99. Memorandum for the President’s File by the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Meeting Between President Nixon and President Tito


  • President Nixon
  • Alexander Akalovsky, Department of State
  • President Tito
  • Miss Lijana Tambaca, Interpreter

[Omitted here is discussion of general subjects.]

First, the President said, he believed that President Tito knew that, while the U.S. had many faults, it was not a threat to the independence of smaller countries. It was certainly not a threat to Yugoslavia, which could have trade and other relations with the U.S. but should not fear any interference on the part of the United States. The U.S. was not saintly, but from the standpoint of its own self-interest—and any country must act on the basis of its self-interest—it believed that its interests would be served by the existence of strong independent nations like Yugoslavia. We realized, however, that Ceausescu, with his big neighbor to the North, and Yugoslavia, which was in the same sphere but somewhat further removed, had a special problem. While he did not know Brezhnev or Kosygin personally, there was no question in his mind that, because of its self-interest, the USSR would continue its efforts to bring its neighbors under increased influence. The independence of Yugoslavia and Romania, regardless of these two countries’ internal systems, was consistent with U.S. interests but was not consistent with Soviet interests.

President Tito interjected that there were great differences between Romania and Yugoslavia, with the President commenting that President Tito would still admit that he had been a thorn in the USSR’s side, not because he wanted it but because his independent policy was disliked by the Soviets. The problem of the countries in that area was to have good relations with the United States but without going so far as to provoke the Soviets into using their might to stop movement toward independence. In this connection, the President observed that one of the [Page 339] major questions to be discussed in Moscow would be the U.S. attitude towards the Eastern bloc. Our position would not be that of liberation; as Hungary had shown, liberation meant suicide. However, the President stressed, his position would be to avoid any kind of understanding with Moscow that would give the Soviets encouragement to fish in troubled waters in Yugoslavia or elsewhere. He felt that he did not have to say more than that.

[Omitted here is discussion of Soviet relations with Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe.]

The President said that another question he wished to discuss with President Tito was our arms talks with the Soviets, because those talks were very important from the standpoint of what other states would do for their defense. Noting that we hoped to reach agreement with the Soviets on limiting both offensive and defensive strategic armaments, the President said that he wished to point out at the same time that if no such agreement was reached he would have to make a decision to increase our armaments. As things stood now, the Soviets were making great efforts to enlarge their arsenal of ICBMs, SS-9s and SLBMs. While we could not object to Soviet efforts to reach parity with the United States, we could not stand by if another nation was gaining superiority. Therefore, if no agreement was reached, we would have to increase our arms spending by $15 to $20 billion, and he, the President, was prepared to do it. President Tito expressed the view that it was important for the U.S. to discuss arms control with the Soviet Union because if agreement was reached in this area, that would make it easier to reach agreement on other issues as well.

The President continued that in certain parts of the world, some seemed to believe that given our winding up some commitments, our Vietnam policy, the Nixon Doctrine, and our moves regarding China and the USSR, he was so concerned about peace that he would make a move for peace even if that should weaken U.S. defenses. This, the President emphasized, was a gross miscalculation. The U.S. was a Pacific power, and it intended to remain such a power because it had interests in the area. If others were to limit their armaments, the U.S. would do the same, but it would not do it unilaterally.

The President recalled the remark in his toast the other night, that President Tito was a man of peace.2 In a very personal way, he wanted to say that although President Tito’s and his own backgrounds were different and his role in history had not been as great as President Tito’s, there were also some similarities. Both President Tito and himself had [Page 340] come up the hard way. President Tito was for peace, and he considered himself to be a man of peace too. President Tito was for independence, just as he was a strong believer in independence. He also respected different social systems; President Tito might be a communist and he a capitalist but this did not matter. However, one thing should be clear, and that was that he, President Nixon, was not a soft man. The U.S. was not interested in peace at any cost, and this would be made very clear in the forthcoming discussions with the Chinese and the Soviets. Nor would the U.S. make any arrangement with the Chinese or the Soviets at the expense of third countries. The President continued that it was his firm conviction that a weak United States would be a danger to peace, although some Senators held a different view and called for unilateral disarmament. He did not believe in such disarmament, especially if the other side was building up its armaments. In this connection, the President noted that some leaders on which President Tito had influence might criticize the United States for increasing its military strength, but that he firmly believed that this served the interests of peace. President Tito said that the nations the President was referring to did not criticize the United States for strengthening its defenses but rather for its inadequate participation in their development. Many of those nations were tired of hearing only words about such participation and wanted to see some action.

[Omitted here is discussion of the war in Vietnam.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Office Files, B Series Documents, Box 58, Folder 34. Secret; Sensitive; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Oval Office.
  2. For text of the toast, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, 1971, p. 1067-1068.