40. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

1693. Subject: Delivery of President’s Letter to Kosygin. Ref: State 061671.2

Accompanied by DCM Swank, I was received by Chairman Kosygin for a one hour forty minute talk this afternoon at three P.M. when I delivered to him the President’s letter of March 26.3 In order to facilitate translation I had earlier in the day given Kornienko of FonMin who was present at the talk a copy of the President’s letter as well as a full version of the President’s instructions for my oral presentation.4 Kosygin said he had been unable to read the letter because of his preoccupation with current CEMA meeting. He was nevertheless probably acquainted with its contents since translations were on his desk. Wishing doubtless to reserve his considered reply he confined himself to stating the Soviet view which was particularly rough on the South Vietnamese Govt. I responded on a number of points with citations from the President’s letter.
In welcoming me as Ambassador of “a great country” Kosygin noted that Soviet people are in general well disposed to American people, esteem their science and technology, and respect them. He observed that our relations have had their ups and downs but that despite accumulated and inherited difficulties he hoped for close cooperation with US and improved relations.
In concurring with these remarks, I noted that differences in our economic organization and social systems are likely to persist but that it is nevertheless in our mutual interest to limit dangers of world in which we live. I observed that President Nixon is a close student of international affairs and is especially interested in the USSR. I also noted that the President desires we engage in continuing and rational talks about bilateral and world problems through all feasible channels, including possibly reciprocal visits of important officials. I said that as stressed in President’s letter we are interested in having productive and practical discussions on concrete problems and are hopeful that this approach to our relations will bring positive results.
Kosygin said that he would be preoccupied for several days with the CEMA summit meeting, which he described as a “search for ways to achieve improved economic cooperation” among Socialist countries. He also commented in passing that “contrary to reports in Western press” this meeting is totally unrelated to the “Chinese question.”
Kosygin then stated that he hoped our two governments could find constructive solutions to outstanding problems in a businesslike atmosphere free of sensationalism. He said he thought it might be wise to identify problems to which we should seek solutions, and he then brought up in turn NPT, Middle East, Vietnam and Europe.
On NPT, Kosygin observed that treaty represents a joint effort which should now be brought to a conclusion. He suggested that we concert efforts to see that “certain countries” do not interfere with realization of objectives of treaty. I observed that if all three nuclear powers do not ratify treaty it may prove impossible to induce signature and ratification by other powers. Kosygin did not react to this remark nor did he indicate attitude of SovGov to our proposal for joint ratification.
On Middle East, Kosygin said vigorously that USSR desires “greatly” to cooperate with US in reaching a settlement. He commented that by “uniting our strengths” we could achieve such a settlement. He said that he would not go into detail on this subject but wished to observe that aggressors should be punished, not encouraged. He also referred to circles in United States who seek an “unbalanced” (that is, a pro-Israel) solution. In my answering remarks, I said that President Nixon believes both our countries must be willing to accept burdens of bringing peace to area. I also noted that we have been encouraged by talks now underway and hope they will eventually assist Jarring’s mission.
Kosygin expressed himself at greater length and with most vehemence on subject of Vietnam. Emphasizing that he speaking for himself and not on behalf of Hanoi. His main target was the Thieu govt, which he repeatedly characterized as a corrupt puppet regime lacking popular support, dictatorial in character and unrepresentative of [Page 144] people of South Vietnam. He criticized lack of progress in Paris talks, comparing them to unfruitful US–Chinese talks in Warsaw and referring somewhat sardonically to “formal” proceedings which had not yet got to heart of matter. He said that Soviet policy is still directed to objective of stopping the war and added that he is convinced this is also objective of Vietnamese. He said he was also prepared accept judgment that US shares this objective. It was therefore imperative for progress to be made toward a settlement since another interested power, and he mentioned China by name, could potentially use its influence against a settlement and in manner to increase tensions throughout Southeast Asia. He stressed that those interested in reaching a settlement must seek some practical “informal” approach to problem but admitted that he could not now identify such an approach.
In my response I remarked that I regretted to note that our interpretations of situation in Vietnam were so far apart. I stated that the Republic of Vietnam has a democratic strong govt with substantial international recognition. I also read aloud to Kosygin portion of President’s letter stressing his desire to achieve peace and his hope that Soviet influence can be brought to bear to this end. (It is obvious that Kosygin’s remarks offer little new on subject of Vietnam, but is equally apparent that he is concerned that talks in Paris are not making progress and that he views Chinese role in area as both unpredictable and sinister.)
On Europe, Kosygin said he wished to confine himself to a brief restatement on Soviet position. He asserted that the USSR seeks to avoid tension in area, citing recent diminution of tensions in Berlin, but emphasized SovGov absolutely firm in position that it will not tolerate any revision of “results of World War II.” He called Soviet obligations in this respect “sacred.” I said that I would not address myself to European questions since I believed President’s letter covered subject adequately.
In conclusion, Kosygin asked me to transmit to President interim message that Soviet leaders wish to establish relations with United States on a basis of honesty and realism. He said that Soviet leaders believe it important that Soviet and American peoples achieve satisfaction of knowing that they are not threatened by the other. Each side possesses an enormous arsenal. In our approach to mutual relations there is no room for insincerity. He asked me to extend personal greetings to the President and to tell him that in due course he will answer his letter, which he would also of course share with Brezhnev, Podgorny and entire leadership. He said he regretted he had been unable to receive me immediately following my presentation of credentials but press of business had interfered.
Although I can hardly report that Kosygin has as yet made much movement away from standard Soviet positions, he was interested [Page 145] and serious in reciprocating the President’s approach to negotiation. He was genial throughout and laughed when I told him I could have made his day brighter by describing at great length the South Vietnam Government’s growing achievements.
We are informed that Soviet media will confine publicity of meeting to usual brief statement that I was received at my request and that conversation touched on questions of mutual interest. We do not plan to go beyond that in comments to press here.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL US–USSR. Secret; Nodis. Beam’s description of his meeting with Kosygin on April 22 is in Multiple Exposure, pp. 219–220.
  2. Telegram 61671 to Moscow, April 2, provided instructions for Beam’s oral presentation to Kosygin. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL US–USSR)
  3. Document 28.
  4. See Document 39.