335. Memorandum From Henry Kissinger to President-elect Nixon1


  • My Conversation with Sedov of the Soviet Embassy

As I indicated to you earlier, I met with Boris Sedov of the Soviet Embassy this evening. I made the following points to him:

  • —The President-elect meant it when he said that this was to be an era of negotiation not confrontation.
  • —The Soviets will find that the President-elect is open minded, precise, and interested in lasting settlements based on the real interests of both countries. Settlements cannot be based on trying to take away the options of the other side. Lasting settlements must reflect real interests.
  • —A crucial test of Soviet intentions to improve relations with the US will be whether the USSR accepts a summit meeting between now and January 20. If such a meeting is held, the Nixon Administration will be forced to find some way to make it clear that we will not be boxed in, and that we will move at our own pace at a time we decide to be appropriate. In other words, we believe that the only purpose of a summit meeting now can be propaganda to embarrass the new Administration. We would react accordingly.2
  • —On the assumption that the USSR will do nothing to disturb the atmosphere either by summit conferences or by fomenting crises, the new Administration is very interested in serious talks. The tendency in the past few years has been to worry about the “atmosphere” of relations between the two great powers. The new Administration is convinced that there are real and substantial differences between the US and the Soviet Union and that it is these differences which must be negotiated.
  • —On the strategic missile talks, Mr. Nixon is intent upon an assessment of our strategic position before moving into the negotiation [Page 791] stage. Our analysis of the issue, however, will be influenced by Soviet willingness to negotiate seriously on other questions—particularly Vietnam and the Middle East.
  • —Assuming Soviet willingness to negotiate on such issues, arms talks could be held simultaneously. Such judgments will also influence the ratification of the Non Proliferation Treaty, which Mr. Nixon has called a matter of timing.
  • —It would be useful to Mr. Nixon if the Soviet Union were prepared to indicate to us a willingness to negotiate on these outstanding issues, and to provide us with some indication of the positions they would take thereon.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Henry A. Kissinger Office Files, Country Files-Europe-U.S.S.R., Box 66, Soviet Contacts (Sedov), 1968–69. Secret; Nodis.
  2. Commenting in his memoirs on Johnson’s proposal that both men attend a summit in late 1968, Nixon stated that he “saw no solid basis for concluding that the Soviet leaders were prepared to negotiate seriously on any critical issue. Nor did I want to be boxed in by any decisions that were made before I took office.” (The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, p. 345)