314. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Andrei A. Gromyko, Member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR
  • Anatoli G. Kovalev, Deputy Foreign Minister and Chief of Soviet Delegation to CSCE (at end)
  • Anatoli F. Dobrynin, Ambassador to the United States
  • Georgi M. Korniyenko, Chief of the American Department and Member of the Collegium, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Mikhail D. Sytenko, Chief of the Near East Department and Member of the Collegium, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Vasili G. Makarov, Chef de Cabinet to the Foreign Minister
  • Viktor M. Sukhodrev, Counsellor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Interpreter)
  • Oleg M. Sokolov, Chief, American Section of the American Department
  • Yuri E. Fokin, Special Assistant to the Foreign Minister
  • Vladimir Ya. Plechko, Special Assistant to the Foreign Minister
  • Leonid S. Chernyshev, Deputy Chief of Protocol
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Ambassador Walter J. Stoessel, Jr., Ambassador to the USSR
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor of the Department
  • Winston Lord, Director, Policy Planning Staff
  • Ambassador Albert W. Sherer, Jr., Chief of U.S. Delegation to CSCE (at end)
  • Alfred L. Atherton, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
  • William G. Hyland, Director, INR
  • Jan M. Lodal, NSC Staff
  • Harold H. Saunders, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
  • Mark Garrison, Director, Office of Soviet Union Affairs
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
[Page 905]


  • CSCE

[Mr. Sonnenfeldt and Mr. Garrison go out to take a phone call from Ambassador Sherer at the CSCE Conference. They return. Mr. Sonnenfeldt gives a report as follows:]

Sonnenfeldt: At 7:00 p.m. the Finnish Foreign Minister called Mintoff. He said he would make no problem.

Fifteen minutes ago the Maltese delegate Kingswell announced that there would be no answer from Mintoff until 11:00 a.m. tomorrow, and that Malta would probably seek amendments, that would be substantive.

The Soviet head of delegation, Deputy Foreign Minister Kovalev, pointed out that we are being subjected to blackmail and “humiliated.” This represents an attempt by Malta to blackmail the other 34 countries. The Romanian delegation has been urging Maltese reconsideration. It is ridiculous for the rest to sit around awaiting unacceptable amendments.

Mintoff is reported to have said the time element is not important. One more day is not important after the two years we have spent negotiating this.

Kissinger: [to Sonnenfeldt] What should we do?

Sonnenfeldt: I have dictated a message2 which you can look at.

Kissinger: [to Garrison] What do you think? It’s your department.

Garrison: I’d get a message ready.

Kissinger: I’m afraid it would inflate his ego.

Sonnenfeldt: Previously he’s gone to the edge and then veered off.

Kissinger: It’s purely a practical question. we’re not dealing with exactly a rational man. It’s not a substantive question.

Sonnenfeldt: We could talk to his representative here, who was impressed with your message earlier.

Kissinger: Really?

Sonnenfeldt: I could have Sherer talk to the Italian here.

Kissinger: That would get more countries involved. Do that. Tell him I think it would be a good idea to have the Italians talk to Mintoff. [Garrison goes out.]

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

[Mr. Garrison returns.]

[Page 906]

Garrison: The two Ambassadors will come here and report.

Kissinger: Is that all right with you?

Gromyko: Yes.

Kissinger: Is there any indication?

Garrison: The Soviets have floated a consensus-minus-one proposal,3 but the Italians have rejected it.

Kissinger: That’s what I thought.

[Minister Kovalev and Ambassador Sherer arrive at 11:15 p.m.]

Kovalev: The situation at the Conference in the last several hours has become very acute. At first, the Maltese said they’d give a reply in an hour, then they said another hour. They recently said they’d get a reply from Mintoff tomorrow, but not until 11:00 a.m. Valletta does not like the text that was reported to you earlier today, and thought that new amendments would be required and would be more or less substantive. The Maltese are not giving a favorable reply to the Canadian proposal and for tonight are blocking.

Immediately after the Maltese interim response, there was a meeting of the heads of the more influential delegations—including the United States, the Soviet Union, West Germany, France, and others. The Finns regard Malta’s action as an attempt to torpedo the holding of the third stage and that seems to be a justified assessment. All the delegations that took part in this meeting have taken note of two facts. First, indignation at the actions of the Maltese, regarded it as blackmail and completely irresponsible, as an attempt to humiliate all the 34 other participating countries. That was stated by all the delegations—neutral, Western, and Socialist. And the second fact is that the 34 delegations are in favor of the Canadian proposal with one minor amendment, which is acceptable to all—that is, they support convening the third stage on July 30 and all the other provisions of the Canadian proposal.

[Page 907]

There was discussion of possible modes of action in this situation. The first suggestion was that at the next meeting of the Coordinating Committee, at 11:55 tonight, we will start to gain the maximum possible support for the Canadian proposal, including the July 30 date. The Finns are earnestly requesting this be done because they feel that every lost hour eventually tends to destroy the chances of convening on July 30.

The second mode of action, which doesn’t rule out the first, but adds to it—and in this the Finns are interested—is that after the meeting of the Coordinating Committee, if a consensus can’t be reached because of the opposition of the Maltese, outside the hall of the Coordinating Committee, all 34 representatives hand over to the chairman of the Finnish delegation the Canadian draft proposal on a bilateral basis, thus symbolizing their agreement to it. That would not be a violation of the consensus rule because outside the meeting hall the countries are free to meet bilaterally. But that would be symbolic of their goodwill, and the Finnish delegation would gain assurance that the 34 delegations would arrive in Finland on July 30. It would make it easier for Finland to begin immediate preparations for July 30.

That in brief is the situation in the conference, and Mr. Sherer may probably want to add to it.

Kissinger: [To Sherer] What is your view of the Western side?

Sherer: This is where I would reluctantly disagree with the Minister. He’s absolutely right; all the delegations feel we are being humiliated. They all feel shabbily treated by the Maltese; it’s a purposeful third-country maneuver. But some of them feel they did have communications problems—Mintoff was off on the beach or riding somewhere. I doubt we could get a consensus … isolate Malta as we proposed. I was at a pickup meeting of 12–15 delegations; I was called out twice for long telephone conversations. But I doubt we can do it because there will be a natural tendency of some of the small countries to support Malta against what seems to be big power pressure.

Kissinger: Did you ask the Italian Ambassador to make a representation to Malta?

Sherer: I did not, sir, because the Italians here were among the most reluctant to put pressure on Malta.

I drafted a letter for your consideration.

Kissinger: A letter?

Sherer: To Malta. I think a letter from you would have a good effect.

Kissinger: It might also have the opposite effect. [To Sonnenfeldt] Let’s go out a minute.

[Kissinger, Sonnenfeldt, and Sherer leave the room to confer, then return.]

[Page 908]

Kissinger: On the procedure, Mr. Foreign Minister, we’ll be glad to join this 11:55 meeting and to join with any resolution that’s agreed.

I’m not inclined to go along with handing over the Canadian proposal to the Finns, because it would be treated as an issue of principle by many Western delegations. I’d be prepared to issue a joint statement that we’re prepared to go July 30.

Gromyko: I’m worried about how the others would react to our joint declaration, saying, “Here’s collusion again.”

Kissinger: I’d be prepared to say it as a unilateral statement.

Gromyko: That sounds more positive.

Kissinger: I’ll be prepared to do that.

Gromyko: Because otherwise there may be people here who’ll say you can’t tread on Mintoff. But after all, you can’t sacrifice the conference for this because this principle was designed to buttress the success of the conference. Principle should serve policy, not policy serve principle.

Kissinger: I’m worried about sending a letter to Mintoff because it would give him a tremendous ego trip.

Gromyko: It is really hard for one to talk you out of it or into it [sending a letter] because if you think it will have the opposite effect … Maybe you could try getting in touch with the Italians.

Kissinger: That I’ll be glad to do.

Gromyko: Because it’s not substance but a real pathology.

Kissinger: I’ll be glad to send a message to Rome.

Gromyko: There’s this Malta that gets the idea it can hold up all the others. A real travesty. That’s democracy?

Kissinger: I can say nothing in defense of Malta because we should be concluding stage two today.

[Sonnenfeldt goes around the table to confer with Kissinger to show him a draft of proposed statement.]

As I said, I’ll be glad to make a statement—when I go into the hotel, there will undoubtedly be press there—that we support the Canadian proposal.

Stoessel: You’ll be asked if this is the Foreign Minister’s view.

Kissinger: I’ll have to say, “ask him.”

What is going to happen at five to twelve?

Sherer: There will be another meeting of the Coordinating Committee. I suppose the chair will ask if there is support for the Canadian proposal, and if Malta is there, I’d expect Malta to say, “we don’t accept.” Others will say we have to have 35 yeas. Malta will say, “Our Prime Minister will be in touch with us at 11:00 tomorrow.”

[Page 909]

Kissinger: When was the Canadian proposal submitted? Yesterday?

Sherer: Yes, sir.

Gromyko: Can you talk to your allies about acting outside of the conference on a bilateral basis to support the Canadian proposal?

Kissinger: I think it would be counterproductive. [To Sherer:]Don’t you?

Sherer: I agree.

Kissinger: I think many countries—Italy, the Dutch and others—would see it as a matter of principle. When I go to the hotel I’ll say we’re prepared to join with the others in support of the Canadian proposal, and that I spoke to the French President. I said this today in Paris and I’ll say it again. I’ll also get in touch with the Italians. This will show them we have an interest.

When will we hear from Mintoff? Noon?

Sherer: He said 11:00, but today he said an hour and it dragged on.

Kissinger: Did you talk to the Maltese Ambassador? What did he say?

Sherer: I did. I think he took it very seriously and was very impressed with it. He then said he had changes to make in the compromise proposal that I submitted on your behalf, and these would be substantive.

Kissinger: [To Gromyko] I think they’ll cave tomorrow, don’t you? Kovalev: What do the Maltese want?

Gromyko: It is impossible to give an analysis of their proposal. What do they want? To declare war on the US? The Soviet Union?

Kovalev: First of all, they want to humiliate all the participants. Second, for Mintoff to be in the world’s limelight.

Gromyko: If that is so, he must be doing that with the blessing of someone else, because this Mintoff couldn’t do it alone.

Kissinger: I don’t know who else would be giving their blessing.

I think his strength is that he’s doing it on his own. If someone else were doing it, it would be easy to do.

He’s a good friend of the Chinese. I don’t know if they’re doing it. [Confers with Sonnenfeldt.]

I’m having Sherer talk to all the Western delegations today, so tomorrow we’ll know better.

Gromyko: Can you add one sentence to your statement, that the United States is ready to go on the 30th?

Kissinger: Oh, yes. That is what it says. [Reading the draft statement:] “The United States supports the consensus that has developed that the last stage of the Conference should take place on July 30 as proposed by Canada and I have instructed our Ambassador to join this consensus.”

[Page 910]

Gromyko: Would it be possible to say, “The United States is prepared for a resumption on the 30th?”

Kissinger: Oh, yes, that’s easy. And I’ll say we believe the decision should be made as soon as possible so the Finns can begin preparations.

Gromyko: Good.

Kissinger: So, 10:30 tomorrow. I think the less attention we pay to him the better. If he doesn’t tomorrow, I’ll be seeing the Germans and the English. It would be better to do something joint. Rather than a frantic letter tonight.

Sonnenfeldt: We couldn’t get it delivered.

Kissinger: So by Monday morning we’ll know.

What we discussed tonight: I’ll get in touch with the Italians; I’ll make a statement, and tell our Ambassador to get in touch with the allied delegates by 10:30 tomorrow.

And to the press we’ll say we discussed SALT and Europe and the results were constructive and the atmosphere was cordial.

If asked if progress was made, we can say, yes.

Gromyko: Just a general formula.

[The meeting ended. The Foreign Minister escorted the Secretary and his party down to the front door.]

[The Secretary’s remarks to the press, made in the lobby of the Intercontinental Hotel on his return, are attached.]4

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Entry 5339, Box 7, Soviet Union. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Rodman. The meeting took place during and after dinner at the Soviet Mission in Geneva. Brackets, except those indicating omission of unrelated discussion, are in the original. The full text of the memorandum of conversation is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XVI, Soviet Union, August 1974–December 1976. Telegram 168188 to all NATO capitals, July 17, provided a summary of the meeting for presentation to the North Atlantic Council. It reads in part: “In general the meetings proceeded in quite a friendly manner. In fact, Gromyko seemed more mellow than on other occasions, possibly because he was eager to get CSCE settled. The Soviets might also be concerned about public attitudes in the US and elsewhere reflecting skepticism about Soviet intentions with regard to détente. We expect that the President will meet bilaterally with Brezhnev during the Helsinki meeting, principally to continue discussion of SALT issues. We still expect a Brezhnev visit in the fall, but no precise date has been fixed.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  2. Not found.
  3. Reference to a Soviet proposal at CSCE to amend the consensus rule to permit the approval of portions of a CSCE agreement by all participants except one. Telegram 168188 summarized Kissinger’s reaction to the Soviet proposal: “During the evening of July 10, the Soviets sought to enlist the Secretary’s support for breaking the impasse by the ‘consensus-minus-one’ approach. The Secretary declined to do so then and there, in part because such an appraoch would have had to have the endorsement of our allies. More basically, however, the Secretary felt that however deplorable and dismaying the tactics of the Maltese, any decision to circumvent the basic consensus rule of the conference would have to be considered with utmost care. It raised not only the question of style but also an issue of principle with serious precedental implications. The Secretary thus informed Gromyko that he could not go along with ‘extra-parliamentary’ tactics to break the deadlock.”
  4. Attached but not printed. The full text of Kissinger’s remarks are in Department of State Bulletin, August 4, 1975, p. 188. Kissinger said with regard to CSCE: “With respect to the European Security Conference, the United States supports the consensus that has developed that the last stage of the conference should take place on July 30 as proposed by Canada, and we are prepared to bring this to as rapid a conclusion as possible in order to permit the Finnish hosts to make their preparations.”