362. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • United Kingdom
    • James Callaghan, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Alan Campbell, Deputy Under Secretary
  • France
    • Jean Sauvagnargues, Minister of Foreign Affairs
    • Francois de Laboulaye, Political Director
    • Mr. Constantin Andronikof
  • Federal Republic of Germany
    • Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Deputy Chancellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs
    • Guenther van Well, Political Director
    • Dr. Heinz Weber
  • United States
    • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
    • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor of the Department of State
    • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

[Omitted here is discussion of matters other than MBFR.]

Mr. Callaghan raised the topic of MBFR. He had seen a report that there would be no new Western proposal. Mr. Sonnenfeldt said it was true that the West would not open with a new proposal, but the Western allies were already discussing Option 3. Mr. Callaghan and Dr. Kissinger both agreed that by the quadripartite dinner in December we should decide. Dr. Kissinger remarked that the present U.S. position had no chance of being accepted. Mr. Callaghan had discussed it with Gromyko. Gromyko had wanted equal proportional cuts and would not agree to a ceiling. Dr. Kissinger agreed that that was unacceptable. The Soviets could not accept strategic parity in SALT and yet not in MBFR. Mr. Callaghan reported that Gromyko had told him of Brezhnev’s strong interest in reaching an MBFR agreement. Perhaps it was possible after SALT II.

Dr. Kissinger denied reports that the U.S. was impatient with the pace of Option 3. Option 3 represented the U.S.’s best thinking, but the U.S. was open minded. We should find another proposal, or agree on Option 3, or else drop the negotiation. Mr. Callaghan hoped that Dr. Kissinger was not serious about the last. The MBFR negotiation was very valuable in Britain because it enabled HMG to counter the advocates of unilateral disarmament. Dr. Kissinger agreed. The U.S. had also discovered in its experience of the SALT negotiations that with agreed ceilings the USG had a better chance in Congress of building up to that level than without a ceiling. Mr. Sonnenfeldt believed that the Four would reach agreement on Option 3 by December.

Dr. Kissinger observed that the U.S. had the advantage at the moment of having a corner on the grain market. The Soviet Union had nowhere else to go. Therefore the U.S. had considerable leverage between now and December. Mr. Sonnenfeldt added that the drop in the gold market also cut the Soviet foreign exchange reserves. Dr. Kissinger felt it was not good, however, to have our whole position depend on a Russian economic crisis.

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He returned to his point about Gromyko. He still had an uneasy feeling, even though he could honestly report that things went fairly well with Gromyko. Mr. van Well saw some disappointment on the Soviet side. Some young Soviets had told him they were unhappy with the lack of stamina of their seniors, for example in “caving in” on Basket III at Helsinki. Mr. Sauvagnargues agreed. Mr. van Well said a Soviet diplomat had told him in New York: “The best thing to do is return to the Cold War so the West appreciates the advantages of détente.” Dr. Kissinger reported a similar comment to him by Ambassador Dobrynin: “In the Cold War, there was an important group in America defending a rapprochement; we could legally get credits and the only obstacles were administrative; and we never heard about human rights. Now there is no one defending it, our credits are cut off, and we keep hearing all about human rights.” Dr. Kissinger said this was true!

Mr. van Well said that the FRG meeting with Gromyko had been all right. Gromyko had assured the FRG of the Soviet commitment to détente. Dr. Kissinger had been told the same thing. But he felt it was no longer said with the same conviction.

Mr. Callaghan observed that Brezhnev should be happy with the CSCE document. Dr. Kissinger said that we vastly exaggerated the benefits to them of Helsinki. All the frontiers in Europe had already been recognized by the peace treaties and bilateral agreements that all of us had signed. There was nothing new in CSCE except Basket III—and peaceful change of frontiers. Mr. Callaghan agreed, and said that this answered Dr. Kissinger’s question. They didn’t know where to go, Mr. de Laboulaye added. They were deeply humiliated by what happened in America with the trade bill, and by what the U.S. had done to them in the Middle East, Dr. Kissinger added. They may have no choice. If they went back to the Cold War, they would lose even the credits they were now getting. Plus the China problem, Mr. Sonnenfeldt added. Dr. Kissinger noted that Gromyko seemed convinced that the U.S. was going to make some major pronouncement in China—which was not true.

[Omitted here is discussion of matters other than MBFR.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, Entry 5403, Box 20, External Classified Memcons, May–December 1975, Folder 4. Secret; Sensitive. The conversation took place in Secretary Kissinger’s Suite (35A) at the Waldorf Towers.