22. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Emigration Lists; Radiation; Trade


  • Secretary Cyrus R. Vance
  • Mr. William D. Krimer, Interpreter
  • Foreign Minister A.A. Gromyko
  • Mr. V.M. Sukhodrev, Interpreter

At the Secretary’s initiative a private meeting was held with Foreign Minister Gromyko immediately after the Secretary’s luncheon at Spasso House.

The Secretary told Gromyko that he had two or three issues he wanted to raise privately with Gromyko. First, he wanted to deal with the question of divided families. He had two lists: one he would hand Gromyko, listing people who wanted to emigrate to the United States; the other consists of people who wanted to emigrate to Israel. He would appreciate it if Gromyko would have someone take a look at what could be done.

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Gromyko said (facetiously) that he was really overenthusiastic, but since this was a “hot question” and “a hot list”, he would not even touch it but would ask Mr. Sukhodrev to take it along. What could he tell the Secretary in this regard? The Soviet authorities would consider the information contained in the lists in accordance with Soviet legislation. He would have to refrain from giving any promises in this regard. He thought he knew how these things were eventually resolved. He also knew that it happened sometimes that police organs, when they started to look into the persons concerned, found that in some instances these persons were not at all interested in leaving the Soviet Union. In one instance he knew of, one of these told the police that he had just been married, and asked them to leave him alone.

The Secretary repeated that he would appreciate it if Gromyko had someone look at the list.

The second issue the Secretary wanted to raise with Gromyko concerned radiation. He knew that the levels of radiation affecting our Embassy had been reduced, but they were still a matter of concern to the people working in our Embassy here. We would indeed be pleased if such radiation could be stopped completely.

Gromyko said that he was really getting tired of this question. He had thought that this issue was some sort of joke, but then he had noticed that from time to time someone would raise it again. Apart from the reply he had repeatedly given the Secretary earlier, he could not say anything else. Who was he to accuse the city of Moscow or the city authorities in this regard? He knew that there were certain conditions here that did not exist in Washington due to the fact that the city here contained so many industrial enterprises. Some had already been taken out of Moscow, but some still remained. He would bear in mind what the Secretary had said, but, quite honestly, he knew that there were some in the United States who loved to raise this issue again and again.

The Secretary said that the problem was that a number of people had become ill in ways somehow associated with radiation. It was for this reason that he had raised the issue with Gromyko.

Gromyko replied that since he and the Secretary were discussing this, he would point out that he could provide some statistics showing how many Soviets returning from the United States had been taken ill. Among them were even some important officials; for example, one of his deputies had died of leukemia after returning from the United States. All he could tell the Secretary was that he would keep this in mind. Whether or not he would be able to say something new on the subject, he could not determine now. However, he knew that some people in the US liked to blow up these matters; of that he was firmly convinced. He also thought there was no question that Soviets living in the United States were actually exposed to higher levels of radiation [Page 114] than Americans here. More than that the Secretary would not be able to get out of him on the subject. After all, he, too, lived near the center of the city together with his family, although he spent the summers at his dacha. Still, no one in his family had experienced any such difficulty.

The Secretary thanked Gromyko for taking these matters into account. Another issue had been entrusted to him by President Carter, to be conveyed to Gromyko. The Secretary had touched on it briefly the other day, but wanted to be sure that Gromyko knew that this Administration would like to see trade between our countries increased, and would like to see the Soviet Union accorded most favored nations status in the US. We wanted to work toward this end, but it would take awhile to get Congress to move. We continued to move in that direction, and the problem had already been raised with Congressional leaders. We would hope to continue pressing Congress on this, and obtain satisfactory results. In this connection, we realized that it was not only a matter of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment,2 but also the Stevenson Amendment3 which affected credit arrangements. He had conveyed this to Gromyko, because the President was interested in making progress.

Gromyko said he took note of the Secretary’s statement. The Secretary would know that if a satisfactory solution could be found, it would be given a very positive assessment by the Soviet Union. General Secretary Brezhnev had talked about this, because the Soviet leadership considered it to be of mutual benefit to both countries to remove the present obstacles to increased trade. He would point out that a positive solution would also play a certain role in our bilateral relations.4

  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; approved by Twaddell on April 13. The meeting took place at Spaso House.
  2. The Jackson-Vanik amendment, part of the Trade Act of 1974 (H.R. 10710—P.L. 93–618), necessitated the relaxation of Soviet emigration restrictions before MFN status for the Soviet Union would be considered. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XVI, Soviet Union, August 1974–December 1976, Document 5.
  3. The Stevenson amendment, part of the Export-Import Bank provisions outlined in H.R. 15977—P.L. 93–646, set a $300 million limit on loans for exports to the Soviet Union. See Congress and the Nation, vol. IV, 1973–1976, pp. 134–135.
  4. In Secto 3044 from Moscow, March 30, Vance summarized his meeting for Carter, Brzezinski, and Christopher. The telegram is in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Trip File, Box 41, Vance, Europe and Moscow, 3/27/77–4/4/77: Cables and Memos, 3/15–31/77.