17. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • US-Soviet Relations


  • U.S.
  • Secretary Cyrus R. Vance
  • Ambassador Malcolm Toon
  • Mr. Paul Warnke
  • Mr. Phillip Habib
  • Mr. William Hyland
  • Mr. William D. Krimer, Interpreter
  • USSR
  • General Secretary L.I. Brezhnev
  • Minister A.A. Gromyko
  • Ambassador A.F. Dobrynin
  • Mr. A.M. Aleksandrov-Agentov
  • Mr. G.M. Korniyenko
  • Mr. O.M. Sokolov
  • Mr. V.M. Sukhodrev, Interpreter

Following an exchange of pleasantries, General Secretary Brezhnev expressed his condolences to the United States on the occasion of the tragic crash of two aircraft in the Canary Islands, which resulted in a large loss of life.2 Among those killed in the crash were some 300 Americans. Brezhnev expressed condolences on his own behalf and on behalf of his colleagues, and took this occasion to note that the complexity of technology was another argument against armaments.

Secretary Vance expressed his appreciation for Brezhnev’s words.

Brezhnev thought that now that the photographers had left, the two sides could begin business-like discussions. He did not want to repeat the questions he had dealt with in his recent foreign policy speeches in Tula3 and at the 26th Trade Union Congress in Moscow.4 He was saying this because he was convinced that the leaders of the United States were well acquainted with these speeches. President Carter himself had commented that he agreed with the constructive proposals “Comrade Brezhnev” had made at Tula and at the Trade Union Congress in Moscow. Thus he would not repeat what he had said on those two occasions. It seemed to him that first of all, the two sides at this meeting should exchange views on the general state of relations between our two countries, and discuss prospects of their future development. It was his hope that he and his colleagues could have a chance to hear at first hand how the new U.S. Government approached the question of relations with the Soviet Union. He was saying this because he considered these relations to be the most important thing to be discussed. When someone had an objective, he was determined to move toward it, without turning aside. There had been many contacts between Soviet and American leaders before the Secretary’s arrival and many inter-relationships between our two countries, which had emerged in recent years, and had played an important role in working out major understandings and agreements between the Soviet Union and the United States in the course of the past several years.

Referring to the present stage of relations between our two countries, Brezhnev said that they had acquired certain specific distinctive features. On the whole, these relations continued to develop under the impact of those efforts which were quite justifiably made to introduce positive changes. Truly great, and he would even say titantic, efforts had been required at times in order to arrive at very complex decisions.

Brezhnev wanted to draw the Secretary’s attention to the fact that one could approach the process of relaxation of tensions and improvement of Soviet-American relations in different ways. The two sides might agree on some things and disagree on others. However, if one were to take a look at the work that had been accomplished in recent years without bias (he repeated “without bias”), if one were to take a look at the foundations of that process which undoubtedly was furthered by the steps the two sides had taken to reduce the risk of outbreak of nuclear war, one could arrive at only one conclusion: the work accomplished, and what had been achieved as a result of that work, was equally important and beneficial, not only for our two countries, but objectively for all the peoples of the world. In brief, this represented a gain for all those who not only in words but in deeds desired peace and wanted to see fruitful cooperation develop between our two countries and peoples. At this point Brezhnev deviated from his prepared text to stress that whenever he talked to someone, he always did so in a frank and sincere manner, and he wanted to be sure that his partner in a conversation realized this well. In saying that the developments in recent years represented a gain for all those who desired peace not only in words, but in deeds, he would have to add quite directly that during the past twelve to eighteen months the further development of our bilateral relations had slowed down to a certain extent, and in some sectors had come to a complete halt. There was no need to dwell on the [Page 48] reasons for this, but it was essential that we knew where we stood now in terms of Soviet-American relations.

Brezhnev saw the principal purpose of the discussions here in Moscow in a realistic (he repeated the word “realistic”) and carefully weighed appraisal of the present situation, in order to identify priorities that would give a new impulse to the relations between our two countries, because without mapping out such priorities, without an orderly manner of proceeding, we would not be able to move ahead. Quite naturally, in this connection the Soviet leadership proceeded from the premise that both sides should have an absolute interest in furthering the development of our bilateral relations. Here he would use a rather contentful and weighty expression, but one that was absolutely true, because it was based on the realities of today’s world. The question could be looked at in the following manner: either we continue to move ahead along the chartered path, or our relations would find themselves thrown backward, whether we wanted to see this or not. The alternative was all too clear. In the latter case both our countries and the cause of peace as a whole would stand to lose in the future. Such was the true situation, even if only because of the objective role and weight of the Soviet Union and the United States in the world in general and in world affairs. Of course, Secretary Vance would be interested in the position of the Soviet Union with respect to these two alternatives. Brezhnev wanted to say quite clearly that as far as the Soviet Union was concerned, it had no doubt at all as to the choice to be made. Its course was clear. The Soviet Union was resolutely determined to make use of recent achievements in Soviet-American relations in order to move forward undeviatingly toward constructive cooperation and interaction with the United States. He was in favor of resolving the problems arising in our bilateral relations, and in favor of cooperating in the settlement of international problems. The faster we would move ahead, the better. He wanted to repeat that our two countries had gained considerable positive experience. We had achieved fundamental agreements and understandings, we had formulated agreed principles, consistent implementation of which, he was convinced, can and must ensure forward development of Soviet-American relations.

Secretary Vance would realize that the Soviets, too, listened to U.S. radio broadcasts, that many of Brezhnev’s colleagues read U.S. newspapers and speeches by U.S. leaders. On the basis of recent pronouncements it was not at all clear to him whether or not the United States intended to abide by the various understandings achieved. He wanted to state quite clearly that it was the intention of the Soviet Union firmly to adhere to the agreements concluded, and to proceed in our relations on the basis of the principles that had been mutually agreed; it stood to reason that the Soviet leaders expected the United States to act in the [Page 49] same manner. They had no illusions at all about the complexities and problems which existed and would continue to exist in our relations. But, in his view all this led to one conclusion—that we should set ourselves specific and realistic objectives, and that we should not permit any abatement in the effort to resolve problems that arise. Of course, just as the United States, the Soviet Union would never submit to duress and would never permit its interests to be harmed. However, to the extent that the other side was prepared to do so, the Soviet Union was prepared to seek and find mutually acceptable agreements. The main thing was that there be a common positive attitude and a practical willingness on both sides to arrive at mutually acceptable solutions. In this connection Brezhnev wanted especially to address the current status of detente, both in the relations between our two countries and on an international scale. He believed that the turnabout toward detente, which had occurred in recent years, was the most important trend in the development of international relations. Deviating once again, he wanted to say something very frankly. The Soviet leadership could not fail to be concerned over the fact that in Western countries opponents of detente had once again become very active. Those who wanted to return the world to the time of the cold war had stepped up their activities. The range of means they used was rather extensive: there were statements to the effect that detente had been beneficial to the Soviet Union only; there were fabrications to the effect that under cover of detente the Soviet Union was getting ready to carry out a first strike against the United States. This was not a joking matter. Here Brezhnev saw an attempt to distort and make acceptable an understanding of detente, which could allegedly allow interference in the internal affairs of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries under the false pretense, and he stressed “false pretense”, of concern for human rights. Brezhnev noted that Secretary Vance, visiting here in Moscow, (he expressed regret that the Secretary would not have a chance to visit Leningrad), could travel throughout the entire country, since no restrictions applied to him in this respect, and he could see for himself what rights were enjoyed by people in the Soviet Union. The Secretary would see what might distress a Soviet citizen and whether or not anyone was oppressing him, and yet, a hullabaloo had started in the United States and a great deal of anti-Soviet agitation. He was saying this quite openly and frankly, and would ask the Secretary to convey his views to President Carter. Never before had such a ruckus over human rights been raised in the United States. Of course, he could and intended to provide an answer on the human rights question, and with respect not only to the Soviet Union but to the whole world. He would provide a response—let America first take a look at human rights in its own country. He added that this was a topic he would return to later. Meanwhile he would like to touch on the theoretical aspect of these [Page 50] questions. There were some in the West who tried to present things in such a way as if what we were dealing with in this case was ideological struggle; it was pointed out that in the view of the Russians themselves the ideological struggle did not in any way stop under detente conditions. Brezhnev would indeed say that he took this view when it was really a matter of a clash between ideologies, a matter of differences in philosophical views, a matter of different ways of looking at the development of human society. However, such a struggle could not in any way be dragged into relations between states. Otherwise we would be dealing not with an ideological struggle but in fact, with psychological warfare. These were two entirely different things in principle. To view detente in this way would mean purposely or inevitably to distort it, and ultimately to undermine it. The Soviet Union believed that detente meant above all liquidation of the cold war and transition to normal and smooth relations between states. This was clearly expressed in Soviet readiness to resolve disagreements and disputes not by force, not by means of threats, let alone the use of arms, but by peaceful means, by negotiation. Finally, detente implied a certain degree of trust and a willingness to take into account each other’s legitimate interests. He was convinced that detente viewed in this way met the interests of not simply one country, but had universal significance. It was obvious, for example, that if the United States would not take into account the legitimate (he repeated the word “legitimate”) interests of the Soviet Union, if the United States tried to interfere in Soviet domestic affairs, it would be unreasonable for anyone to expect the Soviet Union to take into account the interests of the United States. The realities of our times were such that without due mutual consideration of the legitimate interests of our two countries, without a certain degree of trust and concern for strengthening that trust, it would be impossible to halt the arms race or to achieve settlements of international conflicts or resolution of the global problems facing mankind. For understandable reasons, problems could arise in the relations between our two countries, as well as with other countries, but the Soviet Union has always believed and continued to believe that Soviet-American relations must develop without prejudice to the interests of third countries, and not at their expense. At the same time, he knew that it was not in our mutual interest to tolerate attempts by third countries to undermine the relations between us, or to play on the differences that inevitably arose between us.

(Gromyko remarked in an aside that there were those who loved to try it).

Addressing the Secretary and his colleagues directly, Brezhnev concluded by saying that such were the thoughts he had wanted to express on the general state of Soviet-American relations as of now, without at this time going into specific questions. He gathered that [Page 51] there was a vast number, hundreds of specific questions that would have to be addressed subsequently. For now he would prefer to stop here, and would ask for the views of the U.S. side. He also acknowledged that he had received the last communication.

Secretary Vance first wanted to thank the General Secretary for the frankness and openness with which he had addressed the various important questions before us. He, too, would try to speak frankly and openly, because he believed this to be the best way of achieving results. First, before beginning to set forth the views of the United States regarding the relations between our two countries, the Secretary wanted to transmit to Mr. Brezhnev a letter from President Carter.5

(Brezhnev took a few minutes to read the translation of the President’s letter and passed it on to Minister Gromyko).

The Secretary said that all of us were heartened by Brezhnev’s foreign policy remarks in his recent speeches. Last winter, as Governor Carter6 prepared to assume the presidency, he had been impressed and gratified by Brezhnev’s public statement on the importance of good relations between our two countries. In particular, he was encouraged by Brezhnev’s statement at Tula that detente meant a willingness to resolve differences and disputes by peaceful means, at conference tables. The President’s deep conviction, which the Secretary shared and, in his judgment, was shared by a majority of the American people, was that our two countries must do everything they could to reduce the danger of war. The President, like Brezhnev, was a practical man and realized that the overall state of our relations would be determined largely by the specifics of the issues on our agenda. These were the “objective realities” of detente which determined where we were going.

The President, like Brezhnev, had been an officer in the armed forces of his country, and had a deep determination to do all he could to work toward a reasonable and fair regulation of military competition.

The Secretary well knew that Brezhnev had lived through the devastation of war, and knew the sorrow and suffering it would bring to all of our people, the young and the old. The Secretary, too, had experienced the horrors of war, had seen his friends and comrades die, and had lived with the responsibility for nuclear weapons for many years. It was his fervent hope that our children and Brezhnev’s children would be spared the incalculable horror of a nuclear holocaust. At this point Brezhnev interrupted to tell a story in connection with alleged Soviet intentions to attack or threaten the United States. An Oriental tale related that at a bazaar a man had purposely started the rumor that at [Page 52] the far end of that bazaar someone was giving away pillows free of charge. As people heard him, they began running toward that part of the bazaar, until the man was left all alone. At that moment he began to wonder whether there might not be something to the rumor that he himself had started, and he thought that, just in case, he, too, should start running; who knows, maybe they were indeed giving out free pillows. Brezhnev said he knew that Americans liked anecdotes, and that is why he told this story by way of an analogy to those who started rumors about Soviet-war-like intentions.

The Secretary continued by saying that recently, Brezhnev had noted that there were objective possibilities for developing equal and mutually advantageous cooperation in various spheres for the good of both countries and universal peace. He heartily agreed with such a view of the situation.

Brezhnev had further said that the question was how soon such a development would begin. He was firmly convinced that we could begin that process now. We had an unparalleled opportunity to set our relations on a fresh course.

At Tula Brezhnev had also said that detente meant an ability to take into consideration each other’s legitimate interests. The two sides were realistic enough to know that we would have differences. But we shared a fundamental interest in improving our mutual understanding. Our differences must not distract us from working for peace. They also must not divide us.

The Secretary wanted to give Brezhnev a sense of developments in our country which had affected our national outlook. We have come through a hotly contested national election which was a process of renewal and of developing a new policy consensus in the country. Now a new government had taken office in Washington, but we were dealing with the same currents of opinion that had shaped our election debates. There was support for detente among the American people, but there were also concerns and apprehensions which had to be overcome.

At this point Brezhnev interrupted again and recalled how at the very beginning of the “Great Patriotic War”, at the time Hitler had attacked Czechoslovakia and had allied himself with Mussolini, he had come home from work one day to the place where he lived in rather humble conditions together with his father. His father was a simple man, a steel worker, and this story, which Brezhnev was sure his colleagues on the Politburo had heard more than once, was well-suited to illustrate a simple working man’s approach to the psychological questions of war. His father had asked him “Lyonya, which is the highest mountain in the world”? He had responded that it was Mt. Everest. His father then asked how tall was the Eiffel Tower in Paris? He had replied that it was some 300 meters tall. His father then said that if he and his [Page 53] friends had been authorized to do so, they would have built a tower twice as tall as the Eiffel Tower, would have hauled it up to Mt. Everest and topped it off with a gallows. There they would hang Hitler, and would instruct everybody to view this scene through a telescope. His father was obviously unaware of the fact that the curvature of the earth would make such viewing impossible. His father went on to say they would then declare that this would be the fate of not only the first instigator of war, but of any other war-monger. After hanging five, six, or seven such criminals the world would be rid of war. Much later, during the Nuremberg Trial, when the prosecutor there pronounced the words “instigator of War,” Brezhnev recalled this heart-to-heart conversation between a father and a son. It was a true story and, while Brezhnev apologized for having interrupted, he felt it was a useful story, because it emphasized the need to defend peace.

The Secretary acknowledged that it was indeed a very useful story. He continued by saying that President Carter enjoyed the support of the vast majority of the American people—more so than any President for many years—and therefore he could get support for arms control agreements. The point he wanted to make was of critical importance, because it meant that any agreements we could reach here the President could get ratified by Congress.

The Secretary said that what we wanted to set in motion during our talks was a process of improvement in key arms control issues, in our bilateral relations, and in international relations. The President had spoken of his belief that we were all here in good faith to pursue a more stable peace through new arms limitation negotiations. He felt that we must be bold and vigorous in achieving control over nuclear weapons. We were prepared to go far in this joint endeavor and explore new ideas. The positions the President advocated were an advance over the past—not only in the strategic arms area, but in stopping all nuclear testing, and moving ahead on a broad range of other arms control issues.

Our present talks were a crucial step in demonstrating that detente was a dynamic, long-term process. It was not static. We, like the Soviet Union, must give it new meaning, if it were truly to reflect greater mutual understanding. The Secretary would suggest that we begin regeneration of detente.

Without going into details now, the Secretary wanted to sketch out those areas which we would want to explore with the Soviet side. We will explore ways to address the Backfire and Cruise missile issues, we will make a comprehensive proposal which would enhance strategic stability and mutual confidence, we will discuss advance notification of missile test firings, averting military competition in space, and concerns that certain forms of civil defense can be destabilizing. We also [Page 54] hoped that our discussions will make a turning point in the long effort to achieve a total cessation of nuclear testing, a subject in which, the Secretary knew, the Soviet Union had deep concerns. Conditions may be right for the United States and the Soviet Union to exercise unique leadership in getting this process moving. We were moving promptly to secure Congressional ratification of the Treaty on the Threshold Test Ban and the Treaty on Peaceful Nuclear Explosions. What we accomplish during our meetings here would help us in the ratification of those treaties. Another area where we could work together to move forward was the Indian Ocean. We wanted to explore Soviet interest in mutual restraint in that area.

The Secretary pointed out that conventional arms exports were dangerous and wasted vast and increasingly scarce resources. Our two countries have accounted for a large proportion of such trade. In fact, the United States occupied first place in the export trade of conventional arms, and the Soviet Union second place. Competition between us in the export of arms placed stress on our bilateral relations. It should in any event be a matter of principle for advanced countries to make a serious effort to restrain and reduce this trade. We would welcome an expression of interest on the part of the Soviet side in an exchange of views on this subject. In this connection, we believed that the best way to begin was with suppliers. The United States was ready to exercise restraint in its own activities. We would be talking to our allies. The President was interested in Soviet views on prospects for cooperation. In the area of non-proliferation we were gratified by progress in the London Suppliers’ Group, and in particular with very solid Soviet participation. These were important problems, and we hoped to continue in close cooperation.

The Secretary wanted to inform Brezhnev today that in the very near future we would announce certain policy decisions concerning nuclear non-proliferation. They will include the indefinite deferral of commercial reprocessing and recycling of plutonium in the United States, and the restructuring of the U.S. breeder reactor program to emphasize designs other than the plutonium breeder. The Secretary had instructed our Embassy to inform Minister Gromyko in detail of these policy decisions. We shared Soviet concern about the dangers of proliferation of nuclear weapons, and we believed that the actions which we are about to take would constitute a major step forward toward this end.

We had reviewed the Vienna MBFR negotiations and our MBFR policy. The Carter Administration strongly supported these negotiations. A satisfactory agreement could enhance the security of both sides equally. The West had shown its will to move toward agreement. The December 1975 Western proposal to reduce U.S. nuclear weapons was [Page 55] a substantial step.7 We hoped that the East would agree to the two basic objectives involved in these negotiations, which were parity in the form of equal military manpower in the area, and collectivity of limitations. If the East showed serious willingness to reach an agreement based on parity and collectivity, the way for movement on both sides would be open.

Brezhnev interrupted to say that he wanted to present the following statement. He said there could be different approaches to the relations between us. When something had happened to President Nixon, the Soviet side had not mentioned one word about it, neither in the press nor in other communications. The Soviet leadership regarded this as a purely domestic matter for the United States. When Nixon had come to the Soviet Union the first time, he went directly by car to the Residence and had come to see Brezhnev. They had a one-on-one conversation only Sukhodrev present to interpret.8 Nixon had said that our two countries had such quantities of arms that we could destroy each other seven times over. Therefore he suggested that we approach this question realistically. This was a very difficult time in our relations, because the United States had just bombed some Soviet vessels in Haiphong harbor in Viet Nam.9 Nevertheless, the Soviet leadership had decided to receive Nixon to see what could be done. Nixon had pointed out that he was trying to withdraw troops from Viet Nam, that it was not he who had started the war. The Soviet Union, a great power with a vast territory and a population of almost 260 million, and the United States, the other great power, could not permit the Viet Nam situation to be an obstacle to their mutual relations. Finally the Viet Nam war was extinguished, and that was good. Nixon had suggested that we take up specific issues between us, and one could see how productive that was, in what a short period of time the SALT agreements were concluded, among them the Interim Agreement which expires in October of this year. A number of other agreements were concluded, basic principles of relations between us were worked out,10 an agreement was concluded on the prevention of nuclear war.11 All this had been accomplished during a very brief period of time. Since then much time has elapsed. Nothing is being said about the Vladivostok understanding, [Page 56] quite the contrary; Brezhnev had read that allegedly Vladivostok was not binding on Mr. Carter, and yet that agreement had not been an agreement between Mr. Brezhnev and Mr. Ford, but an agreement between the Soviet Union and the United States. If any audience were convened in the Palace of Congresses here in Moscow—it holds 5,000 people—and Brezhnev were to ask “Comrades, do you want good relations with the United States?”, the answer would be a resounding yes.

Brezhnev did not know what authority the U.S. delegation had, but he believed that things must be addressed in specifics.

President Carter had spoken of personal freedom in the Soviet Union. In that case Brezhnev would want to list what has to be done in the United States to ensure human rights. The U.S. Constitution did not provide for the right of people to work, neither did it provide for equal rights for women. Brezhnev hoped that Mr. Vance would not take offense, this was just a matter of Brezhnev’s natural approach to things.

Secretary Vance said that he would be very happy at this time to discuss a proposal that we wanted to table in order to lay the framework for forward movement in the negotiations on strategic arms limitation.

Brezhnev said that when he had spoken of specifics he did not have in mind that we should now discuss SALT questions, because that would involve technical considerations. He thought it would be advisable to do this later.

The Secretary said that in that case he would very briefly discuss our relations in the international sphere. In that respect he would note that there was need for us to consult earlier and more intensively about potential trouble spots so that we could avoid the dangers of sudden confrontation and avoid competing militarily all over the world. It was in this spirit that we wished to discuss the international issues on our agenda—the Middle East, Africa and Cyprus.

Brezhnev interrupted to ask if it was intended to take up the question of the Middle East Geneva Conference.

Minister Gromyko interrupted to point out that there had been some discussion of the possibility of his taking up Middle East questions at a meeting with Secretary Vance in Geneva during the month of May.

The Secretary said that he wanted to make some brief comments on our economic relations.

At this point Brezhnev asked if the Secretary was referring to the MFN issue.

The Secretary replied that the Carter Administration was taking up that issue with Congress and working in that direction, but that this would require some time. In this connection resolution of the MFN [Page 57] issue would be facilitated by the arms control agreement we might achieve here.

Brezhnev remarked that he had now heard about that issue from three U.S. Presidents, and yet nothing has been accomplished.

The Secretary repeated that we were working with Congress in that direction, but some time would be required to achieve its resolution.

Turning to our economic relations, the Secretary expressed the hope that the Joint Commercial Commission could become more active. Secretary Blumenthal was ready to discuss dates with Soviet representatives for reconvening the Commission soon in Washington. The Secretary said we were pleased that scientific/technical and cultural/educational cooperation was going forward in many fields. These provided both immediate benefits to both sides and a favorable climate for improved relations. We were ready, if the Soviet side was, to agree in principle on the extension of two cooperative agreements which were signed in 1972 and which expire in May of this year—Space and Science/Technology.12 The Secretary said that he had to say one word on the human rights issue which had been raised by Brezhnev. He had listened carefully to what Brezhnev had said and would point out that we had not in any way embarked on an anti-Soviet campaign. Our stand involved matters of principle, and we had no intention of taking advantage of the situation to single out the Soviet Union. The Secretary would simply suggest that we agree to disagree on our respective values, and then go on to discuss the urgent problems before us.

Brezhnev pointed out that President Carter had written a kind letter to Sakharov, praising him in every way, etc., encouraging and embracing him, without knowing what Sakharov was doing in the Soviet Union, with whom he was connected. Or, another example—he had received Bukovskiy, a man who was a crook, a thorough crook. Was this really suitable?

Gromyko interrupted to remark that if the Secretary were to run into Bukovskiy, he better put his watch in a safe place.

Secretary Vance said he did not think it would be useful to debate this issue, but recalled that there had been times in the past when people who had attacked the U.S. government had been received and honored in the Soviet Union.

Gromyko said he would point out the simple circumstance that President Carter had sent a letter to Sakharov at the same time that he had also sent a letter to General Secretary Brezhnev. This was a disturbing event.

[Page 58]

Brezhnev went on to say that people like Sakharov were traitors to their country, were linked with espionage organizations, and at meetings in his home Sakharov had received outright criminals. There were some stories about some illegal currency operations they had been involved in. As for the United States, he would note that the U.S. Constitution did not provide for the right to work, the right to education and the right to social welfare. Up to now, there was no equality for women in the United States. He had read in the New York Times of January 9 of this year that U.S. economists proceeded from the premise that the United States would have full employment if it were able to reduce unemployment to the level of four percent of the labor force;13 in other words, according to the New York Times, millions of people would still be unemployed, and yet U.S. economists considered that full employment. In February of this year the United States had 7 million unemployed, among whom there were twice as many blacks as whites. 48 percent of young people in the U.S. under 24 years of age were unemployed. These were data of the U.S. Department of Labor. Gromyko added that this represented “discrimination within discrimination.”

Brezhnev said that between the years 1960 and 1974 the FBI had carried on surveillance on 500,000 citizens accused of subversive activities, although their actions did not go beyond lawful activities. According to a Congressional report on intelligence activities,14 the CIA had unlawfully opened 250,000 letters from abroad between the years of 1953 and 1973. Brezhnev further cited an open letter by James Baldwin, addressed to President Carter, in which he wrote “too many of us are in prison, too many of us go hungry, for too many of us the doors are closed.”15 That letter had been published in the New York Times and Baldwin spoke of the stepsons of America who were being persecuted because they refused to acquiesce in racial discrimination. Baldwin had also mentioned the Wilmington Ten—nine blacks and one woman—who had received sentences totalling 282 years in prison, only because they had protested against discrimination in the schools. Baldwin wrote about a trial in Charleston, North Carolina, where three blacks faced the same prospect as the Wilmington Ten. They were accused of arson as a pretext for imprisoning them for protesting. In conclusion, Baldwin had called on the President to correct this situation. So far he had received no response to his open letter to President Carter.

[Page 59]

Secretary Vance said he wanted to respond briefly. He pointed out to Brezhnev that we lived in different countries with different systems. We were not insisting that we were free from all criticism. He would suggest that neither of our countries was immune from criticism. However, we also have common interests and common objectives. Our key objective was to lessen the risk of nuclear confrontation and nuclear war. Perhaps in working toward this goal we would gain greater appreciation of one another.

At this point Brezhnev suggested that the meeting recess because the U.S. delegates had been invited to a lunch given by Minister Gromyko. He said he was very pleased that he and Secretary Vance had had such a frank and open exchange of views. Each of them felt free to criticize the other, had done so, and, taking into account today’s talk, we now had to take up SALT and other matters. Brezhnev ended the conversation on a friendly and cheerful note.16

  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, Vance to Moscow, 3/28–30, 1977. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Krimer; reviewed in draft by Hyland; approved by Twaddell on April 12. The meeting took place in the Kremlin.
  2. Reference is to the two 747 jets that collided on a runway in the Canary Islands on March 27. See Robert D. McFadden, “550 Feared Killed on Two 747’s in Canary Islands Runway Crash; Some on Los Angeles Jet Survive,” The New York Times, March 28, 1977, p. 1.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 1.
  4. On March 21, Brezhnev delivered his address to the Trade Union [Page 47] Congress. See “Excerpts from Brezhnev’s Speech at Labor Congress,” The New York Times, March 22, 1977, p. 14.
  5. See Document 15.
  6. Carter served as Governor of Georgia from January 1971 until January 1975.
  7. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXXIX, European Security, Documents 365 and 367.
  8. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 257.
  9. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 271.
  10. See footnote 3, Document 4.
  11. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XV, Soviet Union, June 1972–August 1974, Document 122.
  12. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 227.
  13. Article not found.
  14. See Hearings Before the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities of the United States Senate, vol. 4. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1976)
  15. See James Baldwin, “An Open Letter to Mr. Carter,” The New York Times, January 23, 1977, p. 153.
  16. In Secto 3019 from Moscow, March 28, Vance summarized his meeting for Carter and Christopher, who was serving as acting Secretary in Vance’s absence. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Europe, USSR, and East/West, Hunter/Rentschler Trips/Visits File, Box 17, 3/25–4/2/77 Vance Trip to Moscow: 3/28–31/1977)