352. Memorandum for the President’s File by the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig)1


  • Meeting with Secretary of Commerce Maurice H. Stans, on Tuesday, December 7, 1971, at 3:00 p.m., in the Oval Office


  • The President
  • Maurice H. Stans, Secretary of Commerce
  • Peter G. Peterson, Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs
  • B/Gen. Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
[Page 888]

The President met with Secretary Stans to hear the Secretary’s report on his just-completed visit to the Soviet Union and Poland.

Secretary Stans, summarizing his written report, told the President that he had gone to the Soviet Union with the objective of establishing working groups to develop in more detail the means and forms of cooperation with the USSR on trade. His complete report would be forwarded to the President through Dr. Kissinger and Mr. Peterson,2 but he wished to touch upon the following highlights:

  • —The Soviets anticipate $2 billion of trade with the United States by 1975, and the Polish government anticipates $300 million in the same timeframe.
  • —The Soviets hope to complete a five-year grain arrangement with the United States.
  • —The Secretary highlighted the following impressions of the Soviet economy: (1) a critical shortage of housing; (2) a few shortages of consumer goods; (3) a general impression that the Soviets were a generation behind the United States in industrial advances; (4) a distinct inferiority complex among the Soviet leaders with respect to their industrial development; (5) a Soviet compulsion to play the big-company game in their future industrial development; (6) a distinct “Avis” attitude in the Soviet demeanor.
  • —The Soviets are especially interested in achieving Most-Favored-Nation status with the United States. They are also interested in additional credits, relaxation of export controls, completion of the trade agreement with the United States, and an agreement for scientific and technological cooperation and space cooperation.

The Secretary commented at some length on his discussions with Kosygin, whom he described as an intelligent, cordial, and extremely capable bureaucrat. The Secretary emphasized the importance of export-import credits for the Soviet Union, as a means of greatly enhancing our ability to expand US-Soviet trade.

President Nixon thanked Secretary Stans for his interesting report and for undertaking his trade mission to the USSR. He pointed out to the Secretary that it was essential that the U.S. attitude with respect to increasing trade with the Soviet Union be governed completely by the state of our political relations. The increasing tensions in South Asia would be an important factor in this respect. He instructed Secretary Stans to provide to General Haig a copy of the proposed talking points which the Secretary would be using in a [Page 889] press conference in the near future covering his impressions of his trip.3

The Secretary noted that he had already given an interview to U.S. News and World Report. The President instructed General Haig to get a copy of the transcript to insure that it was consistent with the current state of political relations between the two countries.4

The President again thanked the Secretary for his interesting report, and the meeting concluded.5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Agency Files, Box 213, Commerce, Volume II 1971. Confidential. The meeting lasted from 3:12 to 4:15 p.m. and included a brief press opportunity. Kissinger and Ziegler were also present during the closing minutes of the meeting. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) A December 6 memorandum from Sonnenfeldt to Kissinger transmitted a briefing paper and talking points for the President’s use in his meeting with Stans. Sonnenfeldt called Kissinger’s attention to the section of the talking points urging the President to restrain Stans’ optimism. A stamp on Kissinger’s December 7 memorandum to the President indicates the President saw it.
  2. No written report on Stans’ visit to the Soviet Union was found. On February 2, 1972, Stans sent Kissinger a copy of a report he had submitted to the Secretary of State on his December 1-3, 1971, visit to Poland. (Ibid., NSC Files, Agency Files, Box 214, Commerce, Volume III January-June, 1971)
  3. On December 7 Stans sent Haig a memorandum to which he attached the 37-page transcript of his December 6 U.S. News and World Report interview, which he said was indicative of the approach he would take. He would avoid any discussion of political relations, estimates of potential dollar amounts of trade that might materialize, and compliments to the Soviet Government other than for the hospitality accorded him and his party. Stans indicated he would feel free to discuss specific interests of the two countries, including the Soviet interest in MFN treatment and the relaxation of other American discriminations. Among the points in Haig’s December 8 reply was an admonition against accepting the Soviet “discrimination” term (see Document 349). Haig noted that “what is involved are measures undertaken in the political circumstances of the past which can be revised as these circumstances change.” Haig continued: “in discussing MFN and Government credit facilities, it should be made clear that these matters must be considered by the President in light of a whole range of factors, including political ones. You should not say anything that creates a presumption of early Presidential decisions or initiatives in these matters.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Agency Files, Box 213, Commerce, Volume II 1971)
  4. An undated note by John Scali on top of his copy of the transcript of Stans’ interview reads: “General Haig: It seems to me that Stans discloses almost everything that the Russians asked for and thus builds up public pressure for acceptance of their positions. I seriously question whether he should in this interview be permitted to spill all of this. I have outlined the sections that I have the most serious questions about but undoubtedly Hal can find even more. I would strongly recommend that we get him to knock out these areas and if U.S. News and World Report objects, tell them to knock out the interview completely.” (Ibid.) On December 8 Haig sent Stans a memorandum to which he attached recommended modifications in the interview. (Ibid.) Stans’ interview is in the December 20, 1971, issue of U.S. News and World Report, pp. 56-63.
  5. Documentation on the discussions leading up to, during, and after the U.S.-Soviet Summit held May 22-30, 1972, in Moscow, at which President Nixon and General Secretary Brezhnev considered a wide range of economic issues, is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, Moscow Summit, 1971-1972.