189. Letter From Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev to President Carter1

Dear Mr. President:

After receiving your letter of April 11, 1979,2 in which you suggest that we already determine and fix the date of our meeting, I thought a great deal about it.

Since we have reached a firm mutual understanding that such a meeting can take place only when the Treaty on Limitation of Strategic Weapons is ready for signature, your suggestion on setting a date for the meeting can be understood as reflecting your confidence that we are in fact close to completion of work on this Treaty. This could only be welcomed.

Unfortunately, however, the line of conduct of U.S. representatives at the negotiations on this question, both in Washington and in Geneva, does not instill in us such confidence. Instead of concentrating on a search for mutually acceptable solutions to the few questions which were not fully agreed upon at the meeting between A.A. Gromyko and C. Vance in December of last year,3 the American side is ever raising new questions primarily of a technical nature. It is sufficient to point out, for example, that on April 11, that is on the date of your letter, Mr. President, the American delegation in Geneva introduced a whole series of new proposals of that nature (that the weight of one RV on the new type of ICBM should not comprise less than 4% of the missile’s throw-weight; the 10% spread for changes in parameters of the new missile during the course of the last ten flight tests, etc.).

All of these limitations, as was the case with the earlier proposal limiting procedures for testing the release of RVs, make no practical sense from the point of view of the tasks of the Treaty being worked out, if one takes into account already agreed limitations. In addition, an impression is created that these American proposals aimed at regulating certain technical decisions proceed from the unilateral interests of the United States, ignoring the fact that each side has formed over a period of years its own practice in the resolution of technical questions of one sort or another.

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In this connection the legitimate question cannot help but arise of why the American side is creating ever new problems at the negotiations. And whether this is being done with your knowledge, Mr. President, is of course more apparent to you.

We expressed our attitude toward such tactics to Secretary C. Vance through the Soviet Ambassador on April 19,4 along with a presentation of concrete considerations on earlier remaining questions. We have not yet received a reaction to what we said to Mr. C. Vance. Meanwhile, the American delegation at the negotiations in Geneva continues to hold to the same essential line which is aimed at delay.

In these conditions I will say frankly the firm desire of the American side to set a date quickly for the meeting is not entirely clear. After all, it would hardly serve the interests of the matter if the dates of our meeting were to be determined and announced, and if it then turned out that it was not possible to complete work on the Treaty by that time. What would we do in such a situation? Cancel the meeting, or come to it without confidence in positive results? Either option at first glance appears politically unsuitable.

In this connection I would like to touch on still another question in the interest of avoiding any surprises which could complicate completion of a Treaty on Limiting Strategic Weapons, or perhaps even destroy [lit. “explode”]5 it. What I mean is that, according to reports that have been received, several variants of a possible deployment in the next few years of a new ICBM, MX, are being discussed in the U.S. Government, and a decision on this question may be announced sometime in the middle of May.

I would like to remind you that back in August of last year we laid out to the American side our principled position concerning the inacceptability of deploying mobile ICBMs in a manner which provides for the construction of a multitude of new silos, in each of which an ICBM could be placed. We noted at that time, and we emphasize again, that the construction of additional silos for launching ICBMs would be absolutely incompatible with the corresponding provision of the draft treaty already agreed to, to say nothing of the fact that even were such construction allowed each additional silo intended for launching ICBMs would have to be counted as a unit in the agreed aggregate levels of strategic weapons.

There must be absolute clarity on this question. It would be a profound delusion if, in case of a decision by the American side—on the eve of signature of the Treaty or thereafter—to carry out the above-[Page 547]mentioned entirely illegal method of deployment of the MX missile, someone were to count on the Soviet Union not objecting against this in the interest of saving the Treaty.

Yes, we are interested in the quickest possible completion of the Treaty on Strategic Weapons Limitation. But the U.S. as well should be no less interested in it. Only in that case will the Treaty make real sense. Consequently, both sides should also act accordingly, proceeding from the principle of equality and equal security.

I would like, Mr. President, to receive your clarifications on the questions I have touched upon. I also hope that the line taken by the American representatives at the negotiations will allow completion of work on the Treaty. After this has been done, the dates for the meeting can be fixed with little difficulty. It goes without saying that in principle I welcome your desire to have our meeting as soon as possible. Its results, in our opinion, can exert great positive influence on the entire international situation.


L. Brezhnev6
  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 4, Brezhnev Letter to JEC on SALT & Summit, 4/25/79. No classification marking. Printed from the U.S. translation.
  2. Not found.
  3. See Documents 164167.
  4. No record of this conversation was found.
  5. Brackets in original.
  6. Printed from a copy that indicates Brezhnev signed the original.