76. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Carter-Gromyko Plenary Meeting

PARTICIPANTS

  • U.S.

    • The President
    • Secretary Cyrus R. Vance
    • Secretary Harold Brown
    • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • Ambassador Warnke
    • Ambassador Toon
    • Mr. David Aaron
    • Mr. Reginald Bartholomew
    • Mr. William D. Krimer, Interpreter
  • U.S.S.R.

    • Foreign Minister A.A. Gromyko
    • First Deputy Foreign Minister G.M. Korniyenko
    • Ambassador A.F. Dobrynin
    • Mr. V.G. Makarov
    • Mr. V.G. Komplektov
    • Mr. A.A. Bessmertnykh
    • Mr. N.N. Detinov
    • Mr. V.M. Sukhodrev, Interpreter

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the Middle East.]

Middle East

The President believed that both our countries wanted to pursue peace in that region. Each of us had close relations with the countries involved in the Middle East dispute. We felt that the Camp David discussion had produced a viable mechanism for working out a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, the main combatants in that area. He expressed the hope that the Soviet Union could help to move this process along, and that within the bounds of its own foreign policy it would support the Camp David agreements. We did not have any military forces in that area and, in fact, our observers in the Sinai might be removed once that peace treaty went into effect.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the Middle East.]

[Page 278]Gromyko wanted to speak briefly on some specific aspects the President had touched upon.

Middle East

With regard to the Middle East situation he had to say that the Soviet Union took a different approach to the actual state of affairs in that area. He would note that both sides agreed that the situation there was complex and dangerous. As for methods to resolve Middle East problems and the specific political steps necessary to ensure a settlement of the Middle East problems, our respective standpoints were entirely different. Regarding the Camp David meetings, of course the President would know that the Soviet Union did not share his views concerning the results achieved and would not associate itself with the process and methods used. The Soviets were against separate “deals.” Gromyko would say that the United States had acted rudely toward the Soviet Union despite the common understanding achieved last year, to the effect that we would take concerted action with respect to the Middle East. He noted that the United States had gone a separate way, demonstratively disregarding the previous understanding with the Soviet Union.

As for Camp David, if anything was accomplished there, it was that Israel had obtained what it had been striving for from the very beginning, while Sadat had received nothing and had in fact lost everything he had. At the same time Syria and Jordan and the Palestinians had been completely circumvented, producing great disarray in the ranks of the Arabs. Was this really the path to peace and calm in the Middle East? The Soviets did not believe so, and no one could convert them to the views of the United States or Sadat or Begin on this score. They had their own assessment and views. That the Soviet Union wanted peace in the Middle East was well known throughout the world. It wanted to see the states in the Middle East live in peace as independent sovereign states, and this, of course, included Israel. The Soviet Union had stated this hundreds of times for all the world to hear, and its position was well known. It was equally well known that the Soviet Union wanted to do all in its power to safeguard the legitimate rights of the Palestinians. Now he could only say that they would have to wait and see how events developed in the future.

Gromyko asked the President not to consider him a pessimist. The Soviets were optimists and firmly believed that eventually all the problems would be resolved for the people of the Middle East. The Soviets had never had any idea of pushing Israel into the sea. On the contrary, they had upheld Israel many times in the international arena, certainly to a much greater extent than the Israelis themselves were doing by their ill-considered extremist statements. Gromyko concluded his [Page 279]discussion of the Middle East by saying he supposed each of us would retain our own concepts with regard to the Middle East.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the Middle East.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Presidential Advisory Board, Box 81, Sensitive XX: 9/20–25/78. Secret; Nodis. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room. Drafted by Krimer. The memorandum, printed in its entirety, is also in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VI, Soviet Union.