164. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1
- Soviet Moves on Southeast Asia
We have learned that a Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister, N.P. Firyubin, is coming to New York next week to “visit” the Soviet UN Mission and confer with Ambassador Malik. The interesting aspect is that Firyubin’s area of substantive responsibility includes Southeast Asia. Moreover, visits by Soviet deputy foreign ministers to the UN (when little is happening there currently) are not usual, although Firyubin may be filling in for First Deputy Minister Kuznetsov who normally supervises Soviet UN activities but is currently tied up in negotiations with the Chinese. With the next UN General Assembly being a special one in view of the 25th anniversary, Soviet planning for it may be more than routine and might include a trip here by Kosygin. Other heads of government are planning to attend. It is quite likely, however, that Firyubin’s purpose may not only be to talk with Malik on UN matters, but to make himself available for contacts with us. Any such contacts, in view of his responsibilities, would logically focus on Cambodia, Laos or Vietnam.
He could simply be on a fishing expedition to gain first hand a better insight into our policies and future moves. If Firyubin has some special message he will undoubtedly take the initiative to let us know.[Page 502]
Whether this trip could involve an important political break in the Communist position on Indochina is simply not predictable. On the record, it seems unlikely that the Soviets are in a position to take any major initiative at this time because of their more complicated relations with Hanoi and Peking. It seems likely that the Soviets, therefore, are acting on their own.
They may have in mind, however, testing our reaction to some future moves on the negotiating front, including the possibility of a new international conference or the re-establishment of the ICC in Cambodia.
Our Embassy in Moscow speculates that Firyubin will sound out U Thant and interested states on Cambodia, in anticipation of U Thant’s trip to Moscow in mid-June.
It is also worth recalling that Malik has played a key role in breaking two crises (in 1949 and 1953). This was remembered at the time of his trial balloon on an Indochina conference in April. Perhaps Firyubin wishes to discuss some new scenario with Malik and insure a better coordination with Moscow.
In short, we cannot be at all sure what is up. It does seem that this is no routine visit and the Soviets may be probing for some new contacts or testing the ground for future moves on the Southeast Asia front. Some light might be shed on the Soviet position when we learn the details of Gromyko’s discussion on Indochina during his current Paris visit.2
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 712, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. VIII. Secret. Sent for information. Drafted on June 4 by Sonnenfeldt who forwarded it to Kissinger under a covering memorandum that reads: “As you requested, I have done a memorandum for the President (Tab A) speculating on some of the reasons behind the unusual visit of Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Firyubin to New York.” A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.↩
- Gromyko visited Paris June 1–5. In a memorandum from Rogers to Nixon drafted in EUR but apparently never sent, the Secretary described Gromyko’s visit as follows: “Although Gromyko’s visit was useful to the French in calling attention to their role as an independent major power, it yielded nothing new on the substantive side and disappointed them in some respects. The problem was the Soviets’ unwillingness to make concessions these days, even to please friends like the French. Additionally, if some reports can be credited, Gromyko was not very adept at sugar-coating the unpalatable pills he dispensed to his French hosts.” (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 1)↩