17. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1
- Your Meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko, October 22, 1970
Gromyko will be the highest-ranking Soviet official with whom you will have met since assuming office, although you saw his deputy, Kuznetsov, at the Eisenhower funeral last year,2 a man who is actually Gromyko’s senior in Party terms. You failed to see Gromyko when he was here for the UN last year, because the Soviets, while probing for an appointment, failed technically to ask for it. They later claimed to have been snubbed.
This memorandum discusses
- —the setting of your meeting, which is perhaps the most important US-Soviet encounter since you entered office;
- —Gromyko’s probable purposes and line; and
- —your purposes and general exposition.
Tabs with more detailed status reports and talking points on the subjects that are most likely to come up are attached in the order in which they would probably arise. There is also a sketch of Gromyko’s career and personality.3
The meeting occurs at a moment of unusual uncertainty in both capitals concerning the intentions and purposes of the other side.
On our side we have been asking ourselves whether there is in process some turn to the hard side in Moscow’s relations with us, based on Soviet performances in the Middle East, their military foray into the (to us) sensitive area of Cuba, their probe of our resolve in the Berlin air lanes, their continuing strategic military build-up, the generally hostile [Page 57] tone of their propaganda, their apparent effort to divide us from the Europeans, their continued failure to play a constructive role in Vietnam, etc.
Contrasting this, we have continued to see an interest on their part in certain aspects of SALT, including a rather striking if obscure overture for a deal involving joint actions against “provocative” third countries; continued willingness to move ahead on a treaty dealing with the seabed, and on at least certain limited forms of cooperation in the areas of science and space. Whatever their precise motives, there is no doubt that the Soviets are interested in a summit meeting.
As usual our analysis of Soviet policy and its purposes has been complicated by ambiguity or lack of good evidence concerning the attitudes of Soviet leaders, the jockeying that must be going on among them in this pre-Party Congress period and, generally, the distribution of power and influence within the Soviet oligarchy.
Recent events may be part of a deliberate pattern of testing our resolve—and your personal mettle—and of determining to what degree the Nixon Doctrine,4 our domestic problems, and the emergence of strategic parity may be affecting our foreign policies.
In part at least, the Soviets may have thought from our handling of the Middle East cease-fire and from our failure to react to increased military activity on their part in and around Cuba that they had acquired some increased freedom of maneuver.
By the same token, however, many recent Soviet actions may have their principal explanation and motivation in the particular situation involved and their more or less simultaneous timing may be fortuitous. (Of course, even if the latter hypothesis were the more valid, Soviet conduct could quickly develop into a pattern if it were sensed in Moscow that US resolve and power were in process of retracting and for this reason our actions regarding Cambodia, Jordan, Cuba and Berlin, as well as your trip may have a sobering effect.) In any event, we must examine our future policies toward the USSR in the coming period with more than routine attention.
In Moscow, at the same time, there appears to be uncertainty concerning our policies and our evolution. It is of interest that apart from Gromyko, there are currently in the US two other high-ranking Soviet officials: one, Zimyanin, the chief editor of Pravda, outranks Gromyko in the leadership (where Gromyko still remains essentially a technician [Page 58] on the fringes of power); the other, Zamyatin, a former diplomat and subordinate of Gromyko’s, is now the head of TASS, which, apart from being something like a Western news agency, is also the most far-flung Soviet intelligence gathering machine and the regime’s transmission belt for information, guidance and indoctrination to the Soviet population and Communists abroad. Each of these three officials (and they were preceded in the last several months by a score of well-connected scientists, scholars and America experts), is undoubtedly part of a major Soviet reconnaissance, the results of which could have considerable bearing on the important pending Soviet decisions for the Party Congress, especially those relating to the next five-year plan. In short, this may be a moment of fundamental decision-making in Moscow, too.
For the Soviets, the question of what our policies in major areas like the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Europe and in the military competition are likely to be, are crucial questions because, given the Chinese challenge and its costs, the obvious problems of the maturing but lagging Soviet economy and the continuing instability in Eastern Europe requiring periodic use of actual Soviet power and maintenance of potential power must all somehow be brought into rational framework in the next five-year plan. In addition to the normal jostling for position among Soviet leaders (possibly more serious right now since all the top men are in their late sixties and must sooner or later give way to younger men), the substantive issues involved are bound to involve differences of opinion and assessment and may, indeed, be highly controversial.
Experience has shown that on the whole we do best
- —if we consult our own interests and not attempt to influence the domestic trends in the Kremlin;
- —that we recognize that for outsiders Kremlin infighting is a highly opaque matter which we can do little, at least by deliberate action, to influence anyway (even if the outcome is undoubtedly a matter of great concern to us); and
- —that we will serve our interests most successfully by getting our purposes and policies across to the Soviets as clearly as possible.
Gromyko’s Purposes and Line
Gromyko will have a dual purpose when he sees you:
- —to gauge you personally and your attitudes; and
- —to attempt to influence US policies in ways desired by his masters in Moscow.
His reports (and those which may be separately sent back to Moscow by the other Soviets present), as well as the reports of the other high-level Soviets currently here will be read by all members of the Politburo and hence by all factions, if factions there be, in the Kremlin. [Page 59] They could thus be of great importance at this particular point in Moscow’s decision-making and political maneuvering.
I understand from Dobrynin that Gromyko’s general attitude will be to put the past behind us and to see where we go from here. He will stress that to the Soviet leaders the events of the summer look like a deliberate turning towards a tougher line by us. He will inquire whether this is a settled policy and indicate a willingness to improve relations while at the same time being prepared to stick out a hard line.
It will almost certainly be part of Gromyko’s tactic to put you on the defensive by reciting an indictment of your policies. He will do this (1) to get a debating advantage, (2) to test your reaction, (3) to draw from you denials or modifications in our policies, and (4) to influence your decisions after his departure.
But while using this tactic, incidentally almost certainly in a fairly conciliatory manner, he may also try to test your interest in certain agreements and deals. This effort is partly related to Moscow’s own interest, right now, in attempting to decide on whether certain beneficial arrangements can be made with the US and partly to its effort to determine whether you are looking for agreements as a means of cutting back on overseas involvements.
His major points are likely to be the following:
- —the Soviets were favorably impressed by your initial statements about entering an era of negotiation and by several aspects of your letter to Kosygin of April 1969 detailing the elements of your approach;5
- —but they soon began to feel that your deeds failed to match your words (he may go so far as to suggest that this was due to the influence of “forces,” like the “military-industrial complex,” interested in keeping the cold war alive and in making profits from armaments.
Uppermost in the indictment that Gromyko may attempt to put forth will be
—the allegation that we mounted a deliberate campaign this summer to discredit Soviet credibility and trustworthiness by our charges that they violated the Suez standstill agreement and, more recently, were attempting to violate the 1962 Cuban understandings.[Page 60]
Other points that may come up in his critical remarks about us might include
- —the charge that we are holding Germans back in their Eastern policy;
- —the claim that we are sabotaging the Soviet proposal for a European security conference which, Moscow claims, almost all Europeans want;
- —our one-sided support of Israel;
- —our “saber-rattling” in the Mediterranean;
- —our decisions to proceed with Safeguard Phase II and our MIRV program.
(Note: The Soviet press and other high, medium and low-ranking officials have also complained of the following which Gromyko, however, probably would not raise:
- —our China policy, which allegedly encourages Chinese hostility toward the USSR;
- —your trip to Romania6 which allegedly gave heart to unsavory “nationalist” elements in Romania and elsewhere in Eastern Europe;
- —our discriminatory trade policies toward the USSR;
- —our Vietnamization policy, which the Soviets claim prolongs the war while saving us casualties;
- —our alleged role in the overthrow of Sihanouk7 and subsequent “invasion” of Cambodia, which the Soviets claim played into Chinese hands.)
The point about this catalogue, which in one form or another has appeared in the Soviet press or has been rehearsed in private is that it is a mixture of actual Soviet perceptions and of typical Soviet hypocrisy. Indeed, in some respects it reflects the fact that some of your signals may have been unclear while others have in fact gotten through to the Kremlin leaders, unpalatable though they may have been to them.
As noted, Gromyko will probably also display interest in certain kinds of collaboration with us. The areas involved (and discussed in greater detail in the Tabs) may be the Middle East, Berlin, certain aspects of SALT and summitry.
In sum, while trying to put you on the defensive and testing your reactions that way, he will want to get a more precise measure of your commitments and your view towards negotiations.[Page 61]
(Note: The Soviets not only see the US as subject to numerous contradictory cross currents but they are uncertain whether to regard you personally as favorable or unfavorable—”unrealistic” or “realistic” in their terms—to a modus vivendi, by which they mean not only certain mutually beneficial agreements but our acceptance of them as a world power and of their hegemonial position in Eastern Europe.)
Your Purposes and Basic Message
Your overriding purpose in this conversation is—to put across the points—
- —that you make the fundamental decisions concerning foreign policy,
- —that your purposes are clear,
- —that you are precise, careful and thoughtful,
- —that you are prepared for serious progress in US-Soviet relations but only on the basis of strict reciprocity.
Beyond that, you should make the following points:
- —that you meant what you said about entering an era of negotiation and that at this stage in your Presidency you may have the greatest flexibility to negotiate.
- —You are in a better position to make basic settlements than your immediate predecessors because you don’t have to worry about attacks from the right.8
- —This is early enough in your tenure so that a course set now can have effect in either direction of conciliation or, if you are driven to it, resistance to encroachment.
- —that there does, however, remain a strong latent anti-Communism in our population which could be aroused if the impression grew that the Soviets were “testing” you and attempting to take unilateral advantage of our effort to reorder some of our priorities in line with the needs of the seventies;
- —that we did not mount any organized campaign to cast doubt on Soviet trustworthiness and credibility but that whatever the legal technicalities may have been, you, your Administration, and our people did get the clear impression that at Suez the Soviets had deliberately abetted and participated in the violation of a clear understanding that there be a military standstill;
- —that, in addition, we cannot help but view with concern the continued growth of Soviet strategic power, not because we think we have [Page 62] a God-given right to superiority but because the Soviet programs are taking a form (SS–9s especially) that are hard to consider with defensive intent;
- —that you firmly believe that negotiations will be successful and yield viable results only if conducted with a sense of security and that you are quite prepared to see the Soviets approach this matter in the same way; but that an effort on their part to gain unilateral advantage or military preeminence will inevitably produce countermeasures and set back the prospect for negotiation;
- —that you believe firmly that an orderly structure of world peace must rest on mutual respect of the interests of all concerned and that the disregard of the legitimate interests of one side by the other will merely postpone the advent of an era of genuine negotiation;
- —that while our two countries obviously carry special responsibilities by virtue of our power, size and influence, you consider notions of condominium unacceptable and incongruous.
[Omitted here is a list of Tabs A–J.][Page 69] [Page 75]
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 71, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Gromyko, 1970. Secret; Nodis; Sensitive. Sent for information. According to Haldeman, Nixon requested a “K memo to P re what we want” during a discussion on October 14 of “how [to] play Gromyko mtg.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, Staff Member and Office Files, H. R. Haldeman, Box 42, H Notes, Oct. 1, 1970–Nov. 9, 1970, Part I)↩
- According to his Daily Diary, Nixon met Kuznetsov for five minutes on the evening of March 31, 1969. (Ibid., White House Central Files) No record of the conversation has been found.↩
- Tab J, attached but not printed.↩
- The Nixon Doctrine held that the United States would support but not necessarily supply the manpower for the defense of its allies in Asia. Nixon informally announced the policy in his remarks to reporters at Guam on July 25, 1969. See Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 544–556.↩
- In his inaugural address on January 20, 1969, the President announced: “After a period of confrontation, we are entering an era of negotiation.” For the full text of the address, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 1–4. The letter to Kosygin, dated March 26, 1969, was delivered on April 22. Printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XII, Soviet Union, January 1969–October 1970, Document 28.↩
- During a worldwide trip in the summer of 1969, Nixon made an official visit to Romania on August 2 and 3.↩
- Prince Norodom Sihanouk—who was in Moscow at the time—was ousted as Cambodian head of state on March 18 by Prime Minister Lon Nol.↩
- Nixon crossed out this point and highlighted the next two in the margin.↩
- See footnote 5, Document 3.↩
- See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XII, Soviet Union, January 1969–October 1970, Document 184.↩
- In remarks to reporters after meeting with Rogers in San Clemente on July 31, Nixon underscored the achievement of the cease-fire agreement and urged all sides to refrain from any violations. For the text of his remarks, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1970, pp. 635–636.↩
- Reference is to the Jordanian civil war, which began on September 17, and the subsequent Syrian military intervention; the hostilities ended with a cease-fire agreement on September 27.↩
- Nixon underlined this clause.↩
- Nixon underlined portions of the first and last sentences in this paragraph.↩
- Nixon underlined portions of the second, fourth, fifth, sixth, and ninth points in this section.↩
- During his European trip in February and March 1969, Nixon visited Belgium, Great Britain, West Germany, Italy, France, and Vatican City. Brandt himself, then Foreign Minister, first proposed a “transitional arrangement” for Berlin on April 2 during the biannual meeting of NATO Ministers in Washington. On April 11, the Ministers approved a final communiqué, which supported “concrete measures aimed at improving the situation in Berlin.” See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XL, Germany and Berlin, 1969–1972, Document 20.↩
- Nixon underlined the phrase “leave the basic four-power responsibility for the city as a whole untouched.”↩
- Nixon underlined most of this paragraph.↩
- Nixon underlined all three points in this paragraph.↩
- Nixon underlined several phrases in this paragraph, including “safeguards for civilian access; but not to any political ties between the city and the FRG” and “Soviet proposals have aggravated the Berlin position.”↩
- Nixon highlighted in the margin the third, fourth, and fifth points in this section and underlined portions of the fourth, fifth, and sixth points.↩
- Nixon underlined portions of the last three sentences in this paragraph, including the last three points.↩
- During a speech in Warsaw on November 12, 1968, Brezhnev justified the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia the previous August—and, by implication, any such military intervention in the future—as a necessary step to prevent capitalist interference in the socialist camp.↩
- Nixon met Tito during his State visit to Yugoslavia from September 30 to October 2. For a record of their meeting on October 1, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXIX, Eastern Europe; Eastern Mediterranean, 1969–1972, Document 221. Brackets are in the original.↩
- Nixon underlined all except the last of these four points.↩
- Nixon underlined all four points.↩
- Reference is presumably to the proposal that the U.S. SALT Delegation tabled at Vienna, not Helsinki, on August 4. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXII, SALT I, 1969–1972, Document 100.↩
- Nixon underlined the words “to an ABM only agreement.”↩
- Nixon underlined most of the previous three paragraphs.↩
- Nixon underlined portions of the second, third, fourth, and sixth points, while highlighting the final point in the margin.↩
- Reference is to the proposal that Madame Nguyen Thi Binh, chief delegate of the Provisional Revolutionary Government in South Vietnam, tabled at the formal Paris peace talks on September 17. For an unofficial translation of the text, which was immediately leaked to the press, see the New York Times, September 18, 1970, p. 2.↩
- Nixon underlined most of this sentence.↩
- See footnote 10, Document 2.↩
- Nixon underlined these two sentences.↩
- Nixon underlined these two sentences, as well as portions of the next two.↩
- Nixon underlined most of these two sentences, while also highlighting the second one in the margin.↩
- Nixon underlined most of this sentence.↩
- Reference is to the periodic talks—held since September 1958 in Warsaw—between Chinese and American representatives.↩
- Nixon underlined portions of the previous three points.↩
- Nixon underlined portions of all four points in this section.↩
- Nixon underlined the first, third, and fourth points in this section. See Document 6.↩
- Nixon underlined portions of all four points in this section.↩