20. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to the Acting Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Walsh)1


  • Circular Guidance to all Mission Chiefs on Administration’s Approach to East-West Relations

Please circularize our Mission Chiefs abroad along the following lines:

The President plans to explain his general approach to East-West relations in the course of his conversations with European leaders.2
President will draw on following points, of which Mission Chiefs should be aware for their own guidance and conversations on this subject:

Basic Approach:

We have said that we are entering an era of negotiation. We see this as a complex and extended process and recognize that there will remain substantial elements of confrontation.
By negotiation, we mean a serious engagement of the issues, not simply meetings for meetings’ sake. In general, we believe that high-level or other official conferences with the Soviets should be well prepared in advance and should offer promise of concrete progress.
We think the allies should attempt to concert their approaches as much as possible; Soviet incentive to negotiate seriously is reduced if they think that they can maneuver among the allies and divide them.
In negotiating, we want to proceed on a basis of sense of military security. We have used the word “sufficiency” in its broadest sense; this means forces that are strong and varied enough to deter not only Soviet attack but also gross pressures which the Soviets might be tempted to try if they calculated that confidence in our capabilities and resolve was eroding. But neither in what we say nor what we do, would we want to force the pace of armaments.

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Relationship between Arms Talks and Political Issues:

Wars and crises generally result not from the level of arms—not, at least, when these levels are in relative balance—but from clashing interests, ambitions, and purposes. For this reason, we are skeptical about singling out arms as an exclusive subject for negotiation.
Indeed, at various times in Western relations with the East, the Soviets have tended to use the bait of arms talks, or actual talks, as a means of regulating crises they themselves created. (Examples: abortive disarmament talks after Hungary, early exchanges on non-proliferation in the midst of the Cuban missile crisis, etc.)
Moreover, it is difficult to get public understanding for arms talks at moments of crisis (e.g., the invasion of Czechoslovakia had negative impact on NPT and on feasibility of opening SALT talks).
In addition, the problem of strategic weapons goes to the core of the security of ourselves and our allies (and, for that matter of the Soviets); it cannot therefore be isolated from the other great issues that impinge on security and peace.
We are not establishing rigid linkages between arms control and other issues. But we do believe there has to be progress in coping with the volatile issues (notably the Middle East and Vietnam) before one can get very far on strategic weapons.
We recognize the Soviets are not controlling factors in these situations; but they do have influence and we know that at various times that influence has been exerted in directions away from, rather than toward, settlements. If that were to happen again, it would not be compatible with progress on arms control.

Our policy on consultations with other governments, especially allies, is broadly as follows:

We will consult intimately on anything as crucial to the interests of other governments as the control of strategic weapons. More generally, we will consult on subjects that plainly affect the interests of other governments because we wish to give full weight to the points of view of other governments concerned. On major issues, we will make no proposal to the Soviets unless we have first discussed them with allies, especially those having direct concern. Consultations will be maintained during, as well as before, any negotiations. We are open to suggestions regarding means and forum for consultations. We assume that the allies will take a similar approach to consultation in connection with their own negotiation with the USSR.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 340, Subject Files, USSR Memcons Dobrynin/President 2/17/69. Secret.
  2. On February 23 Nixon left for an 8-day visit to Europe; texts of remarks made on various occasions during his trip are in Department of State Bulletin, March 24, 1969, pp. 249–271.