232. Letter From President Carter to Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev 1

Dear Mr. President:

I am writing in reply to your letter of October 11.2 It raises a number of different issues which we and our NATO allies have under consideration.

Let me state at the outset that I share your belief in the importance of detente, in Europe and in our general relationship. At the same time, I am firmly of the view that progress in Europe is possible only if based on the principle of equality.

In your letter you indicate that the Soviet government is prepared to discuss limitations on medium-range nuclear systems in Europe. I have taken note of your statements on this issue. The matter of negotiations on limitations on such US and Soviet systems within the SALT III framework is under active consideration in the North Atlantic Alliance. The purpose of any negotiations dealing with medium-range systems must in our view be to enhance stability and security; they must be founded on the principle of equality for both sides.

The situation as regards these systems is far from satisfactory at present. The past decade has seen significant improvement in Soviet capabilities in medium-range systems, including your deployment of extended range and multiple-warhead missiles. It is against this background that we and our NATO allies are considering both the modernization of our own systems and also ways in which US and Soviet medium-range systems might be limited on an equal basis. Let me emphasize in this connection that we are not prepared to negotiate a regime which would preclude modernization of the capabilities of the [Page 689] NATO alliance, while permitting the Soviet Union to maintain and modernize what is already a superior force. Such an outcome would neither contribute to enhanced stability and security, nor be consistent with the principle of equality on which any negotiations in this field must be based.

I welcome the announcement that the Soviet government will withdraw up to 20,000 of its troops, together with 1,000 tanks and other equipment from the German Democratic Republic, since this will bring about some reduction in the existing disparity between the forces of East and West in Central Europe. I hope that this will lead to progress in Vienna toward elimination of that disparity and to significant mutual and balanced force reductions.

Further, I note with interest your proposals for confidence-building measures as well as your proposal for a European conference dealing with these issues. We and our NATO allies are taking them into account in our own preparations for the forthcoming CSCE Review Conference in Madrid.

In closing, Mr. President, I would like to thank you for sharing with me your views on these matters of such critical importance to both our countries.


Jimmy Carter
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 54, USSR: 11/79. No classification marking. Brzezinski sent a copy of the President’s signed letter to Vance under a November 13 memorandum, directing Vance to forward the letter to Watson for delivery. (Ibid.)
  2. See Document 229.