301. Letter From Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev to President Carter1

Esteemed Mr. President,

I avail myself of this opportunity—the meeting between the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR, A.A. Gromyko, and the United States Secretary of State, E. Muskie2—to convey a reply to your letter of September 23 on questions of limiting nuclear arms in Europe.

Your interpretation of the reasons for a delay in starting negotiations on these questions and your considerations as to the motives for the NATO decision to develop and deploy new American missiles in Western Europe certainly cannot be accepted.

Neither can we accept the interpretation of the events in Afghanistan contained in your letter, or an attempt to link these events with issues that have no relation to them whatsoever.

In taking note of the readiness expressed in your letter to begin an exchange of views on nuclear arms in Europe, I must say that this time, too, you have failed to respond to the substance of our proposal to the [Page 882] effect that concurrently and in organic interrelation discussions be held on questions pertaining to both medium-range nuclear systems in Europe and US forward-based nuclear systems.

Our approaching the issue in this way—and I have already written this to you—is determined by the principle of equality and equal security. We are pursuing no other objective. There is nothing unclear about this position of ours. But the question of what specific systems would be limited and in what way is naturally something that is subject to discussion and agreement.

It is important, and I emphasize this point, that the exchange of views—no matter what it is called—should deal from the very beginning precisely with the substance of the problem. Proceeding from this understanding and taking note of the considerations you put forward in your letter, we propose as a practical matter to start such an exchange of views during the week beginning on October 13. A.A. Gromyko and E. Muskie could agree on the organizational aspects of the matter and on when to make an announcement of the understanding reached.

In conclusion I would like to emphasize that the Soviet Union approaches the forthcoming negotiations on the substance of the problem in all seriousness and will do everything necessary for achieving in them mutually acceptable results provided the US side takes a similar approach.


L. Brezhnev4
  1. Source: Carter Library, Plains File, President’s Personal Foreign Affairs File, Box 5, USSR (General): 9/77–12/80. No classification marking. Printed from the U.S.-edited translation. Carter wrote in the upper-right hand corner, “Zbig J.” Original letter in Russian was attached.
  2. Muskie met with Gromyko during his trip to the United States for the United Nations General Assembly meeting. See Document 302.
  3. See Document 299.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.