introduce a compromise; the Finns volunteered. I can’t say we were completely happy with what the Finns proposed, but it could provide some degree of understanding. [Brezhnev returns.]

There were some who reacted positively immediately. There were others who, as Dr. Kissinger correctly said, without directly rejecting the Finnish proposal, try to link it to other things not related to it. How? For example, the West Germans advanced a new idea with respect to a question that had been resolved. It had been resolved that the question of peaceful change of frontiers should be included in the document. Now the West Germans say “Let’s review the situation,” and they try to connect the formula on peaceful change with the formula on inviolability. The purpose obviously is to try to weaken the principle of inviolability.

We had the impression the United States would promptly take a firm line in this matter. Unfortunately this is not so. As I said, West Germany has taken a stand aimed at weakening the principle and trying to link it to the Third Basket with which it has no relation.

We think we should stand on the basis of our previous understanding. If we do that, we can achieve progress on Basket III. It is a question of the influence the United States can exert on its allies. Your possibilities are greater than the concrete manifestations. We would like you to work a little more actively. We believe it is a matter of honor for the United States and the Soviet Union and others who came out in favor of this formulation to stick with it in its undiluted form.

I have therefore covered two of the questions mentioned by Dr. Kissinger, Basket III and inviolability of frontiers, which has now been raised again although it had been agreed upon. The phrase on peaceful change we continue to think should be linked with sovereignty.

[Page 673]

[Brezhnev gets up and confers with Dobrynin and Korniyenko; Hartman confers with Dr. Kissinger, while Gromyko talks.]

As regards the question of confidence-building measures, including such items as maneuvers, sizeable troop movements—although even there, some define it in a certain way—security zones, etc. This question has been inflated so much by some that unrealistic decisions are made.

How can you expect the Soviet Union to do nothing else but write out accounts of all its troop movements in the European part of its territory? I am sure you understand this, but there are many who believe it. The United States I know takes a skeptical view. But we would appreciate the United States to use more of its influence with its allies. We have made a technical approach in Geneva.

And the last question, with respect to the level of the third and final phase of the Conference: The West European countries through their representatives at Geneva said they are not opposed to a summit but it depends on the work of the second phase. From what the President has said today and several occasions previously, the statements repeatedly made by Dr. Kissinger, it will be obvious you are taking a more positive view of the work of the third [second] stage. Nonetheless, certain reservations are evident in your voice.

If we base ourselves on the standard arguments marshalled by some participants, that is, that the highest level for the third stage is justified only if the second stage gives positive results, then any step can be seen as inadequate. Nobody has succeeded in giving actual criteria on whether it would be justified, no letter or agreement. Therefore any outcome of Stage Two can be used as a pretext against the summit level. So we would like the United States to come out more definitely on holding a summit.

Generally speaking, most European participants are in favor of holding a summit, but this general situation that I have outlined is standing in the way of it.

Finally, we believe the United States, Mr. President, could say its weighty word in favor of a time limit for ending the Conference. There are many time limits in the past that didn’t come off. This left a negative impression. If this one would stick, this would give the entire affair a more positive aspect.

Brezhnev: We have always understood that your need to see a successful outcome is a joint desire of both of us. And we continue to hope this is so. On the other hand, we cannot but agree with the remarks by Comrade Gromyko that our joint role at the Conference is very great. We could do more than we did before. Indeed, that Basket is really being inflated to such an extent.

[Page 674]

Let me just cite one fact in this connection. In our last meeting at Pitsunda with Pompidou,4 he too spoke out in favor of proceeding with the European Security Conference as soon as possible and he had unfavorable remarks about some of the tactics used to prolong it. It was a bit inconvenient, but I just had to show him one of the proposals that had been made just before by the French delegation. The proposal was that any country, France for example, should be entitled to open a movie theatre in the Soviet Union, governed by French administration, governed by French rules. He was very surprised and said he would immediately give instructions to have it removed.

All this is by way of confirming what Comrade Gromyko just said. Since you and I, Mr. President, are agreed to follow the line of détente, the line of developing good relations between our two peoples, we should agree to take more vigorous action at the European Security Conference and to register our stand along these lines in our final communiqué.

Nixon: I think no useful purpose is served by going into more detail on the enormous number of proposals which are in the Conference. Dr. Kissinger at NATO was alone, with the British and French on the other side, on the German proposal to link the principle of inviolability of frontiers with peaceful change. We are trying to bring our allies along but we can’t dictate to them. Now, I suggest, in addition to having some positive language in the communiqué, that we ask our people at the Foreign Office level, whoever is designated by you on your side and whoever is designated by Kissinger on our side, to see if they can sort out how we can get through the details.

Brezhnev: I agree.

Nixon: I would expect this, Mr. General Secretary …

Brezhnev: We have got to get this matter off dead center.

Nixon: I would respectfully suggest, Mr. General Secretary, that we should not haggle too much with dotting i’s and crossing the t’s. In other words, if we want a meeting at the highest level, we ought to be prepared, to the greatest extent possible, to adjust the language of various provisions in a way that will soothe the sensitivities of our allies. The language isn’t going to change the fact.

I recall, for example, 15 years ago, Premier Khrushchev and I had a rather extended discussion about a resolution that had just passed our Congress about “liberation of captive peoples.” The language there wasn’t operative; we were really talking about theory, not a fact.

The Lithuanians I saw dancing last night didn’t seem to be captives.

But to return to the point, I propose we get our experts working. Where there is possible “give” on language to see to the sensitivities [Page 675] of the Western allies, if it isn’t going to have any great significance … It would not be, in other words, to have the Conference fail to take place because of a quibble over language. That would be unfortunate.

All they insist on is that it be substantive enough to justify a meeting at the highest level.

Brezhnev: That is true, but there are some things that concern matters of principle and are not minor matters.

Nixon: I understand. That is why I suggest the experts get together. I know language can sometimes be enormously important.

Kissinger: Maybe Hartman and Sonnenfeldt on our side, and Korniyenko, could go over it, and your man in Geneva, and that way we could have an agreed content.

Brezhnev: We will agree to that.

Nixon: I agree.

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

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 77, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Memcons, Moscow Summit, June 27–July 3, 1974. Secret. Drafted by Rodman. The meeting took place in St. Catherine’s Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace. Brackets, with the exception of those indicating omission of unrelated material, 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 footnote 4, Document 224.
  4. Pompidou visited the Soviet Union March 11–13.