205. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

  • SUBJECT
    • Your Meeting with Arbatov on Monday, May 10

He is here for a round of discussions in New York and Washington. I talked to Marshall Schulman,2 who had lunch with Arbatov and “debated” him in a Council session.3 According to Marshall (and others who have seen him since the CPSU Congress) Arbatov is in a brash mood, having been recently elected to the Central Auditing Commission at the Party Congress. In New York he took a rather tough line on US-Soviet relations, (replying to George Ball) and some of this was also reflected in an article for Pravda written just before he left Moscow.4

His main pitch seems to be that we are in a dilemma caught between opposing forces: until now this Administration has bent to the military hardline, and using the “era of negotiations” to pacify public opinion. Marshall described his line as a mirror image of the breakfast talk we had on Soviet relations before you went West,5 i.e. that we are not responsive to the Soviets, there has not been much give in our positions etc.

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On the other hand, he was mildly optimistic about SALT , though judging by Marshall’s account he is not knowledgeable of the negotiating details; he was surprised for example, that we had offered a zero ABM (Dobrynin may fill Arbatov in on recent SALT developments). In discussing the new ICBM silos (he claimed not to know their purpose) he used the argument we are hearing more and more from the Soviets—that the new silos are in effect the answer to our MIRV program. He adopted the Jeremy Stone6 line that our concern about SS–9s and MIRVs is using a future danger to justify our creating a current instability by deploying our MIRVs.

On Eastern Europe, he was fairly tough in defending Soviet security interests, warning that it was dangerous for us to play around in their backyard.

Arbatov also remains critical, as he has been since the summer of 1969, of our East-West trade policy and of our moves with regard to China which he sees calculated to put the Soviets under pressure.

I assume you will hear much the same from him, and he may take the position that this is a “critical” time in Soviet-American relations and it will be important for him to carry back to his level clients (he always implies the Politburo) a favorable response.

That the Soviets may be preparing the ground work for claiming that in fact American policy is shifting was apparent in his article, in which he described the “second direction” we could take to “correct” our policies by taking account of “realities.” He claims the struggle is intensifying in American ruling circles, as the election approaches, and that a growing number of “people” are for change. Finally, he warns (as Gromyko did at the Congress) against the Soviets rejecting “elements of realism” in America.

You might ask him:

  • —How are we to read the Brezhnev program at the party Congress?
  • —What exactly would the Soviets consider a “realistic” response on our part?
  • —What can we expect from Soviet policy, if, as Brezhnev said, they proceed from the assumption that US-Soviet relations can be improved?

He may bring up the harassments of Soviet offices and personnel by the JDL, he claimed that Dobrynin said that morale of their people is suffering and that Moscow is becoming increasingly incensed at what they believe is our unwillingness to provide better protection. Tell him [Page 600] we are doing everything possible, within the law, and that incidents have actually declined despite the bombing of Amtorg.7

He will have seen Harriman on Saturday8 before seeing you on Monday.

Also he wants you to help arrange for him to see Ehrlichman and Garment to discuss “reorganization” of government (not clear whether he means our government or theirs).

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 715, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. XIII. Secret. Sent for information. In an attached handwritten note, Sonnenfeldt informed Kissinger: “I will be away. Bill Hyland is available to sit in.” According to an attached correspondence profile, Kissinger saw the memorandum.
  2. Marshall D. Schulman, Director of the Russian Institute at Columbia University and a member of the Soviet-American Disarmament Study Group.
  3. Council on Foreign Relations.
  4. In the article, entitled “American Imperialism and New World Realities” and published in Pravda on May 4, Arbatov argued that the Party Congress had adopted a “Leninist” foreign policy on relations with the United States, “which combines a readiness to normalize these relations and to resolve disputed questions by means of negotiation with a firm rebuff to the aggressive impulses of American imperialism with respect to the U.S.S.R. or any other country or people in the world.” For a condensed English text, see Current Digest of the Soviet Press, Vol. XXIII, No. 18 (June 1, 1971), pp. 1–3, 8. An Embassy assessment of the article is in telegram 2891 from Moscow, May 4; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL USUSSR.
  5. According to his Record of Schedule, Kissinger met Schulman and two other members of the Soviet-American Disarmament Study Group—Paul Doty, Professor of Biochemistry at Harvard University, and Franklin Long, Professor of Chemistry at Cornell University—from 8:20 to 9:49 a.m. on April 26. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) No record of the conversation has been found.
  6. Jeremy J. Stone, Executive Director of the Federation of American Scientists.
  7. On April 22, a bomb exploded outside the New York offices of the Amtorg Trading Corporation, the Soviet trade agency. Ambassador Bush issued a statement at the United Nations that evening condemning the attack. The next morning, Vorontsov delivered a “strong written protest” at the Department of State. (Telegram 69848 to Moscow, April 23; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 23–8 USSR) Three members of the Jewish Defense League subsequently pleaded guilty in Federal Court to charges related to the incident.
  8. May 8.