101. Memorandum of Conversation1

    • The Secretary
    • Governor Harriman
    • Senator Muskie
    • Senator Muskie’s Trip Report

The Secretary met at 3:30 in his office with Senator Muskie and Governor Harriman who had requested the time to brief the Secretary on their recent trip to the Middle East, Europe and the Soviet Union.

Senator Muskie began his remarks by stressing the personal nature of the trip and that he wanted exposure. He emphasized that it was not a fact-finding exercise and he frankly doubted that he had returned with anything that the State Department did not already know.

He added that the State Department personnel throughout his itinerary had treated him exceptionally well and particularly mentioned Don Bergus in Cairo and Ambassador Rush in Bonn. He added that Wally Barbour in Tel Aviv also impressed him as a shrewd, capable man but because there was less need to depend on the Embassy when in Israel and he came to know Barbour less well.

[Omitted here is Muskie’s report on his trip to the Middle East.]

[Page 300]

At this point the conversation shifted to the discussions they had had in Moscow. Governor Harriman commented that the Senator had spent three hours with Gromyko and four with Kosygin. Gromyko, the Senator remarked, spoke in both English and Russian. Harriman added that Kosygin seemed to present the tough Soviet line while Gromyko was more prepared to be flexible and less doctrinaire. Senator Muskie said he spent most of his time with the Russians discussing three fundamental questions: 1) disarmament, 2) European security, and 3) military forces in Europe. He found the Russians positive and forthcoming in these three areas as opposed to their tone when discussing the Middle East, which he found negative and even bitter. As ancillary items Muskie said he reviewed the POW situation and talked for three quarters of an hour or so with Kosygin about ecological matters.

On the POW question, the Senator warned that it had the potential of “injecting an emotional quality” into US/Soviet relations and therefore should be dealt with most cautiously.

On disarmament, Kosygin told the Senator that the Russians wanted as broad an agreement as possible and were anxious not to waste much time. Kosygin believes he said that the American people want an agreement on SALT. Kosygin thinks, the Senator reported, that the talks are moving at an appropriate speed and that satisfactory progress is being made. Both Governor Harriman and Senator Muskie remarked that the Russians absolutely refused to go into detail on SALT, saying that they were reviewing their position. Governor Harriman believes that this reviewing posture seems to be the official line until after the next Party Congress and some decisions are taken.

On European security, Kosygin expressed a great deal of concern over our attitude toward CES and our insistence that linkage exist between the Soviet-FRG treaty and a Berlin settlement. Senator Muskie said that he understood that while no formal language is required, there is obviously political linkage. The Secretary pointed out that Brandt himself saw the need to tie a Berlin settlement to the Moscow Treaty. Senator Muskie was highly impressed with both Ambassador Rush’s preparation and Willy Brandt’s presentation of the issues. He added there was not a shadow of a doubt in Brandt’s mind of U.S. support for his Eastern policies, and the Senator was surprised to note the wide press play given stories that reflected lack of U.S. enthusiasm.2 The Secretary [Page 301] noted that Senator Muskie had changed his position in connection with American troop withdrawals from Europe to which Muskie replied this had been a result of his discussions with Brandt and Ambassador Rush.

The discussion then moved to the American and Russian tactics in connection with CES. Governor Harriman made the point that Brandt needed some indication from the United States that would encourage the idea of a preliminary meeting. The Secretary replied that the Russians had originally proposed that a meeting be held to precede the CES but he questioned whether there was any point in this meeting if the basic Berlin question could not be treated. Senator Muskie noted that Kosygin seemed to be very tough on the matter of a Federal German presence in Berlin. Governor Harriman noted that the change had been enormous since the Kennedy days, but Berlin simply cannot be expected to become another “Lander.” Brandt is flexible on this, the Senator said, and sees the possibility of working out the economic and legal aspects of the access problem without coming to grips with the politics of it. Finally, Senator Muskie remarked that he was happy that we share Brandt’s attitude toward a Berlin settlement. To this the Secretary said the Russians are interested in isolating Berlin by getting the United States and the Federal German Government out. When access is discussed, of course, the Russians return to the position that this is basically a question of East German control and thus out of their hands. Senator Muskie said that Kosygin told him he would be using his influence with the East Germans to work out this problem. In the Senator’s view the Russians genuinely want an agreement.

Moving back to his conversation with Kosygin, Senator Muskie said that he had raised the question of Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union. Kosygin had told him, he said, that last year some 1,500 Jews had been allowed to depart, although not all of them wanted to go to Israel. Senator Muskie said he pressed on this point, drawing an analogy with the plight of the Blacks in the United States in terms of opportunities available to them and other privileges in the society. He said that Kosygin would not concede the point.

Governor Harriman noted the surprising difference in the Russian attitude today from that of five years ago. He said that at that time they were particularly excited about the Viet-Nam bombing. This time, however, the only thing they showed particular concern about was the Middle East. On this issue they tried to convey the idea that they had twisted the Egyptian arm to good effect and wanted the United States to do the same to Israel.

[Omitted here is further discussion of the Middle East and Vietnam.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Rogers’ Office Files: Lot 73 D 443, Box 1, Memoranda of Conversation for Record. Confidential. According to Rogers’ Appointment Book, his special assistant, Peter B. Johnson, also attended the meeting. (Personal Papers of William P. Rogers) Johnson presumably drafted the memorandum of conversation. According to an attached note, dated February 1, Rogers decided to show the memorandum on an “EYES ONLY” basis to Hillenbrand and Sisco.
  2. On December 10, 1970, Chalmers Roberts of the Washington Post reported that former Secretary of State Acheson had urged Nixon to slow down Brandt’s “mad race to Moscow.” (Roberts, “Acheson Urges Brandt’s ‘Race’ To Moscow Be ‘Cooled Off,’” Washington Post, December 10, 1970, p. A8) Ten days later, the New York Times published an article by David Binder on the recent “crisis of confidence” between Bonn and Washington over Brandt’s Ostpolitik. (Binder, “Strain in U.S.-Bonn Relations Reported,” New York Times, December 20, 1970, pp. 1, 15)