221. 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 a comprehensive test ban.]

[Page 545]

CTB

The President said he would like to see us move rapidly to conclusion of a complete test ban treaty.

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

CTB

Gromyko noted that the CTB negotiations were indeed moving forward, but rather slowly. The main thing he would want to point out was that whenever the situation at these negotiations appeared to improve, US representatives would introduce new proposals that threw cold water on the whole process. There was a time when the United States had argued in favor of a five-year term for a CTB treaty. At that time the Soviet Union was more in favor of a three-year term, although it did not oppose five-years. It simply thought that it was easier to work out a three-year treaty. Then, quite suddenly, in the United States various officials began to assert that five years was too long, that such duration would interfere with certain national plans for testing nuclear weapons, while a three-year term would not. That position was hardly convincing. The Soviet Union had finally expressed agreement to the five-year term, but then the United States changed to three. All these zigzags were most perplexing and difficult to understand. The Soviet Union would take this into account in the future. For their part, the Soviets could also talk about national plans, but they stand on a different position. Things would be very difficult indeed were they to reply in kind. Nevertheless, since the United States had changed its position, obviously the Soviets would have to take this into account, because there were two other parties to the negotiations. Basically, they would like to see this agreement completed. It would be a limited agreement, of course, because apart from the three particular powers, other nuclear powers would not be signatories to the agreement. Nevertheless, it would have a positive impact on the international situation.

In conclusion, Gromyko said that these were the specific considerations he had wanted to convey to the President, and in general wanted to tell the President on behalf of the Soviet leadership and L.I. Brezhnev personally that the Soviet Union’s policy was aimed at good relations with the United States and remained as set out and formulated in Brezhnev’s message to the President.2 The Soviet Union would do all [Page 546]in its power to maintain and develop good relations with the United States.

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

CTB

In this connection the President said that a three-year term for the treaty would suit us better. He hoped we were in harmony on this and would proceed to conclude the treaty without delay. He did not, however, want to conclude it before concluding a SALT Agreement. It would be better if he submitted a CTB Treaty to Congress together with a SALT Treaty. We believed that there should be no testing other than laboratory testing, and that there should be adequate verification.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Presidential Advisory Board, Box 81, Sensitive XX: 9/20–25/78. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Krimer. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room at the White House. The conversation is printed in full in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VI, Soviet Union, Document 150.
  2. Just before this meeting, Gromyko handed Carter a message from Brezhnev. Carter “said that he found this letter to be interesting and constructive,” and asked if he could “respond to it more directly in writing.” (Memorandum of Conversation, September 30, 9:30–9:45 a.m.; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Presidential Advisory Board, Box 81, Sensitive XX: 9–20–25/78) The text of the message is ibid.