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

4174. For the Secretary and Henry Kissinger.

At the moment the conduct of our relations with the USSR seem to have reached a marking-time stage. Despite the more positive tone of Gromyko’s July 10 speech,2 we have had no reply on SALT, the Middle East discussions are in a mechanical phase (we are receiving piecemeal the Soviet commentary on our counterproposals),3 Soviet positions on Vietnam and Laos remain stationary, and the delay in Dobrynin’s return has slowed things down, either by design or by the accident of his illness.
Some of the causes are understandable. The Soviets doubtless wished to study Senate testimony on the ABM and make their own evaluation of the President’s world tour4 as well as the Kiesinger visit to the US.5 Furthermore it is vacation time with Brezhnev, Kosygin and Podgorny currently out of Moscow, although the round of official visits to and from the USSR continues apace.
There may be other factors which one can only surmise. From the standpoint of Soviet reaction, the US may perhaps have been too successful with its recent accomplishments which put us ahead of them. Apollo 116 and the favorable world response to the President’s tour come to mind. With respect to the latter, it is not only the President’s trip to Romania that may have caused concern but also the extension of the tour (including the Secretary’s travels)7 into areas where the Soviets are trying to stake out a position for themselves through Brezhnev’s Asian security proposal.8 Our firm support of the Thieu government has not made the Soviet’s task in Vietnam any easier.
Added to these are Soviet preoccupations with China (with respect to which our own statements and attitudes are being carefully watched) and with Eastern Europe, expecially as the anniversary of the Czech invasion approaches. Finally there is always the German question and our relationship to it which will be examined in terms of Kiesinger’s talks in Washington, and may be reflected in the Soviet reply to the tripartite soundings on Berlin.
I have received no formal signs of Soviet displeasure with US but recent visitors and several of my colleagues have. To a greater degree than is perhaps shown in the written report, Kosygin closely questioned Hubert Humphrey9 about the Nixon administration’s intentions and sincerity, at least this is the indication Mr. Humphrey gave me when he was here. Arthur Goldberg was treated to the refrain that the USSR is looking to the US for deeds rather than words in the development of relations. As duly reported, Soviet officials have commented unfavorably to my German, Austrian and Indondesian colleagues about the President’s Bucharest stay. Finally American businessmen have received expressions of dissatisfaction and disappointment that there has been no relaxation in our trade policies.
I hesitate to go further in characterizing the current state of our relations but mention the above to call attention to trends which may produce significant reactions. Perhaps the Soviets will charge Dobrynin on his return with presenting a clearer picture.
By way of exploring procedures which in themselves may be revealing, I have had in mind sounding out Kuznetsov on schedules for the conduct of pending and continuing talks. I can always adduce the Secretary’s future order of business as a reason, but should this approach make us appear over-eager for negotiations, I shall desist.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL US–USSR. Secret; Priority; Nodis.
  2. For a summary, see Document 65.
  3. See Document 67.
  4. President Nixon’s round-the-world trip from July 26–August 3 included stops in the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, South Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Romania, and England. For selected documentation, see Department of State Bulletin, August 25, 1969, pp. 141–176.
  5. See footnote 4, Document 70.
  6. On July 20, three Apollo 11 astronauts became the first men to walk on the moon.
  7. Rogers made a trip to Asia and the Pacific July 29–August 10.
  8. According to a June 27 research memorandum prepared in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, “In his speech to the international communist conference in Moscow, Brezhnev declared that the USSR was ‘putting on the agenda the task of creating a system of collective security in Asia.’ “ The memorandum went on to say that “Although Brezhnev did not elaborate further, his proposal raises the possibility of a significant shift in Soviet policy in Asia, both in terms of Soviet attitudes toward regional cooperation on a non-ideological basis, and as a response to Peking’s policies in Asia aimed at isolating and containing China.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 9, President’s Daily Briefs, July 1–July 30, 1969)
  9. See Document 57.