12. Conversation Among President Nixon, Secretary of Commerce Stans, Secretary of State Rogers, and the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig)1
[Omitted here is an exchange of pleasantries]
Nixon: Now the other thing is, as Bill will tell you, that anyone who has talked to the Russians, our Russian friends, Gromyko and the rest, they’re enormously interested in trade. That’s one of the big things we’ve got for them.
Nixon: It’s something that we must not indicate is going to be linked with something else. But they, in their minds, know very well that if you make progress on the political front, that you’ll make progress on the trade front. The way I’ve always described it is this: that you never say trade and political accommodation are linked. But the two are just inevitably intertwined. If you move on one it helps the other. If you move on—and it just moves like that. So—And we know that. Now I think the thing I want to do is to go out and—If you look at the situation and notice that their—I think it’s $16 billion worth of trade the Soviet Union has at the present time; $16 billion dollars worth and we’ve got $250 million dollars worth, approximately.
Stans: That’s in both directions.
Nixon: That’s right.
Stans: Our exports were less than—are worth about half of that.
Nixon: That’s what I mean. And, so we—we’ve got a helluva big say in this. On the other hand, we—And frankly we have been fairly careful up to this point. I think more than anything else it’s a, it’s a—to the extent you can and then, Bill, if you have a different view, [Page 38] you can express it. I think what we want is for Maury to talk to everybody; listen and learn everything you can. But I don’t think we want to appear to be panting so much after. I don’t think we want to be—I don’t think we—I mean I don’t—I think we oughta—I think—Let me put it this way: there’s some things we’d like to get from them. I mean if, for example, we’re still screwing around on Vietnam because [unclear] and, the arms control and the rest. Trade is something. Trade from us to them is infinitely more important than it is for us to have trade with them. We’d like—you know what I mean—I read the Times story about, you know, how much it would mean if we had all this and the Europeans are going to trade. But this is something that means a helluva a lot more to them than it does to us. Now you, of course, I don’t think you should play it that way. That’s too crude. But isn’t that about what it is? And I don’t want hear a blanket [unclear] as a matter of fact. Bill, do you agree?
Rogers: Mr. President, I agree to everything.
Rogers: It’s important to let them know that the climate for trade has improved; that the political climate is better.
Rogers: The political climate will be better when the President goes there, particularly if they cooperate with us on some of these things that we’re trying to accomplish—Berlin, Indochina and other matters.
Nixon: And arms control.
Rogers: And arms control. Now they need to trade a helluva a lot more than we do. They, they’ve got a real problem because what they’re doing—some of their allies, particularly Hungary, is doing a lot better in the trade field than they are, so they’re trying—
Nixon: Hungary is?
Rogers: Oh yeah. Hungary is doing very well. And, of course, Romania is building up a little trade. So they’re concerned about having more trade with us. And I think we should, we should set the prospects for trade—
Rogers: And listen and see where we can get some benefit, but not seem over-eager. If they think we’re over-eager for trade, they’ll snap at it. Furthermore, they’ve got a lot of other irons in the fire. They want this conference on European security very much.
Rogers: They want discussion on mutual balance force reduction.
Nixon: Watch all of this.[Page 39]
Rogers: They want an agreement on Berlin, but they don’t want to concede very much. Now, as the President said, the presence of trade is something of a weapon that we have. They need it. Now it will benefit us some, and politically it’s always good to talk about it. But if you analyze it in real terms, it doesn’t amount to a helluva a lot with us and it won’t for some time, little bits and drags once in awhile.
Stans: Now I differ a little bit on that, Bill. There’s a great interest on the part of American businessmen and quite a number have been over there recently—
Rogers: Oh, yes.
Stans: There’s a group of 50, of a 100, including our friend Don Kendall, who’s going to be over there the last day or two that I’m there.
Nixon: Let me say, let me say Maury, I think that you’re absolutely right. I know Don Kendall and all this group. But what I’m suggesting that you do, to you is that you play a different game. That’s our businessmen, and they’re over there panting around over the Soviets so much that they’re slobbering away and giving away our bargaining position. You should not go there and say—I want you to take the position, which indicates that we’re going to look at this stuff. We’re very interested in hearing what they have to offer. We have people, of course, who would like to do this, that, and the other thing. But you see, ‘cause I think—I really do believe that on the, this business side of it—Bill, I’ve talked to some of these guys and, gosh, they’d give away the store.
Rogers: Yep. But we don’t disagree on this thing.
Nixon: [unclear exchange]
Rogers: The total impact at the moment, for the next couple of years, isn’t going to amount to a lot. We can talk about it.
Nixon: That’s right.
Rogers: We should tell American business we’re doing everything we can. We want to increase our trade, but if you look at it in the total, in the overall picture, it’s not going to amount to a helluva a lot in the next couple of years.
Stans: Well, I think there’s millions of dollars of business there. The big problem is that they have difficulty in paying for it.
Stans: And the next thing they’re going to ask, and I’m sure they’re going to press it with me, is two things: export-import credits so they can buy more; and MFN so they ship more to the United States.
Stans: These are the roadblocks. I think that the business is there. I think that we could have 4 or 5 billion dollars by 1975 if we—[Page 40]
Nixon: You think so?
Rogers: But think about what they’ll use to give us. What have they got that we want? That’s the problem.
Stans: Well, they’re—they’ve taken a new line, which is a very interesting one. And I’ve spent a lot—
Nixon: You haven’t said that before.
Stans: I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple of weeks talking to American businessmen. They’re talking about joint ventures. Not of the type that we’re talking about in Romania, Yugoslavia where the American company would have a 50 percent interest in the business and a 50 percent interest in profits. They’re not willing to give up title to property or define profits. But what they are talking about is having American companies come over there and develop natural resources—oil, gas, copper, other minerals, and so forth—under a deal where we put the technology and part of the money. They put in some labor. We get the product; get our money back out of the product and then have share in the product rather than in the profits. Now there’s a lot of minerals—oil and natural gas—that would be a great deal to us. They’re already talking with one American company about a deal for natural gas similar to the Algerian deal where there would be about a billion dollars worth of gas moving over the year beginning about 1975. And the American companies who would go in there and invest wherever they think the natural gas is, freeze it, and bring it over to the United States. Now they’re talking some real big things to think you know [unclear] Real big things of that nature. And, of course, the one thing our American business has to learn is that anything we do in terms of trade is not going to be small potatoes because the Russian Government is the buyer for the whole economy.
Nixon: That’s right.
Stans: They can buy 10,000 lathes at one time if they want to and spread them around to all their plants. They can buy 2,000 drill presses.
Nixon: Oh, I—what we—what—What I look upon this trip as being, which you have—Would you have—Tell the photographer I want to get his pictures of this. So that we could [unclear, pause] I think that it would be very helpful for us to know, that we just, just before the world [unclear]. What do you have in mind? What do you think? Don’t you think so, Al?
Haig: Yes, sir. I think [unclear]
Nixon: And incidentally I would say that you have mentioned these other things. If they raise, and I don’t know the extent to which they get it, the European Security Conference and all the rest. That should stay miles away.
Stans: I thought I would listen and ask them if they have any message for me to bring back to you. But the message—[Page 41]
Rogers: But, you know, if they do they’re just playing games because they talk to us all the time.
Nixon: Yeah. Yeah. I would stay away from the political questions because we’re not—we don’t want to talk about a European security conference. We’re not, but—
Stans: I’m not informed on the military—
Nixon: And I would just simply say that that’s not your responsibility. That’s—You’d just rather not express any opinions on it, that you’re just an expert in the one area. I think that’s very important to play. Why don’t you shoot the picture there so that we can [unclear].
Stans: I would—I would like to look at ideas that you could develop for your May visit. I think that maybe some things could come out of this that you could use it for May.
Rogers: [unclear] that they could give us some gold [unclear]?
Stans: Well, they don’t have much gold left. They only have about a billion eight.
Rogers: they’ve got more [unclear]?
Nixon: What? Is that right?
Stans: In reserves. A billion eight.
Rogers: No, they’ve got a lot in the mines.
Stans: they’ve got it in the ground.
Rogers: they’ve got petroleum and aluminum, what chrome and a few other minerals. [unclear] If they start—If they start exporting petroleum to this country, that’s a whole other ball game.
Stans: That’s an element of risk according to—for that to be on a minimum basis. But what I propose to do is go over the whole list of possibilities; talk to all of them; see what needs to be done. As I say, they’re going to press for export credit. They’re going to press for MFN treatment—most favored nation.
Nixon: I think on those things that you can, you can indicate,—the thing that we have done and the conversation we’ve had here with Gromyko is to indicate that there are very great possibilities in this country for improvement in those areas. But obviously they are contingent upon, they’re related to improvement in political areas. Now we can’t talk about the MFN, the Export-Import Bank as long as they’re helping the North Vietnamese.
Rogers: Or joint ventures for that matter. You know, our large investment for joint ventures has got to be—The political climate has got to be pretty good.
Stans: I think the American companies are going to want that.[Page 42]
Nixon: But we have a very—Our, our, our attitude toward progress on the political front is very, very open. And our attitude toward progress on the trade front is very open.
Rogers: How about manufactured goods? We could send them manufactured goods.
Stans: Well, I think they’ll buy something. I don’t think they’ll buy much—
Rogers: See, that’s what we should push for.
Stans: It’s machine tools they want—
Rogers: That’s what we should push for. We’ve got plenty of manufactured goods we can send them.
Nixon: Boy they need [unclear].
Stans: They need it.
Nixon: Exactly. Their economy has been flat for how many years? Four or five years?
Rogers: Oh, yeah, at least. What they want us to do is teach them how to manufacture them so they don’t have to buy them from us—
Nixon: They want computers. [unclear] They want technology. They don’t want the goods.
Rogers: Machine tools.
Stans: Right, but the American automobile companies and some of them have been pretty smart about this. Ford and General Motors have told them and told us that they’re not interested in going over there and building a plant for them. They’re interested in going in there and working with them if there’s a longtime relationship of some kind from which they can benefit. They’re not going to build a plant and walk away from it. And I, I told a group of American businessmen today that I’m concerned about selling our technology too cheap—
Rogers: you’re damn right.
Nixon: you’re so right.
Stans: Three per cent patent and license fee and so forth doesn’t give us much of anything.
Nixon: No. Oh boy.
Stans: If we can’t get more than that out of it. If we can’t—
Nixon: It will do absolutely no harm at all for you to be a very shrewd trader—Yankee trader—with the Russians. That’s the way they are. They expect it and they’d be very surprised—But, well, you know, as you would, of course, with a very, very—We’re very interested in this, but as you know this is the way our guys look at it. It’s something [Page 43] we may want to do. If You’d like to help on this sort of situation, but we’ve got some real problems and what can you do? And they come. They come that way. The Russians are a tough bunch of bastards.
Rogers: Sell them campers and television sets and radios.
Nixon: Any day, any day.
Stans: they’re probably buying those from the Japanese right now.
Nixon: Have you been there before?
Stans: I’ve never been in Russia before, no.
Nixon: What cities are you going to visit?
Stans: Well, it’s still pretty indefinite. We’ve—We will go to Leningrad the first weekend, on Sunday, and spend a day there. The second weekend I suggested that we go south to Georgia. They’re suggesting Baku and Tbilisi and possibly—
Stans: —Samarkand and Tashkent. Which is—
Stans: Strictly sightseeing.
Nixon: Beautiful place.
Stans: Never been there.
Nixon: Well, Samarkand has—you know that’s one of Genghis Khan’s residences. It has those magnificent little temples.
Stans: It sounds heavenly.
Nixon: Oh yeah, yeah. Oh you go. Go.
Stans: Well, I’d love to do that. I think—
Nixon: That’s worth going [unclear] out there, but I’d go.
Stans: they’re making quite a thing of this because—
Nixon: And you’ll see Asians out there. That’s the interesting thing. You see you’ll get out there and you realize that Russia is not a country of Russians. There are all sorts of Asians. You go down the [unclear]—which is right near—
Stans: I’d like to see that—
Nixon: —the Chinese border—
Stans: It looks pretty fun.
Nixon: —You’ll see the valley of apples. And, by God, they’re all Chinese. They’re all slant eyed. It’s a fascinating thing to see this.
Stans: Well, they’re putting out the red carpet because they say is an ordinary expense. They want me to stay even longer. We’ll probably stay longer [unclear][Page 44]
Nixon: Are you going to—how about to one city—for example, I wonder if they’d want you to see it. How about Sverdlovsk? Are they going to have you to go there?
Stans: They haven’t mentioned it—
Nixon: It’s a huge steel complex place. Novosibirsk, in Siberia, how about there?
Stans: They offered to take us to Lake Baikal, but that’s so far. It’s 7 hours outside Moscow on the fastest jet. It’s farther than across the United States.
[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the Moscow summit.]
Stans: Well, Mr. President, I’m going to stop over in Sweden on the way over to rest a day.
Nixon: Oh, for Christ’s sake—
Nixon: —Why did you have to stop in Sweden?
Stans: Well, they’re a big customer. They buy a lot of goods from us.
Nixon: Fine. All right, fine. Sell them something they don’t want. [laughter]
Nixon: All right, that’s fine. That’s fine. Have you ever been there before?
Nixon: Neither have I—
Stans: We’re going to stop in Warsaw on the way back. We’re—
I didn’t realize [John A.] Volpe had been there, but the Embassy [unclear]—
Nixon: That’s all right.
Stans: —the Embassy and then a press conference—
Nixon: That’s all right.
Stans: Is there any special message in Warsaw?
Nixon: You get your message [unclear]?
Rogers: Yeah. We—I told them “Be cool. Be polite but cool.”—
Nixon: What? Yeah. They’ve done an awful lot for us—[unclear exchange].
Nixon: We respect their—We respect their people. They’ve contributed so much to this country. But basically we, we’re not too damned happy about the way they kick us around the world. But that’s fine. Let them do it. That’s their choice. Warsaw is another matter. I think there, we do want to play the line of—the more—and all the rest. They are—
Rogers: Yes they are.
Nixon: They are already [unclear]—[Page 45]
Rogers: But we also have good, good relations with them. And they’ve improved some in the last year—
Stans: Warsaw, oh, excuse me.
Rogers: And the people, of course, particularly Poles, very much—
Nixon: They love Americans.
Stans: Warsaw doesn’t have [unclear] credit, and they’re actually going to press for that. I would guess from all the discussion [unclear] that they’ll come after Romania. Possibly fairly soon.
Nixon: Well, what—
Nixon: Well, let me say this. I think what the Russians, and all the rest, I’d hold it all out there. Hell, [unclear] hold it all. This is something you’ll look into and so forth. Don’t you think so, Al?
Haig: Yes, sir. I think [unclear] sympathetic with us—
Haig: And with that we can—
[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the Moscow summit.]
Nixon: You have to remember that Khrushchev—Incidentally, you can also recall, [he] wrote in his book,2 he bragged that he helped to defeat Nixon in 1960. And we’re quite aware of that. That may come up. You might bring it up. See? And at this time, we’re, we, —It’s just an interesting little point. That just shows how much they care about our politics.
Rogers: Be a little careful with him, Maury, if you raise this. They’ll—They leak things all over, hell. Particularly Dobrynin. So we wouldn’t want to be in a position of asking for any help for the President.
Nixon: Oh, God no.
Stans: Oh, no. No.
Nixon: [unclear exchange]
Rogers: The thing that we really need to do is convince them that he [Nixon] is going to be the sure thing.
Rogers: Because that’s what they pay more attention to than anything else. I think they’ve come around to that point of view. I think that’s one of the reasons they’re anxious for the President’s visit.
Nixon: I think that’s probably why they agreed to it. The—I think there might be a, a—Basically, they’ll want to know what kind of a man [Page 46] is this—another point, Bill, I think you would agree—what kind of a man is the President? And so you tell them [unclear] is like that. But particularly emphasize, though, that he’s a man you can make a deal with. But he’s a, I mean a—Eyes totally open; You know, he’s a pragmatic man.
Nixon: Analytical and far-seeing. You know, give them all that crap. Because they—I think this is the important thing. I noticed that when I talked to Tito he was very interested in telling me what kind of a fellow Brezhnev was. And, and he compared Brezhnev to Kosygin. The Communists are quite interested in men. I mean in the—
Rogers: In what sense? In how they get along?
Nixon: That’s the point. In their personalities. You could say, “Here he is and—” You could say—I must say—I mean I have to be because we deal with a Democratic Congress and I’m naturally conciliatory all the time.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation No. 617–18. No classification marking. According to his Daily Diary, Nixon met Stans, Rogers, and Haig in the Oval Office from 5:21 to 5:55 p.m. The editors transcribed the portion of the conversation printed here specifically for this volume. In a November 11 briefing memorandum for a meeting Kissinger was to have with Stans, scheduled for November 12 but cancelled, Sonnenfeldt suggested to Kissinger: “You might want to stress again that it [Stans’ trip] is to be exploratory rather than conclusive, that he is to hold out the promise of greater trade but not to make specific promises.” In particular, Stans was to be advised to say or do nothing that implied a commitment to seek Most Favored Nations legislation or Export-Import Bank loans or guarantees, both of which Sonnefeldt suggested were the President’s prerogative. Should Stans meet with Kosygin or Brezhnev, he “should mostly listen and generally stay away from political subjects.” (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 213, Agency Files, Commerce (1971), Vol. II)↩
- Khrushchev Remembers, translated and edited by Strobe Talbot (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1970).↩