11. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rogers to President Nixon1


  • Your Trip to the Soviet Union

Looking ahead to your visit to the Soviet Union next May, I should like to offer some preliminary thoughts on what the Soviets will want to achieve as well as certain ideas on how we may further our own purposes vis-à-vis Moscow during your visit.

I. Setting and Scope

Reduced Tension. For the Soviets, the summit meeting will be a major occasion to set a tone of reduced tension in US-Soviet relations with the purpose of leading the US to be more accommodating on bilateral questions and more relaxed as to the growth of the Soviet presence and influence in third areas. The first visit of an American President to Moscow will be portrayed by the Soviet leadership as symbolizing US acknowledgement of the Soviet Union’s equality as one of the world’s two superpowers and as representing an important success for the policy of détente laid out by Brezhnev at the XXIV Communist Party Congress last spring.

China. At the same time, the Soviet leaders will undoubtedly view your visit in relationship to your earlier visit to Peking. They will want to counter any adverse effects of the latter on their position. They will want to sound you out on your views of China’s future and of the triangular relationship between Moscow, Washington, and Peking. Whether Brezhnev will go as far as Kosygin did at Glassboro in suggesting mutuality of American and Soviet interests against China is an open question; the Soviets may now wish to be more circumspect. But whatever is or is not said about China, the Soviets will see your visit—particularly as it may emphasize the theme of US-Soviet equality and US-Soviet mutuality of interest in nuclear arms control—as having the message for Peking that US-Soviet relations are more developed and [Page 32] of greater importance than the incipient American initiative towards China.

Bilateral and Multilateral Issues. Putting aside the factors relating to China, I believe your visit to Moscow will provide a setting in which we can move toward the resolution of some of the many bilateral and multilateral issues between the Soviets and ourselves. In this regard, I think that some of our specific objectives should be:

  • —to make a decisive advance in SALT;
  • —to make clear that the Soviet policy of détente should be accompanied by concrete steps to ease the confrontation between East and West;
  • —to probe for Soviet cooperation on the Middle East and the India–Pakistan situation;
  • —to promote tangible progress in our bilateral relations; and
  • —to counteract any impression of “superpower condominium”—which would divide us from our Allies and diminish the hopes of Eastern Europeans for greater elbow-room in their relations with the West.

SALT . Whatever results may have been obtained in SALT by then, SALT will figure predominantly in the visit as the most important US-Soviet negotiation, and as the one which represents the unique capabilities and responsibilities of the USSR and US as the world’s two superpowers. The Soviets probably calculate—correctly, in my view—that both sides would find it useful to have as much tangible accomplishment on record as possible—even perhaps an agreement for signature.

The effect of such a calculation on Soviet negotiating behavior in the meantime is extremely difficult to reckon. Would the Soviets be more prone to make concessions to get an agreement? Would they reckon that they could toughen their negotiating position and force US concessions? We have no reason to prefer either hypothesis and, indeed, suspect they may in part be self-cancelling. The Soviets would not in any case be any more likely than we to make major changes in their positions on security issues for the sake of an agreement by a certain date, but they may anticipate a brisker paced discussion in SALT.

In any case, I believe we will want to press as hard as we can for an early agreement, with the summit in mind as well as the very favorable impact such agreement will have on both international and domestic opinion. If agreement in SALT is achieved prior to your visit, your discussions could appropriately center on next steps in this important area.

Europe: CES and MBFR . On European issues, the Soviets are more likely to look to the side effects of a display of American-Soviet cordiality than to specifics. They will expect thus to stimulate further West European interest in détente. In Eastern Europe, the Soviets might hope that the emphasis upon the US-Soviet relationship would tend to play [Page 33] down the importance of Romania’s independent policies, and perhaps make the US less prone to cultivate the Eastern Europeans in ways which Moscow tends to view as undercutting its position in that area. Your visit will also mark in Soviet eyes the end of East-West acerbity over Czechoslovakia.

Emphasis by you in your discussion with the Soviet leaders on our firm intention to maintain our security relationship with Western Europe should leave them under no illusion that détente is a one-way street. At the same time, their pretensions to hegemony in Eastern Europe can be blunted by reassertion of our desire to normalize our relations with the countries of Eastern Europe without wishing to undermine the legitimate security interests of the Soviet Union in that area. I advance further specific suggestions on both of these points below.

It is still too early to suggest how we might wish to approach other European security questions in the context of your visit. Progress on the Berlin issues and the related preparations for a Conference on European Security may have reached a point where a CES is on the distant horizon. Similar progress toward MBFR is possible. Both topics will be discussed at the December NATO Ministerial meeting. Both CES and MBFR will certainly be on the agenda at Moscow and we will be making further suggestions about their treatment.

Middle East. It is impossible now to predict where we will then stand with respect to our mediatory efforts toward an interim Suez Canal settlement. If these efforts are still in train, your discussions may be helpful in moving us toward this objective. They may also permit us to explore once again possibilities of mutual limitations on Middle East arms supply.

With respect to the broader problem of ultimate resolution of the Arab-Israeli dispute, on which the USSR can be expected to place primary emphasis, the Soviets will also want to hear your views. In this connection, Moscow might hope to persuade you to take a more active line in pressing the Israelis toward abandoning territorial claims as part of a settlement, but it is doubtful that the Soviets would expect much more than an expression of mutual concern that the problem not get out of hand.

India–Pakistan. If tensions in South Asia are still running high (although outright hostilities have been avoided), your visit will provide an opportunity to seek Soviet collaboration in bringing peace to the troubled subcontinent. The Soviets will want us to pressure Pakistan to make concessions agreeable to India, but Moscow has no interest in seeing the situation deteriorate into war between India and Pakistan and, in this sense, our interests are compatible with those of the Soviet Union. Some understanding on mutual efforts toward an improved situation [Page 34] may therefore be envisaged. At the least we will have a further opportunity forcefully to urge the Soviets to greater cooperation on a variety of matters including more effective participation in relief assistance, greater pressure on India to cooperate with the UN, the need for India to pull back its military forces, and perhaps indirect encouragement of the East Pakistanis to negotiate with Yahya.

Vietnam. Any embarrassment to Moscow which might arise over seeming to treat with the enemy of a socialist country will tend to be mitigated by the fact of your Peking visit. The USSR would not, of course, wish to be in the position of publicly condoning whatever American presence remains, and most likely will look to keeping this issue out of the limelight. Your discussions, however, might well be used again to urge Soviet cooperation on the POW issue. Additionally, you may be able to explore Soviet thinking on broader security questions in Asia, such as Brezhnev’s allusion to an Asian security arrangement.

Trade and Cooperation. The Soviets will most likely seek some statement in favor of increased US-Soviet trade. While they do not foresee in fact any dramatic expansion in that trade, the Soviets do have an interest in making various equipment purchases from American suppliers. They also have long been rankled by what they regard as American discrimination in the trade field. I will want to advance later suggestions on what we can do to reduce trading impediments as we approach your visit.

No doubt, the Soviets also anticipate that your visit will be the occasion for announcing some new developments in US-Soviet cooperation, but at this time we have no indication of Soviet preferences for what topics this might cover. In the past, space has been a good area for both sides, and particularly for the Soviets, because it emphasizes the primacy of the US and USSR. Environmental questions or medical research might also be fields in which a further expression of our ability and willingness to cooperate would be more desirable.

II. The Visit Itself

Aside from substantive discussion, your visit will lend itself to highly visible activities likely to create a lasting impression on the Soviet people and to further our long-range objective of opening up Soviet society.

The most effective means for direct communication with the Soviet people would be nationwide radio and television appearances. Your 1959 Moscow speech2 had a great and lasting impact on Soviet popular [Page 35] attitudes toward the U.S., even though it was not carried nation-wide. President Eisenhower was to have made a nationwide TV speech during his visit to the USSR in 1960, just as Khrushchev had done in the US. The Soviet Government could not refuse your request for air time, and you could quite properly set forth your concept of a generation of peace in the context of improving US-Soviet relations. The novelty of hearing the American viewpoint directly and fully would help reinforce the development of Soviet attitudes in this direction.

Another possible opportunity for a public statement with good media appeal in the USSR and abroad would be the formal opening of our Consulate General in Leningrad. Your endorsement in 1959 of the idea of exchanging consulates makes it fitting that you should preside at a ceremony, which would symbolize a milestone in the implementation of the US-Soviet Consular Convention and a significant step in our political relations. The only impediment to your doing so is the slow pace of renovation of the official premises we are leasing from the Soviet authorities. It is likely that the work could be completed by May if your desire to open the Consulate General were made known to the Soviet Government. If we are to do this, we would need to inform the Soviets of your interest within the next few weeks. I would therefore appreciate receiving an early indication of your reaction to this suggestion.

Another opportunity for a symbolic act with high visibility in Moscow, to complement your formal talks with Soviet leaders, would be a ground-breaking or the laying of the cornerstone of the new American Embassy Chancery. Preparations for construction should be sufficiently well advanced by May to make this feasible. Like the opening of the office in Leningrad, the beginning of construction would emphasize to the world and the Soviet people the permanence of our commitment to improved relations with the USSR.

III. The Aftermath

To help dispel any appearance of “superpower condominium” and to counteract Soviet pretentions to hegemony in Eastern Europe, you may wish to consider two stopovers on your return from Moscow. One would be your appearance at a NATO session in Brussels, the other a visit to Poland.

Our NATO Allies are the most important category of nations keenly interested in the outcome of your visit. Prior consultations will dispel many possible doubts on their part, but I think it would also be desirable for you to stop in Brussels to report on your discussions in Moscow. Alternatively, if you prefer, this is something I could do.

A visit to an Eastern European Communist country would demonstrate the value we continue to attach to the aspirations of the peoples [Page 36] of this area for greater autonomy. Your visits to Romania and Yugoslavia have already highlighted this policy, but an additional gesture directed towards the Poles would be highly desirable following a Moscow summit. This purpose could be achieved by a brief stop—perhaps a day, or even less—in Warsaw. The effect on the people of Poland and those elsewhere in Eastern Europe would be particularly positive, as was so clearly evidenced by your 1959 visit. The Soviet Government might not be overjoyed by the addition of Poland to your itinerary, but such a visit is fully justifiable in terms of the European détente Moscow is currently promoting.

IV. An Encore

The Soviets will expect an invitation for a return visit. Doubtless they will provide some signal as to which of the Soviet leaders you might invite and perhaps give some indication of a suitable time frame for a return visit. Even if the invitation for a return visit is nothing more than a dictate of courtesy, it will have the effect of adding a dimension of continuity to a dialogue which has proceeded only fitfully since the invitation to President Eisenhower went by the boards.

V. Interim Progress

The announcement of your visit well in advance should provide new impetus to progress on the wide range of issues we have outstanding with the Soviets. I am attaching a list of the matters we expect to be discussing with the USSR before your visit3 and have asked the Chairman of the Interdepartmental Group for Europe to submit monthly reports on their status to your staff. As opportunities for action emerge, I shall be sending you specific recommendations.

William P. Rogers
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 989, Haig Chronological Files, Nov. 4–12, 1971, [2 of 2]. Secret. Haig sent this memorandum to Kissinger under cover of a November 12 note in which he wrote that Rogers left this memorandum for the President and characterized it as “obvious ploy to get his licks in early on the Soviet Summit.” On December 10 Kissinger sent this memorandum to President Nixon with a 1-page covering memorandum summarizing it. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL–294, Memoranda to the President, 1964–1974, December 1971)
  2. Reference is to Vice President Nixon’s speech when opening the American Exhibition Sokolniki Park in Moscow, July 24, 1959; see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1959, pp. 881–886.
  3. Attached but not printed is “Status of Current Points of Issue in U.S.-Soviet Relations.”