104. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Secretary’s Meeting with Amb. Dobrynin


  • US
  • The Secretary
  • Marshall D. Shulman
  • USSR
  • Amb. Anatoly Dobrynin

Ambassador Dobrynin came to the Department at the Secretary’s invitation on April 28 for a follow-up on a number of points regarding SALT and the Moscow visit. There was also a discussion of the South [Page 344] African nuclear question and of Namibia. A non paper on the Law of the Sea was transmitted.2

I. Moscow Meeting Follow-Up

1. Tentatively, the following dates were discussed for a possible Gromyko visit to Washington, prior to his appearance at the SSOD: arrival Sunday night, May 21; meetings May 22 and 23. Dobrynin said he would check Moscow and confirm. He believed Gromyko was scheduled to speak at the SSOD May 25.

2. The Secretary expressed appreciation for the hospitality and courtesies extended to him and to his party in Moscow.

3. Dobrynin said that Brezhnev’s speech to the Komsomols was intended to register a positive reaction to the Moscow meetings; he said there was surprise in Moscow that the only comment made by the President at his press conference3 was so sharply negative. The Secretary explained that the only question asked of the President concerned Brezhnev’s position on ERW, and he did not have an opportunity to respond to other aspects of the Brezhnev speech. These were covered, he said, in the response to questions by the State Department spokesman on April 26,4 the transcript of which was given to Dobrynin.

4. The Secretary reminded Dobrynin that Gromyko had offered to supply the flight profile of the Backfire. Dobrynin said he would follow up the matter.

5. The Secretary asked if Dobrynin had further information on Gromyko’s suggestion that preliminary steps could be taken to make missiles inoperable prior to complete dismantling, and in particular whether such steps would be subject to verification. Dobrynin said he thought the steps could be verifiable, but that he would try to get additional information.

6. The Secretary said, with reference to New Types, that although the US preferred position was to have no exceptions, it had made an effort to take account of the Soviet desire by offering to accept one exception for each side; if this were to be accepted, he stressed, each side would have to be free to make the exception MIRVed or SRV, according to its own preference. Dobrynin indicated some resistance to this point, on the ground that a MIRVed exception would be more destabilizing, but did not say that this was a final Soviet position.

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II. South African Nuclear Question

The Secretary said that Ambassador Gerard Smith would be going to South Africa in the near future, to discuss its adherence to the NPT and acceptance of interim safeguards on the Valindaba enrichment plant. He expressed the conviction that diplomatic negotiations could be more effective than public pressures at this point, and hoped that the Soviet Union would not support action of discussion by the UN Security Council at the present time. He said we did not have information that indicated another test site was under construction, and that we would welcome any supporting evidence on this point the Soviet Union would provide. He also said that the US appreciated the serious treatment with which this issue was being handled, and hoped that constructive cooperation could continue.

III. Namibia

Recalling the discussions in Moscow on African issues, the Secretary reviewed with Dobrynin current negotiations on Namibia. He said that the Contact Group proposals had now been accepted by South Africa, and that acceptance by SWAPO was now the critical next step required. He asked Dobrynin to forward to Moscow our request that the Soviet Union use its influence to bring about SWAPO acceptance of the proposals, and said that this would open the way to a prompt and fair transition to independence and majority rule. This result, he said, should be a matter of common interest and cooperation between the Soviet Union and the United States. The alternative would be bad for everyone concerned. The Secretary reviewed in detail the major points raised by Nujoma as conditions for his acceptance.

IV. Middle East

Dobrynin asked whether anything new had emerged from the discussions with Moshe Dayan. The Secretary replied not much and that it appeared useful to try to get the discussion focussed now on concrete next steps on the West Bank/Gaza and the Palestinian questions which would lead to a declaration of principles.

V. Law of the Sea

Following the meeting with the Secretary, Shulman transmitted to Dobrynin a non paper requesting Soviet cooperation in an effort to remedy deficiencies in the environmental provisions of the negotiating text before the Law of the Sea Conference. Dobrynin said he would cable a summary of the matter immediately, and pouch the full text of the non paper after the weekend.

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 9, Vance NODIS MemCons, 1978. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Shulman on April 29. The meeting took place at the Department of State.
  2. Not found.
  3. Carter stated at his April 25 news conference that the Soviets had spent years building up their tank forces and as a result, had no need for a neutron bomb. For the text of the news conference, see Department of State Bulletin, June 1978, pp. 12–13.
  4. Not found.