142. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The President
  • Anatoliy Dobrynin, Soviet Ambassador to the United States
  • Secretary of State Cyrus Vance
  • Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Affairs Assistant

Strategic Issues

President Carter began by stating he would like to move rapidly—aggressively—on arms control issues with the Soviet Union. He mentioned that he had been encouraged by the messages he received this summer from Secretary General Brezhnev. He would like to see Brezhnev’s good wishes translated into positive results. The President added that his Inaugural Speech2 and his recent letter3 to Secretary Brezhnev expressed his views on U.S.-Soviet relations.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to a comprehensive test ban.]

Comprehensive Test Ban

The President asked about the Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB). Dobrynin raised the issue of French and PRC compliance. The President responded that a CTB might be initialled for a limited time, such as 2–4 years. It would be subject to renewal. Both the United States and the Soviet Union would attempt to get France and the PRC to comply [Page 311] with the CTB. The President said he envisioned the test ban applying to peaceful nuclear explosions. Dobrynin mentioned that the Soviets have two peaceful nuclear explosions scheduled, although the dates have not been fixed. The President said his preference would be to stop all testing.

Dobrynin asked about the two nuclear treaties pending before Senate. He asked if the President supported them. The President said he did, but as first steps. Dobrynin said that he was not prepared to offer a Soviet view on peaceful nuclear devices. The President indicated that the United States had tested peaceful devices and had not been encouraged. The President went on to say that he would be willing to include in the Comprehensive Test Ban an understanding that would allow the Soviets to conduct their two tests, if observers were present.4 Dobrynin responded that “this is fair enough.” The President added, “We’ll try to get France and the PRC to comply.”

Compliance and “Matters of Concern”

The President asked for some assurance of compliance. He mentioned that Gromyko has said consideration should be given to on-site inspection. The President went on to say that he would like to be able to write Secretary General Brezhnev on “matters of concern,” such as compliance and other sensitive activities which might be susceptible to misinterpretation. Dobrynin responded that this would be “a good idea.” The President added that each side would reserve the right not to reply.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to a comprehensive test ban.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Outside the System File, Box 47, Chron: 2/77. Top Secret. The meeting took place in the Oval Office. The memorandum is printed in full in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VI, Soviet Union, Document 3.
  2. For Carter’s Inaugural Address and his remarks to other nations on U.S. foreign policy, see Public Papers: Carter, 1977, pp. 1–5.
  3. On January 26, Carter wrote Brezhnev that he wanted to “improve relations with the Soviet Union on the basis of reciprocity, mutual respect and benefit.” He mentioned a number of arms control issues, and said that he hoped “we can promptly conclude an adequately verified comprehensive ban on all nuclear tests, and also achieve greater openness about our respective strategic policies.” Brezhnev answered Carter on February 4 and said that he wanted to “strictly observe the fundamental principles of equality, mutual consideration of legitimate interests, mutual benefit and non-interference in the internal affairs of the other side.” After raising SALT and other arms control issues, he said “it is also necessary to put into force without delay the Soviet-US treaties on the limitation of underground nuclear weapon tests and on the explosions for peaceful purposes. At the same time efforts should be intensified—–and we are ready to cooperate with the United States in this matter—–for complete and general cessation of nuclear weapon tests and the prevention of proliferation of such weapons.” The letters are printed in full in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VI, Soviet Union, Documents 1 and 4.
  4. An unknown hand circled the word “tests” in this sentence and wrote “?” in the right-hand margin.