234. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • James Callaghan, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
  • Sir Thomas Brimelow, Permanent Under Secretary and Head of Diplomatic Service
  • Sir Peter Ramsbotham, Ambassador to U.S.A.
  • Sir John Killick, Deputy Under Secretary
  • Sir Donald Maitland, Deputy Under Secretary
  • Tom McNally, Political Secretary to Callaghan
  • John Thomson, Assistant Under Secretary
  • Lord Nicholas Gordon-Lennox, Head of North American Department
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Ambassador Walter Annenberg, Ambassador to Court of St. James’s
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor of the Department
  • Arthur Hartman, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs
  • Ambassador Robert Anderson, Special Assistant to the Secretary for Press Relations
  • Earl Sohm, DCM
  • Alan James, Political Counselor
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff


  • SALT; Aircraft Sales to USSR; Indochina; Spain; Middle East;CSCE

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

Secretary Callaghan: [He picks up his briefing paper on CSCE, which he gives Kissinger, Tab A.]2 “General objectives.” They list five things. We don’t have time for all five now.

Secretary Kissinger: The Soviets were predictable, pressing for a rapid conclusion, but not as obnoxiously as last year. My impression is: we have 23 papers and the Soviets may fear that if they give in once, they will be asked for continual concessions. My impression is, if we can agree on concrete things, they tell me the substance won’t be all that difficult.

On peaceful change, I gave them that text Van Well did in Ottawa. I frankly can’t tell the difference. They reject totally the idea that the text, once registered, can be reopened. They totally reject putting it into the inviolability principle. With respect to the sovereignty principle, I gave them my recollection of what Van Well had done. I have since confirmed it with Van Well.3 Gromyko told me he would have experts study it; he usually doesn’t need experts on matters dealing with Germany. So maybe they will absorb it if they know it is the last concession. But Genscher is happy with it if the Russians will accept it.

Secretary Callaghan [Reads from paragraph 3 of his paper at Tab A:]4 “We should work for a sizeable area.” Isn’t that reasonable?

Secretary Kissinger: Can we agree on what it means?

Secretary Callaghan: The Europeans?

Secretary Kissinger: The Europeans and Americans. My impression, based on nothing, is that they would accept 250–300 kilometers.

[Page 697]

Mr. Thomson: As long as we hold tight now.

Secretary Callaghan: I am sure we can agree. Dr. Kissinger keeps telling us to get a position. [He picks up his paper again.] On economic questions—this is only words.5

Sir Killick: No problem there.

Secretary Kissinger: I don’t think this is a problem.

Secretary Callaghan: Human contacts—I think we should stick with that one.

Secretary Kissinger: I agree.

Secretary Callaghan: 5(B)—information.6

Secretary Kissinger: Genscher says he doesn’t give a damn. I think we can get what we want if we just sit down and write it down.

Sir Killick: It is like a chicken-and-egg problem—we can’t say we are satisfied until we see it.

Secretary Kissinger: The French have ingenious theories—that there can’t be an agreement because then there will be a summit. [Laughter] But having gone this far, we can’t stymie an important Soviet policy without paying a price.

Secretary Callaghan: If we get these, I will go to the summit.

Secretary Kissinger: The Germans—whom I didn’t press or even express an opinion to—seemed to be willing to go to the summit if there is agreement at Geneva. If 35 nations agree on something, it is hard to keep out of a summit, especially if all the Europeans come.

We will support 5(a) [on human contacts].7

Secretary Callaghan: Who drafts it?

Secretary Kissinger: We will instruct our people to work with yours in Geneva, or elsewhere.

Sir Killick: We may have to resort to a highest common denominator—the Germans are most interested in families, the French in information …

[Page 698]

Secretary Kissinger: Let’s write it down.

Secretary Callaghan: Let’s start doing this so the Russians will see we are in earnest.

Secretary Kissinger: If we are seen to be deliberately obstructing, we will pay an enormous price.

All we have now is a multiplication of Western desiderata.

The French have a theory that it’s a problem how to keep from the Russians the five things once we have an agreed text. [Laughter] I thought we wanted to give it to the Russians.

Secretary Callaghan: How do we handle it?

Secretary Kissinger: We should get together in NATO, or Geneva, or both, and work out these texts. We should put down our real position—on paragraphs 3 and 5—and present it to the Russians as a package and say, “If you give us this, we will go to the summit.” We’ll get 95 percent. They are such chiselers.

Secretary Callaghan: If we ask for 105 percent, we will get 100 percent!

You have to go to the Prime Minister’s now.

[There was a brief discussion of what to say to the press. Secretary Kissinger and Mr. Hartman then departed on foot to No. 10 Downing Street.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, Box 24, United Kingdom (17). Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Rodman. The meeting took place at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Brackets, with the exception of those indicating omission of unrelated material, are in the original.
  2. The undated paper, “CSCE: General Objectives,” is attached but not printed.
  3. Telegram Tosec 440/147348, July 9, reported on Ambassador Cash’s conversation earlier the same day with Van Well in Bonn: “Van Well stated that everything will be carried out exactly as agreed in Munich.” It continued: “With regard to Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin, Van Well expressed the hope that the USG would proceed on the basis of what the Secretary and Genscher had agreed in Munich.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  4. Point 3 of the British paper at Tab A, “Confidence-building measures,” reads as follows: “We want a text covering notification of maneuvers which would in practice involve all major participants in notifying the more important maneuvers which took place on their territory to all interested parties (in the case of the Soviet Union, only a part of its territory would be involved; but we should work for a sizeable area).”
  5. Point 4 of the British paper, “Economic questions,” reads as follows: “We want texts which will encourage a practical approach to the development of co-operation without prejudging questions (such as most favored nation treatment), which should be dealt with in negotiations designed to secure effective reciprocity.”
  6. Point 5(b) of the British paper, “Information,” reads as follows: “This is perhaps the most sensitive area. We should be able to get agreement to a gradual improvement of present practices, particularly over access to information; and we should keep up the pressure for better working conditions for journalists.”
  7. Point 5(a) of the British paper, “Human contacts,” reads as follows: “We should be able to get a degree of endorsement of the general objective of freer movement, and some helpful specific provisions on the humanitarian issues: marriages and family reunification.”