19. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1

  • SUBJECT
    • Secretary Rogers’ Conversations with Gromyko in New York

The two conversations between Secretary Rogers and Foreign Minister Gromyko concentrated mostly on the Middle East; Berlin, Vietnam and Cuba were also discussed. No substantive change in the Soviet position emerged from these conversations. Gromyko was inflexible on the Middle East, made a small procedural concession on the Berlin talks, and reconfirmed the Cuban understanding of 1962. The atmosphere was not acrimonious; Gromyko seemed subdued, perhaps reflecting concern over our reactions to recent events. (The reports available to us are attached in full as Tabs to this summary.)

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The Middle East (Tabs A and B)2—The Secretary made it clear that we held the Soviets responsible for the complicity in cease-fire violations, that we were interested in resuming the talks under Jarring’s auspices, but that this could not occur without some rectification of the situation created by the violations. In both conversations Gromyko took the same position: the USSR was not a party to the agreements, was therefore not responsible, and that no rectifications were possible. He proposed to extend the cease-fire for a “limited period,” to resume the Jarring talks, as well as the bilateral and four power talks. On this basis he suggested a debate in the General Assembly could be avoided.

Secretary Rogers concludes that no compromise is presently possible between us and the USSR on the Middle East and that the next stage is a General Assembly debate.

Berlin (Tabs C and D)3Gromyko complained over the lack of progress in the four power talks. He said we would have to clarify our position. Most of his presentation was an attack on the political activities of the West German government in West Berlin. Any understanding, Gromyko asserted, would have to include prohibition on such activities.

The Secretary responded that the recent Soviet proposals were full of difficulties, but that we also sought to reduce tensions provided there was no unilateral interference with our rights. Ambassador Rush emphasized the importance of West Berlin’s economic ties to West Germany. Gromyko replied that the Soviets accepted economic links between West Berlin and West Germany, but not political ties.

In the second conversation, the Secretary said that the Soviets were hampering progress in the talks by their rigid position and Gromyko then agreed that our proposals for practical improvements could be discussed simultaneously with the matters of Soviet concern. Previously they had wanted their concerns met before discussing practical improvements. The Secretary suggested a review of the situation after two more Ambassadorial meetings.

Vietnam (Tab E)4—The Secretary stressed the seriousness of your new proposals and our belief that a cease-fire was now feasible. Gromyko said he could add nothing to the North Vietnamese and PRG reaction. In reply to the Secretary’s explanation of our willingness to abide by free elections, Gromyko said elections under the present “clique” would be biased.

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Gromyko spent some time probing our attitude on a coalition government. He wanted to know if we held the principle of coalition government “in reserve.” If we wanted the USSR’s aid, he would have to have room to be helpful. The Secretary said we did not rule out any solution acceptable to South Vietnam and the PRG. Gromyko concluded, however, that we did not accept a coalition government. The Secretary replied he did not propose to say anything on that one way or another.

At the end of the talk Gromyko said he had thought we might agree that he could inform the PRG we were agreeable to a coalition government. The Secretary concluded that he could inform the PRG we would accept any solution they could work out with the South Vietnamese government.

Cuba (No detailed report available.)5 Gromyko expressed surprise over our comments on Cienfuegos, and gave assurances that the Soviet Union had no intention of violating the 1962 understandings.

Under Secretary Irwin has sent you a briefing memorandum6 for your meeting with Gromyko which essentially parallels the memorandum I sent to you on October 19.7

The Under Secretary makes the additional points that you

  • —reiterate your long-standing interest in the USSR’s permitting emigration to the US for the purpose of reuniting families; and
  • —note that the Soviets have joined the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) effective November 14 and that you hope we can now cooperate more effectively on civil aviation matters including the hijacking problem.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 71, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Gromyko, 1970. Secret; Nodis. Sent for information. Haig signed the memorandum for Kissinger. In an attached handwritten note to Kissinger, Haig reported: “Pres wanted this p.m. We will have sep[arate] memo on VN in office for you.” In an apparent reference to the possibility of discussion at the United Nations on Vietnam, Nixon wrote the following question on the memorandum: “Debate in assembly. Coalition?
  2. Attached but not printed are telegrams Secto 15 from USUN, October 16, and Secto 33 from USUN, October 19.
  3. Attached but not printed are telegrams 172337 to Bonn, October 16, and 172472 to Bonn, October 19.
  4. Attached but not printed is telegram Secto 24 from USUN, October 19.
  5. In a memorandum to Kissinger on October 21, Eliot reported the “highlights” of Rogers’s meetings with Gromyko on October 16 and 19, including the following summary on Cuba: “The Secretary told Gromyko we had noted their public response and subsequent events with satisfaction. Gromyko said the Soviet Union did not understand why this had become such an issue. They had never had any intention of building a submarine base in Cuba. He thought the issue became so large because of American domestic reasons. The Secretary responded that we knew what had happened. We thought what they had subsequently said and subsequent events were encouraging.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 713, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. IX)
  6. Dated October 21. (Ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 71, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Gromyko, 1970)
  7. Document 17.