45. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • US
  • The Secretary
  • Marshall D. Shulman, S/MS
  • Paul C. Warnke, ACDA
  • USSR
  • Ambassador Anatoliy F. Dobrynin

1. Middle East. Dobrynin opened by conveying Gromyko’s thanks for the comprehensive briefing on the Secretary’s Middle East trip received on August 18.2 Gromyko will be ready by the Vienna meeting3 to convey his consideration of related questions. Among other things, he will discuss the possibility of preparing, perhaps by the time of the Washington meeting, a joint US-Soviet co-chairmen’s statement about some basic principles of a settlement, including the rights of Palestinian self-determination and statehood, as well as the order and time for the resumption of a Middle East conference. The Secretary gave his reply later in the conversation, saying that he would be glad to have Gromyko bring with him or to send ahead his thoughts about a statement of principles. The Secretary expressed the feeling that it should be possible, before Gromyko left Washington, to settle on a date or at least a month for the Geneva meeting, and said he thought December would be a realistic possibility.

Dobrynin asked about the situation in southern Lebanon, and expressed concern lest the Israelis take military action. The Secretary replied that we had gone over this issue with the Israelis, and had received commitments that they would not take military action. The Secretary then reviewed the main elements of the most recent plan proposed by Boutros, the Foreign Minister of Lebanon. In addition to the Shtaura agreement,4 it would include the following steps: (1) remove the Palestinian fighters to camps at Tyre; (2) allow some armed Palestinians in the Arqub area and in the vicinity of Bint Jubayl (3) deploy [Page 188] 1,000 armed Lebanese soldiers in the southern area (Dobrynin: Do they have that many? The Secretary: Yes, they do now, and they hope to build this up to 1,400); (4) Those Palestinians who entered Lebanon since 1969 would be transferred to Syria. Boutros believed the Syrians, Palestinians and the Lebanese government were close to agreement in principle along these lines, but did not yet have a definite agreement.

Dobrynin said he would keep us informed on the results of the current Arafat visit to Moscow.

2. China Trip. In reporting on his trip to China,5 the Secretary said that it had been particularly interesting to arrive following the Party Congress. He observed that a new sense of self-confidence could be felt, following the several trying years that had preceded it. This was now behind them, and the leaders appeared to be of one mind on how to attack the problems of the future, to which they looked forward with optimism, in the light of their support from the country. One could feel even in the street impressions a sense of a more open situation. In a pragmatic and less ideological spirit, the leaders will concentrate on internal goals in the next decade or so, rather than on foreign policy.

The Secretary reported that he had discussed with the Chinese some international issues, including the recovery of confidence in the United States; a region-by-region review, beginning with Asia (largely on Japan and Korea), the Middle East (where the Chinese knowledge had been sketchy, and some misunderstandings were dispelled), political, economic and security aspects of Europe (where Chinese information also appeared to be fragmented), Africa (particularly Namibia and Rhodesia, describing our joint efforts with the British, and our shift to greater cooperation with the Africans—the Chinese asked many questions and showed special interest in the subject).

Among non-regional issues, the Secretary reported he had described US efforts to widen normal relations with as many countries as possible, including North Vietnam, Cuba, etc. On the issue of nuclear proliferation, he said, the Chinese took the same position they had taken during his previous visit two years ago. He had spoken also of the human rights issue and other global aspects of US policy.

Among bilateral issues, the Secretary said he had discussed normalization of relations, trade, and cultural relations, claim assets, etc. No decisions were made on the matter of normalization, he reported, but the discussion was good and contributed to a better understanding of each other’s position. It was agreed to continue our consultations in the future on this subject.

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Dobrynin asked for the Secretary’s impressions of Teng Hsiao-Ping and Hua Kuo Feng. The Secretary replied that Teng seemed bubbling and vigorous, expressing satisfaction with his having been resurrected three times; Hua seemed thoughtful, quiet, well-suited for his role as Chairman. Dobrynin said this corresponded with Soviet impressions.

3. Embassy Fire. At the Secretary’s request, Shulman expressed appreciation for the Soviet cooperation in dealing with the problems raised by the fire in our Moscow embassy.6 He said that we would be preparing a list of matters on which further cooperation would be appreciated, and expressed hope that we would not again have the airport clearance delay which had marred an otherwise splendid record of cooperation. Dobrynin gave assurances that he would be ready to help in any way we required.

4. SALT. The Secretary then turned to a discussion of the plans for the next round of strategic arms limitation negotiations. He said that he had read with care the reports of the conversations between Dobrynin, Warnke and Brzezinski last week, and also of the interview between Gromyko and Senator McGovern, and these had all reenforced his concern that the two sides were still so far apart that the progress we both hoped to make at Vienna did not yet seem within reach. He therefore suggested for Soviet consideration the possibility that we both give ourselves more time, and that we postpone the meeting of the Foreign Ministers until Gromyko comes to Washington September 22–23. Speaking personally, said the Secretary, he felt that an unproductive meeting in Vienna would not be good for either side, and that with more time, it might be possible for the Soviet side to reflect on matters that had been discussed, and for us to be able to put into Dobrynin’s hands well in advance of the next meeting for staff study the results of our own reflections.

Dobrynin said he would have to consult his government, but expressed the personal view that he felt a sense of relief. Although the interim conversations had helped explicate our position, he had intended to say to the Secretary that he had not noted any significant developments since Geneva that would lead to a productive meeting. Although he was not authorized to say so, he said he felt impelled to express his personal feeling that we were headed for a deadlock in the negotiations, and that the postponement was a good idea.

The Secretary gave Dobrynin a draft of a press statement on the possible postponement and on the intent of the two governments to [Page 190] continue to observe the terms of the Interim Agreement, which might be issued simultaneously in Moscow and Washington. Dobrynin raised some question initially about the Interim Agreement announcement, fearing that it would convey a sense of fatalism about the September meeting, but after discussion and reflection, expressed willingness to convey the draft to Moscow for consideration. The Secretary asked Dobrynin to convey to Gromyko his strong feeling that it would be useful to say something now about the Interim Agreement, to ward off negative interpretations of the postponement. It was agreed that, subject to Soviet concurrence, the press statement would be released Thursday, September 1, at noon Washington time, 7 p.m. Moscow time.7

It was further agreed that the two Foreign Ministers would meet on September 22, and that Gromyko’s meeting with the President would follow on the 23rd.

Dobrynin said he would seek a response from Moscow as soon as possible on the proposal for postponement and the press statement.

There followed a brief review of selected SALT issues. In the course of a summation of his impression of the US position, Dobrynin made it clear that he had not clearly understood some figures mentioned by Brzezinski at their last meeting. The point at issue appeared to be that if the ALCMed bombers were to be counted under the MIRV aggregate, as the Soviet Union now wished, the US would in practice be limited to a SNDV aggregate of 2080, while the Soviet Union would have an aggregate of 2250. Dobrynin asked if it were the US intention to propose that the Soviet Union reduce its aggregate to 2080. Warnke said that he would supply Dobrynin with a paper clarifying the point.

Dobrynin restated the Soviet preference for including limitations on air-to-surface missiles in the treaty rather than in the protocol, and also the Soviet position that a reduction in the MIRV aggregate without the inclusion of ALCMed bombers would have the practical effect of giving the US a MIRV advantage.

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Special Adviser to the Secretary (S/MS) on Soviet Affairs Marshall Shulman—Jan 21, 77–Jan 19, 81, Lot 81D109, Box 3, DobryninVance, 8/29/77. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Shulman on August 29.
  2. See Document 43.
  3. Vance and Gromyko were scheduled to meet in Vienna during the first week of September to discuss SALT. The meeting was cancelled, and SALT discussions between the two resumed when Gromyko traveled to the United States in late September. (Bernard Gwertzman, “This Week’s Meeting is Canceled, and the Old Pact May be Extended: SALT Just Isn’t Going Anywhere,” The New York Times, September 4, 1977, p. 110)
  4. For information on the Shtaura Agreement see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VIII, Arab-Israeli Dispute, January 1977–August 1978, footnote 2, Document 76.
  5. August 20–26; for memoranda of conversations from these meetings, see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XIII, China, Documents 4751.
  6. The fire was on August 26. For more information on the fire, see telegram Tosec 90191/205090 to the Secretary’s Delegation, August 26, in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770309–1260.
  7. No press statement was found.