168. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • SALT Procedures; MBFR; Rhodesia; Mutual Criticism; CTB


  • US
  • Secretary of State
  • Ambassador Paul C. Warnke
  • Ambassador Malcolm Toon
  • Dr. Marshall Shulman
  • Mr. Leslie H. Gelb
  • Mr. William G. Hyland
  • Mr. Walter Slocombe, Dept. of Defense
  • LTG. Edward L. Rowny, Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • Mr. Mark Garrison, EUR/SOV
  • Mr. William D. Krimer, Interpreter
  • USSR
  • Foreign Minister A.A. Gromyko
  • Deputy Foreign Minister G.M. Korniyenko
  • Ambassador A.F. Dobrynin
  • Mr. V.G. Komplektov
  • Mr. N.N. Detinov
  • Mr. A.A. Bessmertnykh
  • Mr. Sytenko
  • Mr. Chernyshev
  • Mr. V.M. Sukhodrev, Interpreter

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


The Secretary wanted to touch briefly on one area of our various joint working groups, i.e., the one that concerned the comprehensive test ban. As the President had indicated this morning,2 this was an area in which he was very much interested and was desirous of early progress. The situation as the Secretary understood it now was that there were three main points of difference between us which had to be [Page 400] overcome: (1) The date on which the proposed treaty would come into force, (2) Various verification problems, and (3) Peaceful nuclear explosions. Regarding the date of entry into force of the treaty, the United States had suggested a treaty of limited duration, which would become effective upon signature. The reason was that once the treaty became effective, even though it had only three signatories—the Soviet Union, the United States and Great Britain—this would put more pressure on the French and hopefully on the Chinese to join and become signatories to the treaty. The Secretary thought that if we waited until other countries signed the treaty, we would be putting off a necessary and desirable action for too long. On the question of verification, the Secretary had received an indication from Mr. Warnke that this was an issue that could be resolved in the working group. He believed progress should be made at the next meeting of the working group. And finally, on the question of peaceful explosions, as the President had indicated, we were prepared to provide to the Soviet Union information which we had gathered in the course of our own investigations of peaceful explosions, should that be considered desirable. Insofar as methods of dealing with peaceful explosions were concerned, it was our view that the best and the proper way to handle them was to include a provision in the treaty banning peaceful explosions, and provide for reconsideration of that issue after a certain date at the request of either party.

Mr. Warnke wanted to say a few words to supplement what the Secretary had said. What we had in mind was to find some way to prevent the dispute over peaceful explosions from holding up conclusion of a treaty that would be of great benefit to both countries. The debate on how to devise measures to prevent a side’s gaining military advantages from peaceful explosions involved some very difficult technical matters. Therefore, we would suggest that the parties agree to complete cessation of all nuclear explosions, that a provision to that effect be included in the treaty, in addition to a provision in the treaty stipulating that we would continue to work together to find ways of distinguishing between peaceful nuclear explosions and weapons-related explosions. This would leave open the possibility of peaceful nuclear explosions for the future, except that we would prevent delaying resolution of the much more important matter in a general comprehensive treaty.

Gromyko said that the Soviet Union certainly attached great importance to such a treaty, and will continue negotiations and do all in its power to bring them to a successful conclusion. The Soviet Union did indeed attach signal importance to the question of peaceful nuclear explosions. In the conditions of the Soviet Union they had tested this method to an adequate extent, and had come to certain conclusions about its usefulness. Of course, if they received the information about US experience that had been promised by the President, they would [Page 401] study it carefully. The Soviet Delegation at the negotiations which resume in Geneva on October 3 will have the necessary and proper instructions. He agreed that conclusion of a treaty would be of great political importance worldwide, but at this time he would not associate himself with what the Secretary had said about a treaty without an exception for peaceful explosions. In any case, he would suggest that we continue negotiating and seek agreement in this field.

Gromyko thanked the Secretary for the discussions they had held during this current meeting, and also for the talk with President Carter. He was not saying good-bye because he and the Secretary had agreed to meet in New York City at least once next week, perhaps even twice, but in any case on September 30 at 9:30 a.m.

The Secretary wanted to reciprocate to the Foreign Minister on behalf of himself and his colleagues. It had been a great pleasure to have Mr. Gromyko here in Washington.

  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 8, Gromyko to US, Sept. 1977. Secret. The meeting took place in the Secretary’s Conference Room. Drafted by Krimer; and approved by Twaddell. Vance describes the meeting with Gromyko in Hard Choices, pp. 60–61.
  2. Earlier that day, Carter told Gromkyo that “an area where we should demonstrate to the world at large that we were capable of cooperating was the complete cessation of nuclear testing.” (Memorandum of Conversation, September 23, 10:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m.; ibid.)