261. Letter From Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko to Secretary of State Vance1

Dear Mr. Secretary,

Having read your letter of February 82 I would like to tell you frankly the following.

One could only welcome the recognition in the letter of the crucial importance of relations between our countries for the general world situation and the apparent desire to search for ways of overcoming the serious situation prevailing now in these relations.

However, the attempt to evade consideration of the real causes complicating the international situation, efforts to reduce the whole matter to the recent developments in Afghanistan depicted, for that matter, in a completely distorted light, and the raising of various kinds of other far-fetched questions—all this in no way demonstrates a real intention to rectify the current situation.

Indeed, it is impossible, without sinning against the truth, to dispute the fact that the exacerbation of the international situation by no means began at the end of last December, but rather much earlier. We also pointed out to the US side the reasons for this exacerbation much earlier.

Among these is the decision on deployment in the US of the MX mobile ICBM system3 which was made almost immediately after the SALT–II Treaty was signed in Vienna.

There is also the artificially created “mini-crisis” on the question of a “Soviet brigade” in Cuba.

There is also the urgent establishment of the “Rapid Deployment Force” designed for armed intervention in various parts of the world.

There is the long-range program of permanent defense spending increases and arms build-up imposed by the US on its NATO allies.

[Page 750]

Finally, there is the decision to deploy new US missiles on the soil of Western Europe,4 which creates a serious threat to the security of the USSR and its allies.

And what has become of the SALT II Treaty? Incidentally, in taking the decision to develop and deploy MX missiles the US Government stated that this decision would promote the ratification of SALT II. Without addressing now the substance of the MX missile question—which is a subject for a special discussion—one cannot fail to observe that in fact the decision on the MX missile is being implemented while the SALT II Treaty has not been ratified. In pressing its NATO allies to agree to the deployment on their soil of new American missiles, the US was also saying that this would facilitate the ratification of the SALT II Treaty. Even putting aside, once again, the question of the invalidity of such linkage, the picture remains the same: the decision on the deployment of new missiles in Western Europe has been adopted and is being implemented, but the Treaty has not been ratified.

Try to see all this through our eyes. Can these facts be seen in any way other than as a departure by the US from the principle of equality and equal security which was reconfirmed in Vienna, as evidence of a policy line now pursued by the US to break out of the existing military and strategic parity between the USSR and the US, to rush ahead in an effort to gain military superiority for itself?

No references to events in Afghanistan can conceal this turn in US policy—a turn from detente to a new aggravation of international tensions, to a new round of the arms race.

In your letter you mention the need for our two states to show restraint and moderation in international affairs and in relations with each other. Well, the thought itself is correct. We, on our part, are also in favor of this. It is important, however, for the United States also to adhere to such a course in international affairs and not treat them with such astonishing light-mindedness as it now does.

As for Afghanistan, our position on this question has been set forth more than once with utmost clarity, specifically as you know in the answers by L.I. Brezhnev to the questions of the Pravda correspondent as well as in our contacts with the US side.

Facts do not cease to be facts because the US side does not want to admit that acts of aggression against Afghanistan have been and continue to be committed from the territory of Pakistan. Also indisputable is the fact that in providing assistance to Afghanistan in repelling ex [Page 751] ternal aggression, the USSR has acted in full accordance with the UN Charter and the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between the USSR and the DRA.5

We have also spoken on more than one occasion as to when and under what circumstances the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan will be carried out. I would only like to stress that if the US really wanted this to occur sooner, it could, of course, take measures to stop the aggression against Afghanistan. So far, the practical actions of the United States go exactly in the opposite direction: everything is being done to expand armed incursions into the territory of Afghanistan.

You say in your letter that the US has no interest in seeing a government in Kabul hostile to the Soviet Union. In fact, however, the United States is exerting every effort toward uniting counterrevolutionary Afghan groups under foreign auspices and even toward the virtual establishment of an illegal Afghan “government in exile” in the territory of Pakistan.

Nor does the reference in your letter to some kind of “increasing military activity” on the Soviet border with Iran bear witness to any US desire to contribute to the reduction of tensions. You must be well aware that this is not true. We have no “designs” whatsoever upon Iran or any other countries of this region. It is not for the United States to speak of “concern” about the fate of Iran while it is precisely the US which directly threatens this country and places all kinds of pressure on it.

For some reason you also raise now the question of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, asserting that the situation in that country and its relations with third countries, particularly with the Soviet Union, are supposedly also a matter of “grave concern” to the US. There is no basis for this, nor can there be. But if we are to speak in terms of concern, the Soviet Union has far more basis for it in connection with the US military presence in, for example, Turkey and Greece, countries which either directly border on the USSR or are situated in close proximity to our borders. It is clear that an approach whereby the US arbitrarily declares regions of the world thousands of kilometers away from it to be a sphere of its “vital interests” and reduces everything only to securing its own narrow egoistic interests without wishing to take account of the legitimate interests of others, cannot lead to anything good.

And what is the meaning of the sudden mention in your letter of Yugoslavia? Presumably it is not just because such a country exists on [Page 752] geographic maps? The fact that the US side for some reason deems it necessary to launch into a discourse about Yugoslavia inevitably prompts us to think that the US itself has some sort of ill-intentioned plans in this regard. But if this is so, the United States runs the risk of gravely burning its fingers in Yugoslavia.

So, as you see, there is nothing we must justify before the United States, but the list of complaints which we have the right to present to the US happens to be a rather long and impressive one.

Of course, the serious damage to the international situation and Soviet-US relations already inflicted by the actions of the United States can hardly pass without a trace. But it is alien to us to be guided by emotions in our policies. We would be prepared, if the United States is also willing, to seek opportunities to return to the path of cooperation between our two countries and with other states for the sake of improving the international situation, strengthening peace and universal security.

If, as your letter says, Soviet-US relations are now at a “critical juncture,” then the choice of which way to proceed is up to the US. Our choice is clear. We would like to hope that the US will also make the only sensible choice—in favor of detente and peaceful coexistence.

I hope, Mr. Secretary, that you will understand correctly the motives by which I was impelled in speaking in such a frank manner. We would welcome any constructive considerations and ideas in support of detente in Soviet-American relations which you might offer on your part.

Sincerely yours,

A. Gromyko6
  1. Source: Carter Library, Plains File, President’s Personal Foreign Affairs File, Box 5, USSR (General): 9/77–12/80. Secret. The initial “C” is written in the top right corner of the letter, indicating that Carter saw it. Printed from the U.S. translation.
  2. See Document 260.
  3. For more information on the MX missile decision, see Congress and the Nation, vol. V, 1977–1980, pp. 156–158.
  4. In December 1979 the United States committed itself to the basing of Pershing II and Tomahawk cruise missiles in Western Europe in an attempt to counter the Soviets’ enhanced force of SS–20 missiles. The Pershing II was outfitted with an improved nuclear warhead, which could strike up to 2,000 km away.
  5. Signed December 5, 1978, the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation permitted the deployment of Soviet troops into Afghanistan, if requested.
  6. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.