51. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1
- Kosygin’s Reply to Your Letter of March 262
Kosygin’s letter—handed to Ambassador Beam by Gromyko in Kosygin’s absence (he is in Afghanistan) today—is on the whole calm and unideological in tone.3 It is clear that the Soviet leaders want to [Page 167] maintain a dialogue with you and that they remain interested in keeping our relations on an even keel.
However, while the tone is civil and constructive, I detect no substantive concessions. But none were to be expected in this general sort of communication, just as your own letter contained general considerations rather than specific new offers of substance.
As was to have been expected, Kosygin argues against linking various issues too closely, although he recognizes a certain interrelationship. In principle, this is not too different from your position, and I see no need for arguing this issue further with the Soviets. We should simply continue to apply our conception in practice.
On specific issues, Kosygin’s most important points are
- —continued relaxation on SALT, with a bare reference simply stating that they await our views. He failed to pick up your suggestion that he give you any substantive views he may have. This bland posture is probably due (1) to their desire not to seem too eager and (2) their wanting to watch the outcome of our domestic debates to see whether we might be forced into unilateral “restraint”;
- —a rather more demanding position on South Vietnam, with, in effect, a proposition that we get rid of Thieu and set up a “temporary” coalition. On the other hand, Kosygin makes no demands for US troop withdrawals, as Zorin has been doing in talks with Lodge. Kosygin offers to “facilitate” a political settlement but this seems to be contingent on the changes in South Vietnam he asks for. I see nothing particularly hopeful in this;
- —on the Middle East, Kosygin supports the present US–Soviet talks and the four-power conversations in New York but offers no change in substance. (Gromyko told Beam they are studying Sisco’s recent suggestions.) As was to be anticipated he urges you to use influence on Israel. He maintains the position that arms control in the Middle East must await a political settlement;
- —on Berlin, he insists that the FRG is to blame for any trouble but picks up your suggestion to exchange views on improving the situation; while we might explore the matter in a low key to Dobrynin, I doubt that this is a good time to rush into any full-scale talks. Following the German election, we might raise the issue with the new government in Bonn and then consider whether and how to follow up with Moscow;
- —on Europe, he bears down hard on the demand that the FRG sign the NPT and appears to rule out Soviet ratification until then. He asks us to press the Germans and other countries allied with us (presumably meaning Japan and, by Soviet definition, Israel);
- —he takes pro forma exception to the comments in your letter to Czechoslovakia;
- —on China, Beam had orally told Kosygin that we did not seek to exploit Sino-Soviet difficulties; Gromyko now replies that they will not exploit our troubles with China either and, rather enigmatically, suggests that in general US–Soviet relations should be based on long-range considerations and on a whole range of factors, rather than just China.
I believe that this exchange of letters has served your purpose of putting on record your basic approach to our relations with the Soviet Union and that for the moment nothing is to be gained by pursuing it further. Other channels are open on pending issues.
A translation of Kosygin’s letter is at Tab A; for your reference, your letter of March 26 and Beam’s oral presentation of April 22 are at Tabs B and C respectively.4
Since we gave the NATO allies the gist of your letter of March 26, I believe we should give them a very brief account of the reply. If you agree, I will ask the State Department to have Ambassador Cleveland inform the Permanent Representatives by means of the text at Tab D.5
- That no written reply be made to Kosygin’s letter.
- That I inform Dobrynin that you have read Kosygin’s letter, that you believe we should now pursue matters of common interest through existing channels, that you do not plan at this time to make a written reply.
- That you approve the text at Tab D for use at NATO to inform the allies of Kosygin’s letter.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 765, Presidential Correspondence, Kosygin. Secret; Nodis. Sent for action. Nixon wrote “A very shrewd and very depressingly hard line letter. There is no conciliation in it except style!” on the first page of the memorandum.↩
- Nixon’s letter to Kosygin is Document 28.↩
- In Multiple Exposure (p. 221), Beam describes the letter: “An interesting feature was that the reply raised the later, much-publicized issue of ‘linkage.’ Apparently answering some earlier Kissinger remarks about the crucial importance of finding solutions for Vietnam and arms control, Kosygin’s letter declared it would be inadvisable to make the solution of one problem depend upon the solution of another, since this procedure might postpone a general improvement of U.S.-Soviet relations or of the international situation as a whole, and could create a vicious circle.”↩
- Beam’s oral presentation is Document 39.↩
- Attached but not printed.↩
- President Nixon initialed his approval of recommendations 1–3.↩
- Secret; Nodis.↩
- See footnote 4, Document 2.↩