79. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • US-Soviet Relations


  • US
  • The Secretary
  • Marshall D. Shulman, S/MS
  • USSR
  • Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin

The Secretary transmitted to Dobrynin a copy of the President’s letter to Brezhnev of January 25, the original of which had been delivered in Moscow yesterday.2

[Page 274]

PNG Exchange: The Secretary noted that Dobrynin has preferred not to accept our offer to show him the film on the Avdyunin case,3 expressing instead a desire to talk privately about our mutual understanding on how such cases are handled. Dobrynin said he understood from Vasev that the movie made it clear that the episode was set up for the purpose of making the movie, that the questions asked were leading and insinuating and that, in short, there was no doubt in their minds that this entrapment was arranged in retaliation against the Moscow cases.

The Secretary said there was no question in our minds about the man’s guilt, that the film was merely confirmatory of what he had been doing. Shulman added details in support of this point.

(Although Dobrynin had earlier expressed a desire to talk over the “rules of the game,” he now fenced and asked if the Secretary or Shulman had anything to suggest, showing reluctance to initiate discussion.)

After a further repetition of the contradictory views of the Avdyunin case, it was agreed by both Dobrynin and the Secretary that the matter should be “cooled down.” It was also agreed that it would be desirable to avoid publicity, although Dobrynin protested that the US sometimes engaged in one-sided publicity. He warned that this would create a temptation to Moscow to publicize matters that had previously been handled with restraint.

Ponomarev Group: The Secretary expressed sadness over the episode in Los Angeles in which a member of the group had been splattered with salad thrown by a demonstrator.4 He added that additional security would be provided at subsequent stops. Dobrynin expressed appreciation for the Secretary’s sentiments, which he said he would transmit to Ponomarev when he saw him in New York February 1. In general, Dobrynin said, the trip had been successful.

Middle East: The Secretary said that he would give Dobrynin a report on the results of the Sadat visit during the coming weekend. He said, in response to questions, that the Political Committee was considering resumption of its activities, with Atherton serving as a go-between, that the main issue involved concerned Palestinian repre[Page 275]sentation, and that the Sinai settlements issue was being handled in the Military Committee, in which we were not involved.

SALT Ratification: Dobrynin observed that during the meetings between the Ponomarev delegation and the Congress, there had been some mention that SALT might be referred to both Houses of Congress for a simple majority vote. The Secretary said that this procedure, while it would relieve the necessity of having a two-thirds vote in the Senate, would raise other risks in involving the House.

Belgrade: Dobrynin asked the Secretary to take under consideration the situation at Belgrade, where he felt the draft text submitted by the Soviet Union, although admittedly imperfect, had not received fair attention. He expressed concern that the situation at Belgrade had degenerated into polemical exchanges, and that the opportunity for constructive agreement was being lost. The Secretary agreed to examine the various draft proposals.

The Horn: The Secretary referred to the principles he had discussed with Ponomarev, in the hope that the Soviet side would examine them and present any ideas it might have for moving toward a negotiated solution to the problem. Dobrynin said that he would be discussing the subject with Ponomarev in New York on February 1. The Secretary then went on to make the point that the increase in Soviet ships in the Red Sea, including landing ships, and the Indian Ocean, was having a negative effect, would make negotiations and a solution to the problem more difficult, and would have a provocative effect. He stressed the seriousness with which such steps were regarded here, and said we ought to be moving in the other direction, toward establishing the conditions for a negotiated solution. Dobrynin said he understood, and would pass on the message.

At a subsequent point, the discussion returned to this subject, and Dobrynin said a crucial consideration for the start of negotiations was to get Somali withdrawal from the Ogaden. The Secretary said he agreed, but it was necessary to work out the timing of the withdrawal, and an agreement on what should take place after the withdrawal, leading to some form of self-determination and autonomy.

SALT and Miscellany: Dobrynin observed that Brezhnev was back on the job, and that Gromyko was now away on a two-week vacation, although not far from Moscow. He thought that ultimately a meeting between Gromyko and the Secretary might be required to work out the final unresolved issues in the SALT negotiations. In this connection, the Secretary said that he would soon be giving Dobrynin a list of matters concerning Backfire which remained to be worked out. Dobrynin said: “Fair enough.”

  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, CV–Dobrynin, 1/31/78. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Shulman; approved by Anderson on February 13. The meeting took place at the Department of State.
  2. See Document 77.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 73.
  4. Boris Ponomarev, Candidate Member of the Politburo of the CPSU and Secretary of the Central Committee, met with Vance on January 26. Ponomarev headed the Supreme Soviet Delegation that visited the United States. The two memoranda of conversation are in 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 8, Supreme Soviet Visit, January 22–February 2, 1978, and Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 10, Vance EXDIS MemCons, 1978.