39. Oral Statements by the Ambassador to the Soviet Union (Beam)1

Oral Statements Made by Ambassador Jacob D. Beam to Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin April 22, 19692

In handing over his written message the President has asked me to say that his purpose was to set forth his general approach to our relations. Explorations and negotiations on the specific issues should, he feels, be carried on through our Ambassadors and other representatives, as the case may be, rather than through formal written communications. He would like to keep our contacts as confidential as possible and feels that written messages may reduce our flexibility in dealing with complex and sensitive issues. This does not of course exclude our reducing to writing any understandings reached.
With regard to the Middle East, we share your assessment that our bilateral talks in Washington have brought our views somewhat closer. We see these talks as a vehicle for helping the parties to narrow the differences between them. We hope therefore that these talks as well as the wider discussions in New York will provide useful support to Ambassador Jarring in his further efforts with the parties. The President is mindful of the fact that Soviet flexibility is limited by your relations with the Arab countries, just as our own position must take into account the interests of the countries involved. However both of us [Page 140] must be prepared to accept certain burdens if negotiations are to succeed. The President continues to hope that progress toward a viable settlement will improve chances of placing restraints on outside military assistance to countries of the region; indeed, the President remains ready to discuss such restraints even under present circumstances.
With regard to Vietnam, the President recognizes the sensitivity of the Soviet position due to your relations with China and your position in the communist movement. We have no intention to exploit whatever constructive influence the Soviets may be able to exert on Hanoi for any other purpose than the establishment of peace.
The United States Government was appreciative of efforts by Soviet vessels in the Sea of Japan in searching for possible survivors of our aircraft which was shot down by the North Koreans.3 The shoot-down of our aircraft is only the most recent example of developments in the area which lead to increased tension and which must be a source of concern to the Soviet Government as well as to us. We hope the Soviet Union will do what it can to restrain the North Koreans from such irresponsible acts since we believe it to be in our mutual interest to avoid further exacerbation of tension in the area.
More specifically on China, we have been concerned by the deterioration in Sino-Soviet relations. We have no interest in seeing these two countries in conflict and certainly have no intention to exploit their present difficulties. We do hope over the long run to achieve some normalization in our relations with China and were disappointed by the aborting of the Warsaw talks. If these talks resume, or other contacts eventuate with the Chinese, we will continue, as did the previous Administration, to keep the Soviets informed.
As regards Berlin and Germany, we would welcome any improvement in Soviet-German relations. We think German signature of [Page 141] the Non-Proliferation Treaty will assist this and we hope that the Soviets will be able to give Chancellor Kiesinger any help you may consider feasible to enable him to get the treaty adopted. Meanwhile as we have told Ambassador Dobrynin and Deputy Foreign Minister Kuznetsov in Washington, we believe early completion of the ratification process by the major nuclear powers, including simultaneous deposit of instruments of ratification, would be helpful in bringing about the widest possible endorsement of the treaty which we both seek. On Berlin, we are prepared to examine any way to improve the present unsatisfactory situation, and the President believes from his recent talks with the Germans that they are prepared to do so too. But this cannot be done under pressure. Perhaps some quiet exchanges would show the way.
On strategic arms talks, it should be stressed that we are not deliberately stalling; we are seriously reviewing our position, something the President feels he is obligated to do as head of the new Administration. We are not setting pre-conditions. But we want the talks to succeed once they begin and for that reason we feel that prospects for progress will be better in the context of generally improved US–Soviet relations. If you have some substantive ideas to convey to the President through me, he would be interested.
The President has asked me to inform you that he has given instructions to the members of the Administration to avoid harsh words about the USSR. The President will, of course, state our views but he sees nothing gained by “shouting.” At the same time the residue of suspicion of the USSR remains in the US and events like those in Czechoslovakia had a profound shock effect. We should cooperate to preserve the present low key in our discourse with and about each other.
We believe our relations will improve as we gain a better understanding of each others’ aspirations, problems, and concerns. It is for this reason that the United States Government strongly supports a free flow of information and ideas between our two peoples. We would hope that we could work toward this objective by expanding by mutual agreement the exchange program which we have carried on for a number of years. Both sides should do what they can to remove existing barriers to the free flow of information and in this connection it is our hope that in due time the Soviet authorities will find it possible to cease jamming the Voice of America which was reimposed after the events of last summer.
The President has asked me to say that he fully understands your concern for your security and your desire to have friendly countries on your borders. We have no wish to complicate your relations with your neighbors, communist or otherwise. It is the President’s judgment—he has been seeking to act on that judgment in our relations [Page 142] with our allies—that the maintenance of a hegemonial relationship by a great power over less powerful countries is self-defeating. It is the President’s feeling, without attempting to give you advice, that this judgment applies to your situation as well. We will applaud whatever you can do to achieve normal, friendly relations with all your neighbors.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL US–USSR. Secret; Nodis. These oral statements by Beam were an enclosure to airgram A–446 from Moscow, April 23. In transmitting his oral statements, Beam wrote: “It will be noted that since the question of a ‘summit meeting’ did not arise, I did not use the pertinent portion of the original instruction furnished me under cover of Mr. Henry Kissinger’s transmission slip of March 26.” For Kissinger’s memorandum, see footnote 1, Document 28.
  2. On April 21, the day before Beam’s meeting with Kosygin, Sonnenfeldt sent Kissinger a memorandum with the subject: “Ambassador Beam Requests Updating of Instructions for Use in Conversation with Kosygin.” Sonnenfeldt attached telegram 168 from Moscow in which Beam asked whether his instruction should be updated on the Middle East and NPT. Sonnenfeldt’s memorandum added the following: “In his conversation with Podgorny, Beam stated that ‘on the vital questions of disarmament we were undertaking a basic review which we hoped would enable us in a few weeks to make contact with the Soviets.’ I do not know of any basis for such a statement in any of the Ambassador’s instructions of which I have knowledge.” Kissinger handwrote the following at the bottom of this memorandum, which was later crossed out: “I never saw Podgorny cable. This is the sort of cable I should see. There is no basis for this statement.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 709, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. I) No record of Beam’s telegram reporting his conversation with Podgorny has been found.
  3. On April 14, a North Korean aircraft shot down a U.S. Navy EC–121 of Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron One over the Sea of Japan. The North Koreans claimed that the U.S. plane had violated its air space, had attempted to escape, and was then shot down approximately 80 miles at sea. On April 15, Rogers and Kissinger spoke on the telephone about registering some type of diplomatic protest over the EC–121 shootdown. According to a transcript of their conversation, “R said he was going to have Dobrynin in at 12:00. K said President does not want any protest to anyone. R said he was not going to protest—he wanted to talk to Dobrynin about helping to save the men.” Kissinger added that he “thinks the President is inclined to play this in low key and to say nothing to anyone until we know where we are headed.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Telephone Records, Box 359, 1969–1976, Telephone Conversations, 1969)

    On April 17, at 9:25 a.m., Nixon and Kissinger spoke on the telephone about the shootdown. According to a transcript of their conversation, “President and K discussed idea of formal protest—decided should not be done with Soviets.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 434, Korea, EC–121 shootdown, North Korea Reconnaissance, Vol. II, Haig)