120. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Vance-Gromyko Private Meeting


  • U.S.
  • Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance
  • Mr. Wm. D. Krimer, Interpreter
  • USSR
  • Foreign Minister A.A. Gromyko
  • Mr. V.M. Sukhodrev, Interpreter

“Woodbridge Two”

Foreign Minister Gromyko asked the Secretary if he could tell him anything regarding the small delicate matter he had raised with him last week.2

Secretary Vance said that he had looked into this matter and that there was nothing he could do at this time regarding the two individuals in question. He was afraid that the trial would have to go forward. As to the matter of reducing bail, Marshall Shulman had been in touch with the Soviet Mission to indicate that the Mission’s lawyers would know best how to go about getting the bail reduced.

Gromyko said that he certainly regretted this answer by the Secretary. What were the prospects for the future?

The Secretary expected that the trial would have to go forward, and then, after completion of the trial, we would see what would be possible at that time.

Gromyko said that he would not repeat to the Secretary what he had said when they last discussed this matter, because he did not want to get into an argument and lose time. The Secretary would be aware of how such a turn of events would be evaluated on the Soviet side and the consequences that might follow.


In the meanwhile Gromyko wanted to inform the Secretary that his people had discovered more than 50 listening devices installed in various Soviet premises in Washington, San Francisco and New York. He would give the Secretary three packages of photographs, together with a list referenced to the photographs, containing a brief description of each. The information sheet was in Russian, but he was sure the Secretary would get it translated. Of course, his people had many more photographs of the same kind in their possession, and they might have made them public long ago if they had wanted to. However, proceeding from a broader approach to Soviet-American relations, they had refrained from doing so, especially since the U.S. side, too, had intimated that it would not like to see matters of this kind made public.

In addition, Gromyko wanted to draw the Secretary’s attention to the fact that Soviet nationals working in the U.N. General Secretariat had been the targets of numerous approaches by agents of the U.S. side. By Soviet count, at least 200 U.S. citizens in the Secretariat had links to the special services of the United States. He repeated that the Soviet side had many such photographs at its disposal, some of which were [Page 385] quite interesting and “spicy.” They would make quite an exhibit, for which a large hall would be required. As for the two individuals they had discussed, much would depend on the turn of events that this case would take. He noted the Secretary’s statement to the effect that after the trial he would be in a position to see what could be done. The Soviet side would therefore wait and see, and then decide what response might be appropriate.

The Secretary told Gromyko that we did not want to engage in an intelligence war with the Soviet Union. We were, however, concerned over the case of the two individuals referred to, particularly since they had worked for the U.N. Secretariat. In addition, there was serious concern over the recent case involving our Chancery in Moscow, a case the Secretary had brought to Gromyko’s attention.3 Our investigation of the circumstances there was continuing, and a matter of particular concern to us was the Soviet tunnel which crossed our property for 20 feet or more. This represented a gross intrusion upon the property of our Chancery, and we were continuing to look into that matter. As he had already indicated, he would be in touch with Gromyko about the two individuals after their trial.

Gromyko said he would wait and see. As for the incident mentioned by the Secretary, he had already informed him that according to the information Gromyko had received, things appeared in quite a different light. Indeed, what the Secretary had described appeared to distort the facts of the matter. He would ask the Secretary to have someone on the U.S. side take an objective look at these things. After all, neither side was interested in distorting that kind of information. The purposes of the things to which the Secretary had referred were totally different—he would describe them as having a protective nature, among other things aimed at fire prevention. No spying of any kind had been involved there. It would have been primitive indeed in this day and age of electronic equipment to try and dig a tunnel for intelligence purposes. Modern technology simply made such things unnecessary. This was not the immediate post-war period of 1945/47 when the Soviets had discovered a western tunnel on the territory of East Berlin, which had been dug for intelligence purposes. Gromyko concluded this subject on the note of saying he would be in touch with the Secretary and would see what happened.

Soviet-American Relations

Now Gromyko wanted to ask the Secretary a question that went far beyond the framework of the issues they had just finished discussing. Those issues were minor indeed in terms of their importance, [Page 386] except that unfortunately people’s freedom was involved. He wanted to ask the Secretary how one could explain the veritable explosion of anti-Soviet propaganda, of statements hostile to the Soviet Union, that was now in process here in the United States. Until now the Soviet side had believed that the U.S. Administration was not taking an active part in this respect. While this had not been quite clear, the Soviets had tended to emphasize the constructive aspects of statements by the President and by the Secretary and by other political leaders. Lately, however, they could not but note that the Administration, beginning with the President, had indulged in vehement statements aimed at returning to the atmosphere of the cold war or something similar. Indeed, Mr. Brzezinski had surpassed himself in this respect. How could this be explained? While still in Washington, Gromyko had reached the conclusion on the basis of his discussion of African matters with President Carter4 that a role of prime importance in determining the nature of the President’s statement was the fact that he had been given imprecise, incorrect and distorted information about the situation in Africa and about the role played by the Soviets and the Cubans there. After that meeting Gromyko had made a public statement using the words “inaccurate and incorrect” to characterize the information the President had been given. If he were talking to correspondents today, he would use much stronger words. Someone in the United States, certain circles, were deliberately creating myths and subsequently referred to them as proof, placing them on the President’s desk and perhaps on the Secretary’s desk. Someone appeared to be doing this quite deliberately. Gromyko’s question was—what was the true policy of the United States? Was it aimed at furthering the relations between us, at searching for agreements that might possibly be concluded between our two countries on the basis of mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and non-interference in each other’s affairs? Or was it a policy aimed at whipping up tensions and exacerbating relations between our two countries? Both of them were surely well aware of the consequences of such worsening of relations for the entire world. It was for this reason that Gromyko was asking this question today, and he would report the answer the Secretary might give him to his colleagues on the Politburo and the Central Committee, and to L.I. Brezhnev himself. In this same context he would point out just in passing that the more than 50 listening devices he had referred to earlier had been installed during the Carter Administration, not earlier. That was his question, and he would ask the Secretary to answer it if he could. Of course, he would proceed from the premise that the Secretary would inform President Carter of this conversation.

[Page 387]

The Secretary wanted to say first that he would, of course, inform the President about this discussion in great detail. Secondly, he would point out that he knew absolutely nothing about the 50 devices Gromyko had mentioned; he had no information about them and did not know if there were any such devices. He would look at the material Gromyko had just handed him, but did not want his silence to indicate that he was accepting the facts as described.

The Secretary pointed out that Gromyko had actually asked him two questions. The first was how one could explain what Gromyko saw as an explosion of anti-Soviet propaganda in the United States. He would respond to this question quite frankly. There were several factors which had given rise to concern about the Soviet Union as reflected in articles in newspapers, magazines and on television. He would name three principal areas of concern as he saw them, which, as he had been able to determine, were the basis for the development Gromyko had mentioned. The first was the very deep concern among many Americans and among people in other countries apart from the United States, particularly in the West, over the fact that during the last several years the Soviet Union had been building up its military forces, in particular its military forces in the European area, to an extent far exceeding the needs of deterrence in that area. As people took a look at Soviet expenditures for conventional forces, they saw a constantly rising line, rising steeply over the past 8–10 years. At the same time, in terms of real growth the United States and other western countries had kept military expenditures at a stable level. This had raised genuine concerns in the minds of many Americans with respect to the intentions of the Soviet Union in the military area. The question was asked whether the Soviet Union merely intended to maintain a military balance. In that case, why these massive expenditures? This also led to the second question—whether or not these expenditures indicated aggressive intent as opposed to reduction of military confrontation and military forces. There was another point the Secretary wanted to make: to be fair, if we looked at the strategic side, some progress had indeed been achieved, progress in concluding the ABM Treaty and the Interim Agreement, and progress toward a SALT TWO agreement. These were positive developments. However, the problem of ever increasing forces, increasing sophistication of weapons on the conventional side, had raised great concerns in the minds of many people. The second major area which had given rise to concern among many people was the question of African affairs which had been discussed in great detail with Gromyko by the President and by the Secretary. He thought that all recognized that there were elements of competition in the relations between us, but recently it appeared when looking at the African situation that competition had transcended normal bounds and had resulted in military conflicts fueled by Soviet equipment and by Cuban [Page 388] combat forces. The Secretary was familiar with the reasons and explanations Gromyko had provided in connection with Soviet activities in various areas in Africa. He did not want to get into detail now, but did want to answer Gromyko’s question. The appearance of Soviet actions as seen by many people in the United States and by people in other countries, and not only European countries, was giving the impression that the Soviet Union was going around and crudely lighting fires in that area, preventing settlement by peaceful means. A third area which the Secretary believed was one of major concern was the problem arising in connection with human rights, as recently reflected in such incidents as the trial of Mr. Orlov. (Gromyko interjected, “you mean our Mr. Orlov.”) In the Secretary’s view these were the three main areas which gave rise to what Gromyko had called the explosion of concern over the Soviet Union.

The Secretary now wanted to address the second big question, the last question Gromyko had asked—what did the United States really want? Did it want to build up good relations with the Soviet Union or did it want a return to the period of the cold war? The Secretary could answer this question unequivocally with clarity and simplicity. The United States did not want to return to a period of tensions and confrontations. We wanted to get the relations between us back on track again and return to better, stronger and closer ties between our two countries. We wanted to see a reduction of tensions, and not only in the military sphere, but in others as well. We wanted to continue building common ground between us. In the Secretary’s view there were a number of ways to move in that direction. Most importantly, it was necessary to make progress on the central issue between us—SALT. He believed that there were many other things which, if brought about, would put both sides in a better position, i. e., if we could move to a better common understanding of the fact that detente had to be a two-way street. If we could find ways to move toward closer relations in trade, in developing cultural exchanges and the like, that would be very important from the standpoint of improving the atmosphere. This was an area in which we had made progress in the past, but had unfortunately been slipping recently. The Secretary would specify certain steps that would be important from this standpoint: (1) progress on SALT; (2) progress in the Vienna MBFR negotiations; (3) progress in other arms limitations on which we were working together; (4) achievement of a better understanding that detente had to be a two-way street, and on how to make it a two-way street; and (5) determination of what other steps could be taken to bring about better exchanges between our people in cultural activities, scientific activities and trade. Finally, in terms of detente being a two-way street, the Secretary believed we would have to come to grips with the African problems and get a better understanding of how to deal with them in such a way as to avoid con[Page 389]frontations. The Secretary concluded by saying that he had tried in perhaps an oversimplified way to lay out some of the issues and problems and some of the steps that might be taken to move our relations to a better level.

Gromyko said he would try very briefly to react to the Secretary’s statement, avoiding repetition of what had already been said in his talks with the Secretary and with the President in Washington. Naturally, he perceived positively the Secretary’s statement to the effect that the United States will seek to conduct affairs in such a way as to find solutions to the problems before us and not to permit the development of tensions in Soviet-American relations that could return our two countries to the atmosphere of the cold war. In this connection he could only say that he shared the wishes the Secretary had expressed and knew that the entire Soviet leadership, including Brezhnev personally, would agree with the sentiment expressed. He could say this because he was fully aware of their views in this respect. This constituted his reply to the first part of the Secretary’s statement, the constructive part. It would be very good indeed if words here were accompanied by deeds, if the U.S. Administration did indeed conduct affairs in the manner the Secretary had described.

His second comment would deal with the thought expressed by the Secretary that one of the reasons why there was such an upsurge of propaganda that was hostile to the Soviet Union was that the Soviet Union had allegedly been engaged in an intensive arms buildup over the past several years. This, as the Secretary had said, worried the United States and the other Western countries. Gromyko could only say that he categorically rejected such an assertion. In fact, that had also been most categorically rejected at the very highest level quite recently by L.I. Brezhnev himself. This was simply not so. There was no such arms buildup. An artificial myth had been created in the West, pursuing a certain objective—to cover up the expanded arms programs of the Western powers themselves. Of course, the Soviet Union did have competent armed forces that were adequate to ensure the peaceful life of its people in the face of the constant buildup by NATO countries. However, the Soviet Union was not so foolish as to spend more on arms than was absolutely necessary to ensure the security of its people. One might ask why, in the face of such a policy by the Soviet Union, did the Western countries continue to build up their arsenals and military forces? The Soviet Union had constantly emphasized the need to take genuine steps toward disarmament, including ultimately steps aimed all the way toward general and complete disarmament. In this connection he would mention the proposal Brezhnev had recently made in his speech before the Komsomol, to halt the production of nuclear weapons and to conduct a policy that would ultimately lead toward [Page 390] complete elimination of nuclear weapons and to using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes exclusively. The program adopted by the XXVth Congress of the CPSU, a program the Soviet Union was constantly striving to implement, was also aimed at disarmament and peace. In fact, the Soviet side referred to it as the “Program of Peace.” Still, no matter what proposal was advanced by the Soviet Union to further these aims, these proposals were invariably rejected out of hand, including proposals to put a halt to the arms race. Surely this policy pursued by the Soviet Union was completely contrary to the allegation of an arms buildup to which the Secretary had referred. Even in the face of the ring of military bases surrounding the Soviet Union and aimed against its territory the Soviet Union was ready and willing to take appropriate steps toward disarmament. However, it could not agree to unilateral disarmament. Its leadership was not so naive or myopic as to accept the possibility of unilateral disarmament. It was necessary to ensure the security of all countries in an identical degree and not to harm the security of any one of them.

Gromyko said that the Secretary had also mentioned the question of military expenditures and budgets.

The Secretary interrupted at this point to say that no one was suggesting that the Soviet Union take unilateral disarmament measures. He thought both of them were pragmatic enough to recognize that unilateral disarmament made no sense. Disarmament measures had to be such as to benefit both sides, such as could be negotiated together. The proof of the pudding was in the eating—if we could demonstrate by joint deeds that we can sit down together and conclude arms control agreements, it would prove to the world that we were setting an example for others to follow.

Gromyko referred back to the question of military budgets. He had to tell the Secretary categorically that the Soviet Union had numerous times proposed reductions in military budgets, first naming specific percentages, then altering the percentages to meet the wishes of the Western powers, etc. The Soviet leadership was struck, however, that there had not been a single occasion when these proposals were taken seriously. They had always been rejected out of hand. The Soviet Union had proposed an arms freeze in order to begin the process of arms control. That, too, had been rejected. Now, at the current U.N. Special Session on Disarmament the Soviet Union had suggested a new method for dealing with this problem. When it had proposed certain percentage reductions in the past, it had been told that since force structures were different, all this was very complicated indeed. In the Soviet view, such responses were not sincere, because all these problems and objections could easily be overcome. At the current SSOD the Soviet proposal was stated not in terms of a percentage, but in absolute [Page 391] figures. The Soviet Union proposed that military budgets be reduced in terms of specific figures. These would not necessarily have to be identical, but obviously should be of the same order of magnitude. The Secretary would understand, of course, that it would be ridiculous for one nation to reduce its military budget by one billion dollars, while another reduced it by one million dollars. The present proposal completely eliminated the question of differences in the structure of armed forces. He would ask the Secretary to look into the new proposal in detail. (The Secretary said he would look into it.)

Gromyko continued, saying that if one listened to the statements on the Western side, one heard that military budgets had not been increased at all. In actual fact they had increased by leaps and bounds to their present astronomical proportions.

The Secretary pointed out that they had not increased in real terms. He was speaking of the U.S. military budget not in terms of dollars, but, in view of inflation, of arms expenditures in real terms.

Gromyko remarked that next the Secretary would blame the Soviet Union for not having an inflation. He was sure that Western military budgets had increased in real terms as well.

Now Gromyko wanted to turn to the fourth item the Secretary had mentioned African affairs. Here he had to point out that the actual situation had been grossly distorted. If he were to take a cue from the statements of some of the responsible officials in the United States who sometimes made statements bordering on insults aimed at representatives of foreign powers, he would not use the word “distortion,” but something much stronger. Incidentally, he would note that officials inclined to be insulting toward representatives of foreign states should really be sent back to school to be taught what was proper in normal human behavior, particularly behavior toward representatives of foreign states. What we were witnessing here was a gross distortion of the facts. He could not believe that the United States with its broad intelligence gathering facilities was not aware of the fact that the Soviet Union had absolutely nothing to do with the situation in Rhodesia or Namibia or Zaire. As for Ethiopia, when Somalia had attacked that country, the Soviet Union had come to the assistance of a victim of aggression at the request of that country by supplying arms and a certain number of experts as instructors in the use of such arms. At that time the Soviet Union had felt that it would have been good if the United States had supplied Ethiopia with similar assistance. The myth about a Soviet commander in Ethiopia was pure invention. It had been surreptitiously fed to the President and to the Secretary. The Soviet leadership had been dismayed by all these accusations and myths. After all, they were not only realists, but also Marxists, and as such they wanted to get to the bottom of things and find the reasons underlying these accusa[Page 392]tions. Looking at the situation today, they could not help but come to the conclusion that someone evidently needed to lay down an artificial smokescreen that would make it more difficult for people to see through and would thereby conceal unjustified activities by those who laid down the smokescreen. A good illustration of that was the carnage that had been arranged in Zaire; as for who was its author, the Secretary would know that better than he. Neither the Soviet Union nor Cuba had anything to do with that carnage. This was an emphatic statement Gromyko could make to President Carter and to the Secretary. If he did not have a completely accurate knowledge of the Cuban views in this matter, he would not be making such a categorical statement. The Soviet Union, too, had stated its indignation at the slaughter that took place in Zaire. Summing up, Gromyko said that not a single Soviet representative had set foot in Rhodesia or Namibia. The only Soviets in Zaire were the diplomatic representatives of the Soviet Union. He would ask the Secretary to convey to President Carter that all these accusations and charges had dismayed the Soviet leadership, that they were nothing but inventions, chemically pure inventions. Someone had thrown out these accusations and like ball lightning they were now circling around. The Soviet Union did not intend to take responsibility for someone else’s sins, and would categorically reject any attempt to place such responsibility on it.

Gromyko took up another point mentioned by the Secretary—human rights. The Secretary had mentioned Orlov. Gromyko was not going to discuss Orlov or any other Soviet citizen because these matters were solely within the competence of the Soviet Union.

Gromyko said it was true that occasionally the two sides had a difference between them or a different perception of a set of facts. Such differences should be the subject of discussion and negotiation. The trouble was that all too often the other side refused to discuss proposals made by the Soviet Union. Sometimes, without even having the full text of a Soviet proposal, the other side would reject it out of hand. A good illustration of that was what had happened at the CSCE, when the socialist countries had advanced a proposal to renounce first use of nuclear weapons. Literally just a few hours later, and before anyone had received the full text of the Soviet proposal, it had been rejected out of hand. And yet, the Soviet Union had proposed to hold a preparatory session precisely for the purpose of discussing that proposal, where questions could be asked about it and replies provided. The Western countries had not wanted to do so and had rejected the proposal without even seeing its full text. Suppose the Soviet Union were to act in that manner, to reject a proposal out of hand right after it had been tabled by the other side, and without careful study? Even elementary correctness of behavior would have required an examination of that proposal, but this had not happened.

[Page 393]

The Secretary said he would agree that there was a need to develop better understanding and more extensive discussion of matters where there were differences, to discuss them in detail and seriously face the issues. Sometimes the sides had different perceptions of things where further discussions could clarify the reasons for the difference in perceptions and perhaps eliminate them if they understood how things appeared to the other side. He suggested that both of them give thought to finding better ways to manage the relations between our two countries and to deal with differences. Perhaps more frequent meetings between the two of them would be helpful in this respect, perhaps meetings at other levels as well. He believed it very important that something be done to change the confrontational nature of the relationship between us.

Gromyko acknowledged that this was indeed very important.

The Secretary now wanted to digress and respond to Gromyko’s remarks about Cuban matters and the information we had received regarding Cuban participation in Zaire. The intelligence we had received clearly indicated that the Cubans had indeed been involved in training the personnel and planning the military operation for the invasion of Zaire. [3 lines not declassified]

Gromyko with some feeling said that here was where the Secretary and the President had become victims of disinformation. If the Soviets were not sure of what they were telling the United States in this connection, they would not have said so, because in so doing they were assuming a grave responsibility. Gromyko would not repeat what he had said.

[1½ lines not declassified] When information came to us based on good evidence, we had no choice but to take it into account.

Gromyko asked: “Who the devil knows anything about that general? This is the first time I have heard of him.” The United States now had different information at its disposal and would have to sort out bad sources from good. Gromyko felt strongly that untruth had been presented as truth and had been placed on the Secretary’s desk and on the President’s desk. What hell did this general come from? Or, did he just drop down from heaven like Jesus Christ in the Bible? The Secretary would know very well that not everything should be believed and that the human brain and human reason were quite capable of analyzing information and separating truth from untruth. In any case, he had told the Secretary the truth, in spite of frivolous statements made by certain highly placed officials of the United States who had referred to truth as untruth. What he had in mind in saying this was what had been reported in the U.S. press—statements by high officials made with virginal frivolity. Serious policy could not be built on the kind of information the Secretary was being fed.

[Page 394]

The Secretary said he accepted what Gromyko had said, but would point out that when one gets what appears to be realistic information, because it comes from a good source, one had a tendency to accept it as valid.

Gromyko thought that the general mentioned was perhaps simply trying to save his own skin. He would also ask what motivated him in his actions and for whom he was working. Many questions immediately arose in that connection.

The Secretary said he did not want to argue further regarding this matter. The problem involved in evaluating information from different sources was not an easy one. Therefore it was important that we have an opportunity to exchange views with the Soviet side and get a better understanding of how it perceives the facts in any given situation.

Gromyko said the Secretary was quite correct in saying this. However, when a broad campaign was unleashed throughout the United States, based on such information, and the U.S. Government took part in such a campaign, that was quite another matter. He would ask the Secretary to try and understand what situation the Soviet side now found itself in. What conclusions could the Soviets come to? After all, these statements were not made within four walls.

Senior Military Exchanges

The Secretary said that President Carter had asked him to check with Gromyko to find out if he thought it might be a good idea to exchange visits between senior military officers.

Gromyko asked at what level such exchanges would take place and what problems were to be dealt with.

The Secretary said that, for example, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff might invite his counterpart, Marshall Ogarkov, to visit the United States.

Gromyko said: “Or vice versa?”

The Secretary replied in the affirmative, and said that they might agree ahead of time what questions were to be discussed.

Gromyko said he would take this under advisement and consult with the military leadership. He would let the Secretary know in due course.

The Secretary thought it would be a good idea to exchange views on all levels of our respective governments, thus lessening the impression that our relations were of a confrontational nature.

Non-Circumvention, Non-Transfer

The Secretary recalled that the other day Gromyko had mentioned that Article XII of the Draft Treaty, dealing with non-circumvention, had been discussed and settled in Moscow. The Secretary wanted to re[Page 395]view this article with Gromyko in order to be sure that there was no misunderstanding between the two sides. He had told Gromyko at the outset of the discussion of this issue that we were not going to circumvent the provisions of the Treaty. The Secretary had stated that several times. Gromyko had stated his views and had asked the Secretary if the views of the two sides on this issue were identical. In the context of everything the Secretary had said he did believe that the views were identical, namely: (1) there would be no clause prohibiting transfers to our allies; (2) we would undertake not to circumvent the provisions of the Treaty through a third state or third states or in any other manner. (The Secretary repeated and stressed the words “or in any other manner.”)

Gromyko believed that everything had been recorded in this respect. He thought it was absolutely clear that the sides would not circumvent the provisions of the Treaty through a third state or states or in any other manner, among other things by the transfer of weapons or transfer of know-how, or in any other manner. All this was recorded in the record of their conversations in Moscow. He recalled that the Secretary had said that in this respect the two sides had an identical understanding.

The Secretary wanted to make clear that, as he had said then, the sides could transfer weapons as long as such transfer did not constitute circumvention of the provisions of the Treaty.

Gromyko said that this seemed to be on the threshold of some sort of mental gymnastics. He believed it to be absolutely clear that non-transfer meant non-transfer and non-circumvention meant non-circumvention in whatever form, not necessarily in the form of fully produced weapons systems, but also in the form of know-how; all this, naturally, within the framework of the Treaty. In the Soviet view transfers would constitute circumvention if they involved types of weapons dealt with in the Treaty in the broadest sense.

The Secretary again wanted to make clear that we had refused to include a non-transfer clause in the Treaty, because it was clear to us that we could transfer as long as this did not constitute circumvention of the Treaty.

Gromyko said he did not understand. From the Soviet standpoint non-transfer was non-circumvention, just as transfer was circumvention. Thus, if the U.S. really intended to transfer weapons, that would be circumvention of the Treaty. On the other hand, if the U.S. intended to transfer weapons not covered by the Treaty, that would not constitute circumvention thereof. But, if the transfer concerned, for example, a missile covered by the Treaty, to a third state, would this not constitute circumvention? He wanted to understand whether the two sides were attaching different meanings to this provision, or was it simply a matter of semantics? Should the United States, however, really intend [Page 396] to transfer weapons covered by the Treaty, to other states, then the whole non-circumvention clause would be deprived of all meaning and would be simply an empty barrel.

The Secretary said it was obvious to him that matters relating to transfers which we have made to our allies and continued to make to our allies should not be changed by the provisions of a SALT Treaty. Clearly, however, if we transferred something that was prohibited by the Treaty, that would be improper. He would suggest that this matter be further discussed between Ambassador Warnke and Minister Semenov in Geneva. He wanted to be sure that there was no misunderstanding here.

Gromyko said that right now he was not at all sure that the two sides had an identical understanding of the non-circumvention provision. Any particular past practice of the U.S. side was not in any way binding on the Soviet Union. If the United States had transferred strategic arms such as strategic bombers, for example, to its allies, and if strategic bombers were now covered by the Treaty, it should be obvious that they should not be transferred to other countries. To be specific, if, e.g., the U.S. was thinking of transferring a missile or a strategic bomber that were limited by the Treaty, to Britain, for example, or any of the other strategic arms covered by the Treaty, these transferred arms would increase the overall number of missiles in the hands of the Western powers. That would be a clear circumvention of the provisions of the Treaty. There was no question in his mind that in that case the United States would have violated the Treaty.

The Secretary by way of an example pointed out that we were prohibited by the terms of the Protocol from developing or testing mobile systems other than launchers, except for one such system. Obviously, if we transferred a banned system to our allies, that would constitute circumvention. On the other hand, if we transferred one strategic bomber, for example, he was not sure that this would constitute circumvention since it would not in any way change the strategic balance.

Gromyko objected and said that that would be circumvention in any case. Where would the boundary be set as to what did and what did not change the strategic balance? He felt that here it was necessary to have an identical understanding and to abide by mathematical rules, because if the United States were to do something in one area and the Soviet Union do something in another area, that would raise all sorts of suspicions and doubts, and this must not be allowed to happen. He would ask the Secretary to explain this to U.S. allies. Incidentally, the thought had occurred to him in the course of this discussion that the delay at the SALT negotiations might be caused by the fact that the U.S. needed time to transfer to its allies some of the arms that would be limited by the Treaty. He believed that could only complicate matters. He [Page 397] added by way of an aside that he should not be blamed for that thought occurring to him; it had occurred to him, and he simply wanted to get it out.

The Secretary suggested that they ask Warnke and Semenov to clarify the matter further.

Gromyko said, “Let them talk,” but wanted to repeat that the Soviet position could not be any different. Should the two sides indulge in chasing after mosquitoes, they might lose a whole trainload of baggage.

The Secretary said he certainly did not want to see that happen, and wanted to make sure there would be no misunderstanding between the two sides on this score.

Next Vance-Gromyko Meeting

The Secretary suggested that he and Gromyko plan to meet again soon, perhaps somewhere in Europe. He asked if two weeks into July might be an appropriate time.

Gromyko agreed to such a meeting in principle, but would prefer to leave the date open, to allow him to consult his calendar. He thought that July might not be altogether convenient.

Replying to the Secretary’s question of whether the end of June might be more appropriate, Gromyko said it might, but would prefer that the specific date be agreed upon through their respective Embassies.

The Secretary agreed and said he believed it important to hold such a meeting in order not simply to let things drift on their own.

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Special Adviser to the Secretary (S/MS) on Soviet Affairs Marshall Shulman—Jan 21, 77–Jan 19, 81, Lot 81D109, Box 8, Gromyko to US, 5/26–27, 1978. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Krimer on June 1. The meeting took place at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. An unknown hand made minor edits to this version of the memorandum.
  2. Reference is to Rudolf Chernyayev and Valdik Enger. See Document 109 and footnote 6 thereto.
  3. See Document 117.
  4. See Document 115.