229. Letter From Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev to President Carter1

Dear Mr. President,

I am sending you this letter with the aim of calling your attention to questions of military detente and arms limitation in Europe.

I wish briefly to summarize the essence of our thoughts and proposals on these questions, which were set forth in my speech in Berlin on October 6 of this year.

First, the assertions being spread in the West to the effect that the Soviet Union is building up its military might on the European continent on a scale not required by defense requirements have nothing in common with reality. They can only be evaluated as intended to serve as a screen for the development, adoption and realization of plans to deploy in Western Europe new types of American nuclear-missile weaponry. In other words—for the purpose of upsetting the existing balance of forces in Europe, of trying to secure military superiority for the NATO bloc.

One can say beforehand that it is doubtful that anything will result from such attempts. The Soviet Union and its allies would be forced to take the necessary additional steps to strengthen their security. No other course will be open to them.

It is entirely clear, however, that realization of the plans indicated by the countries of NATO would inevitably lead to aggravation of the situation in Europe and would in many respects poison the international atmosphere as a whole.

One would like to hope, Mr. President, that your government and you personally will again and again consider all aspects of this problem and will not allow steps to be taken which are insufficiently weighed.

As for the Soviet Union, I have said more than once, and wish to repeat again to you personally: We do not strive for military superiority, have not and do not intend to threaten anyone; our strategic doctrine has a purely defensive orientation.

Second, as I stated with all definitiveness in Berlin, during the past ten years the number of carriers of medium range nuclear weapons has not been increased by one rocket or by one aircraft. To the contrary, the [Page 679] number of launchers of medium range missiles, as well as the yield of the nuclear charges of these missiles, have even been somewhat decreased. The number of medium range bombers has also been decreased. The Soviet Union does not at all deploy such means on the territory of other states. For a number of years we have not increased the number of our troops stationed in Central Europe. Such are the irrefutable facts, Mr. President, and I am sure that they are well known by the appropriate organs of your country.

Moreover, we have expressed our readiness to decrease the number of medium range means deployed in Western areas of the Soviet Union as compared to the current level, but of course only if there is no additional deployment of medium range nuclear means in Western Europe.

As is known, important negotiations concerning SALT III are in prospect. We are in favor of commencing them immediately after the SALT II Treaty enters into force. We agree, within the framework of these negotiations, to discuss the possibilities of limiting not only intercontinental but also other types of arms, but with due account, of course, for all related factors and with strict observance of the principle of equal security of the sides.

Third, the Soviet Union, motivated by a sincere desire to break through the impasse which has limited the efforts of many years to achieve military detente in Europe, to provide an example of transition from words to concrete measures, has decided, with the agreement of the GDR and after consultations with other member-states of the Warsaw Pact, to reduce unilaterally the number of Soviet troops in Central Europe. During the next twelve months up to 20 thousand Soviet servicemen, one thousand tanks, and also a certain amount of other technical military equipment will be withdrawn from the territory of the GDR.

We hope that this new, concrete manifestation of the peaceableness and good will of the Soviet Union and its allies will be properly evaluated by the governments of the member-states of NATO and that they will follow our example.

Fourth, being in favor of further strengthening trust between states, we are prepared in particular to reach agreement that notification as to large military exercises by ground forces, provided for by the Helsinki Final Act, be made not three weeks before the event, but rather a month ahead, and not from the level of 25 thousand men, as is presently the case, but, let us say, from the level of 20 thousand men. We are also prepared, on the basis of reciprocity, not to conduct military exercises involving more than 40–50 thousand men. In addition, we propose that timely notification be given not only about military exercises, [Page 680] but also about the movements of ground forces numbering more than 20 thousand men in the area defined by the Final Act.

It seems to me, Mr. President, that the specific content of the new initiatives taken by the Soviet Union with the concurrence of other member-states of the Warsaw Pact speaks for itself. I would emphasize only one thing—all of these initiatives are motivated by concern for strengthening peace and security in Europe by supplementing political detente with measures of military detente, including measures for actually decreasing armed forces and weapons in Central Europe.

Of course, all proposals earlier made by member-states of the Warsaw Pact remain in force, including those regarding conclusion of a treaty between all participants in the All-Europe Conference on the non-first-use against one another of nuclear as well as conventional weapons, regarding notification of large air force and naval exercises which are conducted near the territorial waters of other participatory countries of the All-European Conference, regarding extension of confidence-building measures to the area of the Mediterranean Sea.

For our part, we will be prepared to consider other proposals as well, which are aimed at strengthening trust between states and lessening the danger of war in Europe.

Such are the considerations on questions of military detente and limiting arms in Europe that I and my colleagues wanted to bring to your attention, Mr. President. I would be happy to receive as soon as possible your answer to the questions I have touched upon.


L. Brezhnev2
  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, Carter/Brezhnev, 10/12/79. No classification marking. Printed from the U.S. translation.
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.