91. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • Anatoliy Dobrynin

During a prolonged and quite candid lunch with Ambassador Dobrynin, the following points were made:

1. Ambassador Dobrynin enumerated examples of what he considered to be either the hostility or excessive hardness of the Carter Administration. He mentioned specifically human rights, the Middle East and particularly U.S. unwillingness to make further concessions in SALT after Gromyko’s visit here. He particularly stressed the proposition that in a collective leadership, such as the Soviet, U.S. hardness [Page 302] tends to produce rigidity on the part of the Soviets and an inclination to be equally hard.

2. In my response I indicated to him that he ought to be aware of our concerns. I suggested to him that Soviet behavior in the Horn, even if that was subjectively motivated by concerns for territorial integrity, objectively creates consequences which we cannot entirely dismiss. I mentioned in this connection our concern for Southern Africa, as well as the fact that they should be aware that any Cuban deployment into Yemen would precipitate the most serious reactions from the Saudis and that we could not be indifferent in that context. This point was clearly registered with him. I also mentioned the Soviet campaign regarding human rights, the neutron bomb, and lack of genuine cooperation in the Middle East. Finally, I mentioned that it might be useful for the top leaders to talk about these matters in a purely consultative setting; if that is not possible because of the Soviet desire to tie meetings to major agreements, perhaps some thought should be given to top level officials of the two countries engaging in such discussions. I stressed that this was purely an informal thought which I was presenting to him in the context of this discussion.

3. Dobrynin rebutted the above analyses but showed considerable interest in the idea of such consultative meetings. At the same time, he indicated that it would be useful to tie such a consultative meeting to at least one positive item, which would be concrete and which would indicate a spirit of accommodation on the part of the United States.

4. On leaving, he again returned to the idea of such a meeting and wanted to know whether I might be in a position to pursue it further with him before he leaves this Friday.2 I made no promises and I did not respond to that any further.

5. Additional points of interest. He mentioned in passing that the American agent detained some time ago by the Soviets—in the case involving a female CIA operative—passed his poison to a girlfriend of his who used it (the friend was apparently implicated in his activity); Soviet leaders have no way of discriminating intended targets for U.S. missiles in the event of a U.S. missile attack; he rejected any linkage between the neutron bomb and the SS–20.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Outside the System File, Box 50, Chron: 3/78. Secret.
  2. March 17.