298. Letter From Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev to President Carter1

Distinguished Mr. President,

I deemed it necessary to address myself to You on the issue which deeply concerns and affects the peoples of the European continent and has also a substantial bearing on the prospects of USSR and USA relations.

I have in mind the issue emerged in connection with plans to develop and deploy in Western Europe new American medium-range missiles.

As is known, seeking to prevent a new round of nuclear arms race on the European continent, we approached, as far back as last fall, the United States and other NATO countries with a proposal to initiate negotiations on the medium-range nuclear [Page 873] systems, while readiness was expressed on our part even to cut the number of these systems deployed in the western regions of the USSR, provided there is no additional deployment of nuclear missiles of that category in Western Europe.

At the present time too, we believe that it would be the most correct and radical solution of the question of medium-range nuclear systems in Europe. We maintain our proposal to this effect but for it to be translated into reality it is necessary, of course, to restore the status which existed prior to the December session of the NATO Council.2

It is also known to You, I believe, that in order to overcome the impasse created as a result of the said NATO decision we are ready to adopt yet another alternative, whereby the questions concerning medium-range nuclear missile systems in Europe would not be subject of separate negotiations but would be discussed, after the SALT–2 Treaty enters into force, in the framework of SALT–3 negotiations and, naturally, on the basis of those principles which are agreed between our countries for the SALT–3 negotiations.

Although there followed no formal objection from the US side and the other NATO countries against such an alternative, it has proved impossible of practical realization since the United States does not ratify the SALT–2 Treaty.

Having thoroughly weighed up the existing situation and being guided by broader interests of peace and international security we decided to undertake one more step.

Without withdrawing our former proposals we expressed ourselves in the course of the Moscow conversations with FRG Chancellor H. Schmidt in favor of starting negotiations to discuss simultaneously and in organic relationship both medium-range nuclear systems in Europe and American forward-based nuclear systems.

That these weapon systems are to be considered as being interrelated and also in connection with the question of their locations i.e. the bases, is determined by the factual state of affairs. After all, the Soviet Union cannot disregard hundreds of American nuclear carriers which due to their location can reach the territory of the USSR and its allies and which thereby constitute a substantial and integral element of the general strategic situation. The same is also true of the bases per se which not only expand operational capabilities of the systems already there but make it possible in a short time, additionally and on a great scale, to increase the number of such systems.

It is not a new question at all. This question was already subject of discussion in the process of negotiations on strategic arms limitation. It was touched upon by us too when we met in Vienna last year.

We are prepared to begin right now the negotiations that we are proposing, without waiting for the SALT–2 Treaty ratification. However, practical implementation of agreements that could be reached during these negotiations, as is understood, would be carried out only after the Treaty enters into force. This is necessitated by the fact, that [Page 874] the subject of the proposed negotiations is closely tied not only to the existing balance of forces in Europe but also to the general strategic equilibrium between the USSR and the USA.

I want You to understand me correctly, Mr. President: we are confident about our ability to neutralize any attempts to disrupt the existing correlation of forces, to change it in the NATO favor and to attain military supremacy over us. In other words, if the West triggers a new round of arms race, we will, although with a heavy heart, accept the challenge.

However, we believed and continue to believe that further arms race is not the kind of a road which can lead to a stronger security of anyone; on the contrary, this road is fraught with serious danger for all countries and peoples without exception. This is the reason why we resolutely favor negotiations and are convinced that only this way corresponds to the vital interests of the peoples of the USSR and the USA, as well as all other peoples.

Since there has been no answer from the American side to the proposal we made, we cannot but have an impression that the US government took the course of delaying the beginning of the negotiations. In the meantime, the possibility, which we believe is there, to find a mutually acceptable solution may slip away and be wiped out by the march of events.

I would like to hope, Mr. President, that You will accord all due attention to this communication of mine and that we will be able without further delays to reach agreement on the beginning of negotiations on the aforementioned question.


L. Brezhnev3
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 61, Soviet Exchanges: 1/79–10/80. Secret; Sensitive. Printed from a Soviet translation and received on August 25. Brzenzinski wrote in the upper-right hand corner, “JT [presumably James Thomson], MB [Marshall Brement] 1) need quick assessment 2) reply. ZB.”
  2. See footnote 2, Document 277.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.