134. Telegram From Secretary of State Vance to the Department of State1

Secto 8022. Acting Secretary please pass to the President. Pass to Harold Brown. Subject: Gromyko-Vance Talks: SALT.

1. At the end of this afternoon’s meeting, Gromyko came to what he described as the “core” of his statement:

“I wish to ask a direct question—this is the core of my statement—if the U.S. really attaches paramount importance to the solution of the question of new types of ballistic missiles on the basis it proposes, will it be prepared to regard as agreed all other questions (cruise missiles on bombers, timing for reductions, Backfire, etc.) on the basis of our proposals, in the event we were to consent to U.S. proposals that for the duration of the treaty—i.e. to the end of 1985—within the limits of the relevant aggregate levels of strategic arms and MIRVed vehicles—each side would have the right to flight test and to deploy one new type of ICBM which it could equip at its own discretion either with MIRVs or with a single reentry vehicle, while there would be no limitations whatsoever on new types of SLBMs?”

2. There are a number of important ambiguities in the foregoing. For instance: when Gromyko speaks of accepting the U.S. position on “new types of ballistic missiles,” does he mean our full position on the definition of new types? What does he mean by “etc.”? Do the Soviets accept that our MIRV type rules would apply to their new single warhead missile?

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3. I would intend to explore these and other ambiguities without flatly rejecting the proposal implicit in Gromyko’s question. This would give us a basis for further evaluation and response.

4. I do not intend to raise any new points with regard to Backfire since the Soviets did not accept our proposal as you directed it be made.

5. Gromyko’s “question” was proceeded by his usual colorful remarks. He once again urged us to be firmer in our public support for SALT, and I told him we were already being firm. He accused us of seeking unilateral advantages, and I responded that it was the Soviets who were doing just that and that our proposals were fair. He was predictably sour about our new types proposal that I made this morning, saying that it was simply a ruse to allow us to continue our own programs and block Soviet programs. I stressed that it was an effort to bridge the gap, taking into account the national interests of both sides. I believe that the Soviets have not had time to give it any serious consideration.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Cables File, Presidential Messages In/Out, Box 102, 7/78. Secret; Sensitive; Niact Immediate; Nodis. Printed from a copy that indicates the original was received in the White House Situation Room. The memorandum of conversation of this meeting is in the 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, Vance/Gromyko: Geneva, 7/12/–13, 1978.