299. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union1

232100. Subject: President’s Reply to Brezhnev Letter on TNF2. Ref: State 226447.3

1. Confidential-entire text.

2. On Tuesday (September 2) Charge should request an appointment with Gromyko or Korniyenko for Wednesday (September 3) to deliver President Carter’s reply to Brezhnev’s August 21 letter on TNF (reftel). Text follows.

3. Begin text: Dear Mr. President: I am responding to your letter of August 21 concerning theater nuclear forces

—It is useful to recall that this matter arises primarily because of the Soviet Union’s substantial deployment of new long-range theater nuclear weapons, and in particular, the SS–20. Our own plans in NATO are a measured response which is necessary to preserve the security of our alliance. For our part, we did not have and do not now have any intent to seek any advantage in these weapons.

—Indeed from the very outset, we made clear our interest in negotiating equal limitations on theater nuclear forces in the framework of SALT III. Beginning in December 1979, we repeatedly urged the Soviet Union to join with us in preliminary exchanges to this end without precondition or delay, notwithstanding postponement of ratification of the SALT II Treaty caused by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

—For the ensuing seven months, your own position and proposals delayed any discussions because they required that we and our allies renounce the planned deployments which are necessary to respond to your own substantial and ongoing programs. Now that you have agreed to move ahead without any preconditions, the path toward preliminary exchanges lies open and we are preparing for them in consultation with our allies.

—I note your views concerning what you refer to as American “forward-based systems.” We have also repeatedly stated our views on this issue. We continue to believe that the most expeditious way of pro[Page 876]ceeding to concrete arms controls results is to focus initially on achieving agreed limits on long-range land-based theater nuclear missiles, because these are the most dynamic and threatening new deployments. This approach will enhance the prospects of reaching timely agreement.

—I propose that Secretary of State Muskie and Foreign Minister Gromyko take the opportunity of their visits to the United Nations in September to agree upon precise timing and venue for the exchanges. It is, of course, my earnest hope that now that you have agreed to move ahead these important exchanges will be productive. Sincerely, Jimmy Carter. End text.

4. President’s letter should be dated September 2, 1980.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P910096–1982. Confidential; Cherokee; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted in the White House; cleared by H. Allen Holmes (EUR), Raymond Seitz (S/S), Raymond Snider (D), and Bartholomew; approved by Christopher.
  2. See Document 298.
  3. Telegram 226447 to Moscow, August 26, transmitted the text of Brezhnev’s letter to Carter on TNF. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P910096–1652)