235. Oral Message From the U.S. Leadership to the Soviet Leadership1

The United States Government has received the oral message from President Brezhnev 2 concerning recent press reports of a purported “alert” of American strategic forces. Because the oral message was based on inaccurate and misleading information, the assertions in the message are inaccurate and unacceptable to the United States Government.

The level of alert of U.S. strategic offensive forces was not raised above its usual level because the U.S. command and control system assures review and control by responsible officials at all levels. It does not serve the purposes of peace or strategic stability for the Soviet Union to base its actions or its diplomatic exchanges on press reports or to propagandize such matters before finding out the true facts. The United States Government assures the Soviet Government both that its local commanders have and will exercise the authority to put their forces in condition to survive attack, and that control of the offensive use of our forces is totally reliable, as was demonstrated in this case. We would welcome similar information from the Soviet Union on its command and control procedures.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Presidential Advisory Board, Box 84, Sensitive XX: 11/79. No classification marking. Brzezinski forwarded the message to Vance under a November 21 covering memorandum, noting that the message’s text had been “agreed upon at our luncheon today.” In telegram 312357 to Moscow, December 4, the Department stated that this message was delivered to Bessmertnykh on December 3. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840131–1903)
  2. See Document 233.