90. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • SALT; South African Nuclear Test; Middle East; Yugoslavia; China; Environmental Modification (Part 2 of 2)


  • US
  • The Secretary
  • Deputy Secretary Marshall D. Shulman
  • USSR
  • Amb. Anatoliy Dobrynin

Following a discussion of the Horn of Africa, Dobrynin raised several other topics.

1. SALT. Dobrynin asked if there had been any developments in the U.S. position on SALT issues. The Secretary said these matters had been worked on, and were still in the decision process. Dobrynin said that he had tried to be of help at a recent dinner given by the British Ambassador which was attended by many prominent Senators and Congressmen, most of whom were opponents of the SALT treaty. He expressed surprise that the opponents seemed to know so little about what had been going on at the Geneva talks, and gave his impression, which he said was shared by Senator McIntyre, that if the Administration vigorously campaigned for SALT, there would be public and Con[Page 300]gressional acceptance of the treaty, although he agreed that the Administration should not “expend its ammunition now.”

2. South African nuclear test site. Dobrynin said that he would like to have a response to the Soviet communication of last week on this subject,2 and the Secretary replied that this would be ready when Dobrynin came in on March 16.

3. Dobrynin said he would also like a response to the Soviet oral note on Israeli nuclear weapon capabilities.3 The Secretary said he would have a reply ready, but he added that while our intelligence community agreed that Israel had the capability to make nuclear weapons, it was split on the question of whether it had already done so. Dobrynin observed that he had a “higher opinion of the US intelligence people” than this answer implied.

4. Middle East. Dobrynin asked what was expected of the Begin visit. The Secretary sketched briefly the issues of the interpretation of Resolution 242, and whether it applied to all fronts, the settlements, and how to deal with the Palestinian question. He said, in response to a question, that he did not know what position Begin would take on these issues.

In response to a question, Dobrynin said he did not have any information about the current Arafat visit to Moscow, but that he would bring in at the time of his next visit whatever information he could get.

Dobrynin asked if the Administration were willing to split up its proposal for arms to Israel, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and was given a negative reply. Dobrynin quoted Senator Jackson as saying that the Congress and the “Israeli lobby in the U.S.” were split on this issue, and that he was not sure which way the Congress would vote on it.

Dobrynin expressed the opinion that Begin could get a majority from his parliament for a more flexible policy, since in his opinion it was “the best deal Israel could get now.”

5. Tito visit. Dobrynin asked how the visit had gone, and was told it had been a good visit. Dobrynin observed that Tito’s views had more in common with those of the Soviet Union than with those of the U.S. He noted that Tito had received “royal treatment,” and said that Tito “liked these things.” He said there was not now any trouble between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, and he made a point of asking if Tito had raised any question about Yugoslavia’s future independence, as had been mentioned in the American press so prominently. He was told that the question had not been raised, and that Tito seemed self-[Page 301]confident. Dobrynin observed: “nobody knows what could happen afterwards.”

6. China. Dobrynin asked how the U.S. evaluated recent developments in China, and expressed agreement with the view that Teng had come out less well than might have been expected. He added that Teng was not liked because of his excessive ambition.

In response to a question, Dobrynin said he thought the treaty between China and Japan would be signed, but that it would be made clear that the anti-hegemony clause was not intended to refer to any particular country. He expressed the personal view that he didn’t see why the Soviet Union should be so edgy about the anti-hegemony clause, any more than the U.S. should be.

7. Environmental Modification. Dobrynin transmitted an oral note4 (in Russian, with an unofficial English translation) expressing the hope that the U.S. and the Soviet Union could ratify the Convention on Environmental Modification before the US [U.N.] Special Session on Disarmament. (Copies attached.)

  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/Christopher, 3/11/78. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Shulman on March 13; approved by Anderson on March 17. The meeting took place at the Department of State. Part 2 of 2; part 1 is printed as Document 89.
  2. See Document 87 and the attachment thereto.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 83.
  4. Attached but not printed.