137. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Haig-Gromyko Meeting


  • US

    • Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig
    • Mr. William D. Krimer Interpreter
  • USSR

    • Foreign Minister A.A. Gromyko
    • Mr. V.M. Sukhodrev Interpreter

Foreign Minister Gromyko suggested he and Secretary Haig briefly discuss the best way to proceed at today’s meeting.

The Secretary said that since Gromyko was our guest now, he would offer him the floor for any questions he might care to raise. We had a full agenda, i.e., many topics to discuss.

Gromyko thanked the Secretary and said that if the Secretary had been his guest he would have acted in the same manner, giving him the floor.

Procedure for this Meeting

Gromyko thought it best to say a few words regarding procedure. The agenda for this meeting was not fixed; therefore each of them could raise any question they believed worthwhile holding an exchange of views on. Naturally, these questions should be of the kind that both sides would want to discuss, for if there were some issues that one side wanted to talk about while the other did not, the side that wanted to discuss them could hardly do so with itself. But there would be no lack of questions to choose from.

In speaking for the Soviet side, Gromyko would want to start with discussion of our bilateral relations, i.e., relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. Of course, it was just one subject, but what a subject! Later in the meeting Gromyko would want to exchange views with the Secretary on the subject of nuclear weapons in Europe; negotiations on this matter had already started between the two Delegations here in Geneva. In fact, this was also what he and the Secretary had agreed upon when they last met in New York, i.e., that at the next meeting this would be a subject of discussion.2 Thus, we had a second topic here. Further, in the Soviet view it would also be useful to [Page 438] exchange views on strategic arms limitation. When they last met in New York, they had touched on this very briefly. Of course, he did not know to what extent the Secretary was prepared to take up this question, but in principle he did have something to say in that connection; so that could be the third topic for discussion. If the Secretary was willing, of course. Then, Gromyko would want to address a subject that Haig had raised with him when they last met in New York: Angola, Cuba and Namibia, in short a southern African Triad where Haig had seen a linkage. Gromyko was prepared to express some views on this topic from the standpoint of the Soviet Union. He thought it would probably also be useful to touch on some questions relating to Asia as a whole or to some regions in Asia. That might depend on how their discussions proceeded. It would probably be equally correct to touch on matters related to the situation in the Middle East. The US had displayed an interest in that area, and this was known to the Soviet Union, and the US was also getting involved in some of the events there. The Soviet Union, too, had an interest in the situation in the Middle East and the Secretary would realize why. After all, this region was close to the borders of the Soviet Union.

Perhaps it would also be useful to talk about one other matter: the US and the Soviet Union had been involved in discussions of very important questions in the field of armaments and disarmament. With regard to some of these aspects, contacts were continuing or had been resumed, but these were very few in number. With respect to some other aspects, matters had come to a standstill. As a practical matter, contacts had ended or had been suspended. Should the Soviet side come to the conclusion that this was a normal state of affairs, that a dialogue on these matters or broader discussions, be they multilateral or bilateral, did not merit the attention of the two sides? That was one more topic for discussion.

Gromyko thought the Secretary would see that all of these problems could be discussed in the interest of progress, provided both sides viewed these matters seriously. He would not suggest that the two of them remain here in Geneva until Easter. The situation was such that their meeting had been abbreviated down to only one day of discussions; therefore they would have to properly assess how best to use the time at their disposal. Gromyko pointed out that the issues he would like to discuss with the Secretary by no means exhausted the list of issues between us. He also wondered whether they should continue their discussions in the composition Gromyko had outlined, and as they had done in New York, or did the Secretary want to suggest another approach? If the Secretary preferred the present composition, he would be prepared to proceed and set forth Soviet views on the issues he had identified. It would be useful if the Secretary were to [Page 439] respond to each of these issues as it was raised, rather than wait for complete statements on all of the issues at one time. In this way they would cover their ground in sequence until they ran aground on the time barrier to further discussion.

Secretary Haig noted that Gromyko had reviewed a number of topics for discussion and said that he was very comfortable with that review. He thought he would prefer to retain the composition as it was now and go through the basic topics. His approach was to update all the subjects they had discussed in September. At that time, Haig had felt it most important to focus on the international scene and the overall relations between our two countries. He thought he would touch on each subject, updating its status on the basis of events since September so as to have a clear picture of where they stood.

U.S.-Soviet Relations

Gromyko agreed and said he would start off on US-Soviet relations. Unfortunately, it was his assessment that during the few months since their meeting in New York bilateral relations between our two countries had not improved at all. On the contrary, one might say that they had become even more difficult.

As far as questions of nuclear weapons were concerned, the United States and the Soviet Union to date had not only been unable to find common language, but had also been unable to find any common ground. In his view, this had an adverse effect on the relations between our two countries. Indeed, quite a few statements had been made in the United States on this subject, at the Presidential level, at Secretary Haig’s level and at other levels. Gromyko regarded these statements as having been made for the purpose of ensuring by hook or by crook that the NATO decision to deploy new types of nuclear weapons in Europe be implemented. Everything had been subordinated to that. Later in this meeting Gromyko would address this matter in greater detail and put forward Soviet considerations in that regard; for now he would only say that he considered the US position on this matter as a position aimed at ensuring implementation of the NATO decision.

This issue was somewhat like a large weight that pulled Soviet-US relations downward. That such an assessment is justified is buttressed by the fact that Washington has been consistently rejecting everything put forward by the Soviet side in order to make it easier to find a compromise solution on the basis of not infringing upon either US or Soviet security. Washington has even rejected efforts aimed at finding some common ground that would not violate the principle of equal security. No matter what had been put forward by the Soviet side, it had all been rejected without any attempt being made to discuss Soviet proposals.

[Page 440]

The second situation that Gromyko wanted to emphasize was the following: the Secretary would recall that in New York they had talked about the possibility of resuming or extending some agreements that were about to run out or that had already run out. They had talked about ways of how and when to do so in the near future. But then the US Administration had decided that all this must be discarded, that the agreements that had expired be ended de jure or paralyzed de facto. This, of course, reinforced the unsatisfactory nature of the present Soviet-US relations and was a negative factor that influenced other US-Soviet issues as well.

A third consideration Gromyko wanted to put forward—and he would repeat that this was not a completed inventory of everything that could be talked about—was the following: literally, not a single day passed that statements did not appear in Washington which struck heavy blows at US-Soviet relations. Such statements were being made at all sorts of levels—at the highest level, at the level of Ministers and others—in fact at so many levels that it was difficult even to count them. The Secretary might know better at how many levels such statements were being rolled out. It was almost as if efforts were made to compete and see who could make the most negative statement. All this seriously poisoned Soviet-US relations, and very badly at that. All this resulted in demolishing everything that had been achieved by the Soviet Union and by several US Administrations, working together over a period of at least a decade. In fact, the Secretary had taken part in some of those efforts and had witnessed them being made.

Gromyko said that he had the impression that some of the present leading figures in the United States were rubbing their hands in delight at every new blow that was struck at US-Soviet relations. However, one should recall how much effort and work had gone into building up and improving these relations on a step-by-step basis, in order to ensure that each side respected the reasonable and legitimate interests of the other. Today all this was being burned, and those in Washington who have a hand in this demolition of relations between us express great satisfaction as these relations become worse.

This is indeed a very strange situation. Some special names have been invented to designate certain actions, sometimes these are called sanctions and sometimes something else, but Gromyko believed that what was important was not the names given to these actions, but that their combined effect was to lead to destruction of the results of the labor expended over decades by so many people. He could use stronger words to describe today’s situation, but did not want to exacerbate things further. He still hoped that sooner or later Washington would understand that these steps, i.e., sanctions and others, would not yield the results that those taking them expected. They would surely not yield such results.

[Page 441]

Affairs between two major powers should be conducted only on the basis of due regard for each other’s legitimate interests, seeking accommodation and, of course, showing respect for each other. Any other way of proceeding could only produce negative results. For his part, Gromyko would venture to say that he was not inclined to believe that the American people eagerly awaited increases in tensions to a point where such inflammation might escalate to a clash. He did not believe it because he was firmly convinced that people instinctively realized that the Soviet Union and the United States were in the same boat, especially in this nuclear age. Thus, he and the Soviet authorities were inclined to believe that regardless of the emotions some people vented from time to time, Washington, i.e., those officials in the US who had their hands on the helm of US foreign policy, would ultimately also realize that we were in the same boat.

He recalled that when they had last met in New York, they had discussed a closely related subject. In the course of the discussion the Secretary had expressed displeasure about certain statements in the Soviet Union, i.e., statements in the Soviet press that were aimed directly at leading figures in the United States. He had to tell the Secretary once again that what the Soviet side did in this respect, it did by way of reacting to similar statements in the United States and, in fact, by way of reacting to a much lesser extent than would be justified. The Soviet Union lagged far behind the United States in this respect. In the US, such statements in the press appeared constantly, but what especially disturbed the Soviet authorities were the official statements made by leading American officials. The fact that sometimes no specific names were mentioned did not change anything at all. It is absolutely clear in any event who is meant by such statements.

Yet, it would not be difficult to change direction. He believed that the Secretary knew best where things were going in that regard. But he should also know that if the US continued to act in this manner with respect to Soviet authorities, the Soviet Union would have no alternative but to react in kind. This referred to hostile statements directed against the Soviet social system and the Soviet leadership. Why not try an experiment? Try to stop such attacks if only for one month; then the Secretary would see how the Soviet Union would respond.

Gromyko said that he wanted to conclude this portion of his comments by saying that, of course, his authorities wanted to see our relations normalized. This did not mean that the two sides would be able immediately to eliminate all differences on many issues, international as well as bilateral. But it did mean that such differences could be discussed in the spirit of seeking and ultimately finding points of contact. If the US refrained from hostile statements aimed at Soviet [Page 442] authorities and their social system, the Soviet Union would certainly display its readiness and willingness to even out the atmosphere surrounding our mutual relations, and that would apply to all areas, whether this be nuclear weapons or regional complications.

In all other matters the US would find the Soviet Union a partner who would make every effort to find common language and to contribute to improvement in our mutual relations. It would be even better to establish friendly relations between us, as pointed out by Brezhnev on a number of occasions. This, of course, required the desire on both sides to establish such friendly relations. Gromyko concluded his remarks on the general state of relations between our two countries and said he was prepared to hear the Secretary’s response.

Secretary Haig said he appreciated the considerations Gromyko had put forward and by way of a tour d’horizon wanted to make some general observations. First he would assure Gromyko that he had left their discussion in New York with a cautious sense of optimism that the months ahead would give us the opportunityy of straightening out a number of long-simmering tensions. He had returned to Washington and had given President Reagan his assessment to that effect. The President shared with the Secretary the hope and intent that we could put our relations on a more even course. It was largely in response to that assessment that President Reagan had presented his four-point arms control approach in November.3

However, the Secretary had to tell Gromyko that in the process of preparing for this evening-out effort, we had maintained a careful watch—hour by hour and day by day—on the subject he and Gromyko had discussed in New York. He believed it important, in the light of Gromyko’s comments, that he hastily touch on the conclusions we had drawn from that careful watch.

First, in New York, when he and Gromyko had discussed regional problems, the Secretary had made plain our desire to help settle the Afghanistan problem. Somewhat later, through Ambassador Hartman in Moscow, we had talked about our three element approach to resolving this problem. That approach consisted of a provision for self-determination, guaranteed borders—a question that had been raised by Gromyko—and a provision for time-phased withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan. Instead, we saw increasing troop levels and increased pressure on the Government of Pakistan, with which we have historically maintained friendly relations.

[Page 443]

A second area he and Gromyko had discussed was the situation in Southern Africa, an area in finding a formula for the achievement of an independent Namibia that would be disassociated from the rivalries of the major powers. What we had witnessed instead were increasing levels of Cuban force in Angola and strong pressures on the Government of Angola to reject all efforts at achieving a solution. The main thrust of Soviet policy in that area, as we assessed and confirmed by local contacts, was precisely the opposite.

He and Gromyko also had discussed issues affecting Central America, in particular Cuban arms and Cuban interventionism. At that time Gromyko had described the Soviet arms there as modest and defensive in nature. In the last few weeks we had seen arms shipments to Cuba increased to such an extent that the total of arms delivered in 1981 amounted to three times, the Secretary wished to emphasize, three times the amount provided to Cuba during 1980. Perhaps what was most important was the character of these arms, i.e., naval, air and ground equipment. We had carefully assessed the exchanges that had taken place between the Carter Administration and the Soviet Union at the time that MiG–23s were first introduced to Cuba. The question about the character of these aircraft had been raised in terms of their capability to deliver nuclear weapons. Our records confirm that U.S. officials involved at that time had made clear that while the United States would accept the assurances of the Soviet Union in that regard, (assurances which were not verifiable), the U.S. also made clear that no additional numbers of these aircraft should be introduced into the area. We now are faced with additional numbers of aircraft, a higher quality air defense—SAM–6 air defense missiles, sophisticated radars, naval patrol craft and helicopters in overall quantities that cannot but give rise to serious doubts in Washington concerning Soviet intentions.

The situation is further complicated by our day-to-day assessment of the situation with regard to Nicaragua, and the fact that the Soviet Union had given clear license to Cuba not only to increase its interference in that country, but particularly to upgrade Nicaragua’s military forces. In that connection, the Secretary had received assurances from the Foreign Minister of Nicaragua at Sta. Lucia that Nicaragua would not receive MiGs from Cuba or from Eastern Europe. We now saw airfields being built and Soviet advisors acting in a training role with Nicaraguan pilots. We believe it essential that the assurances we received regarding aircraft to Nicaragua at the Sta. Lucia meeting be lived up to. We consider the introduction of such aircraft unacceptable.

The Secretary then turned to other questions he and Gromyko had discussed last September, especially those concerning nuclear arms. We had entered the Geneva negotiations in good faith with a view to achieving reductions in nuclear arms and with a special formula to [Page 444] remove the greatest irritant to US-Soviet relations, namely the Soviet SS–20 missiles which threatened our NATO allies. We remain at the negotiations in good faith, while continuing with the deployment plans of NATO to which Gromyko had referred. The Secretary had to say that the initial exchanges had clearly indicated that the principal difficulties encountered at the negotiations concerned reaching a consensus view regarding the data base. It was our judgment at this time that the principle of equality and equal security, which had been put forward by the Soviet side, cannot be implemented in a situation in which the Soviet side views elimination of all threats from all sources as an immediate objective of the negotiations. This was a clear instance of Soviet striving to maintain superiority.

The Secretary turned to the area of bilateral relations which he and Gromyko had discussed last September. In this area, too, day-to-day responses by the Soviet side had been disappointing and alarming. We had raised a number of human rights cases which could have been resolved, with good will and creative suggestions or solutions. We had specifically mentioned the cases of Shcharanskiy and Skuodis, as well as the Pentecostalists still in the US Embassy in Moscow, where a serious situation exists as these individuals became involved in a hunger strike and their health is in question.4 We have conceived an innovative formula to resolve these cases and have proposed it to the Soviet Union, but once again without success.5

The Secretary said there had been increasing evidence, and we had an up-to-date fact sheet in that respect, of violations of international law with respect to the use of toxic and chemical weapons in Southeast Asia and Afghanistan respectively. The evidence we had was conclusive and overwhelming, and the Soviet role in the use of these weapons was incontrovertible. This could only put a serious dent in the whole credibility of solutions in arms control areas.

The Secretary noted that last September we had also expressed our great concern over the crisis in Poland. Since then events have occurred which as a practical consequence raise doubts among the American people about the future relations between us and the Soviet Union. These doubts are fully shared by our NATO allies. By every assessment we have made, the prospects have increased for violence in Poland, which was something we had hoped to avoid. We have been and are ready today in this regard to join with the Soviet Union in a formula to increase the level of moderation and to rebuild in Poland with whatever resources necessary to ensure the viability of the Polish state. [Page 445] We clearly understand the importance of this issue to the Soviet Union, but we also understand that the whole framework of our relations is at stake.

In fact, we are at a turning point which, in terms of East-West relations, is the most significant since World War II. Like the Soviet Union, we have no wish to see the situation deteriorate. Like the Soviet Union, we feel that the Helsinki Agreements represent a historic opportunity to continue and to improve our post World War II efforts at bettering our relations. However, speaking frankly, the Secretary would point out that as we assessed each issue, instead of receiving responses from the Soviet side that would be encouraging, we find acts on the Soviet side which complicate and test our assessment of Soviet intentions for future relations between us.

He could assure Gromyko that President Reagan personally shares Brezhnev’s view regarding the need for our two countries to work together. But the Secretary had to say that on no single issue had we received any evidence that the Soviet side was prepared to deal with these issues in a spirit of reciprocity. The Secretary did not expect Gromyko to share the assessment he had just given, but he would ask Gromyko to consider the possibility of carefully developing measurable manifestations of his Government’s actions in each area they had discussed in September. The Secretary concluded by saying that this was the broad tour d’horizon of the problems facing us to which he wanted to draw Gromyko’s attention. He would suggest that we must do everything possible to find ways of reversing this trend in the relations between us before it cannot be reversed. He was prepared to listen to Gromyko’s assessment.

Gromyko noted that in presenting his considerations the Secretary had gone beyond the strict limits of the general subject of our bilateral relations. This was quite understandable because in a way it was difficult to erect a wall separating purely bilateral from international affairs. Gromyko still believed that the problems between us could be discussed in their specifics to the extent this was possible. For this reason he did not intend to enlarge on the first subject he had talked about today. The Secretary had incidentally touched on matters of regional impact and other major international problems that went beyond the limits of our bilateral relations. He would only emphasize to the Secretary that in his view the Secretary’s analysis of our bilateral relations and the current state of affairs generally suffered from being one-sided and wrong in terms of its characterization of Soviet foreign policy, which could not be acceptable. Now Gromyko wanted to turn to specific matters and briefly, in view of limited time, set out his side’s assessment of the problem.

[Page 446]


Gromyko turned to the question of nuclear weapons in Europe, the NATO decision of 1979 and the US position and Soviet position at the negotiations initiated here in Geneva. He would provide the Soviet assessment of the state of this problem. In this regard, he had to emphasize above all that the US position, as seen from the Soviet side, which had been expressed in US statements by the President, by the Secretary personally, by other Ministers of the US Administration and by the US Delegation in Geneva, amounted to building up the US nuclear strategic forces directed against the Soviet Union. The US was building up these forces in violation of the principle of equality and equal security which had guided the Soviet side up to now in its dealings with previous US Administrations. Gromyko said that he had not misspoken when he had said “strategic” nuclear forces. That was not a slip of the tongue. The purpose of nuclear weapons deployment in accordance with the NATO decision was what gave this deployment a character that was tantamount to the deployment of strategic weapons. All these weapons were aimed at targets in the Soviet Union, not even to mention the territories of the Soviet Union’s allies. At the same time, those SS–20 missiles which the West was given to painting in such fearful colors were medium-range missiles, not a single one of which could reach the territory of the United States. Consequently the NATO decision was to deploy weapons that were directed at targets on Soviet territory, while, he would repeat again, not a single Soviet missile in question could reach the territory of the US. Thus, qualitatively these were absolutely different categories of weapons. Gromyko did not believe that he was here dealing with some sort of attempt to outsmart the Soviet Union. He was certain that the Secretary was well aware of the facts as just stated. He was not sure as to who played the first fiddle in the United States, military or civilian leaders, but he was sure that the Secretary was well aware of these facts. The Secretary surely knew that the Soviet side knew that the US was building up strategic weapons against the Soviet Union and he was also sure that the Secretary knew that the Soviet side knew that the Secretary was well aware of this fact. That was the first thing that he wanted to emphasize with respect to this subject. It did not augur well for discussions between us or for Soviet-US relations in general. Furthermore, Washington obstinately objects to inclusion in the overall balance of NATO forces the nuclear weaponry belonging to Britain and France. He had to say that this will not work and, in fact, there could not even be a serious discussion on that basis. How could the Soviet Union possibly agree to have all that weaponry left outside of consideration and outside of the count of what constitutes the East-West balance? While it was good that negotiations in Geneva between the Soviet [Page 447] Union and the United States on medium-range systems in Europe had started, in the final analysis the nuclear weapons of the United Kingdom and France would have to be counted in the balance, even though the UK and France were not party to the negotiations. It seemed to Gromyko that he had mentioned this in New York. If not, he could tell the Secretary now that this question had been raised with a previous US administration. At one time he had a conversation with President Carter at the White House, in the course of which he had told President Carter what he had just now told the Secretary. President Carter had said that he did, of course, fully realize and understand that the British and French forces were directed at the Soviet Union and thus formed grounds for concern on the Soviet side. He further said that he had considered the matter but had not yet reached a conclusion. Gromyko did not believe that former President Carter could have forgotten this conversation. In any case, a record is surely available in the White House. Today there was a new administration in Washington, but the Soviet Union could not agree to being confronted with a new situation just because of that fact. After all, it was completely impossible for the Soviet side not to take into account somewhere around 250 nuclear systems directed at the Soviet Union. These systems did, after all, belong to US allies tied to the United States by treaty obligations.

Gromyko characterized this as a major question of fundamental importance. What should be counted in the overall balance was indeed crucial. The US suggestion that NATO forego the deployment of its new medium-range missiles and the Soviet Union eliminate all its SS–20s, SS–4s and SS–5s sounded very simple. The US side called it the “zero option.” In fact, zero was not even in sight. How could one talk about zero when what would remain after elimination of all medium-range missiles would be massive numbers of aircraft aboard US carriers cruising the Mediterranean and the Atlantic? Gromyko noted incidentally that it seemed that US carriers believed their home to be in European waters. Furthermore, there would remain all the other Western nuclear-capable aircraft that would not count in the balance. Agreement by the Soviet Union to such a position could be ruled out completely. In fact, the Soviet side was astonished that such a proposal could have been made, since it was so crude and so drastically directed against the Soviet Union that it should not have been made in the first place. Nevertheless, it had been submitted for consideration. “That will not work.” All nuclear-capable aircraft must be counted in as a subject at the negotiations and subsequent agreement. Naturally, in such an event, all corresponding Soviet nuclear-capable aircraft would also be counted. The Soviet side had said so at the meetings of Delegations in Geneva. Surely, the Secretary was aware of that proposal of the Soviet Delegation in Geneva.

[Page 448]

Gromyko said that, as the Secretary knew, the Soviet side had also presented a zero option. Brezhnev had done so during his visit to the Federal Republic of Germany, but no positive reaction to that proposal had been received from the US side.6 What the US side called a zero option could not bring the negotiations a single step closer towards an accord. There is simply no place for a zero in that kind of option. Perhaps calling it a zero was due to a misunderstanding, or perhaps one would have to revise the rule of mathematics to arrive at zero on this basis.

Gromyko pointed out that, furthermore, if the US proposal were accepted, the Soviet Union would find itself in a worse position than if the present situation were simply continued and the NATO decision for the deployment of Pershing-IIs and cruise missiles were implemented. Thus, neither the first option nor the second made it possible to arrive at an accord.

Gromyko wanted next to touch on a third matter in the US position at the negotiations, which was also not acceptable. It was said that the Soviet Union must eliminate its SS–20s, and not only those deployed elsewhere. It was implied that no one knew what the Soviet Union had beyond the Urals in the Asiatic portion of Soviet territory. Thus, some thinktank researchers in the US, writing their theoretical dissertations, advocated limiting and reducing various arms beyond the territory of Europe, in other words, that an agreement to be concluded would have to be global in nature. Why was this being done? Why was it suggested that SS–20 missiles be eliminated wherever they were deployed? It was hardly adequate to express astonishment, for this was a solution that was simply unthinkable and objectionable. He would ask the Secretary if the Soviet Union should not be concerned by the situation in Asia, when everyone knew that China did exist and Chinese policy toward the Soviet Union was a matter of common knowledge. Furthermore, there were specific situations along the entire perimeter of the Soviet Union outside of Europe, in the East, the South, the Southeast and the Middle East. In all of these areas the United States had weapons systems, including medium-range systems; he felt no need to enumerate them but would be prepared to do so if the Secretary so desired. In short, Gromyko wanted to stress that the question of eliminating all SS–20s, no matter where located, could not deserve serious consideration.

Gromyko now wanted to touch on another aspect of this same issue. Why had the Soviet Union deployed SS–20s in the first place? [Page 449] It seemed to some people on the US side that everything had been fine in terms of the balance in Europe, when suddenly this fearful SS–20 missile had appeared. At first an idyllic situation, and then, suddenly, Armageddon. He wanted to emphasize to the Secretary, and realized that some people might not like it, that Soviet SS–20 deployment was a response to the systematic modernization of NATO’s weapons, above all those of the United States. There had appeared to be a consistent plan to modernize forward-based systems and to build new weapons by US allies. The Soviet Union had watched this development carefully in order to determine whether this was a one-time occurrence or if it was a considered permanent policy. The modernization of forward-based systems and the construction of new weapons by western allies had not ceased, evidently there was a corresponding plan which was being implemented to its conclusion. Thus, the West had raised the capabilities of these systems to such an extent that the Soviet Union felt compelled to respond by deployment of SS–20s.

He wanted to stress that this purposeful policy with regard to US forward-based systems could only be seen as an attempt to shift the balance of forces in Europe in such a way as to favor the West. This was why the Soviet Union had deployed SS–20s, but this had not changed the balance in Europe at all. He would emphasize that no change in that balance had occurred. He would go even further and say that even if the Soviet Union doubled or tripled the number of its medium-range missiles in Europe, the US advantage would nevertheless remain. The reason for that was that US forward-based systems were directed against targets on the territory of the Soviet Union. This was an unalterable geographic factor. In fact, it was almost as if Europe was a kind of launch pad which had been moved from US territory to European territory.

The geographic factor, too, had to be taken into account in determining the balance of forces. The material side alone could be put into a balance, but that would not alter the substance of the matter. He noted in an aside that even in terms of the material factor, the West now had 50 percent more warheads in place than the Soviet Union. The geographic factor had enormous significance from the standpoint of negotiations and agreement. It had always had its effect at past negotiations and did have its effect today. He would repeat that even if the Soviet Union doubled or tripled the number of SS–20s, the US would still retain its advantage. And yet, the US kept ignoring this factor in its Delegation’s statements and proposals. Gromyko believed the situation to be so clear that it was not even necessary to talk about it. It was simply a fact that existed and he would ask the Secretary to imagine himself in the position of the Soviet side. He would then understand that for the Soviet side this fact was indeed decisive.

[Page 450]

Gromyko said that he had just enumerated the main difficulties which today separated the positions of the two sides at the negotiations. The US side completely ignores the objectivity of the Soviet position. He would ask the Secretary to take a look at it again in light of the explanations Gromyko had just supplied.

Gromyko thought it would be useful to consider the present stage of the negotiations in Geneva. It seemed to him that it would now be useful to provide some bench marks, as it were, for the Delegations of the two sides to be guided by. Perhaps it might be useful to agree on some sort of bilateral statement or understanding to the effect that that two sides would adhere to the principle of equality and would make every effort to bring the positions of the sides closer together. With a view to proposing such a joint document—it did not matter what it might be called—Gromyko had prepared a number of points which he would now present. They were as follows:

“a. In accordance with the principle of equality and equal security the agreement will include and take into account all medium-range nuclear arms, that is, arms with a range or combat radius of 1000 kilometers and more, located on the territory of Europe or the waters adjacent thereto, or intended for use in Europe.

b. Proceeding from a desire to lower the level of the aforementioned systems on the side of NATO as well as that of the Soviet Union to the maximum extent, the agreement will provide for a reduction in their numbers down to 300 systems on each side by the end of 1990, along with the establishment of an interim level of 600 systems by the end of 1985.

c. Each side will have the right at its own discretion to determine the composition of the arms to be reduced, and within the limits of the agreed reduced levels the sides, at their own discretion, will be able to carry out replacement and modernization of arms, with limits for such activities to be determined additionally.

d. The basic method used to reduce medium-range arms will be their destruction, which does not rule out the possibility of withdrawing a certain portion of such arms beyond agreed boundaries.

e. The agreement will contain provisions ensuring adequate verification of compliance with the obligations provided for in the contemplated agreement.

f. The agreement will remain in force until December 31, 1990, at which time its term may be extended by agreement between the sides.

g. While the negotiations are in progress, the sides will refrain from any activities to deploy new medium-range nuclear arms in the [Page 451] European region. Those medium-range weapons that have already been deployed in this area by the present time will be frozen quantitatively and qualitatively. Nonetheless, either side may at its own discretion reduce the existing level of its own medium-range arms.”

Gromyko expressed the hope that the Secretary and his Government would consider these proposals objectively and in a realistic and level-headed manner. Perhaps something along these lines might be useful in terms of the negotiations. The reason that Gromyko had spoken on this subject was that this problem had indeed become so acute at the present moment. There were other acute questions, of course, which he had touched on earlier and they would surely discuss them at their second meeting today. But he had wanted to make sure that the US side understood the Soviet position on the subject of medium-range nuclear weapons in Europe with crystal clarity.

The Secretary wanted to speak briefly on the subject under discussion here. All of Gromyko’s comments confirmed the US saying that not only beauty, but also the threat, is in the eye of the beholder. At their second meeting today the Secretary planned to point out to Gromyko that the latter’s proposal was a clear reiteration of days of discussion here in Geneva between the negotiators and of the underlying fact that we both assess the threat differently. The data which we carry in no way can support the points Gromyko had made. The Secretary would want to go over with Gromyko the historic points he had touched on with reference to the strategic threat posed by the SS–20 missiles here in Europe, as well as globally. As an old NATO expert, the Secretary had a good appreciation of the character of the Soviet force structure. He believed it most important in terms of the interests of both sides that the Delegations exchange data and try to sort out this problem as we had done at SALT. At present our views were diametrically opposite. If we looked at the global or regional threat, we came to the conclusion that overwhelming Soviet superiority was absolutely clear. Thus, it took specifically contrived data to arrive at the approximately 1000 launchers for each side, as talked about by the Soviet Delegation. The fact of the matter was that it was clear that the Secretary could not in any way accept the proposal Gromyko had outlined, because it was merely a detailed reiteration of what Ambassador Nitze had already received from the Soviet Delegation in Geneva. He believed the best way to proceed would be to examine the data, for only then could we structure the kind of reduction we had talked about in our proposal. The old question of US systems versus European systems leads to a dilemma that only reinforces Soviet superiority. We had to find a different way in order to arrive at an appropriate solution. [Page 452] The Secretary was sure that the two sides did have the ingenuity to do so.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Clark Files, Haig/Gromyko Meetings, 01/26/1982 10:00 AM. Secret; Nodis. The meeting took place at the U.S. Mission to the U.N.
  2. See Documents 90 and 91.
  3. See “Remarks to Members of the National Press Club on Arms Reduction and Nuclear Weapons,” November 18, 1981, Public Papers: Reagan, 1981, pp. 1062–1067.
  4. See Document 90.
  5. See Document 129.
  6. Reference is to Brezhnev’s November 23, 1981, proposal to freeze deployment of medium-range nuclear missiles. See John Vinocur, “Brezhnev Revives Missile-Freeze Bid Pending U.S. Talks,” New York Times, November 24, 1981, p. A1.