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

    • Your Meeting with Zimyanin and Zamyatin

Mikhail Zimyanin has been editor-in-chief of Pravda since September 1965. He is an old line party functionary who rose to prominence in Belorussia under Stalin, advancing to the Central Committee at [Page 121] Stalin’s last Congress in 1952. He and others with him fell from grace by the anti-Stalin 20th Party Congress in 1956, and went into diplomatic assignments. He served in Hanoi as Ambassador from 1956–58, and in Prague from 1960–65. He returned as editor-in-chief of Pravda after Khrushchev fell, and returned to the Central Committee in 1966. He is generally considered on the conservative side of Kremlin politics, but also described as intelligent and articulate.

His chief geographical interest is the Far East. He was briefly head of the Far East Department in the Ministry after returning from Hanoi.

He speaks virtually no English.

Leonid Zamyatin was promoted to Director of TASS this spring, after serving as Foreign Ministry press spokesman since 1962. He served at the UN from 1946–1957, and afterward specialized in American affairs in the Ministry when Dobrynin was in charge of the American Section. He was promoted to TASS director as part of a general political shakeup this spring, presumably reflecting Brezhnev’s desires. In his present job he would normally go on the Central Committee next spring at the Congress.

Gerry Schechter from Time, who has been doing some of the rounds with them, seems to think that Zamyatin is the better conversationalist and may be closer to the center of power. (The record suggests that Zimyanin as editor-in-chief of Pravda would be more attuned to the top leadership.)

Schechter also says that they seem to have no particular message. I suspect, however, that they are on a high reconnaissance mission, using the UN Press Panel 25th Anniversary as a convenient way to take the temperature here while Gromyko was here, and in light of the tensions in our relations over the last few months. If they have a message it would probably not be particularly different from the public line—we are artificially creating an anti-Soviet atmosphere, our words are not matched by deeds, etc.

Since both are certainly going to report fairly accurately what you say, you can pick the subject that you wish to reinforce. In a sense it will be a follow-up to the Gromyko talks, except of course, that Time–Life reporters will be there. In view of Zimyanin’s service in Hanoi and his interest in the Far East, this might be an area to start with, though not to dwell on. (See below)

We understand that Hugh Sidey, Gerry Schechter and maybe one other Time–Life man will be there, the two Russians, and maybe an interpreter from the Soviet Embassy.

They are both having lunch today with Ron Ziegler and Bob McCloskey.

[Page 122]

If you have a chance for serious talk in the group, I would suggest you make the following points (bearing in mind that what you say will also be played back through the Time–Life machine):

The President is in charge of foreign policy; whatever the influences that bear in on him, he makes the decisions.
The fundamental outlook of the country, despite the press and the intellectuals, is conservative and there remains a reservoir of suspicion toward communism and the USSR that it would not be difficult for a President to play on.
But the President has set out on a policy of negotiation based on the realities of power and reciprocity and on a mutual respect of interests.
This President has more leeway to conduct such a policy than his Democratic predecessors or any Democratic successor because he need not worry about criticism from the right.
It would be preposterous to suggest—as the Soviets have—that a President who has made negotiation rather than confrontation his hallmark would artificially manufacture a crisis with the USSR; our problems with Soviet policy were real and specific; fortunately some though not all, seem to have moderated now.
We do not expect ideological differences or certain broad differences in outlook to disappear but we think a viable modus vivendi can be evolved between us provided neither great power seeks momentary tactical advantages out of some crisis or attempts to obtain paramount influence in one or another area.
We recognize the USSR world power and have no desire to deny it such a role provided it is played under the terms indicated above.
We have been restrained in our arms policy. The Soviets may think that this is solely due to economic problems. We do have economic problems and would much rather devote increasing resources to them. But it would not be difficult for this President to persuade the American people that the Soviet build-up (SS–9s, etc.) and other Soviet activities, e.g. Mediterranean, are inimical to our interests and require new efforts on our part. (Next Congress may be more conservative than this one.)
So, as the President suggested, this may be an unusual opportunity for both sides to make decisions that will produce what will still be a competitive but potentially a less antagonistic and less wasteful relationship. (The Soviets should take this into consideration as they prepare for their Party Congress and Five Year Plan.)

Note: If the question comes up, you may want to say that [Page 123]

  • —our dealings with Romania are not based on any anti-Soviet purposes but strictly on the principle that every nation has the right to its sovereign independence; we seek no special position there; we recognize Soviet sensitivity about its western neighbors but not the Brezhnev doctrine;2
  • —we will deal with China in conformity with our own interests as a great power on the same Pacific ocean as we; we take no sides in the Sino-Soviet conflict and see no interest of ours served by any open hostility between those two powers. (You may add your point from backgrounders that we can understand to some extent the Soviet feeling of having vast, relatively empty lands adjacent to 700 million bustling Chinese with nuclear weapons and territorial claims. But on the other hand the Soviets (and Russians) treated the Chinese as a second-rate power for a century and they now reap the fruit of that folly.)

I think your basic approach to these people should be not to get into current diplomatic issues but to deal with US-Soviet relations on a conceptual plane. (Zamyatin, a slick operator and former diplomat may try to get you involved in the Middle East, etc., but your real target is Zimyanin, whose access to the top and whose probable association with the conservative strain in Soviet politics make him the most important Soviet you will have talked to in the period since you have been in the White House.)

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 713, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. IX. Secret. Sent for information. A note on the memorandum indicates that “HAK has seen.”
  2. Reference is presumably to the official visit of Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu. Nixon met Ceausescu in the Oval Office on October 26. For text of the memorandum of conversation, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXIX, Eastern Europe; Eastern Mediterranean, 1969–1972, Document 199.