143. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

21551. Dept please pass White House and Defense. Subject: SALT Meeting With Gromyko 8 Sept 78.

1. In 8 September meeting, Gromyko reviewed all points in U.S. package presented yesterday without changing substance of Soviet positions and objections. He characterized the talks as to a certain extent useful and as allowing clarification but stated Soviet initial view that [Page 452] we had not yet given an adequate response to Gromyko’s July question.

2. On specific issues:

A. New Types. Gromyko reemphasized that Soviet agreement to U.S. proposal for one new ICBM type, MIRVed or not, was part of a package, warning against thinking we had it “in our pocket.” He stressed, however, that their proposal was not a “take it or leave it” proposition; they proposed only that the other issues be settled “on the basis” of Soviet proposals. They were prepared to discuss the remaining issues.

B. Cruise missiles. Gromyko repeated familiar Soviet positions on need for a limit of 20 ALCM’s per heavy bomber, no conversion of transport AFT to carry ALCM’s, no distinction between conventionally- and nuclear-armed CM’s (“no external features can help”), and CM ranges. He made no direct comment on our ALCM numbers capability statement.

C. Backfire. Gromyko said issue can only be resolved on the basis of the unilateral statement the Soviets made in Washington.

D. Timing issues. Gromyko repeated the Soviet claim that completion of reductions before Dec. 30, 1981 was physically impossible. After repeating Soviet protocol duration position, he said it was impossible to discuss a fixed date for expiration of protocol before the sides knew when the Agreement would be signed, much less when it would come into force. This may have been a signal of receptivity to eventual agreeing to expiration three years from date of signature.

E. Fractionation: Gromyko said a mutually acceptable solution could be sought to the issue, repeating usual linkage to limiting number of ALCM’s per bomber and agreeing on new types definition.

F. Depressed SLBM trajectory: Gromyko said it was difficult to respond substantively without a detailed U.S. proposal. Delegations could discuss the idea but he expressed concern that raising a new issue could delay reaching agreement.

3. Overall, Gromyko’s tone was moderate. Gromyko’s central view of the meetings was carefully balanced: the meeting had been “to a certain extent useful” in clarifying points, but the Soviet side had to say that they did not feel that the U.S. side had adequately responded to the Soviet “question” posed in Geneva in July, and they hoped this was not our last word. Gromyko hoped for instructions for the U.S. delegation in Geneva to move faster, and he briefly repeated his July complaints that the U.S. administration did not give “sufficient rebuff” to domestic criticisms of SALT.

4. Warnke responded by stating that we hoped Gromyko’s comments were not the last word on the U.S. proposals either, and by re[Page 453]viewing the elements of the U.S. position that make it in our view adequately forthcoming, and a fair and equitable basis for reaching an agreement. He denied that we had raised the depressed SLBM trajectory idea with any view toward slowing progress, but rather as a useful and relatively simple limit in the interests of both sides. If after working on the depressed trajectory SLBM matter, rapid agreement proved difficult, the sides could review the issue of timing. As to the rate of progress in Geneva, our delegation would have instructions to work with all deliberate speed toward agreement and we were confident that the Soviet delegation would have similar instructions. But, Warnke said, the key to final resolution lay in the two capitals, not in Geneva, and, Warnke hoped, the later meetings in September would allow us to complete the process.

5. In a brief private session, Warnke gave Gromyko the President’s letter for Brezhnev.2 Gromyko did not open the letter during the meeting and made no further comment on SALT.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850059–2425. Secret; Immediate; Nodis.
  2. See Document 142.
  3. Mark J. Garrison, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy in Moscow.