7. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Soviet Attitude toward New Administration

You may wish to show the President the attached Intelligence Note prepared by the State Department on reactions to the first days of the new administration.2

The report makes the following points.

The Soviet response to the new administration remains cautiously optimistic, and Soviet media obviously have been instructed to avoid personal attacks on the President.
By contrast, Soviet comment on other administration figures such as Secretaries Rogers and Laird has been mixed, indicating that editors are more free to criticize their public statements.
In an apparent effort to impress us with the seriousness of their desire for good relations, the Soviets have invoked the sanction of Lenin on the need for friendly US-Soviet relations.
The Zamyatin press conference on January 203 indicating Soviet readiness to talk about strategic weapons limitation was probably designed to pressure the new administration to agree to early negotiations, and to indicate SALT as the preferred topic for opening the bilateral dialogue.
The total impression is that the Soviets are eager to create the atmosphere of détente; it is worthy of note that they fostered such a honeymoon in the early days of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations too. Only their subsequent performance will show how far the Soviets are prepared to go on substance.

Owing to the six to seven hour time differential, substantive comment in Soviet and East European media on the President’s press conference yesterday4 did not begin until late last night (radio) and early this morning (press). FBIS summaries are only becoming available during this afternoon. The first Soviet report on TASS International Service was brief and factual; from Warsaw initial treatment was scanty but factual, with the comment that the President’s remarks appeared to signal a harder line on Communist China than had been expected; from Budapest comment on the press conference also was restrained, brief, and factual. By tomorrow morning more authoritative analyses from both Western and Eastern Europe will no doubt be available.

Donald R. Lesh 5
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 709, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. I. Confidential. Sent for information. Drafted by Donald R. Lesh, NSC staff officer responsible for Europe and sent through Eagleburger. On January 29, Lesh wrote a related memorandum to Kissinger on “Further Reports of Serious Kosygin Illness,” in which he explained that Premier Kosygin was seriously ill with a liver ailment. (Ibid.)
  2. Attached but not printed was a January 27 Intelligence Note from Hughes, entitled “Moscow’s Attitude Toward the New Administration—Cautious Optimism.”
  3. Not further identified.
  4. President Nixon held a press conference on January 27; for text, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 15–23.
  5. Lesh signed for Sonnenfeldt above Sonnenfeldt’s typed signature.