273. Editorial Note

Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Hartman met with Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Anatoly Kovalev the afternoon of February 17, 1975, at the Soviet Mission in Geneva to discuss possible compromise language at the European security conference on the peaceful change of borders. They also discussed confidence-building mesures and Basket III. (Telegram 345 from Prague, February 19; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 217, Geopolitical File, Soviet Union, Dobrynin, Anatoliy, Chronological)

After the conversation, Kovalev called on Ambassador Albert Sherer the same evening to confirm that “Gromyko could accept the peaceful change text discussed with Secretary Kissinger,” but “without the word ‘only.’” Sherer reported in telegram 1057 from the Mission in Geneva, February 18: “Kovalev handed us a Russian text which he described as an exact translation of the peaceful change sentence [Page 805] ‘agreed between Secretary Kissinger and Minister Gromyko.’ Kovalev’s interpreter translated this Russian text back into English as follows: ‘The participating states consider, that their frontiers can be changed in accordance with international law, by peaceful means and by agreement.’ Kovalev said this text was the same, in both English and Russian, as text given to Secretary Kissinger by Gromyko last September in New York, except that the word ‘only’ has been deleted. We noted that the commas did not appear to be in the same places, but Kovalev insisted that the commas were exactly where they should be.” The telegram continued: “With regard to placement, Kovalev said emphatically that he could not expand on what ‘had been agreed’ on this point between Secretary Kissinger and Gromyko. When we pressed for a more precise explanation of what he meant by this, Kovalev would say only that this was a positive formulation and that the Western allies should be pleased to place it in the sovereign equality principle.” The telegram concluded: “Comment: Soviet acceptance of an English language text without the word ‘only’ is obviously an important step, since it appears to meet the principal FRG objection to the floating sentence on peaceful change which was provisionally registered last April 5. Sentence is now stated positively and thus should, prima facie, be acceptable to FRG in context of sovereign equality principle, where other aspects of sovereignty are all stated positively. Nevertheless, FRG reps have in the past made the separate point that peaceful change should not appear to be subject to all three conditions: international law, peaceful means, and agreement. Placement of commas before and after phrase ‘in accordance with international law’ would help to alleviate this problem, and FRG might still be sticky on this point. With regard to placement, we believe Kovalev’s comment is an allusion to the fact that the FRG might be unwilling to accept placement in sovereign equality if they believe it is Soviet preference. Soviets evidently prefer to let FRG themselves seek placement in sovereign equality principle.” (Ibid.)

In telegram 2850 from Bonn, February 20, Ambassador Hillenbrand reported his meeting with Political Director Van Well of the West German Foreign Office the preceding day “to inform him of the latest developments on the peaceful change problem.” The telegram continued: “Van Well expressed his appreciation for the report and the ‘interesting movement’ on the peaceful change issue. He indicated his satisfaction that the Russians had dropped the ‘only’ from their latest draft text and said the FRG would study the new text very carefully before reacting. I stressed to Van Well our interest in minimizing Geneva chatter on the issue. He agreed that it would be best to confine further exchanges of views to Bonn or Washington.” (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Europe and Canada, Box 7, Germany, State Department Telegrams, Tosec State, Nodis [2])

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On February 19, Secretary of State Kissinger summarized his talks with Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko in a meeting with President Ford: “We gave a little on CSCE and they merchandized it in their tawdry way. We have hooks to keep them on the reservation with CSCE and the summit, but the Europeans are going to move to pal up with them. Wilson was floating on air—he is a pal. They are giving the Soviets $2.5 billion in credits; the French are too. And none of it is tied to projects.” Kissinger continued: “On Vladivostok, we are still okay. I also gave him [Gromyko] Option III. He liked that very much. I pointed out that the effect would be a ceiling even if only one plane is removed. I thought maybe we should avoid two meetings close together and have CSCE in July and the summit in September.” Ford replied, “That may give us more time on MBFR.” Kissinger stated, “We can work that out as things develop.” (Memorandum of conversation, February 19; ibid., Memoranda of Conversation, Box 9)