368. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • USSR
    • Leonid I. Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU
    • Andrei A. Gromyko, Member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU; Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR
    • Georgiy M. Korniyenko, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs
    • Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Ambassador to the U.S.
    • Andrei M. Aleksandrov-Agentov, Assistant to the General Secretary
    • Vasiliy G. Makarov, Chef de Cabinet to the Foreign Minister
    • V.G. Komplektov, Acting Chief of USA Dept, MFA
    • Viktor M. Sukhodrev, Counselor, Second European Department, MFA (interpreter)
    • Maj. Gen. Mikhail Kozlov, Deputy Chief of General Staff
    • Nikolai N. Detinov, CPSU Secretariat
  • U.S.
    • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
    • Amb. Walter J. Stoessel, Jr., Ambassador to the USSR
    • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor of the Department
    • Winston Lord, Director, Policy Planning Staff
    • William G. Hyland, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
    • Arthur A. Hartman, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs
    • James P. Wade, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy Plans and NSC Affairs; Director of DOD SALT Task Force
    • Roger Molander, Program Analysis Staff, NSC Staff
    • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff


  • SALT; Angola; MBFR

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


Brezhnev: Dr. Kissinger, the talks on force and arms reduction in Europe have been going on for two years now. And I have spoken on this subject whenever I possibly could—in meetings and abroad, on many occasions. We have been consistently emphasizing that both sides should achieve these reductions without harming the security of either.

We have carefully studied the proposal of the West.2 The positive element in them is the fact that it recognizes the need for reduction of nuclear weapons, as well. This is something the USSR has favored from the very outset. However, the implementation of that is made contingent on acceptance by us of the entire Western scheme of reduction, which we have repeatedly made clear cannot be the basis for agreement. We have given much thought to a way we could move these negotiations off dead center.

Meeting the wishes of the Western side, we would agree that in the first stage, that is, in 1976, this year, there be a reduction in Central Europe of the armed forces of only the USSR and the United States by an equal percent, let’s say 2 or 3 percent of the total strength of the armed forces of countries of the Warsaw Pact and NATO in that area. We would be showing an example to all the others. Their forces would be frozen—not increased. We would be setting an example. It goes without saying that an agreement on such a reduction of Soviet and American forces should include the clearcut obligation of all other countries having forces in Central Europe on freezing their forces at the present level, and subsequent reduction in a later phase.

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To implement this proposal, as well as to achieve agreement on subsequent reductions, it would be necessary to reach agreement on what forces would be subject to this agreement and an understanding on the strength of forces in Central Europe.

I should like to hope our new proposals aimed at achieving progress at Vienna will meet a positive response on the part of the United States and other states. We believe they are a step toward reaching a mutually acceptable agreement. So I think we do have important things to consider, and a possibility here of moving the thing off dead center.

Kissinger: May I ask the General Secretary a few questions?

Brezhnev: Please.

Kissinger: By 2–3 percent, you mean of U.S. and Soviet forces or of all forces?

Brezhnev: No, of all forces. The forces reduced would be Soviet and American, but the percent would be a percent of all forces, NATO and Warsaw Pact.

Kissinger: By a fixed percent of the total forces. Of all forces or of ground forces?

Dobrynin/Gromyko: Of all.

Gromyko: Further specification will be done at the talks. Our delegation will receive appropriate instructions.

Kissinger: So will our delegation. That doesn’t mean they’ll agree!

Brezhnev: The next time we meet we’ll speak English. Because Gromyko and Sukhodrev keep confusing me.

Kissinger: I’m convinced the General Secretary understands perfect English.

Brezhnev: Maybe 90 percent.

Kissinger: So he has an advantage. And I speak in German.

Brezhnev: Auf Wiedersehen. Sehr gut. [Laughter] I have two English-speaking people in my house. My daughter, who is a teacher of English, and my son-in-law is studying English in the Foreign Trade Association.

Kissinger: They all speak English when they don’t want you to understand.

Brezhnev: That’s right! What can I do about it?

Kissinger: Well, I don’t think this proposal will be rapidly accepted.

Gromyko: Well, accept it slowly. [Laughter]

Brezhnev: Take two to three weeks and accept it!

Gromyko: For friendship’s sake, take a month!

Kissinger: We’ll do it in the spirit of our special relationship.

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Brezhnev: As I said at the outset, we do value the fact that in spite of differences and nuances, and while it is easier in our country than in yours, both are pursuing the line of détente, and we appreciate that.

Kissinger: Does this mean we’ll get a formal response to our proposal in Vienna?

Gromyko: There is now a recess. When it resumes, our delegation will give the formal reply to the Western proposal—which will be negative. Our delegation will then be instructed to set out in greater detail the proposal that was set out in general terms by the General Secretary.

Hyland: they’re meeting next week.

Brezhnev: What time will you be leaving town?

Kissinger: I think at 12:30.

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

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger Reports on USSR, China, and Middle East, Box 1, USSR, January 21–23, 1976, Kissinger Moscow Trip (2). Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Rodman. The meeting took place in Brezhnev’s office at the Kremlin. All brackets, with the exception of those indicating omitted material, are in the original. Kissinger was in Moscow from January 21 to 23 to discuss further limits on strategic armaments. 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.
  2. See Document 367.