126. Editorial Note

On February 25, 1971, President Richard Nixon submitted his Second Annual Report to the Congress on United States Foreign Policy. Five months earlier, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger had issued National Security Study Memorandum 102, instructing the relevant agencies to submit background papers for the report. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 365, Subject Files, National Security Study Memoranda (NSSMs), Nos. 43–103) After receiving the agency responses, the National Security Council staff spent weeks on compilation and composition. William Hyland, [Page 372] for instance, joined Kissinger for a “working vacation” in California over the New Year’s holiday to draft the sections on the Soviet Union. (Hyland, Mortal Rivals, pages 34–35) Hyland completed his work in Washington on January 20, with a draft on how the United States and Soviet Union had reached a “crossroads” in their relationship. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files, (H-Files), Box H–174, National Security Study Memoranda, NSSM 102, 1 of 2 [4 of 5]) As Richard T. Kennedy explained in a January 23 memorandum to Kissinger: “The major shift in tone between last year’s chapter and the January 20 draft is a new feeling that this country is ready for a considerable, mutually beneficial improvement in U.S.-Soviet relations if the Soviet Union will only put aside some bad habits that are inappropriate for a nuclear super-power in the latter part of the 20th century.” (Ibid., Box 327, Subject Files, President’s Annual Review of Foreign Policy 1971 (Memos) [1 of 3]) Kissinger forwarded portions of the draft report, including the Soviet section, to the relevant agencies for comment on January 29. (Memorandum from Kissinger to Irwin, January 29; ibid., NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–174, National Security Study Memoranda, NSSM 102, 1 of 2 [3 of 5])

After two weeks of further revision, the President chaired a meeting of the National Security Council at 10:16 a.m. on February 11 to consider the latest version of the annual report. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) Before the meeting, Kissinger sent Nixon a briefing memorandum on the status of both the report and the agency responses. “The only substantial disagreement that has been voiced so far,” Kissinger commented, “is the chapter dealing with SALT which is one of the most interesting and thoughtful in the report.” Kissinger noted that Gerard Smith, Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and head of the U.S. Delegation to the SALT talks, advocated a major cut in the chapter, since it revealed “too much of the negotiations.” The section on the “overall approach” to the Soviet Union, on the other hand, was less controversial, emphasizing “the need for mutual respect for legitimate interest, concrete negotiations, and focusing on broader interests rather than maneuvering for tactical advantages.” (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 327, Subject Files, President’s Annual Review of Foreign Policy 1971 (Memos) [3 of 3]) None of the members of the National Security Council raised any substantive concern during the meeting about the Soviet section. As Kissinger anticipated, however, Secretary of State William Rogers objected to the length and detail of the SALT section. (Ibid., NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–110, NSC Minutes Originals 1971) Although Kissinger continued to oppose any substantive change, the SALT section was eventually revised to take account of these objections.

On February 24—the day before the annual report was released—Kissinger held a background briefing for members of the White House [Page 373] press corps. During the briefing, several reporters raised the question of relations between the two superpowers. Peter Lisagor of the Chicago Daily News asked whether passages on the Soviet Union might be “somewhat pessimistic as well as a warning” to the Kremlin. Kissinger replied:

“No. I think that would be wrong. What, we did in last year’s report was simply to affirm in general the desirability of negotiations. We believe that at the end of the second year of an Administration it isn’t proper anymore simply to talk about the desirability of negotiations in the abstract, and, therefore, we try to draw up as fair a balance, Pete, as we could. We tried to list the factors that make for negotiations and the factors that have in the past represented obstacles to negotiations.

“We attempted, and, of course, one can’t judge how successful one has been, but our intention was to convey that we will approach negotiations with the Soviet Union with great seriousness, with the profound conviction that on our ability to regulate our relationships will depend the future peace of the world, compared to which many of the tactical disputes are really in historical perspective relatively trivial.

“But we wanted to do this in a serious way and not simply in an abstract sentimental way and therefore, we felt that any fair statement to the American people and to the Soviet Union had to lay out also the obstacles that have in the past, and especially in the past year, been an obstacle.

“In addition, though, if you look at the specific subjects of negotiation that we are listing in other chapters, such as the SALT discussion in the Arms Control section, and such as the Berlin section in the Europe section, we are optimistic with respect to both of those in the realistic way. But we are trying to convey to the Soviet Union that we are prepared to make a serious effort to have serious settlements and we do not believe that it is necessary to issue warnings.

“But when we drew up the balance sheet, we had to give the negatives as well as the positives.”

Another reporter followed up by asking whether the Soviet section represented “not a warning, but a bridge perhaps for renewed negotiations.” “I think it is an invitation to the Soviet Union,” Kissinger explained, “to seek to look with us at the problems of the future and among those, the problem, the overwhelming problem, of assuring a stable and just peace.” (Ibid., Box H–175, National Security Study Memoranda, NSSM 102, 2 of 2 [5 of 5])

President Nixon called Kissinger at 6:09 p.m. for a quick review of the briefing. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) According to a transcript, the conversation included the following exchange:

[Page 374]

“P: How did your second round go?

“K: Very well. They asked nothing about Laos. They had read it very carefully.

“P: You spent about an hour?

“K: About 45 minutes. They asked some tough questions.

“P: They had read it?

“K: Yes.

“P: Good. That’s lots better than last year. They hadn’t read it last year. This was a good idea to give them advance copies.

“K: The questions showed a lot of thought. I will have to read it more carefully next year. They asked questions like on page 126 … There were no inconsistencies. They were primarily interested in the Soviet chapters, SALT to some extent, Vietnam. There was only one question on the Middle East.

“P: Of course, Vietnam.

“K: They were not unfriendly questions.

“P: That’s all right. Good. Some of the thoughtful ones asked questions? That’s good. This is something on which you will have stories several days. There will be news stories tomorrow afternoon and evening and Friday. The main thing is there will be a column thing in the news magazines.

“K: And interpretive stories on Sunday.” (Ibid., Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box [A1], Chronological File)

During a radio address from the Oval Office the next morning, February 26, the President announced the broad outlines of his annual report on foreign policy, including its call for a “new American-Soviet relationship.” “Mutual restraint, accommodation of interests, and the changed strategic situation open broad opportunities to the Soviet Union and the United States,” he declared. “It is our hope that the Soviet Union will recognize, as we do, that our futures are best served by serious negotiation of the issues which divide us. We have taken the initiative in establishing an agenda on which agreement could profoundly alter the substance of our relationship.” After the broadcast, Nixon went to the Cabinet Room for formal signature of the report. For the full text of the address, as well as of the report itself, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1971, pages 212–345.