108. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Recent Soviet Policy Developments: SALT, China and Germany

I thought you might be interested in a speculative piece I asked to be prepared on some aspects of Soviet policy.

The main points are: The Soviets have several balls in the air—SALT, the talks with China, and the new negotiations in Bonn; while it is tempting to see a grand design behind their diverse moves, one suspects there is a large element of improvisation.


The Soviet negotiators have been rather reserved, avoiding some key issues, and generally leaving the first moves up to us; by insisting on national means of verification, however, they have sharply narrowed the range of realistic proposals. One of their main incentives is their evident concern over Safeguard. They may hope to generate a new debate in this country by proposing a complete ban. At the same time, they have hinted at an interest in a fairly simple agreement early in the next phase.


Some observers see a close connection between SALT and the Sino-Soviet talks. While the Soviet position at Helsinki has been perfectly understandable in terms of the issues, they have tried to impress Peking with the possibilities of a Soviet-American rapprochement at Chinese expense. The Chinese have countered by reopening the Warsaw channel.

As for the talks in Peking, it does not appear that the interruption last week means a breakdown or new crisis. Both sides apparently see a tactical advantage to continuing the discussions. But the negotiations are stalemated, and tensions may mount again this spring when the weather makes military operations feasible. Thus the resumption of SALT may be viewed in Moscow as a kind of reinsurance against American reaction to Soviet punitive measures against China.

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The harsh line taken by Gromyko in his talks with the West German Ambassador2 suggests that Moscow feels the China question is sufficiently under control for the time being to establish a hard bargaining position with Bonn. The Soviets would be likely to do so in any case, since they probably are calculating that the new Brandt government3 is under pressure to demonstrate results and will be forced to make concessions. Moreover, by establishing a maximum position the Soviets are in effect laying down the terms for Bonn’s other talks with the Poles, the Czechs and the East Germans.

The Outlook

By next spring the Soviets may have untangled the various lines of their Eastern and Western policies and we could look ahead to:

  • —a new Sino-Soviet crisis, which again would raise the ominous threat of a Soviet attack;
  • —renewed pressure for a European Security Conference, emanating both from Moscow and from within the Alliance;
  • —pressures from Bonn for us to become more active in supporting the German negotiations with the East; Brandt may want us to endorse concessions on a security conference, if his policy initiative appears to be foundering;
  • —the resumption of SALT, in which the Soviets might tie together SALT and European security, or present a seemingly attractive proposal intended to wipe out the Safeguard program, in return for a limitation on Soviet offensive weapons at or near parity.

The longer version elaborating on this speculation is attached at Tab A.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 711, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. VI. Secret. Sent for information. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. Gromyko met with West German Ambassador to the Soviet Union Helmut Allardt on December 8, 11, and 19. Soviet demands included FRG recognition of all postwar European borders; recognition of the FRG/GDR border; understandings on the right of both German states to represent their own interests internationally; a FRG undertaking regarding access to nuclear weapons; and FRG concession on the Munich agreement on the Oder-Niesse border. Telegrams providing accounts of their talks are ibid.
  3. Willy Brandt, who was the West German Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister until October 21, became Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany on October 22.
  4. Attached but not printed.