28. Letter From President Nixon to Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union Kosygin 1

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I should like to use the occasion of Ambassador Beam’s assumption of his duties as my Ambassador in Moscow to share with you my thoughts on the future of relations between our two countries.

First of all, I should like to assure you that Ambassador Beam has my complete confidence and is fully familiar with my views. You may be certain that he will communicate to me promptly and in complete confidence any views that you and your colleagues may wish to convey to me at any time.

Because of the awesome power our two countries represent we, as heads of government, carry the gravest responsibilities for the peace and safety of the world. I am prepared to explore with you and your colleagues every available avenue for the settlement of international problems, particularly those that involve the danger of confrontation or conflict. I am determined to see us enter an era of negotiations and to leave behind the tensions and confrontations of the past.

I am encouraged by the contacts that have already been initiated by our two governments on the problems of the Middle East. It is essential that both our countries exert a calming influence on this situation which, [Page 98] as the past has shown, is fraught with profound dangers for peace not only in the immediate area in question but for the rest of the world. I believe that no outside power must seek advantages in this area at the expense of any other; on the contrary it is, in my view, the duty of all outside powers, especially the great powers, to help create conditions in which the opposing sides can find a solution that protects their essential and legitimate interests, as foreseen in the Security Council resolution of November 1967. I believe that the willingness of our two countries to exert a responsible and beneficial influence in the Middle East is an essential element in building the confidence that must be the basis of serious and productive negotiations.

I am aware of the constructive role which your government has played at certain stages of the search for a peaceful settlement of the Vietnam conflict. I am aware also of the great influence which you possess in North Vietnam by virtue of your military support to that country. In the spirit of candor which I hope will mark communications between us, I would ask you to continue using that great influence in the direction of peace. For peace is what I am striving to achieve, patiently and in a spirit of conciliation. The effort toward peace cannot of course be confined exclusively to the conference table; it must be reflected in Vietnam itself. As Commander in Chief I am responsible for the safety of American troops and I must also meet solemn commitments to the Government of the Republic of South Vietnam. But my country has demonstrated its readiness for moderation that takes into account the legitimate concerns of the Government of North Vietnam. Moderation, however, must be mutual and I believe that you can be influential in that direction. In any event, it is my conviction that the era of negotiation which I believe we both wish to embark upon would be seriously burdened if the day of peace in Southeast Asia cannot be brought closer.

I believe, Mr. Chairman, that our responsibilities also require the avoidance of crises and the removal of threats to peace in Europe. I was disturbed by the recent flare-up of tensions in Berlin. As I pointed out to your Ambassador, my country is committed to the integrity of West Berlin; it is committed also to fulfilling the obligations and exercising the rights stemming from four-power agreements. Here as elsewhere, unilateral attempts to change the existing situation to the advantage of one side would place obstacles on the road to peace. I believe that any change must be the result of agreement and should improve on the unsatisfactory aspects of the existing situation. If you have suggestions that would make the situation in Berlin mutually more satisfactory, I would, of course, be interested in hearing them.

More generally with regard to Europe, I would hope that there, too, negotiation rather than confrontation will mark our future relations. I am conscious of the great suffering endured by the Soviet people in the past because war was carried to your soil across your [Page 99] Western frontier. It is undoubtedly the responsibility of the Soviet Government to ensure that such a disaster does not occur again. At the same time, I am bound to say that last year’s events in Czechoslovakia produced a profound shock in American opinion. Our commitments to our European allies are solely for defense and for the production of their legitimate security interests. This should not be an issue between us.

As countries with the largest arsenals of modern weapons in the world, we carry a special responsibility for the control of armaments. The era of negotiation to which I have referred must clearly include efforts toward disarmament. I am confident that progress toward the solution of the great political problems that engage our interests can be matched by progress toward curbing competition in arms; for there can be no doubt that such competition, especially if unrestrained, is utterly wasteful and would not, ultimately, enhance anyone’s security. I can assure you that my decisions in this area will be guided solely by the principle of “sufficiency,” that is, by the principle that our military strength will be only that which is required to ensure the safety of this country and meet the commitments to our allies. We base this on the assumption that you will adhere to a similar policy for your country. Military requirements depend, among other things, on the crises and dangers that confront us in the world. As the dangers recede, I am convinced so can the levels of arms in our arsenals. These are the simple and, I believe, realistic principles that will guide me in negotiations on disarmament. It is my sincere hope that in the years of my Administration you and we can increasingly cooperate so that the burden of arms that our people bear can be lessened.

If I may sum up the approach to our relations that I have sought to convey to you in this message, it is simply that I intend to safeguard the interests of my country with due regard to the interests of yours; that in this spirit we should join together, wherever and whenever possible, to curb the dangers and eliminate the sources of conflict. I would like to remain in frequent and candid communication with you through our Ambassadors and otherwise; my representatives stand ready, and indeed have already begun, to explore with you the whole range of issues that confront us and the means to make our relations increasingly cooperative and constructive.


Richard Nixon
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 433, Backchannel Files/Backchannel Messages, Beam Instructions, 3/26/69 (Amb to Moscow). No classification marking. The date is handwritten. This letter was attached to a March 26 covering memorandum from Kissinger to Beam, which is not printed. Also attached but not printed were instructions from Nixon for Beam to use when he delivered the letter to Kosygin. On April 22, Beam presented the letter to Kosygin; see Document 40.