207. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Fifth and Last Plenary Meeting Between President Carter and President Brezhnev


  • U.S.
  • The President
  • Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance
  • Secretary of Defense Harold Brown
  • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • General David Jones
  • Mr. Hamilton Jordan
  • General G. Seignious
  • Mr. Frank Moore
  • Ambassador Malcolm Toon
  • Mr. Joseph Powell
  • Mr. Reginald Bartholomew
  • Mr. Jerrold Schecter
  • Mr. Wm. D. Krimer, Interpreter
  • U.S.S.R.
  • President L.I. Brezhnev
  • Foreign Minister A.A. Gromyko
  • Marshal D.F. Ustinov
  • Mr. K.U. Chernenko
  • Deputy Foreign Minister G.M. Korniyenko
  • Marshal N.V. Ogarkov
  • Ambassador A.F. Dobrynin
  • Mr. A.M. Aleksandrov-Agentov
  • Mr. L.M. Zamyatin
  • Mr. V.G. Komplektov
  • Mr. A.M. Vavilov
  • Mr. V.M. Sukhodrev, Interpreter

President Carter said that President Brezhnev and he had agreed between them that this meeting would be brief, to enable them to get back on schedule and be on time for the signing ceremony.

[Page 625]

The President said he considered this conference in Vienna to have been very satisfactory to him personally, to our nation and, he hoped, to the Soviet Union and the world at large. The signing of the SALT II Treaty in a few minutes will be a historic contribution to world peace.2 The President expressed his gratitude to Brezhnev for his leadership role in making this achievement possible. His own hope and belief is that the SALT II Treaty will be a basis on which it will be possible more expeditiously to conclude discussions leading to agreement between our two countries on many other matters. At their private meeting this morning3 he and President Brezhnev had agreed to increase the frequency of meetings between them, and had extended mutual invitations to visit their respective countries. The President looked forward to the opportunity of exchanging visits without having to wait for a crisis or some other momentous event, simply for the purpose of routine discussions of issues and for the purpose of understanding each other better. The President also remarked that he and Brezhnev had agreed that the two Presidents at such routine meetings would be in a position to correct the mistakes that would inevitably be made by their Foreign Ministers. (Foreign Minister Gromyko protested vigorously.)

The President said that he and Brezhnev had agreed that in the relations between our nations they would never act in such a way as to threaten peaceful relations between the peoples of the United States and the Soviet Union. In order to avoid misunderstandings between our countries, they will also continue their personal correspondence to keep each other informed of questions of mutual interest. Finally, they both greatly valued the statements each had made and had listened to each other with great care. Both had agreed to examine each other’s statements with additional care when they returned home. Each had in particular remarked on the substantive conformity of and correlation between the plans Brezhnev had suggested for future arms talks and the ideas on arms control the President had put forward. He hoped they would be able to build on these without further delay as they moved toward SALT III. To summarize, the President said he was grateful for the progress achieved and hoped to continue making progress in their common work in the future.

Reading from a prepared statement, Brezhnev noted that he and President Carter had the same view—that conclusion of the SALT II Treaty should generate more favorable conditions and, he would say, a more favorable climate for solving other problems of Soviet-American relations. This naturally also applied to bilateral ties and contacts in [Page 626] various fields. The Soviet Union attached great importance to such ties. Their results were perhaps not too visible from the sidelines, but these ties and contacts did involve large numbers of people doing what was necessary to the mutual advantage of both nations. In the final analysis, this helped the two peoples to understand each other better and bring them closer together. On the whole, such ties and contacts were the most stable and steadfast element in our bilateral relations, for example, the contacts between our respective Parliaments and between various public and social organizations. American Senators and Congressmen and Soviet Members of the Supreme Soviet were no longer rare guests in Moscow and Washington respectively. In Brezhnev’s view, contacts of that sort should be encouraged in the future as well, and, speaking frankly, it was not too easy to understand why the U.S. side sometimes took steps to impede contacts, such as for example, between Soviet and American labor unions.

Brezhnev said that one of the major and most important problems was regularization of trade between our countries. He had the impression that trade, which should be an important element in our relations, in the United States has been turned into a constant object of various linkages. This had begun in 1974 with the emigration issue,4 a purely internal affair of the Soviet Union; there was a linkage with economic relations between the two countries that the Soviet Union did not and, of course, could not recognize. As a result of the Soviet-American summit meetings in 1972, 1973 and 1974,5 Soviet-American trade had increased rapidly. However, discriminatory legislation had since brought it to a state of stagnation. He believed that such a state of economic relations between the two countries was not in the interests of either side. Brezhnev acknowledged that he was aware that the United States government had recently been examining the possibilities of normalizing trade relations with the U.S.S.R. He regarded this as a positive thing, but was not in a position to offer any suggestions in that respect because it was clearly the business of the United States. He would only ask the President to bear in mind that there were some basic political, legal and even moral principles which the Soviet Union could not possibly renounce. Brezhnev added that elimination of discrimination would contribute considerably to expanding trade relations to the ben[Page 627]efit of both sides. He would note in particular that it would then become possible jointly to work out long-term programs of cooperation, similar to those that the Soviet Union had established with the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Canada and a number of other countries. There was a solid and realistic basis for that. The Soviet Union had an enormous market, and in turn could offer much that would be of interest to American firms.

Brezhnev noted that unfortunately artificial obstacles had been created that stood in the way of developing such relations as maritime shipping, air travel and others. Ridiculous accusations had been levelled at the Soviet Union in terms of allegations that the Soviet Merchant Marine intended to seize American shipping markets. Some civil aviation had been suspended, too. Brezhnev asked for what purpose this was done. To be honest, he found it hard indeed to understand the meaning of such actions by the U.S. side.

In Brezhnev’s view, our relations in science and technology and active cooperation between Soviet and American scientists in a wide variety of fields were proceeding rather well, including such areas as energy, environment, medicine and agriculture. As he understood it, concrete results had been achieved in many areas and the prospects for continued cooperation were good, provided no artificial obstacles were put in its way. Some attempts had been made to exploit scientific cooperation for political purposes, reducing the levels of delegations, cancelling visas, etc. Here, too, he failed to see any sense in such artificial obstacles.

Brezhnev asked the President not to be offended by these comments. They were aimed at developing good relations with the United States on a stable and long-term basis. He very much hoped that the President would understand and share this view.

In conclusion, Brezhnev wanted to say that he was satisfied and highly gratified by the opportunity to have made the President’s personal acquaintance and to have had useful and meaningful conversations with him. He was certain that this would help both of them in their future work aimed at improving Soviet-American relations for the sake of peace and to the benefit of our two nations.

The President noted that their time for this meeting was almost up, and said he would not respond to each of the points made by Brezhnev. He would, however, investigate the problems mentioned by Brezhnev like, for example, air travel, and would respond through Secretary Vance. He hoped that it will be possible to alleviate the obstacles standing in the way of better cooperation between our countries. If in the future we see any problems in the actions or policies of the Soviet [Page 628] Union, we will try to make them clear so that each side can understand the attitudes of the other.6

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Presidential Advisory Board, Box 75, Subject: Box 8. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Krimer on June 21. The meeting took place at the Soviet Embassy. Carter wrote about signing SALT II in his memoirs: “The treaty-signing ceremony was impressive and dignified. After we finished signing the documents and handed them to one another, I shook hands with President Brezhnev, and to my surprise, we found ourselves embracing each other warmly in the Soviet fashion. There is no doubt there were strong feelings of cooperation between us at the moment, and I was determined to pursue our search for peace and better understanding.” (Keeping Faith, pp. 260–261)
  2. See footnote 4, Document 200.
  3. See Document 206.
  4. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XV, Soviet Union, June 1972–August 1974, Document 183.
  5. For the 1972 summit memoranda of conversation, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Documents 259, 262, 263, 265, 271, 276, 277, 281, 283, 284, 288, 290, 292, 293, 295, 299, and 300. For the 1973 summit memoranda of conversation, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XV, Soviet Union, June 1972–August 1974, Documents 123133. For the 1974 summit memoranda of conversation, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XV, Soviet Union, June 1972–August 1974, Documents 186199.
  6. For the text of the joint communiqué, see Department of State Bulletin, July 1979, pp. 54–58. The memorandum of conversation from the June 15 Vance/Gromyko meeting, during which they discuss the joint communiqué, is in the Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 9, Vance NODIS MemCons, 1979.