187. Letter From President Carter to Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev1

Dear Mr. President:

I have received your letter of April 132 about U.S. military exercises involving strategic forces. The press release describing our forthcoming exercise,3 which was made public on April 9, and has since been given to Ambassador Dobrynin, adequately explains the nature of this exercise. In addition, I can tell you it does not involve the launching of U.S. bombers against the USSR.

Exercises such as this one, or your exercise of this month with your ballistic missile submarines—about which you have made no public [Page 543] announcement nor informed us through diplomatic channels—remind us of the responsibility we both have to reduce the chances of nuclear war. For our part, we take special care in the design of such exercises and through their public announcement to insure that their purposes are not mistaken. We have also, in various international fora and negotiations, supported agreements and practices concerning military exercises that would limit the potential for concern and miscalculation. You will recall, for example, that the U.S. has in the past suggested that prior to all missile firings—an extensive practice in Soviet strategic exercises—notice be given in advance.

Against this background, I must tell you that neither our mutual understanding nor our mutual security is served by recent Soviet statements concerning this United States exercise. I would suggest that when we meet in what I hope will be the near future we discuss exchanging information on our respective strategic exercises before they take place with a view toward contributing to strategic stability. This could be part of a broader discussion of the risk of nuclear war.

We both have a unique responsibility for dealing with this issue which is of such fundamental importance to international security. It is essential that we come to grips with it soon.


Jimmy Carter
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Outside the System File, Box 70, USSR: BrezhnevCarter Correspondence: 1–6/79. No classification marking.
  2. See Document 186.
  3. Attached but not printed.