12. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Buchanan) to President Nixon 1

(One Observer’s notes on the President’s first meeting with the bipartisan leadership of Capitol Hill.)2

[Page 60]

With Rogers on his right and Laird to the left, the President opened the meeting with a fifteen-minute discourse on the purposes of these bipartisan meetings, and the objectives of his forthcoming visit to Europe.3 Speaking slowly and deliberately, the President expressed the hope that the meetings could be used for both the traditional end of “briefing” the leadership, and a secondary end of providing a channel through which the Administration might receive the views of the men of power on the Hill.

On Europe, and the coming trip, the President said he was under no illusions that grand tours or “abrazos” or a “new spirit” would resolve basic differences between adversaries, or even allies. He was going, he said, because several basic problems of NATO require immediate attention, because he believed that past administrations had not paid adequate “attention” to Europe, because the views of these Western partners had not been given adequate consideration in the past, even in negotiating the NPT. There was a need for “more consultation in advance.”

Secondly, the President had the feeling that perhaps American leadership in the past had been looking “too much to collateral areas” and not enough to what, “some still call the blue chip.”

Third, there were very great substantive differences between the allies and the President’s trip might establish a basis for “continuing consultation” on such issues as the Mideast. Fourth, going there has a “symbolic importance.” We will be “prepared to discuss anything,” the President noted, adding that some fifty hours of discussions are currently scheduled in the eight-day trip.

At the close of his monologue, the President cautioned against unjustifiable optimism. We have to recognize, he said, that basic disagreements are not going to be solved by meetings, with these meetings, however, we can reduce to a minimum those disagreements which result from a lack of communication or consultation.

[Omitted here is discussion of the possibility of adding a stop in Malta to the President’s European agenda, and a discussion of how to handle the question of ratification of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty with the West German Government.]

Arms Control

The President now gave his detailed views on reports in the press—from his first press conference—that he had irrevocably linked progress [Page 61] in arms talks with progress on political problems—so tightly as to make progress in one a “condition” of progress with the other.

Not so, the President said. Certainly, we want to move on them both at the same time, since the history of wars shows that arms races are occasionally a cause of conflict, but in far more instances, it is a political problem that produces the war, and not the level of armaments.

The President wanted progress in both at the same time, but he wanted to emphasize that progress in one is not “a condition” of progress in the other.

With regard to the Soviets, the President pointed out quite clearly that if Soviet aid to North Vietnam were halted, or Soviet assistance to the “more aggressive neighbors” of Israel were halted, the problems would be reduced to a level where they would not require any American intervention. Thus the Soviets did have the “big stroke” in helping to resolve these political problems.

[Omitted here is discussion of other foreign policy issues.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Office Files, Box 77, Memoranda for the President, Jan 21-Apr 6, 1969. Confidential.
  2. The President’s briefing of the Congressional leadership took place at 8:35 a.m. in the Cabinet Room of the White House. Eight Senators and ten Representatives attended. Agnew, Helms, Kissinger, and Ehrlichman also attended from the Executive branch. (Ibid., White House Central Files, Staff Members and Office Files, Office of Presidential Papers and Archives, Daily Diary)
  3. From February 23 to March 2, President Nixon visited London, Bonn, Rome, Paris, and NATO Headquarters in Brussels to consult with European allies. (Ibid.)