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

    • Non-Attendance at Soviet National Day Parties Because of Continued Detention of US Military Officers by USSR

Despite several approaches through diplomatic channels, a formal note by the Acting Secretary of State2 and public statements, the Soviets are continuing to detain three US military officers and a Turkish officer whose light aircraft strayed into Soviet airspace inadvertently and landed on a Soviet airfield last month. Although, despite initial Soviet delays, we have now had consular access to our officers and they appear to be well, the continued detention of these men is wholly unwarranted by any standard. (The US officers are Major General Scherrer, Brigadier General McQuarrie and Major Russell.)

It is not wholly clear why the Soviets are detaining these men. It could be due to a combination of some pulling and hauling between [Page 139] different parts of the Soviet bureaucracy, an effort to induce the Turks to send back to the USSR recent hijackers of Soviet aircraft, and part of Moscow’s long-standing campaign against our military bases and activities in Turkey and other areas adjacent to the USSR.

In any event, I believe under the circumstances, it would be inappropriate for US officials to attend in the normal fashion the forthcoming October Revolution anniversary parties at Soviet Embassies and missions (November 6).


That you agree that Alex Butterfield notify all heads of Departments and Agencies of the Executive Branch as follows:

In view of the continued unwarranted detention by Soviet authorities of the crew and passengers of a light aircraft which inadvertently landed on Soviet territory last month, including three officers of the US Armed Forces, it is considered inappropriate this year for any Presidential appointee or any other member of the Executive Branch of equivalent rank to attend parties at Soviet Embassies and Missions observing the Anniversary of the October Revolution.
Heads of Departments and Agencies should ensure that attendance at such parties by their subordinates be (a) limited in number and (b) confined to officials of middle-level rank.
Heads of Departments and Agencies which do not normally have business with the Soviet Government or its organizations should ensure that no members of the Departments or Agencies attend such parties.
While it is not intended to volunteer a public statement explaining the above measures, the following statement may be made in response to questions:

“In view of the unwarranted detention of the crew and passengers of a light American aircraft by Soviet authorities, including three officers of the Armed Services of the United States, it is not deemed appropriate this year for American officials to accept the hospitality of the Soviet Government on the occasion of the November celebration. This was a decision taken at the highest level.”

The above actions will not be taken if the Soviets should release the crew and passengers of the US aircraft before the parties in question occur.3

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 713, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. X. Confidential. Sent for urgent action. Sonnenfeldt forwarded the memorandum to Kissinger on November 4 with the following recommendation: “I believe that this form of action, if carried out in a disciplined fashion, could have some impact on the Soviets—hard and soft—and might spring the officers. In any case, it would be another salutary signal that the President runs this Government and will not be trifled with.” (Ibid.)
  2. Not found.
  3. Nixon initialed his approval of all five parts of this recommendation. Kissinger, rather than Butterfield, signed and sent the attached memorandum to “all heads of Departments and Agencies” on November 6.