153. Memorandum for the Presidentʼs File1


  • President Nixonʼs Meeting with USSR Foreign Minister Gromyko on September 29, 1971 from 3:00 p.m. to 4:40 p.m. in the Oval Office of the White House (List of participants is attached)2

The President opened the conversation by noting that it had been one year since he had last met with the Foreign Minister. Since that time some progress had been achieved in a number of fields, notably in the Berlin problem and in some aspects of arms control. The President thought it would be very useful to get Mr. Gromykoʼs evaluation of where we stood and what needed to be done now. He would also give the Minister his ideas in order to see how we could get things moving.

Foreign Minister Gromyko suggested that the discussion follow the lines of their talk last year, i.e., that one question after another be taken up with each side expressing their respective views and positions on that question before going on to the next. President Nixon agreed to this procedure.

Mr. Gromyko said that first of all he wanted to carry out the pleasant task of conveying to the President the personal regards of the Soviet leadership, Mr. Brezhnev, Mr. Kosygin and Mr. Podgorny.

[Omitted here is discussion of bilateral relations between the United States and the Soviet Union, SALT negotiations, the European Security Conference, and the Middle East.]


The President raised one other subject which was of serious concern to us now. He believed that Mrs. Indira Gandhi was presently visiting Moscow and she would be visiting here later. He wanted to [Page 425] strongly emphasize his concern over the possibility that the situation involving East Pakistan, the refugees and Indians, could explode into a conflict. He believed it was in our mutual interest to discourage the Indian Government in every possible way from taking action that could explode into war in that area. Having said that, he would point out that he was aware of the fact that Pakistan was in no position to fight a successful war with India, because it was outnumbered. However, the situation in that area was so fraught with historical hatreds that if the Indians pushed too hard, the other nation might willingly commit suicide. He believed that the Soviet Union had played an important role in keeping the peace in that area in the past and hoped the Soviet Government would do all it could to prevent an outbreak of war in this crisis.

Mr. Gromyko said he had understood what the President had said in regard to American interests in the area and moreover he would say that he was gratified to learn the U.S. did not want to see a clash between India and Pakistan. He could assure the President that the Soviet Government also did not want the conflict to break out into war. Moreover, perhaps the President knew that the Soviet Union had taken steps in the present situation to rule out the possibility of a confrontation. Of course, Pakistan was by far the smaller country, but he would point out that to provoke a conflict one did not necessarily have to have superior size and strength. To do so it would be enough if there was a lack of restraint and insufficient understanding of oneʼs responsibilities. For these reasons, it was Soviet policy to do everything possible to prevent a confrontation and the Soviet Government had said so in its conversations with Mrs. Gandhi, the Indian Prime Minister. Mrs. Gandhi had assured the Soviet Government that India would do nothing to precipitate a clash with Pakistan. It was true the Pakistani leaders were conveying the same thoughts to the Soviet Government, but here the Soviets did not have as much confidence as in the case of the Indian leadership. Once again, he was gratified to know that the U.S. was interested in averting a war between those two countries and that it stood on the position of counseling both sides to exercise restraint. If this was so, this was one policy that our two countries had in common. On the whole, he would sum it, that the country that should be restrained first of all was Pakistan, at least this was the conclusion the Soviet Government had come to on the basis of what they had observed. The President said we would need to keep in close touch with each other on this situation.

[Omitted here is discussion of economic relations between the United States and the Soviet Union.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 492, Presidentʼs Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 7, Part 1. Secret; Nodis. Prepared by Kissinger. The full text of this memorandum is in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIII, Soviet Union, October 1970–October 1971. The conversation was tape recorded, with a slightly different time indicated than that noted on the memorandum. Kissingerʼs record of the conversation adheres closely to the recording. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of conversation among President Nixon, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, Secretary of State Rogers, Ambassador Dobrynin, and National Security Assistant Kissinger, September 29, 1971, 3:03–5 p.m., Oval Office, Conversation No. 580–20)
  2. Attached but not printed. The participants were Nixon, Rogers, Kissinger, Gromyko, and Dobrynin.