236. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Third Plenary Meeting between President Carter and President Brezhnev
  • Topics: SALT III and other arms control issues


  • U.S.

    • The President
    • Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance
    • Secretary of Defense Harold Brown
    • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • General David Jones
    • Mr. Hamilton Jordan
    • General G. Seignious
    • Ambassador Malcolm Toon
    • Mr. Joseph Powell
    • Mr. David Aaron
    • Mr. Wm. D. Krimer, Interpreter
  • U.S.S.R.

    • President L.I. Brezhnev
    • Foreign Minister A.A. Gromyko
    • Marshal D.F. Ustinov
    • Mr. K.U. Chernenko
    • Deputy Foreign Minister G.M. Korniyenko
    • Marshal N.V. Ogarkov
    • Ambassador A.F. Dobrynin
    • Mr. A.M. Aleksandrov-Agentov
    • Mr. L.M. Zamyatin
    • Mr. V.G. Komplektov
    • Mr. A.M. Vavilov
    • Mr. V.M. Sukhodrev, Interpreter

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

Further, the President said we would like to proceed with a comprehensive nuclear test ban agreement, either with or without the participation of Great Britain. We will do everything possible to induce other nations, France, Great Britain and China, to join in substantial reductions in nuclear weapons development and deployment. Obviously he could not speak for them and would think that the Chinese would be difficult to persuade. But it is obvious that for several years now the United States and the Soviet Union had such massive nuclear inventories that their predominance over the other nuclear powers is adequate. Moreover, the Soviet SS–20 missiles and other medium-range systems constituted a formidable means for dealing with these nations. But the absence of nuclear cooperation from other countries should not be allowed to interfere with progress on a bilateral basis toward the SALT III agreement.

Turning to another subject, Brezhnev said it would be very important promptly to complete and sign a treaty on the general and complete prohibition of nuclear weapon testing. The Soviet Union had done a great deal in that direction, having met Western positions on a number of important matters. Speaking frankly, he would have to say that the CTB negotiations were being slowed and delayed, and by no means through any fault of the Soviet Union. Brezhnev expressed the hope that the United States and England will change their inflexible approach, in particular, to questions of verification. If that were done, all three partners could jointly and without further delay finalize their agreement on this important and necessary measure.

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

The President wanted to make one more comment. He had outlined to Brezhnev several very specific and important thoughts and suggestions regarding future arms negotiations leading to SALT III. Brezhnev had not responded, but the President saw an area of agreement in Soviet willingness to halt the production of nuclear weapons and to reduce stockpiles, taking into account current stockpiles and the security interests of the sides. Secondly, he believed it very important that we agree and publicly say that we will not deliver nuclear fuel to any nation that is not under the NPT or under IAEA control. We needed to move forward on the comprehensive test ban. Personally, the President thought that a requirement for ten stations in a small nation such as Great Britain was excessive. Great Britain shared this view. [Page 580] If the talks failed for that reason, we were prepared to discuss with Prime Minister Thatcher the withdrawal of Great Britain from the talks so we can proceed to reach agreement on a bilateral basis.2 Third, the President thought that good progress could be made today on mutual and balanced force reduction if the discussions were continued between Secretary Brown and Marshal Ustinov. We needed to follow up further on President Brezhnev’s suggestion concerning notification of tests and exercises. The President hoped that before he left Vienna these proposals could be pinned down so that our discussions could be fruitful and not wasted.

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 9, Vance Exdis Memcons 1979. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Krimer on June 20; and approved by Aaron. The meeting was held at the Soviet Embassy. The memorandum of conversation is printed in full in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VI, Soviet Union, Document 203.
  2. Shortly before he and Brezhnev signed the SALT II Treaty, Carter handed Brezhnev a brief handwritten letter listing his proposals for the next round of arms control talks that would comprise SALT III. Among other issues, Carter said the two nations must conclude a “comprehensive test ban treaty with or without Britain. (hopefully with them.)” The letter is printed in full in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VI, Soviet Union, Document 202.