255. Memorandum for the President’s File1

    • The President’s Talk with Ambassador Jacob Beam, June 10, 1971

The conversation began at about 10:35 a.m. and ended shortly before 11 a.m.

The President referred to Kosygin’s speech the previous day2 and asked Mr. Beam’s reaction. The Ambassador thought it was harsh but in fact was preparing the ground for possible agreements with the US. He felt the Soviets had to protect their flanks against the Chinese and that there probably were also skeptics within the USSR who had to be placated. In addition the Soviets were trying to say that progress in negotiations would be swift if the US was “reasonable.” An additional Soviet motive, Mr. Beam thought, was to try and create differences among Western powers.

The President was interested in how serious the disagreements in Moscow might be and whether the Soviet bureaucracy, especially the military, opposed negotiations. The President commented that this sort of opposition was not unnatural and could be found in many countries. Mr. Beam thought opposition did exist in Moscow, chiefly among the military and the party apparatus. He also thought that Kosygin, being principally concerned with the economy, favors negotiations. The [Page 761] President said it was almost inevitable that some one like Kosygin would be inclined to favor negotiations, given his responsibilities.

The President inquired about the Soviet economy. Mr. Beam said it was basically stagnant but there was a slight improvement of perhaps 2% a year in the consumer sector. This, however, fell short of the 6% the Soviets would like. In response to the President’s further inquiry, Mr. Beam thought that the present rate of improvement was not especially noticeable as one moved around the country.

The President then commented that the Chinese problem undoubtedly made the Soviets very anxious. Our position was that we sought good relations with both the USSR and China, consonant with our own interests; and that we did not want to give either the impression that it was being used by us against the other. This would merely produce additional obstacles to our policy. In practice both the Soviets and Chinese would draw their own conclusions. Mr. Beam said he had stuck very closely to the President’s line in his own statements in Moscow.

The President wondered to what extent the Chinese factor influenced the Soviet position on SALT. Mr. Beam felt sure that it did exert an influence though he could not say precisely how. The President thought that because of China the Soviets would wish to maintain certain levels of forces, especially in regard to ABMs. The area of negotiation was above that level.

The President then turned the discussion to prospects for trade, noting that an announcement concerning trade with China as well as the USSR would shortly be made.3 Mr. Beam welcomed the recent issuance of export licenses to Gleason and other firms who had contracts with the USSR.4 The President stressed that we should make a careful examination of how much trade with the Communist countries will in practice amount to. He felt that many people had imprecise notions on this. In any case, as Vietnam winds down there should be further relaxation, for example as regards credits, and our own economy would benefit from trade. Mr. Beam felt that if trade rose much above half a billion dollars in US exports per year, there could be some gain for the Soviets from a military standpoint. For the moment the level would be [Page 762] well below this, however. The President noted that the Soviets would be able to benefit from our relaxation on grain exports and from the removal of the requirement that 50% of such exports be carried in US bottoms. Perhaps the effect would be felt in the next several months.

In conclusion, the President told Mr. Beam to be sure to see Mr. Peterson before departing from Washington.5

The Ambassador extended congratulations on the occasion of Tricia’s marriage.6

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, Staff Member and Office Files, President’s Office Files, Box 85, President’s Meeting File, Beginning June 6, 1971. Secret. Sent for information. Drafted by Sonnenfeldt.
  2. For the condensed English text of Kosygin’s speech, delivered at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow on June 9 and published by Pravda and Izvestia on June 10, see Current Digest of the Soviet Press, Vol. XXIII, No. 24 (July 13, 1971), pp. 1–4. See also Document 259.
  3. On June 10, the White House announced the relaxation of trade restrictions for certain non-strategic commodities to the People’s Republic of China, Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe—including suspension of the 50 percent U.S. shipping requirement for exporting grain to these countries. For the text of the announcement, see Department of State Bulletin, June 28, 1971, pp. 815–817. See also Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume IV, Foreign Assistance, International Development, Trade Policies, 1969–1972, Document 333.
  4. See Document 242.
  5. No record of a meeting between Beam and Peterson has been found.
  6. Tricia Nixon married Edward Cox on June 11 at the White House.