231. Oral Note From Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin to Secretary of State Vance 1

We confirm with all definitiveness our principled position that the SALT II Treaty and the documents related to it can enter into force for the Soviet Union only in the form in which they were signed at the Vienna Summit.

It is known that, with respect to the specifics of some questions, apart from the documents that were signed, the two sides by prior agreement made certain statements relating to certain provisions of the SALT II Treaty itself, as well as on a matter of a different nature—the Backfire medium bomber. There was no question, nor can there be, of “juridical” confirmation of our unilateral statement regarding “Backfire.” Indeed, there is no necessity for this. The Soviet side naturally will act in precise accordance with what it stated, on this as well as on other matters. In this respect, we of course expect that the American side will act in just the same way regarding the statements it made, taking into consideration the consequences which any different behavior by it could have.

It is also entirely obvious that the Soviet side can in no way be bound by any “understandings” or “reservations” with respect to the SALT II Treaty which might be adopted by the U.S. Senate. Irrespective of the procedures employed by the sides in the process of ratifying the treaty, any attempts unilaterally to interpret individual provisions of the agreed documents can have no legal force for the other side.

Accordingly, we do not intend to, nor will we, comment upon, take note of, or in any way confirm any such “interpretations.” In this connection, there should be no misunderstanding that the absence of our comments on one or another “interpretation” in any way signifies our tacit agreement with it.

In saying all this, we are guided by a desire to avoid misunderstandings, now and in the future, in such an important matter as the SALT II Treaty.

We continue to favor the earliest entry into force of this Treaty. But it would be a delusion to consider that the Soviet Union somehow has a [Page 688] greater interest in the SALT II Treaty than the United States, and that therefore we would agree to reexamination of, or addition to, any provision of the Treaty—whether de facto or de jure—to bring it into force.

  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, CV/AD, 11/7/79. No classification marking. Printed from the U.S. translation. Dobrynin and Vance also met on the same date to discuss a variety of matters, including the SALT ratification debate. The memorandum of conversation from the DobryninVance meeting is ibid.