66. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State 1

5366. Subject: Gromyko on force reductions. Ref: State 135527.2

Summary: Gromyko indicated July 28 that Soviets are prepared to discuss force reductions in all of Europe and not just central Europe. He opposed discussion on bloc to bloc basis, noting this position shared by certain other governments. He stated that first order of business was clear statement by governments concerned as to whether or not they accept Soviet proposal for discussions. He emphasized that Soviets do not consider that USG has made such response, since US statements on subject have been hedged with reservations. End summary.
During general survey with me July 28 (septel)3 Gromyko briefly referred to question of force reductions in Europe (he corrected his interpreter who had used term central Europe and said he did not just have central Europe in mind). He noted that there had been discussions on this subject before and he hoped there would soon be opportunity for further discussions, including bilateral ones. He claimed to see substantial possibilities for the future in this area.
I returned to subject later, noting I wanted to be sure both sides understood where we stand now in discussion this question. Secretary had raised certain questions with Dobrynin in their conversation June 164 and Dobrynin had said he would endeavor get replies. Subsequent informal discussions between Korniyenko and Klossen5 were useful but naturally did not lead to specific replies since this is complex question and both sides need time for study. I said our present understanding is that Dobrynin will reply to Secretary in due course. For our part, we are willing to continue and expedite preparations for substantive discussions. I asked whether Gromyko viewed present situation as we do.
In reply, Gromyko said he was acquainted with the Secretary’s talk with Dobrynin in June. In this connection he wished to emphasize that Soviet Government is against approaching problem on bloc to bloc basis. This view is shared by other governments. Although on first glance this appeared to be procedural or organizational question, in reality it was political one. Secretary had referred to meeting of NATO and Warsaw Pact representatives. Some countries would give a failing grade to this approach. Matters did not need to be complicated by being put in this form. Problem already very complex, and he did not exclude need for further bilateral exchanges. He hoped this would not be last time we discussed problem on bilateral basis.
Gromyko repeatedly emphasized that the Soviets want a clear answer from potential participants in force reduction discussions as to whether or not they accept the Soviet proposal. He claimed the position of USG and other governments was not clear on this point. The USG had made a statement but it had been hedged with various reservations. From Soviet standpoint, it was not clear whether positive elements in US statement or the reservations were the main thing. USG should clarify its position, either publicly or in written form. He said Soviets are still in process considering various other questions related to this subject, but these could be introduced at later stage after Soviets learn how many and which countries accept Soviet proposal.
I noted in response that force reduction concept was not new. It had been advanced several years before. In terms Soviets had proposed it, we obviously accepted it as topic for negotiation and as a desirable agreed goal, but procedural issues were now one of main problems. Soviets had made one proposal, which we were considering together with NATO colleagues. We would welcome Soviet ideas as to where we go from here and how we should push forward with exchanges. In meantime, I said that Washington was under the impression that Dobrynin would be giving a fuller response to the Secretary’s questions.
Gromyko would not go beyond saying that Soviets would think about questions posed by Secretary and might return to them in the future. In response my observation that there might be meeting of NATO deputy foreign ministers in several weeks during which force reduction question would be considered, Gromyko said (half-seriously by his own admission) that he did not understand how such wise men as NATO ministers could meet without reaching decision on force reduction discussions devoid of any reservations.
Department pass as desired.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL USUSSR. Secret.
  2. Telegram 135527 to Moscow, July 27, provided Beam instructions on MBFR for his meeting with Gromyko. It stated that “you may wish to reiterate our interest in moving forward as rapidly as is feasible on this complex question involving so many governments. As reflected in the Lisbon communiqué, the question of MBFR will be the subject of intensive discussion for the next few months within NATO.” (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 715, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. XIV)
  3. Telegram 5367 from Moscow, July 28. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL USUSSR)
  4. See Document 61.
  5. Telegram 4351 from Moscow, June 23, reported on the conversation. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 6 EUR)