4. Letter From Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev to President Carter1

Dear Mr. President,

On behalf of my colleagues in the leadership and on my own I would like to congratulate you once again upon entering the office of the President of the United States of America.

I have carefully studied your letter of January 262 and found it on the whole constructive and encouraging. We received with satisfaction the affirmation that the goal of your policy is to improve relations with the Soviet Union and that you intend to pay personal attention to that. It is consistent with our basic approach which I have recently once again expounded publicly. Now I want to emphasize that we are prepared to make through joint efforts a new major progress in the relations between our countries.

As I see it, a business-like and confidential dialogue is being established between ourselves.

It is naturally important that from the very beginning of our contacts there were a clear and mutual understanding on issues of principle.

The main thing here—and the past experience convincingly confirms it—is the necessity to strictly observe the fundamental principles of equality, mutual consideration of legitimate interests, mutual benefit and non-interference in the internal affairs of the other side. Such and only such an approach by both sides, which fully corresponds to the Basic Principles of relations between our countries,3 signed in 1972, can provide for an even onward development of relations between the USSR and the US as well as for the possibility of finding mutually acceptable solutions for the issues that arise.

Indeed, the cooperation of our two countries to end the arms race and to achieve disarmament is, due to objective reasons, the central area of relations between the USSR and the US at the present time. Only [Page 14]in this way the main task facing our peoples and other nations—that of removing danger of war and certainly the danger of nuclear-rocket war in the first place—can be solved.

As you have also noted, it is necessary to complete without delay the working out of a new agreement on strategic offensive arms limitation. This task, as we see it, is quite attainable. Indeed, the main parameters of an agreement have been in fact already shaped up on the basis of the understanding reached in Vladivostok. Successful completion of this extremely important and necessary matter would allow [us?] to directly proceed to more far-reaching measures in this area and would undoubtedly give a new impetus to constructive development of Soviet-American relations on the whole.

It is our understanding that the questions of strategic arms limitation will occupy the main place in the talks with Secretary of State Vance when he comes to Moscow.

In our opinion, it is also necessary to put into force without further delay the Soviet-US Treaties on the limitation of underground nuclear weapon tests and on the explosions for peaceful purposes. At the same time efforts should be intensified—and we are ready to cooperate with the United States in this matter—for complete and general cessation of nuclear weapon tests and the prevention of proliferation of such weapons.

We are in favor of achieving a progress in the Vienna negotiations on the reduction of armed forces and armaments in Central Europe. We would like the new US Government to regard with attention the proposals submitted there by the Warsaw Treaty countries last year.4

There are also other questions of arms limitation and disarmament which await their solution. Appropriate concrete proposals have been put forward by the Soviet Union on many of these questions and we hope that your Government would consider them in a constructive manner.

Of course, now that the arms race in the world has not yet been stopped we cannot but be concerned with the security of our country and that of our allies. Our defense capability should be sufficient so that no one would dare to launch an attack on us or to threaten us with an attack. In this sense, to borrow your expression, we seek nothing more or less for ourselves.

However, I would like to stress once again very definitely that the Soviet Union does not seek superiority in arms. We are deeply convinced that genuine security of all countries and, consequently, of each [Page 15]of them individually lies not in competition in the field of armaments but on the way of disarmament and elimination of material basis of war. We shall continue to direct our efforts as well at achieving that goal.

Now I shall briefly touch upon some other issues.

An important direction of joint or parallel efforts of our countries, given their objective roles and responsibilities in world affairs, is to facilitate solution of problems causing international tensions. The task here, in our opinion, is to eliminate the initial causes producing those problems.

Of prime importance in this respect as you, Mr. President, also rightly noted, is the establishment of just and lasting peace in the Middle East. Almost ten years have elapsed since the war of 1967. This “jubilee” acutely reminds us not simply of the time wasted for the resolution of the Middle East conflict but also of the possibility of new dangerous outbreaks—as it happened in October of 1973, and quite recently in Lebanon.

Meanwhile, we are convinced that if in dealing with the Middle East problem the legitimate rights and interests of all sides—both of Arabs, including Palestinians, and of Israel—would be realistically and objectively taken into consideration, then the reliable elimination of this permanent source of international conflicts would be quite possible. Finding a necessary understanding between the USSR and the US on this matter and in particular on the resumption of the Geneva Conference will undoubtedly contribute to the success of a major undertaking which is the achievement of a political settlement in the Middle East.

Cooperation of our two countries would be of essential importance, as we believe, on other international questions as well—be it further steps to strengthen European security on the basis of decisions adopted in Helsinki,5 strict observance of the Quadripartite agreement on West Berlin,6 or, say, a settlement in Cyprus.7

In your letter, Mr. President, you mention the problem of Southern Africa. Our position of principle on this question is well known: we are in solidarity with the struggle of the peoples of Southern Africa for their freedom and independence. We can recognize the right of nobody [Page 16]but the peoples themselves to determine their own destiny. The Soviet Union does not seek any advantages for itself in that region, neither is it interested in confrontation with the United States there in spite of what sometimes is alleged on that score.

Noting great importance which you, Mr. President, attach to the improvement of trade and economic relations, I would like to stress on my part that we were and continue to be in favor of our ties in this area developing on a stable basis and becoming ever greater in scope to the mutual, I emphasize, the mutual benefit of both sides. But it requires that they be freed from all kinds of discriminatory restrictions and artificially created obstacles. Without this, without abandoning the attempts to link in some way or another the trade with questions pertaining to internal competence of states, not only our economic ties will further suffer, but damage will be caused to the relations between our countries in general.

I hope, Mr. President, that given good will and sincere readiness for constructive cooperation with one another, you and I will be able to make a good contribution to the solution of existing problems. Some of them, along with the problem of strategic arms limitation, will obviously be a subject of exchange of views already at the time of Mr. Vance’s visit to Moscow.

In conclusion I want to emphasize that I attach, as you do, special importance to personal meeting between us. I will be prepared to discuss the questions related to such a meeting with Mr. Vance whom, as you wrote, you will ask to do that.

With my best wishes,

Sincerely,

L. Brezhnev8
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 61, Soviet Exchanges: 1/77–12/78. No classification marking. Printed from an unofficial translation. Carter wrote in the upper right-hand corner, “Zbig—They were found—J,” in response to Brzezinski’s covering memorandum, which reads, “These are copies. The missing originals are somewhere in your residence. A search is in progress! Zbig.”
  2. See Document 1.
  3. For the text of the “Basic Principles of Relations Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics,” May 29, 1972, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1972, pp. 633–634.
  4. Reference is to the MBFR talks. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXXIX, European Security, Document 371.
  5. Reference is to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe Final Act or Helsinki Accords. For the text of the Final Act, see Department of State Bulletin, September 1, 1975, pp. 323–350.
  6. See footnote 6, Document 3.
  7. For information on the 1974 coup in Cyprus, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XV, Soviet Union, June 1972–August 1974, Documents 201207. As of February 1977, a settlement had not been reached.
  8. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.