332. Editorial Note

In mid-May 1971 a Soviet trade delegation led by Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade Komarov visited the United States to meet with U.S. businessmen, members of Congress, and Nixon administration officials. The delegation met with Peter Peterson in New York on May 17 and again on May 19 in Washington. A memorandum of the May 17 meeting is attached to a May 19 memorandum from Peterson to Henry Kissinger regretting any problem he may have caused with the Russians over the trade issue. Peterson thought he had concluded with the Soviets on May 17, agreeing only to give their proposals further thought and discuss them in Washington. He had been surprised to learn that the delegation was on the way to his office on May 19 and apparently even more surprised when Kissinger called to inform him Dobrynin was coming. Peterson continued: “it is an enormous overstatement to say I ‘invited’ the Russian ‘delegation’. Dobrynin’s presence without any notice is further evidence that they are trying to manufacture something much larger out of this than anything I said.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Agency Files, Box 218, CIEP)

According to Peterson’s memorandum of the May 17 meeting, the Soviet delegation outlined the Soviet plans for the Kama River project, which would produce 600,000 trucks per year for use in agriculture and inter-city transport, not to enhance the military power of the Soviet Union. Mack Truck reportedly was interested in supplying equipment for the [Page 850] $1.3 billion project, $850-$900 million of which would go to purchase equipment. The Soviet Union appeared ready to make cash purchases. The Soviet delegation also outlined Soviet interest in purchasing up to $1 billion of equipment to produce non-strategic consumer goods, e.g., electric appliances, home air conditioners, coffee grinders, pencils, flatware, suitcases, etc., over a 2-3 year period. The latter apparently was a “sweetener” for the United States linked to the Kama River project, approval of which the Soviet negotiators regarded as a necessary demonstration of U.S. willingness to cooperate in the trade field.

During his first meeting with Ambassador Dobrynin in February 1969, President Nixon had told Dobrynin that matters of particular sensitivity should be taken up first with Kissinger. (The White House Years, page 141) Particularly after the May 20, 1971, announcement of a breakthrough in the SALT talks, trade issues were among the topics discussed in that channel during the latter part of 1971. Numerous memoranda from Kissinger to the President reporting on his meetings with Dobrynin are in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, President’s Trip Files, Boxes 491 and 492, Dobrynin/HAK 1971. On May 28 Kissinger informed the President of a May 24 meeting with Dobrynin to inform the Ambassador of U.S. relaxation of certain trade restrictions: the President’s decision to authorize the sale of a British computer for the Serpukhov physics laboratory (see Documents 373 and 374), the Gleason Gear contract, and the export of some machine tools. Responding to Dobrynin’s query about a decision on the more comprehensive Komarov request by the end of June, Kissinger replied that he would be able to provide an indication of the administration’s general direction by mid-July. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, President’s Trip Files, Box 491, Dobrynin/HAK 1971)

On May 26 Ernest Johnston sent Kissinger a memorandum informing him that, pursuant to Kissinger’s direction, Commerce Secretary Stans was resubmitting the Gleason case to the White House along with $30-$50 million of additional export license applications for the Soviet Union. Johnston noted that Stans understood they would be approved and that he should submit additional cases. The Commerce Department reportedly also understood “that it should make no dramatic announcements when these projects are approved and there should be no public linking with any improvement in U.S.-Soviet relations. If questioned Commerce will respond that these are old cases which have been reviewed on their merits.” Johnston recommended that Kissinger call Peterson to explain what he and the President were planning on export controls. (Ibid., Subject Files, Box 402, Trade, Volume IV 7-12/71)