58. Letter From President Carter to Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev1

Dear Mr. President:

On the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Soviet Union, I want to extend to you privately, as I will be doing more formally in a separate public message, my warm congratulations. I wish you and the Soviet people every success in the efforts to enhance the peaceful well-being of your country.

Let me also take advantage of this opportunity to share with you my thoughts about our joint pursuit of better relations between our two countries.

We still have some distance to go to achieve an agreement on strategic arms that would be mutually satisfactory. I hope that our negotiators will soon be able to resolve the outstanding issues. Otherwise, unnecessary delay—as was the case after February 1976—may make it increasingly difficult for us to reach accommodation. Our own major goal in seeking an agreement is to achieve the sharpest mutual reductions and to insure balanced forces, with adequate verification of compliance with agreements.

I hope that as we move forward on questions of limiting and reducing strategic arms we can at the same time take useful steps in other aspects of our relations. A comprehensive ban on all nuclear testing will slow the nuclear arms race, and will also have a highly beneficial impact on opinion in my country and in the world at large. I am gratified by your statement of November 2nd.2 It is an important and constructive step which brings us closer to agreement. I would also wel[Page 220]come your suggestions about how we might implement and verify your proposal that no more nuclear weapons be produced.

One issue is of increasing concern to us. The continuing tests in space of anti-satellite devices by the Soviet Union have been carefully noted in our country. This concern has emerged in our efforts to build support in the U.S. Senate for a SALT agreement. This is a seriously destabilizing development which we have voluntarily foregone, although we would have the technical capability to build similar systems. A very early joint agreement not to conduct further tests and to forego this capability would be helpful.

As you know, we are making some progress in the Middle East under difficult circumstances and, with your help, there is a good prospect that the parties will agree to go to Geneva this year under mutually proposed procedures, and in the proper spirit of compromise. The United States has been exerting much effort to that end with all the nations involved, and I hope that the Soviet Union will also use its influence on Syria and the other nations in a positive and forceful manner.

Let me also draw your personal attention to certain conditions which adversely affect the well-being of the U.S. Embassy’s personnel in Moscow from their repeated exposure to unwarranted doses of directed radiation. I do not wish to raise this issue publicly into a source of difficulty between our governments but you can well understand the reason for our deep concern.

Finally, I would like to take advantage of this private communication to express the hope that the events in your country commemorating sixty years of Soviet power will, in addition to reflecting the successes and aspirations of the Soviet people, also contribute positively to our mutual relations. Should the spirit of magnanimity expressed in such acts as you may take in connection with the anniversary extend to individuals whose situation is closely followed here, I assure you such a step would contribute greatly to the improving atmosphere in our relations.

Mr. President, my overall assessment is that progress is being made toward a more cooperative and harmonious relationship between our countries. This is one of my major goals, and I know that you share this desire. Despite difficult obstacles, I believe that together we can resolve other remaining problems which derive, perhaps inevitably, from our different societal systems and varying points of view.

You have my best personal wishes.


Jimmy Carter
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Outside the System File, Box 69, USSR: BrezhnevCarter Correspondence: 6–12/77. No classification marking. In telegram 264784, November 5, the Department transmitted the text of the President’s letter.
  2. For text of Brezhnev’s speech on the 60th Anniversary of the Soviet Union, see The Current Digest of the Soviet Press, vol. XXIX, no. 44 (November 30, 1977), pp. 1–6, 11.