316. 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
  • 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
  • Vasily 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
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Joseph J. Sisco, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
  • Amb. Walter J. Stoessel, Jr., Ambassador to the USSR
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor, Department of State
  • Winston Lord, Director, Policy Planning Staff, Department of State
  • Amb. Albert W. Sherer, Jr., Chief of U.S. Delegation to CSCE
  • Alfred L. Atherton, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff


  • CSCE; Middle East

[Photographers and press came in to photograph.]


Kissinger: Twice I’ve given briefings in bars in Moscow in the Intourist Hotel.

Mr. Foreign Minister, first let me welcome you to—I can’t say our place. Could we have our Ambassador here? I see Ambassador Kovalev. Where is Sherer?

[He looks over draft of joint statement.]2

Gromyko: Mr. Secretary, you are the chairman. You didn’t know you were elected?

Kissinger: Oh. I thought Mr. Kovalev would give us a report.

Kovalev: we’ve just received a reply from the Maltese. They are prepared to accept the entire text of yesterday of the Canadian proposal, including the date of July 30, to register all the understandings except the one on the Mediterranean which was the subject of discussion yesterday between the Foreign Minister and Secretary Kissinger. Let me read the text.

Kissinger: To whom did they communicate this?

Kovalev: We received it just now from Mintoff’s special representative, Kingswell.

[Page 913]

Kissinger: Did we get it too?

Kovalev: It was virtually two minutes ago.

Sherer: I was probably at the hotel.

Kovalev: “In order to advance the objectives set forth above, the Participating States also declare their intention of maintaining and amplifying the contacts and dialogue as initiated by the CSCE with the non-participating Mediterranean States to include all the States of the Mediterranean, with the purpose of contributing to peace”—the amendment is “reducing armed forces in the region”—“strengthening security,” and so on.

Kissinger: The only amendment is “reducing armed forces in the region?”

Kovalev: Right.

Kissinger: Do you have any problem with this?

Gromyko: Why don’t we talk for a minute?

[Kissinger and Gromyko get up and go to corner of the room to confer alone, from 10:57–10:59. Kissinger then confers with Sonnenfeldt, Stoessel, Sisco and Sherer to 11:02.]

Kissinger: I assume if we now accept this, you will not be calling for a nuclear-free zone or disarmament.

Gromyko: [Laughs] Nothing.

Kissinger: I will instruct Ambassador Sherer to call the NATO caucus and discuss it. I foresee no problem. If there is, we can discuss it.

Sherer: There will be no problem.

Kissinger: We should know, say, within an hour. Then we can conclude it today.

[Sherer leaves. Kovalev gets up and talks to Gromyko.]

Gromyko: I’m telling him [Kovalev] to grab Sherer by the coattails.

Kissinger: He’s joining the NATO caucus?

Gromyko: He will be active among our friends and the neutrals.

Kissinger: I think it will be settled in the next hour.

Kovalev: [in English] Goodbye.

Kissinger: Goodbye. Thank you.

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

[Kovalev and Sherer return at 12:19 p.m.]

Kissinger: Should we hear from our Ambassadors first?

Gromyko: Can we guess what they have? Augurs used to guess from looking at them.

Kissinger: I think it is now humanly impossible to make the European Security Conference fail. [Laughter].

[Page 914]

Sherer: It took a little time to assemble the NATO chiefs of delegation. They were aware of the Maltese amendments. I polled the room to find out how people felt and I think without exception the major powers have to seek instructions before giving any opinion at all.

Kissinger: You should have said that too.

Sherer: And the countries almost all took a generally negative view.

Kissinger: Which? Italy?

Sherer: Italy, France, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Germany.

Kissinger: Does Germany have forces in the Mediterranean?

Sherer: They all spoke in a generally skeptical way.

Kissinger: Let me talk to Mr. Sherer for a minute.

[Kissinger, Sherer, Sisco, Sonnenfeldt and Stoessel confer in the corner until 12:37 p.m. and then return to the table.]

Kissinger: Mr. Foreign Minister, on the European Security Conference first, as I understand it from Mr. Sherer, all the NATO delegations are asking for instructions and the answer is expected to be negative. I am asking Sherer to ask the delegations to hold an answer until I have a chance to confer with Schmidt and Callaghan, and I can get in touch with the French.

I think the Conference will take place on July 30. It is only a question of tactics. It’s a stupid … We are only committed to maintain contacts and dialogue on these questions.

Sisco: It is not operative.

Kissinger: We are not committed to do anything. I will recommend to them that we stay in low gear on this. [To Sherer] Tell them we construe this only as a commitment to a dialogue, that we don’t construe it as calling for a reduction, and we have no intention on our part to reduce our forces. And I don’t detect a burning desire by my Soviet colleagues to reduce. No, you speak for yourself.

[The Secretary confers with Sherer]

Sherer will proceed as I indicated. I am seeing Genscher tonight3 and Schmidt tomorrow and Callaghan. I will call Sauvagnargues tonight or tomorrow. I think the Finns should proceed as if it will go forward on the 30th. It is inconceivable to me that it should fail at this late date.

I’m told the Finns are proceeding anyway on the assumption that it will go forward.

[Page 915]

And our two Ambassadors will stay in touch and we will let you know everything we are doing. We will let Vorontsov know Saturday night or Sunday morning what the results are.

Gromyko: All right. I think evidently somebody somewhere seems to be not too aware of the consequences of what is going on.

Kissinger: You are talking about the European Security Conference?

Gromyko: Yes.

Kissinger: I think it has become an industry in each Foreign Office working on the European Security Conference. No one asks himself what the purpose is.

I think of all the countries, Turkey is the most difficult one on this question of reducing forces.4

[Gromyko confers with Kovalev]

Gromyko: Yesterday they agreed with the Canadian proposal.

Kissinger: Yes. But on the Maltese addition.

Gromyko: We don’t know, since the NATO countries discussed it.

Sherer: The Turks here will consult their government, but the delegation here had a generally negative attitude.

Kissinger: We could cut off arms to them.

[To Sherer] Will they be able to get instructions by this afternoon?

Sherer: The Turks will take a while.

Kissinger: All of them.

Sherer: They are all phoning now.

Kissinger: Let me know the lineup before I leave.

Sherer: All right.

[Exeunt Sherer and Kovalev].

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

Gromyko: The next step in Helsinki?

[Page 916]

Kissinger: The next stage of discussion should be at Helsinki. And you and I could meet, if necessary, while the meetings are going on. While Mintoff is speaking. Our Chiefs have to stay there but we don’t.

I fell asleep at the NATO meeting. Did you see those photos? The thing is, I knew the cameras were on me and I knew I was falling asleep, but I couldn’t do anything about it.

[The meeting ended. The Joint Statement later released is at Tab A].

  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 in the Carnival Bar at the Intercontinental Hotel. Brackets, except those indicating omission of unrelated discussion, are in the original. Kissinger and Gromyko subsequently met for a luncheon at 2:15. A memorandum of their conversation reads in part: “Gromyko: The conference should be settled. It is important. Kissinger: It’s inconceivable it won’t be solved. Sonnenfeldt: It’s conceivable, but it will be solved. Kissinger: All right, Sonnenfeldt can conceive that it fails, but he joins my prediction.” (Ibid.) The full text of both memoranda of conversation are scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XVI, Soviet Union, August 1974–December 1976.
  2. The final text of the joint statement is in Department of State Bulletin, August 4, 1975, pp. 188–189.
  3. See Document 317.
  4. Telegram 5480 from Geneva, July 12, reads in part: “Area exception for maneuver CBM—Turks want a frontier zone of 100 km (150 km for fallback) for area of notification for maneuver CBM. They also want exemption for frontiers with non-participating states (Iran, Syria, Iraq), and for ports facing Cyprus. Latter demands have been met, but 100 km border zone is particularly difficult because Soviets say they will insist on an equal zone, thus undercutting Allied efforts to get present 250 km commitment from Soviets.” The telegram continued: “Subthreshold for amphibious and airborne maneuvers—Turks proposed on July 8 a special lower threshold (two brigades, which they define as 4,000 troops) for amphibious and airborne maneuvers, based on their fear that a two-brigade amphibious attack could gain control of the Bosporus straits. This provoked angry reaction from Soviets, and NATO allies believe Turkish proposal is nonnegotiable.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)