335. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1

    • Your Private Session with Gromyko on September 29, 1971

Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko has asked to see you alone for 20–30 minutes at the conclusion of your formal meeting on September 29. This private session was requested by Dobrynin in our September 20 conversation.2 He said that Gromyko had a personal message from Brezhnev for you which will express his pleasure that you are coming to Moscow and make one or two other points, to which Dobrynin claimed not to be privy.

You will want to underline the way in which US-Soviet relations have been improved the past year, along the following lines:

  • —You think the Dobrynin-Kissinger channel has worked well and should continue to be used for sensitive issues.
  • —You believe that our two countries have made good progress since your last talk with Gromyko. You hope we can further this trend as we move toward and carry off the summit next spring.
  • —You wish to underline that what Dr. Kissinger will say in his talk with the Foreign Minister the next day has been gone over personally by you. In view of the importance you attach to it you hope that it will be treated most seriously by the Soviet Government.

Dobrynin foreshadowed that Gromyko would raise the Middle East in your private talk. The Soviet leaders are proposing that this issue be handled in the same framework as Berlin was, having concluded that present efforts could not lead anywhere. They recognize that we are stymied in our initiative. They in turn, with their basic commitments to the Arabs, are under pressure to deliver something for them sooner or later if they are to preserve their influence.

The Russians have not been involved in the State Department’s negotiations on an interim settlement, and the Israelis would object to involving them. The problem with the State Department’s negotiations is that they have led Sadat to expect more than we can deliver from [Page 1020] Israel. Therefore, if there were to be an interim settlement, Sadat would have to be persuaded to accept less, particularly an insignificant military presence east of the Canal. The Russians could play a role at the right time.

Dobrynin said that it would be helpful if you at least did not reject the idea of private talks in our channel when you see Gromyko. I commented that at best this would be a slow process and would require some explorations to see if it were worthwhile. We should, however, keep open the possibility of this separate channel to regulate Soviet conduct elsewhere just as we used the Berlin question this year. Thus I believe you should dangle the prospect of bilateral efforts without committing ourselves:

  • —As a general comment, you might reflect that the interim agreement seems to have gone off the track because what started as a proposal for a very limited disengagement grew into half of a total settlement. If there is to be such an agreement, both sides will have to lower their expectations. You think there would be considerable advantage to Egypt in establishing the principle of withdrawal through a first step.
  • —You are willing to authorize exploratory talks between Dobrynin and Kissinger to see how negotiations would work and if the basis exists for fruitful discussions.
  • —After Kissinger has reported to you on the preliminary talks, you will make a final decision whether to proceed.

On Indochina, Dobrynin has also relayed Soviet willingness to carry a message to Hanoi (Podgorny goes there in a few days) and to see if negotiating differences can be narrowed. We will want to reserve a possible direct Soviet role for later in our present game plan—now that Thieu has given us such a forthcoming response on our new political proposal,3 we do not need Soviet intervention to embellish the approach to the North Vietnamese, who in any event stress direct contact. If Gromyko raises this issue, I suggest you restrict yourself to the following:

  • —The U.S. wants peace and remains intent on trying to reach a negotiated settlement.
  • —President Podgorny can relay this attitude to the North Vietnamese leaders.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 71, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Gromyko, 1971–1972. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Sent for information. According to Richard Kennedy, Lord drafted the memorandum. (Memorandum from Kennedy to Kissinger, September 24; ibid.) A notation on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.
  2. See Document 330.
  3. See Document 327.