49. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • US
  • The Secretary
  • Marshall Shulman
  • USSR
  • Amb. Dobrynin

Ambassador Dobrynin came in September 15 at his request to report on replies received from Moscow to several points discussed with him at previous meetings,2 related to the forthcoming discussions with Foreign Minister Gromyko. The meeting lasted from 5 p.m. until 6:40 p.m.

He transmitted the text of the Soviet unilateral statement regarding the Soviet intention to take no actions inconsistent with the Interim Agreement after its expiration and while SALT negotiations are proceeding, provided that the United States exercises similar restraints. Statement would be issued during Gromyko visit. (Text of statement at Tab 1, in Russian and English translation as provided by Dobrynin.)3

Dobrynin also transmitted language for a joint US-Soviet statement expressing determination to conclude a new SALT agreement, which could either be issued separately or as part of a communique at the conclusion of the Gromyko visit to Washington. (Texts of Russian and English translation as provided at Tab 2.)

Dobrynin then transmitted a non-paper indicating a negative Moscow reaction to the proposal to limit Soviet MLBMs to 220, and to limit the number of bombers carrying ALCMs to 250. The statement also repeated the charge that the United States is striving for unilateral advantages, and expressed the hope that the US would approach the talks with Gromyko with “more realistic positions.” (Text of non-paper, as supplied in English handwriting, at Tab C [3].) In transmitting the message, Dobrynin observed: “This is something we will both regret.”

In the discussion that followed, Dobrynin expressed the view that further efforts to elicit counter-proposals to the points raised would not [Page 202] be likely to be productive, since the Soviet commitment to “the Vladivostok agreements” (and by extension to the negotiations of January and February, 1976) was a matter of principle, and was accompanied by strong emotion. It was clear from the lengthy discussion following that fundamental differences of recollection and interpretation remained on what was agreed to by the United States at Vladivostok and the subsequent negotiations. Dobrynin insisted that Secretary Kissinger had agreed, and President Ford had affirmed in writing, on aggregate ceilings, on counting ALCMs as MIRVs and on a 2500 km range limit on ALCMs. He also thought, but less certainly, that agreement had been reached on a 600 km range limit on SLCMs and GLCMs. He insisted that the language used at Vladivostok had referred to “air to surface missiles,” and had not, in a number of specific instances, included the adjective “ballistic.”

Moreover, Dobrynin added, the Soviet leadership was uncertain until April or May where the present Administration stood on these points, since they had been repeated by Brezhnev in his letters to President Carter, and had not been specifically rejected in the President’s responses. He also cited the Brzezinski press conference of April 14 as evidence that the US administration still held to the position that bombers carrying ALCMs would be counted under the MIRV aggregate. The Secretary refuted this interpretation of the Vladivostok agreement, and said that the press conference referred to did not constitute a formal statement of the Administration’s diplomatic position. He added that further arguments about Vladivostok would be sterile, and could not lead to productive discussions when Gromyko came.

Dobrynin responded by saying that the essence of the matter, as he saw it, was that the negotiations were premised upon the acceptance by both sides of a rough strategic equivalence, and that the US efforts to limit Soviet ICBMs, their principal reliance in that equivalence, appeared to them as an effort to gain a strategic superiority through negotiations, since US advantages in submarines, bombers and now cruise missiles, would not be equally limited. “As they see it in Moscow, you here think we are weak economically and have other problems, and expect us to yield to your demands for superiority, but we won’t. We are prepared to make any sacrifices necessary, and our people will, when they understand that the US is unwilling to accept parity.”

There followed some inconclusive discussion whether it would be useful, in the absence of other agreement, to conclude an agreement on the Vladivostok ceilings on delivery vehicles and MIRVs, perhaps with [Page 203] some projected reductions, and continue to work on the unresolved issues.

It was agreed to meet again September 16.5

  1. Source: Carter Library, Brzezinski Donated Material, Subject File, Box 38, SALT—9/1/77–9/15/77. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Shulman on September 16. The meeting took place in Vance’s office at the Department of State.
  2. See Documents 45, 47, and 48
  3. Three tabs were attached but not printed.
  4. For a summary of Brzezinski’s April 1 press conference, see Don Oberdorfer, “Brzezinski: Hopes for the Future,” The Washington Post, April 2, 1977, p. A1.
  5. No record of the meeting was found.