74. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • Ambassador Dobrynin

While a great deal of the conversation was purely social, during the more serious part of the lunch the following points were made:

1. Ethiopia: I pointed out to Dobrynin that I see clouds on the horizon insofar as U.S.-Soviet relations are concerned. The biggest cloud is Ethiopia. I do not wish to debate the rights and wrongs of the situation, but simply to stress that the scale and intensity of the Soviet/Cuban involvement is going to produce a domestic feedback in this country, affecting our relations. It is neither in their nor in our interest for this to happen. Dobrynin made the usual arguments, invoking even our military presence in Iran as a justification, but ultimately agreed that it is important somehow to terminate this issue as a danger to our relations. He said that he has already made that point to Moscow. Basically, he agreed that the best solution would be an immediate termination of the conflict, based on the principle of territorial integrity, accompanied by the pull-out of the Soviets and perhaps Cubans. However, on the latter point he was rather vague.

2. Nuclear Weapons: He urged a positive U.S. initiative regarding earlier overtures by Brezhnev about non-first use. He thought that this would have a more desirable psychological impact. He added that he thought that the Soviet leaders feel that by and large our attitude throughout the year has been negative.

3. Carter-Brezhnev Meeting: I suggested to Dobrynin that some of the difficulties in our relations could perhaps be overcome if our two leaders could consult with each other. I told him that it is a mistake for them to insist on tying a meeting to major agreements, because we could wait for such a meeting too long and it could finally come at a time when the relationship had gravely deteriorated. Dobrynin made the usual argument about the press misconstruing a meeting without major agreements as a failure. I told him that in my judgment we could have three kinds of a meeting: (1) a meeting linked to major agreements—in which case we may have to wait a long time; (2) a meeting tied to seeming agreements, as for example on the Indian Ocean, in [Page 263] which case the press will consider that to be a subterfuge; (3) or a working meeting, advertised in advance as consultative and not designed to achieve any accommodation on any issue. That might be the most desirable and useful at this stage. Dobrynin seemed to agree, asked how such a meeting could be arranged, and what would be its circumstances. I responded by indicating either Camp David or perhaps even a place in Alaska. He said he would pursue this matter further but also urged me to have the President bring it up with Ponomarev,2 whom he very much hoped the President would see.

4. Other High-Level Meetings: Dobrynin suggested that either Vance or I pay a visit to Moscow. Alternatively, Gromyko might come here to continue the dialogue. This, too, was an issue he thought it might be useful for the President to discuss with Ponomarev.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Outside the System File, Box 49, Chron: 1/78. Secret. The initial C is written in the upper right-hand corner of the memorandum indicating that Carter saw it.
  2. Boris Ponomarev, chief of the International Department of the CPSU Central Committee.