176. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The President
  • Secretary Vance
  • Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • Ambassador Dobrynin

The President: I want to talk to you briefly and seriously. There is no more important relationship than maintaining peace between our two countries. I am concerned about the state of that relationship. We have missed an opportunity when we first proposed annual consultative meetings. I understand President Brezhnev’s preference to link the summit with SALT, but as a result we have not had a summit.

We have both negotiated in good faith on SALT, but two issues remain: definition of new missiles, and encryption. (Vance: The encryp[Page 524]tion issue has been resolved.) I am anxious to resolve SALT, and we should try to wrap it up and pursue other issues at the summit. With regard to the summit, it is not appropriate for me to go to Moscow. If Brezhnev’s health does not permit a visit here, we would consider a neutral place. I would plan four to five days for discussions. You should be aware that the longer SALT is delayed the greater the ratification problem.

Additionally, we have been legitimately concerned about some recent Soviet statements. We have no secret agreements with China; we have had no private information on Vietnam; we cautioned Deng when he made his public statements; and our actions at the United Nations are consistent with the foregoing. We have used our influence to get China to live up to its statement that the operation will be limited in time and scope. At the same time, we do not agree with the Soviet Union, nor do most nations in the world, regarding Vietnamese actions against Cambodia.2

Most recently I am especially concerned about the South Yemeni attack on North Yemen.3 South Yemen is a friend of the Soviet Union, and we believe the Soviet Union has encouraged this altercation. We hope the Soviet Union will use its influence to end the penetration of North Yemen’s borders. (Vance: It is an opportunity for the Soviet Union and the U.S. to cooperate in ending a conflict.)

We would like Soviet help in Namibia and Rhodesia.4 We would like to have a constructive partnership on these issues and we would like to enhance our trade with you. (Reference to Governors committee) Rapid conclusion of SALT would help to resolve these concerns. We hope to achieve in harmony with the Soviet Union the honoring of international borders.

I hope you will relay this and that the Soviet government will respond favorably. Particularly, tell President Brezhnev that I want to meet with him so that we can prove that we are as friendly with the Soviet Union as with China. I want you to extend to President Brezhnev my deep friendship and my commitment to better relations. I hope we can resolve past differences and prevent future differences.

(Dobrynin made some comments on the above, including a brief effort to push for a visit to Moscow, but the President pointed out that he would be glad to consider this after Brezhnev has been here.)

  1. Source: Carter Library, Plains File, President’s Personal Foreign Affairs File, Box 5, USSR (General), 9/77–12/80. Secret. The meeting took place in the White House. Carter wrote, “ok J” in the upper right-hand corner of the memorandum.
  2. See Document 175.
  3. For an overview of South Yemen’s attack on North Yemen and Yemen’s subsequent unification, see Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, 1980, pp. 30197–30201.
  4. Reference is to Namibia and Rhodesia’s internal conflicts and struggles for independence. For information on the situation in Namibia, see Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, 1979, pp. 29461–29467. For information on the situation in Rhodesia, see Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, 1979, pp. 29576–29579 and 29760–29762.