15. Note From Soviet Leaders to President Nixon1

The attention has been paid in Moscow to President Nixon’s statements in which he set forth his views on questions of peace and international cooperation.

As is known, the Soviet Union pursues and will pursue the policy of peace. We are prepared to develop relations of peaceful cooperation with all states which on their part strive for the same end, and we think that if both the Soviet Union and the United States in their actions proceed from exactly that principle basis, thereby there will be created the widest opportunities for mutual agreement and Soviet-American cooperation in solving the urgent international problems. We would like to particularly stress here, that although the great powers [Page 43] bear special responsibility for preserving peace, in their intentions and actions they—like all other participants of international intercourse—must respect the inherent rights of other states, big and small, for sovereign and independent development, they must proceed from the real situation existing in the world. If you agree with such understanding of major principles of our relations, we on our part can fully subscribe to your statement to the effect that “after a period of confrontation, we are entering an era of negotiation”.

That is what we would like to say to the President right now in order to exclude any misunderstanding on the American side of our approach to one or another question.

We do not see any other principle basis on which the Soviet-American relations could be built in the present world.

We are deeply convinced that if such approach be followed then despite all differences of views, social and political systems and of state interests there can be no such situation that would lead with fatal inevitability to direct confrontation between our countries.

All this, of course, presumes a certain level of confidence and mutual understanding that should also be present in searching ways to solving urgent world problems. It implies, of course, not only formal agreements but also opportunities provided by parallel or complementary actions including those based on the principle of “mutual example” and so on.

We are convinced that by their mutual efforts the USSR and the USA together with other states could achieve a situation when international negotiations would serve first of all the purpose of preventing conflicts rather than finding ways out of them after peace and international security had already been endangered. It is of particular significance also because there are a lot of temptations to set our countries against each other. It may cause additional complicating elements in the process of development of Soviet-American relations which is not simple even as it is.

At present there has accumulated a number of big international problems which are under discussion now, and the peoples have been waiting for a long time for their solution in the interests of consolidation of peace.

  • First. We believe that all possible efforts should be made to have the Treaty on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons start effectively operating. This is a question of war and peace of the future. The Treaty that had been worked out to a considerable degree due to the joint efforts of the USSR and the USA has not been signed yet by a number of states and this, naturally, strengthens the positions of the opponents of the Treaty and casts doubts upon the possibility of solving the problem of non-proliferation. If, however, a number of nuclear states grow [Page 44] the risk of new conflicts will increase with most dangerous consequences for universal peace.

    In Moscow, there is readiness to continue consultations with the U.S. Government to work out coordinated measures on securing the signing of the Treaty by a maximum number of states and its earliest entering into force.

  • Second. It is believed in Moscow that the termination of the war in Vietnam providing the Vietnamese people with the opportunity to solve their internal affairs by themselves without any interference from outside will not only eliminate the most dangerous hotbed of war tension in the world, but also will serve as a convincing proof of a real possibility for settling even most acute and difficult problems. It is hardly doubtful that the political settlement of the Vietnam conflict on the basis of respect for legitimate national aspirations of the people of that country and the complete withdrawal of the American troops from the territory of Vietnam will affect in a most positive way the Soviet-American relations.

    The Soviet Government welcomed the beginning of the Paris talks aimed at the political settlement of the Vietnam problem and it thinks that these talks should continue. We would like the talks to bring about positive results. This will be possible, of course, only if there is a realistic appraisal of the political forces acting in Vietnam and the recognition of their right for equal position in the negotiations. If the Paris negotiations develop in such a direction we shall render them all and every support.

  • Third. Great anxiety is caused by the tense and unsettled situation in the Middle East. We have already presented to President Nixon our views on the causes of the situation created there that may lead to most undesirable consequences not only for the states of this area but far away outside it. The Soviet Government seeking for durable peace and security in this area with due regard for legitimate rights and interests of the Arab states—victims of aggression, put forward a concrete plan for the settlement there which fully corresponds to the spirit and content of the resolution unanimously adopted by the Security Council on November 22, 1967.2 Nixon has been informed about this plan.

    We proceed from the necessity, on the one hand, that the Arab territories occupied by Israeli troops be liberated, and, on the other hand, that the existence of Israel as an independent state be guaranteed. If the government of Israel considers these principles unacceptable for the political settlement of the conflict then it means that Israel continues to follow aggressive and expansionist aims and remains on an adventurist [Page 45] position. Neither Israel nor anyone else can have any reason to expect that the Arab countries and the states supporting them will agree with such Israeli policy.

    We are confident that if the Soviet Union and the United States combining their efforts with the efforts of other states concerned make full use of their possibilities and influence in order to find just and lasting settlement in the Middle East it will also greatly contribute to the general relaxation of international tensions. We are ready for the exchange of views on the bilateral basis with the U.S. Government on the problems of the Middle East with the aim of achieving the necessary agreement on the settlement of the conflict. We said that before. But for some reasons not depending on the Soviet side such exchange of views didn’t get due development. We also declare our readiness for the exchange of views on the problems of the Middle East among the four powers—permanent members of the Security Council—the USSR, the USA, France and Great Britain.

  • Fourth. We are strongly convinced that the following premise has a first-rate importance for the character and prospects of the relations between the USSR and the USA: that is, whether both our countries are ready to proceed in their practical policies from the respect for the foundations of the post-war structure in Europe, formed as a result of the Second World War and the post-war development, and for the basic provisions, formulated by the Allied powers in the well-known Potsdam Agreements. There is no other way to peace in Europe but to take the reality into consideration and to prompt the others to do the same. It’s impossible to regard the attempts to undermine the post-war structure in Europe otherwise than an encroachment on the vital interests of our country, of its friends and allies—the socialist countries.

    At one time, and in particular in 1959–1963, when the Soviet and U.S. Governments were discussing the complex of German affairs, we were not far apart in understanding of that with regard to some important problems.3

    The Soviet Union regards with particular watchfulness certain aspects of the development of the F.R.G. and its policy not only because the past German invasion cost us many millions of human lives. President Nixon also understands very well that revanchism begins not when the frontier marks start falling down. That’s the finale, the way to which is leading through the attempts to gain an access to the nuclear weapons, through the rehabilitation of the past, through the provocations similar to those which the F.R.G. commits from time to time with regard to West Berlin.

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    It became almost a rule that the F.R.G. stirs up outbursts of tensions around West Berlin, which didn’t and doesn’t belong to it, involving the Soviet Union, the USA and other countries into complications. It’s hardly in anyone’s interests to give the F.R.G. such a possibility. Anyhow the Soviet Union can’t let the F.R.G. make such provocations.

    We would like the President to have complete clearness and confidence that the Soviet Union has no goals in Europe other than the establishment of the solid foundations of security in this part of the world, of the relations of détente between the states of East and West.

  • Fifth. If we agree that we should aim not at the collision between the USA and the USSR but on the contrary—at the elimination of the war threat, then the containment and curtailing of the arms race and first of all of the rocket—nuclear arms race is necessary. As you know, Mr. President, the stockpiles of nuclear weapons already at the disposal of the USSR and the USA, are more than enough to bring down a catastrophe upon the whole mankind, and this places special responsibility upon the USSR and the USA before all peoples of the world.

    A significant step in the field of the containment of the arms race and the reduction of a war threat could be made as it is believed in Moscow through the achievement of an agreement between the USSR and the USA on the limitation and subsequent reduction of strategic arms, both offensive and defensive.

    In the course of the exchange of views on this question which has already taken place between the Governments of the USA and the USSR we agreed with the proposal of the American side that the general objectives in this field should be primarily the achievement and maintenance of a stable U.S.-Soviet strategic deterrence by agreeing on limitations on the deployment of offensive and defensive strategic armaments and also the provision of mutual assurance to each of us that our security will be maintained, while at the same time avoiding the tensions, uncertainties and costs of an unrestrained continuation of the strategic arms race.

    It was also agreed that the limitation and reduction of the strategic arms should be carried out in complex, including both the systems for delivering offensive strategic weapons and the defensive systems against ballistic missiles, and that the limitation and reduction of these arms should be balanced in such a way that neither side could obtain a military advantage and that the equal security for both sides be assured.

    The Soviet Government confirms its readiness to continue the exchange of views with the U.S. Government on the questions of containment of the strategic arms race.

  • Sixth. It would seem that broad and full-scale relations between the USSR and the USA in the field of international policy should be [Page 47] accompanied by an adequate scope of their bilateral relations. The mutually advantageous potentialities which exist in this area also speak for the development of connections and cooperation between our countries in most various fields, such as science, technology, economy, culture. The extent of the realization of these potentialities depends, of course, on the general political atmosphere in our relations.

    If the U.S. Government is of the similar opinion then it could be possible to specifically look upon the opportunities existing now for the further development of the Soviet-American bilateral relations, to determine the succession of things to be done and to proceed with their implementation. As some of the examples, there could be mentioned possibilities for combined efforts in solving urgent problems of medicine, in space research in exploration and exploitation of the World ocean, in creation of the universal satellite communication system, etc.

    As a whole, it is possible apparently to speak not only about usefulness but also about real feasibility of a constructive dialogue between the USSR and the USA on the wide range of questions. Indeed, it is in this sense that in Moscow there were taken President Nixon’s statements about the vital importance of the relations between the USSR and the USA for the cause of peace and general security, about the necessity to eliminate a possibility of military conflict between our countries and about the preparedness for negotiations with the USSR at all levels.

    The thoughts on the above mentioned questions as well as on other questions which President Nixon may wish to express will be considered in Moscow with full attention.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 340, Subject Files, USSR Memcons Dobrynin/President 2/17/69. No classification marking. On January 31, Sedov told Kissinger that the Soviets were “considering putting out ‘something’ to indicate they will not use the NPT as an excuse for intervening in the domestic affairs of others” and that they “are also putting together a ‘package’ on their views re political settlement. Dobrynin may bring this back with him about February 15.” (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 1 USSR) This note was the “package” promised Kissinger and given him by Dobrynin on February 17. The date is handwritten on the note.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 2.
  3. Kissinger wrote “what?” in the margin of this paragraph.