248. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Soviets:
    • H.E. Andrey Gromyko, Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs
    • H.E. Anatoliy Dobrynin, Soviet Ambassador
    • The Honorable Georgiy Markovich Korniyenko, Chief, USA Division, Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    • Mr. Viktor Mikhaylovich Sukhodrev, Counselor and Interpreter, Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • U.S.:
    • The Secretary
    • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor
    • Walter Stoessel, American Ambassador to USSR
    • Arthur A. Hartman, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs

Secretary: We certainly described2 all the nuances of CSCE to the President3 but I think he was a little confused by Basket III.

Gromyko: Yes, I’d like to cut the bottom out of that Basket.

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

Secretary: Seriously, on CSCE, can we discuss that a little further? I was a little confused by something you said when we were talking to the President. You said that the Germans mentioned something about voluntary observers.

Gromyko: Yes, they said that the observers would be invited by the country in which the maneuver is taking place. Then there is the question of troop movements. Can’t we agree that that matter can be postponed for later discussion and study?

Secretary: we’re relaxed about that problem. We know what You’re doing anyway. We think that the size of the force which should be notified for maneuvers should be a reinforced division of, say, 40,000.

Hartman: I think you mean 20,000. A division is about 15,000 and a reinforced division would be roughly 20,000.

[Page 726]

Gromyko: That is an artificial number. It would be impossible. We would have so many clerical problems.

Secretary: Do you move a division that often?

Gromyko: What importance does this have to Luxembourg? This is like using a microscope.

Secretary: How can we proceed in CSCE?

Gromyko: We have to agree on the question of maneuvers and troop movements.4 On the latter we should put it off for further study. Maybe we should examine this question of voluntary observers. This would be a moral obligation and would be much more flexible.

Secretary: Are you saying that a moral obligation is heavier than a legal one or are you saying if it’s moral you don’t have to carry it out?

Gromyko: As a rule it will be carried out.

Secretary: Just when you maneuver with nuclear weapons and we want to observe, you will not want us to.

Gromyko: As a rule it will be carried out. I have a feeling that the Basket III problem is behind us.

Secretary: Why?

Gromyko: Because we agreed on the Finnish compromise which makes it easier. Then we have the question of the relations among5 the principles. We think that the formulation should be “the principles should be equally strictly observed.”6

Hartman: We have been talking about the equal validity of the principles.

Gromyko: Equal validity is nonsense. How can you say that the question of frontier inviolability and giving visas are equally important. Some of the principles are fundamental.

Secretary: All of the principles are equal but you are saying equally strictly observed. The thing that concerns us is that they be observed. I would be willing to examine your formulation. What did Genscher say?

Gromyko: Genscher’s attitude was positive.

Secretary: I am not intelligent enough to understand all these matters. To me it sounds all right. I will take it up with Callaghan and Genscher.

[Page 727]

Gromyko: On the peaceful change formula you have now tabled a new text which seems to imply that the most important purpose of international law is to change frontiers.7 That is the current U.S. draft.

Secretary: Where did you get that this was a U.S. draft? What did Genscher say?

Gromyko: He said that it was an American proposal.

Secretary: You can see that Hartman has a lot to learn about diplomacy. Historically, let me say that we pointed out that it would be difficult to change the language we had originally agreed. This change is a German proposal. They are the ones who have the main concern. On maneuvers we will look at the problem again and I will talk to you on Tuesday.8 On the MBFR negotiations in Vienna, you made the observation which implied to the President that if we include air and nuclear9 forces you would be willing to include a tank army. Is that correct?

Gromyko: Other countries must be prepared to reduce their forces.

Secretary: In the first stage?

Gromyko: If not in the first stage, then we should define the second stage and specify what will happen.

Secretary: You mean that we should decide what is the end result of the second stage? For example, we could agree that the first stage has a certain numerical reduction or are we just talking about the principle of the second stage?

Gromyko: No, we would have to have numbers and precise times.10

Secretary: Then we are talking about negotiating both the first and the second stage.

Gromyko: If numbers are not mentioned, then when will we reach agreement on this? My idea is to agree to reduce X and then X should be multiplied by 10.

Secretary: In practice you would then be negotiating both stages but there would be a difference of timing.

Gromyko: What we would be doing is leaving some details for later decision, for example, the kinds of forces and armaments.11

Secretary: What you are saying is that following the reduction of this first stage, there would be a second stage. The only difference is timing.

[Page 728]

Gromyko: It will be a question of fulfillment and the degree of specificity.

Secretary: If you are worried about escaping obligations, you want to specify what happens in the second stage.

Gromyko: Yes. Otherwise we are talking generalities. There should be a general obligation to reduce by all countries.

Secretary: I don’t believe we are going to finish this year. We haven’t even begun to look at the second stage.

Gromyko: It would be helpful in getting through the CSCE to be able to have progress in Vienna.12 Politically, it would help us. Why is that difficult?

Secretary: Are you prepared to accept a common ceiling at the end of the second stage?

Gromyko: At the end? That would depend on the ceiling. I do not reject it.

Secretary: If you can accept that we can discuss this in greater detail, we are prepared to include tactical air if that would help.

Gromyko: What kind of ceiling are you talking about? Is it possible to avoid a ceiling? You could have American and Soviet cuts and then other countries could reduce numbers as well. After that, it would be much easier to discuss a ceiling.13

Secretary: I am talking about a common ceiling. Korniyenko: What the Secretary means by a common ceiling are equal forces on both sides.

Gromyko: No, that is not what I mean.

Secretary: But then you are offering me nothing. Obviously if you agree to a cut there is a ceiling but you cannot argue in the strategic field that we have more warheads than you do and therefore must cut greater numbers, while at the same time you argue that you cannot cut [Page 729] your forces more when you have greater numbers. We are prepared to be realistic and specific in the categories where we have an advantage. If we are ahead, we make a greater cut. For example, in air forces and nuclear forces we would cut more in such a program—that would not be excluded. This is not a proposal but I am just citing an example.

Gromyko: The general idea of an equal ceiling I do not like.

Secretary: But as I said that is no concession. You are just talking about an agreed ceiling.

Gromyko: Yes, an agreed ceiling.

Secretary: It is not clear to me how we can consider both stages if at the end of the second stage we don’t reach agreement on a commonequal-ceiling.

Gromyko: That is impossible. Maybe after five stages. Why, after the second stage?

Secretary: We could have a first stage only or we can have a first stage plus agreement to a second stage whose ultimate objective is a common ceiling.

Gromyko: At the end of the second stage? How long would that take?

Secretary: We are open-minded.

Gromyko: I do not see the possibility. This would be against our security interests because we will reduce more than you.

Secretary: This is not just a common ceiling of U.S. and Soviet forces. This would be the whole NATO area versus the Warsaw Pact.

Gromyko: You would have all of the advantages. You tell us we have more tanks.

Secretary: We do not insist on an equal ceiling in all parts including equipment. What we are talking about are equal numbers of personnel. Maybe you have a tank for every three men and maybe we have a tank for every ten men. It is up to each side.

Gromyko: I do not think this will facilitate an agreement.

Secretary: Maybe we shouldn’t agree on a second stage but agree on a first stage and no principles and say that the negotiation of the second stage would begin in three to six months.

Gromyko: What if it doesn’t come about?

Sonnenfeldt: We have no interest in stopping because we are interested in moving toward a common ceiling.

Gromyko: With a common ceiling we go down more.

Secretary: How can you maintain the principle of equality in the strategic area and not here. I remember your General Secretary telling us that we have 10,000 warheads and you only have 3,000 warheads. He insisted that we move toward a common level.

[Page 730]

Gromyko: We like equality but we mean equal security.

Secretary: In the strategic field you tell us that we are ahead in a ratio of three to one and that we should move to an equal level.

Gromyko: No, we wish to take in many factors. What we must do is to define the correlation of the numbers. We want equal security, not14 equal numbers of personnel.

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

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Entry 5339, Box 8, Soviet Union, Aug.–Sept. 1974. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Hartman on September 21. The conversation took place in the Soviet Embassy. Gromyko was visiting the United States to attend the United Nations General Assembly.
  2. Sonnenfeldt struck out “expressed” and wrote in “described” by hand.
  3. See Document 247.
  4. Sonnenfeldt struck out “numbers” and wrote in “movements” by hand.
  5. Sonnenfeldt struck out “between” and wrote in “among” by hand.
  6. Reference is to point 11 of the French draft declaration of principles for the CSCE; see Document 176.
  7. See Document 239.
  8. September 24; see Document 250.
  9. Sonnenfeldt added “and nuclear” by hand.
  10. Sonnenfeldt added “and precise times” by hand.
  11. Sonnenfeldt bracketed and struck out “and the time of fulfillment” at the end of this sentence.
  12. The Department followed up on Gromyko’s comment on MBFR in telegram 214661 to Geneva, September 28, suggesting “that Soviets are widely calling Allied attention to possibility that MBFR negotiations could be advanced if CSCE were successfully concluded.” Noting that “the Soviets thus are establishing a procedural linkage between MBFR and CSCE,” the telegram continued, “you should raise this matter and propose a general exchange of Allied views in NAC on implications of the Soviet stance” and proposed “turning the present situation to Allied advantage” by establishing a “reverse linkage” of “making progress on CSCE contingent upon Eastern movement in MBFR.” In telegram 9838 from USNATO, December 13, the Mission replied: “Luns said that the Alliance had studied the possibility of establishing a ‘reverse linkage’ between CSCE and MBFR and had determined that, although such a linkage might not be desirable at the present time, it should be kept in mind as a future possibility.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  13. Sonnenfeldt struck out the phrase “that is not projected” at the end of this sentence.
  14. At this point, Sonnenfeldt struck out “in” and replaced it with a comma and “not.”