139. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Leonid I. Brezhnev, General-Secretary of Central Committee of CPSU
- Andrei Gromyko, Foreign Minister
- Anatoli Dobrynin, Ambassador to USA
- A. Alexandrov-Agentov, Assistant to Mr. Brezhnev
- Viktor Sukhodrev, Interpreter
- Mr. Samoteykin, Assistant to Mr. Brezhnev
- Mr. Henry A. Kissinger
- Mr. Helmut Sonnenfeldt, NSC Senior Staff
- Mr. Winston Lord, Special Assistant to Dr. Kissinger
- Mr. John Negroponte, NSC Staff
- Mr. Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
- Basic Principles; Vietnam; SALT; European Security; Bilateral Relations;
- Announcement of Visit; Summit Arrangements; China
[When Dr. Kissinger’s car arrived at 11:00 a.m. at the front door of the Guest House reserved for the meetings, the General-Secretary and the Foreign Minister came down the steps and welcomed him. Brezhnev was wearing a stylish dark blue suit, dark blue shirt, dark tie, gold watch chain and two Orders of Lenin. Before entering the building, Brezhnev led Mr. Kissinger on a walk around the building to the garden in the back, and onto a small covered platform overlooking the Moscow River. They exchanged informal pleasantries:]2
Brezhnev: They tell me you’ve been working on the draft of the Principles and strengthening it.3 That’s what I had suggested. You’re [Page 517] a good man. If I were you and I were an evil man, I’d have just kept quiet about the draft as it was. But you are a generous man.
Kissinger: Now the General-Secretary is obligated to me to mention me in a speech of his—favorably.
Brezhnev: I will do so. You and I can accomplish much together between the two of us. Maybe we should just abolish our Foreign Offices.
Kissinger: We on our side have already taken steps in that direction. Now we need a reduction of Gromyko.
[The group then left the platform, walked through the garden and through a fence into the next compound. This was the Reception House (Dom Priyoma) which housed a tennis court, swimming pool, and many meeting rooms. The group went upstairs and out onto the balcony overlooking the river.]
Brezhnev: The President will see many things. Will he go up Ostankino Tower (the radio-TV tower)? We will make the ground soft for him, in case anything goes wrong. I may not go with him; I’ll send Gromyko.
Kissinger: We’re prepared for all contingencies.
[The group then returned to the guest house and convened at a long table in a room on the ground floor. The talks began at 11:40 a.m.]
Brezhnev: We meet once again. I would be pleased if you had a good rest, and if so, that you reported back to Washington that you did. If you did not, it’s the Foreign Office’s fault.
The meat pies had a beneficial effect on us yesterday. Have some more.
Kissinger: I haven’t eaten for at least an hour.
Brezhnev: Impossible. I had my last cup of tea one hour and 20 minutes ago—this gives you an advantage over me. I feel I’m getting thin.
I have one request. If we conduct talks at this pace, You’d better ask the President to allow you one more week in Moscow. We’re both so loquacious and like each other’s company. Both of us have responsible instructions to solve all problems. My feeling is that you have such instructions, too.
So I think perhaps we come today to concrete issues. We do not rule out general issues but should concentrate on the concrete. Since I was the last speaker yesterday, it is fair if you speak first today. This is another piece of evidence that our country wants no advantage and no superiority. That is the truth.
[The General-Secretary then served some more food.]
Kissinger: That is your secret weapon.[Page 518]
Gromyko: A conventional weapon. [laughter]
Kissinger: I will make a few observations. First, I want to thank you again for the warmth with which we have been received. Secondly, the President is pleased and thinks this is a positive sign for the Summit.
Brezhnev: I am pleased to hear that.
Kissinger: After our discussions and the reception we have received, I have no doubt that our discussions will be extremely fruitful and of great benefit to our two countries and to the peace of the world.
Last night, Mr. General-Secretary, my colleagues and I studied the draft you handed us at the close of yesterday’s meeting. Quite frankly, I haven’t sent it to Washington because I do not consider it useful to have too many bureaucratic comments at this point. I’m sure I speak for the President when I say that in principle and in basic outline it will be acceptable to us. I think it was drafted by your side in a large and generous spirit, and it reflects the attitude that we too bring to our relationship.
Brezhnev: We did in drafting try to take all circumstances into account. We felt it should be a document in keeping with the general spirit of both ourselves and yourselves. We did not inject any bargaining points, but tried to do it in a balanced way.
Kissinger: That was our impression. We have redrafted it and it is being typed. It includes all of your points. I have taken seriously the General-Secretary’s suggestion that we strengthen it, in the hope that he will mention me favorably in one of his speeches.
Brezhnev: I told you I would do that.
Kissinger: It will ruin you with your ally in the East.
Brezhnev: What ally is that?
Kissinger: I think the Foreign Minister has an idea.
Gromyko: I ask the same question.
Dobrynin: Try and guess.
Brezhnev: After that remark, I’m tempted to try to get to the bottom of this. There must be some catch there, perhaps a delayed-action mine or bomb (to use a popular American term).
Kissinger: A conventional bomb.
Brezhnev: If Dobrynin had an atomic bomb with him [in Washington] he wouldn’t be here. He can stand conventional bombs, though.
Kissinger: We propose the following procedure: We are typing the draft now. At an appropriate moment today or tomorrow, or whenever it fits our program, we will show it. I really think we can come to an agreement while I’m here that is substantially complete.[Page 519]
[Mr. Samoteykin, an aide to Brezhnev, entered the room.]
Brezhnev: I’ve brought reinforcements, too. I had to because you did. I’ve been talking so much I didn’t notice how many you have here today. When Americans bring reinforcements, they do it on the quiet, but when they withdraw they do it with big fanfare! [laughter]
I too feel it highly desirable if we can avoid additional detailed communications later on this document, and can reach agreement here.
Kissinger: I’m sure we can do this. I’ve explained to your Ambassador the somewhat Byzantine requirements of our bureaucracy. The President may have some comments, but I know his views. They will not be substantial because I know his views. We may have some details to discuss at the Summit, but then only minor suggestions. Our lawyers will have to look at it.
Brezhnev: If you have bureaucratic departments, they have to have something to do. One professor has proved that if you have a department of 1000 employees, they can do nothing except serve their own needs.
Gromyko: [in English] Busy, busy.
Brezhnev: Therefore I try my best to keep my departments down to 999! [laughter]
You’d certainly be mistaken to show it to lawyers. As soon as you ask the lawyers, then you are finished.
Kissinger: We will finish it here. We will keep it in the White House until we come to Moscow, and then give it to the lawyers here, for 24 hours to work on it.
Brezhnev: Twenty-four minutes.
Kissinger: There will be no leaks this way, and we can have it as final.
Brezhnev: There is in it a clause that protects both sides. It says “nothing in this is prejudicial to third countries or to the interests of third countries.”
Kissinger: It is really a final document, with only some possible minor technical modifications. We can consider that a result of this visit.
Gromyko: [in English] Good, good.
Kissinger: We will show you our version as soon as it is typed. It is really very close to yours.
Brezhnev: I believe you. My colleagues will welcome this, too. If the basis we put forward turns out acceptable, that is good.
Kissinger: The basis is OK, just minor strengthening as you suggested. For example, where you spoke of “ensuring that their ties are on a firm and long-term basis,” we added a line about joint commissions to give it more concreteness.[Page 520]
Brezhnev: I would say that would be acceptable.
Of course, it is important not to make errors in making these concrete specifications. There is an anecdote about the Tsar who had before him a case of an arrested man. The question was, would he be executed or pardoned? The Tsar wrote out a piece of paper with only three words on it (kaznit’ nyelzya pomilovat’), but the commas were misplaced. He should have read it as “execution impossible, pardon.” But he insisted read it as “execution, impossible [to] pardon.” No, that wasn’t quite it: actually the Tsar wrote it without commas and then the lawyers had to decide which he meant.
Kissinger: What happened to the man?
Brezhnev: I will tell you that at the end of our discussions, before you go. My answer will depend on how our talks go.
Gromyko: Maybe the answer should be given only at the Summit.
Brezhnev: No, Dr. Kissinger has to leave Moscow with clear answers to all his questions. Because you might want to tell the President this story. He will want to know the ending. If you don’t know it, he will wonder what you were talking about here.
Kissinger: From my experience with bureaucracies, they probably did both.
Brezhnev: I have another story before we go on. There was a very poor man who wanted to get rich quick. He thought and thought of how to do it. He realized that many people like to drink and drink, and their noses get red. He thought he could exploit this. [To note-taker:] this is only a joke. You don’t need to write it down. Don’t write it. [Resuming:] So he put advertisements in the paper that all who wanted to get rid of red noses should send money to him for the remedy. He was flooded with letters and money. There were too many to answer, so he put an ad in the paper to reply to them all: “If you want to get rid of red noses, just keep drinking and your noses will turn blue.” [laughter]
We’ll be waiting for your draft.
Kissinger: Better to wait. It is close to yours. I am sure we can settle it. Our draft follows yours very closely.
Brezhnev: I think we’re all very friendly here. If anyone wants to take his coat off, go ahead. (All did.) Now you see how constructive the Soviet side is.
Gromyko: When I was in the White House, no one asked me to take my coat off.
Kissinger: Mr. General-Secretary, if I can return to the subject we raised at the end of the day—which is the only one which could cause [Page 521] problems for the Summit meeting. I promised you yesterday that I would present a concrete suggestion on how we might proceed, on Vietnam, if you are willing.
Brezhnev: Please. It is indeed a very complicated issue.
Kissinger: There are two parts of the issue: the procedural part and the substantive part. The first is how to get talks started. The second is what will happen when talks do get started. As you know, we proposed a private meeting first, to be followed by a plenary meeting; the DRV has proposed a plenary to be followed by a private meeting. They have told us it would take a week for Le Duc Tho to come to Paris after we have announced the plenary session. This is a rather absurd statement, but we will not play these children’s games. So we are disposed to notify Hanoi privately tomorrow of the following proposition: If they agree to a private meeting on May 2, we will announce on April 25 (Tuesday afternoon) that we will attend the next plenary on Thursday, April 27.
We think this is a fair proposition.
Brezhnev: I think it is constructive. Particularly since they have said the U.S. can put forward its own date with regard to their proposal of May 6.
Kissinger: we’ve put forward a suggestion which is consistent with their messages to us. It is really the last practicable date that week for me—particularly in view of other decisions that will have to be made, as I have told your Ambassador.
I would think it would be very helpful if the DRV could restrain itself from its usual practice of claiming this is a tremendous victory. Because, if they do, it will have consequences for our future discussions. Also, in the spirit of my discussions here, until the meeting on May 2, we are disposed not to take any actions in the Hanoi–Haiphong area.
Now, the important issue is the meeting on May 2, because we are not interested in a meeting; we are interested in the result.
Brezhnev: Yes, in this situation, there is probably no sense in having an empty meeting.
Kissinger: Exactly. Therefore, as I said, I would like to tell the General-Secretary our ideas for what should be done.
Brezhnev: On substance? At the private talks?
Kissinger: Yes, at the private talks. The plenaries are a waste of time.
Brezhnev: I was just considering whether or not to ask that question. I wish to add; if you want to communicate this to us in strict confidence, we’ll do whatever you wish in this respect and will not communicate it to them.[Page 522]
Kissinger: You can communicate it to them if you feel it useful, because we don’t have too much time.
Brezhnev: Let’s hear you out first, so we can tell.
Kissinger: The Plenary Session will be a waste of time, as I said. All we will learn then will be some new adjectives. But the private session should be constructive and productive.
Brezhnev: How do you do those? Just you, Le Duc Tho and interpreters?
Kissinger: Him and Xuan Thuy and two or three aides, and me and two or three on our side. But usually he and I do most of the talking.
What we will demand on May 2 is a return to the situation of March 29, that is, the situation before the beginning of the offensive. We shall propose a declaration that the two sides will make a serious effort this year to negotiate an end to the war in Vietnam. And in order to create favorable conditions for this, that both sides will reduce the level of violence. We shall ask that the North Vietnamese withdraw the divisions that entered South Vietnam after March 29, that is to say, the three divisions in Military Region 1 and the three divisions in Military Region 3. We will then withdraw the air and naval forces which we have introduced since March 29. We shall ask that the North Vietnamese respect the Demilitarized Zone. We shall then stop the bombing of North Vietnam completely.
Because of the suffering that has been caused, and as a symbol of progress, we shall propose that all prisoners who have been held more than four years be released immediately by both sides.
And we shall ask for guarantees that these conditions will be observed during the period of negotiations this year.
In other words, we are not asking for a unilateral advantage for us. We shall ask that both sides review their negotiating positions. And we shall promise that we shall review ours to see if both can be brought closer, in a generous spirit.
If I can add a personal observation. If the North Vietnamese would talk to us in the spirit of our discussions here, I believe we could settle this in a reasonable way, and fairly quickly.
I do not think you want to be involved in all the details of the political proposals, but I can tell you that our eight points of January 254 are not presented as an ultimatum, and we are prepared to listen to counterproposals.[Page 523]
In short, we envisage two stages: (1) an immediate reduction of the violence, which is guaranteed to last a reasonable period, for example, a year, and (2) a serious effort at negotiation.
This would end the threat of war, and of course would end the bombing of North Vietnam.
Brezhnev: One question which the Vietnamese are bound to ask, and probably will be bound to ask is, when will the U.S. withdraw all its troops? That is very important, within this complex of discussions.
Kissinger: We are prepared to withdraw all our forces and military installations within six months of a final settlement, and are prepared to begin this immediately once agreement in principle is reached, while the details are being worked out—which is a major concession.
Brezhnev: I of course do not want to raise any conditions or anything, because you know our general line on this matter and we are not changing it at all. But just by listening by ear, I wonder if, don’t you think it would perhaps ease a solution and soften the situation if you perhaps exclude the condition about withdrawal of divisions and substitute that they should stop at their present lines and that there be no more acts of war? And then you don’t have to withdraw your air and naval forces. That change should be of no consequence, because the important thing is to end the fighting. In your proposal, it sounds a bit tough, a bit much. The important thing is to get hostilities ended, to end the violence. The whole thing would sound more conciliatory.
Gromyko: You say you will withdraw your forces that you have deployed since March 29. But the bombing that has taken place cannot be removed. You cannot return what has been destroyed.
Brezhnev: Nothing would change if you could incorporate this in your proposals. The important thing is to end the war. But the flat demand to withdraw complicates matters a bit, in my opinion. The only condition should be that the fighting be stopped, and talks begin. Otherwise, they will say that you ask them to withdraw their forces and the aggressive forces would retake the land [they vacated].
At the outset we did agree to be very frank in our talks and to keep them confidential. I believe that, apart from practical matters, there are two permanent and really major issues. Certainly it is a fact that the Vietnamese are fighting for what they see as a just and sacred cause. Of course, it was not President Nixon who started the war. But of course it’s up to the United States to extricate itself somehow from it. And I am sure President Nixon is aware of this. Of course, certain prestige considerations are brought to bear on the U.S. Administration, and are impeding a quick solution. But there is a need for the U.S. to rid itself of this shameful war. The U.S. will have to do it; whether it is President Nixon or someone else, is not for me to say, but the U.S. will have to do it. That is the only way. Otherwise, the fighting will go [Page 524] on. You know their determination, and the support they are getting in public opinion throughout the world.
I cannot vouch for the Vietnamese, but perhaps some amendments to your proposal can be made. Of course, the Vietnamese have to negotiate themselves. But even the smallest unacceptable proposals will do harm to the general prospects, and you’ll be farther away from a solution.
A halt to the bombing, withdrawals, and an end to bases, etc.—all these are constructive proposals. With regard to an end to fighting, this could happen even before a formal agreement has been arrived at. If this method is adopted, I see no harm being done to the interests of the U.S. On the contrary, a solution along these lines would be welcomed everywhere, and welcomed here as well, and be a good basis for our discussions here.
This is only my personal view. I’ll discuss it with my colleagues and report to you any additional comments.
I have one more comment. Regardless of whatever method we choose for our subsequent actions—that is, whether you think we should communicate with them or not—the more fact of these positive steps coming out of our talks here (it will probably leak eventually, probably in the American press), this tacitly elevates the significance of our discussions. At least to those in the know, this is a token of accord between us. Of course, I do not mean we are trying to reach agreement by us on behalf of the North Vietnamese side. I thought therefore I would suggest these amendments. We of course would want a radical solution to the entire problem. But I won’t go into that, or into details, because time does not permit, and surely you know the details of our radical solution.
Now, if I might return to the question you yourself raised earlier, it is one thing to agree on dates for a meeting with the North Vietnamese—as regards the plenary, you said it is a waste of time. The question then arises, what happens if the private meeting yields no success and doesn’t produce something constructive or useful? It’s hard to foresee. But it is a question of war going on. It is easy to unleash a war, but it is hard to put out the flames. The second question is how all this will look in the context of the forthcoming Summit. Will it be possible, or not? There are two reasons why it might not be possible. One factor is the objective state of the public opinion background, and secondly, it may prove impossible from President Nixon’s standpoint. We don’t want this. But these are the negative possibilities.
Kissinger: Whose public opinion?
Brezhnev: The general world political climate. Because, if the war goes on, with the bombing going on or increasing in intensity, that would cause a generally unfavorable political climate throughout the world.[Page 525]
Of course, I omit to make another analysis. I know President Nixon and you, Dr. Kissinger, know what the state of American society is over this problem. You know it is split, into hundreds of various groups, as a result of constantly fluctuating policies. This is why President Nixon has to move forward, right, downwards, this way and that. That’s why I think there is a need for radical solutions. That’s why I know the President is now looking for such a solution. All these are very acute problems, and require drastic solutions. In any organization, the greater the laxity of discipline, the greater the need for order—especially in a war.
It is for the U.S. side to find the method to extricate itself. We discuss it here because we’re having a free and frank discussion. This may require some thinking. Maybe not now, but later, I would welcome comments from you on what I have said here.
Kissinger: I know the President’s views, and I can make some comments now. And I will reflect, and if I have additional comments, I will make them later.
Brezhnev: I’d be pleased to hear them.
Kissinger: First, in the spirit of personal confidence that I believe characterizes our discussions, I must tell you the determination the President has to bring about some solution, whatever price he has to pay. I tell you this because it is my duty to be sure you understand his frame of mind.
We had no intention two weeks ago to add any new element to the North Vietnamese problem. We were prepared to discuss it with you in a general way, but did not imagine it would reach these proportions. The situation was forced upon us.
We consider that what North Vietnam is now doing goes beyond Vietnam. It’s an attack on the institution of the Presidency. And we cannot tolerate this.
Three weeks ago we would have eagerly accepted the proposal that hostilities be stopped or reduced. Indeed, we proposed it ourselves two years ago. We would have accepted it at any moment—until the offensive started—even a de facto ceasefire.
But now we have a situation where North Vietnam has violated the understanding we had with them in 1968.5 You know very well in this room that there was an understanding to respect the Demilitarized Zone. Therefore, it is imperative, if we are to stop the bombing, that they withdraw the divisions that crossed the DMZ, and that henceforth the DMZ be respected.
[General-Secretary offers cakes.[Page 526]
Kissinger: I can never refuse the General-Secretary.
Brezhnev: Delicious things.
Kissinger: With respect to other parts of the country, the problem is more complex, and we are prepared to discuss what exactly is meant by a reduction of military activity.
Another point that must be made is, if Hanoi in the interval between now and the private meeting increases its offensive activity, then of course the restraint I mentioned cannot be maintained. It cannot use the interval to seize even more territory.
Brezhnev: I think I can discern in the course of this conversation different approaches to these problems, though the final goal seems to be the same. You say, on the one hand, that the President is very anxious to find a positive way out and is willing to pay a price to find a solution…. The question then arises, how is that to be understood? It could mean flexibility or concessions, or it could mean the price of all-out war. Perhaps there is some error of logic. I think the goal [of ending the war] should be clear. But what is to be subordinated to what? The way you have put it forward, a solution may be very difficult.
[Dr. Kissinger interrupted the translation of the above paragraph at the point marked by the ellipsis. He said: I may not have explained it fully. The President is willing to take any risk, not to make any concession. I meant price in terms of risk.
[The Russians at the table conferred among themselves and agreed that Brezhnev had in fact understood Dr. Kissinger correctly, as the rest of the translation then made clear. At the end of the translation, Brezhnev resumed.]
Brezhnev: You say any risk? Meaning war. That means acting out of desperation.
Kissinger: Let me be precise. The President is prepared to be very flexible but he will not be pushed into negotiations by military action. And he must have assurance that military actions will now stop so that there can be a climate for negotiations. As I explained to your Ambassador. (He always leaves town when things get hot.)
Dobrynin: But this time I’m here with you.
Kissinger: The President would prefer a political solution, not a military solution. And his thinking is not too far from the position of the General-Secretary that first military activity should stop. Only there is a difference between us on how to interpret the stopping of military activity.
Brezhnev: The interpretation should be easy. Everybody stops shooting, stops where they are, and talks start.[Page 527]
Kissinger: We cannot accept that with respect to the forces that have crossed the Demilitarized Zone.
Brezhnev: That means war.
Kissinger: War between whom?
Brezhnev: It is just a statement of fact. It means continuation of war between you and the DRV. You want a political solution. And I believe that. What is needed is a complete stoppage, a ceasefire, without formal agreement, and then everything is placed on the table for negotiation.
Kissinger: For how long?
Brezhnev: That will be a subject for understanding between you and the DRV. It depends on how much time you think is necessary—one month, two months—and the two sides conduct negotiations on putting an end to the conflict as such. Then, let’s say if there are five private meetings—or plenaries (that’s a purely technical question)—this period can be used in an effort to do away with the problem and reach agreement.
Here there can be virtually dozens of ways of going about this. One can develop a whole timetable of measures by one side and by the other, to be done by one month, or by December, or by whatever period you want.
Kissinger: By when?
Brezhnev: By whatever period.
[The General-Secretary then launched into a long unrelated joke, which he forbade the notetakers to take down.]
Kissinger: The General-Secretary is so forceful a speaker that I think I understand him when he speaks even though I don’t know a word he is saying.
Brezhnev: I am always forceful when I am sure of what I am saying. When I don’t have conviction, I am silent or don’t speak so forcefully.
Kissinger: I have not yet heard the General-Secretary on anything on which he does not speak with conviction.
Brezhnev: One thing surprises me. The U.S. cannot seem to understand that no bombing, on whatever scale, can end the conflict. The only result is to drag out the war for dozens of years more, and even worse consequences. Of course, really it’s up to the President to find a way out. But it is an indubitable fact that if one side resorts to tough and harsh measures, this will only evoke equally harsh measures on the other side. And where is the way out?
I recall that deGaulle fought seven years in Algeria. After seven years he concluded he had to find a way out. It was the same thing with the French in Indochina. When I was recently in France, the French Minister of Industry (Cointin) accompanied me to Marseilles. He told [Page 528] me he had spent twenty years in Vietnam. Doing what?, I asked. Fighting, he said. It was simply a waste of time and effort, he said. You face the same prospect.
And none of the countries neighboring Vietnam will agree to stop fighting against the U.S. They will continue to fight. This is the inexorable logic of the situation as things stand today.
This reminds me of another story. I want this off the record too. It is a poem I learned 35 years ago about the force of logic, about the wonders of science. A farmer had a son who had been to college. The family had two chickens, but the son tried to show that there were really three. There’s one chicken here, one there, and really a third inside one of the first two. The father said to the son, “For that I sent you to college? I’ll tell you what. We’ll divide up the chickens—one for me, one for mother, and you can have the third!”
I learned the poem 35 years ago and declaimed it at school. This conversation just brought it back.
There is a lesson to be drawn from jokes. Maybe by logic you can make 3 out of 2. But it is not for me to prophesy what the outcome will be. The experience of the past is that the outcome of a war is often far from what the initiators had in mind who unleashed it. These are the hard facts of the case.
I certainly support President Nixon’s idea of ending the war. Logic cannot lead to any other result. That is the end-goal of all of us. Certainly the Soviet Union has no axe to grind. Certainly we seek no advantage to us whatsoever.
Perhaps we can end the discussion of Vietnam at this point. You said you would give our comments some thought and perhaps come up with some variants. I would like to talk now about limitation of ABMs and the freeze of ICBMs.
Kissinger: I feel I have made sufficiently clear that our basic position on Vietnam is an extremely serious one. We are prepared to negotiate, and have sought since February 15 to start negotiations. We will negotiate in a generous spirit. But I cannot understate the seriousness and determination of the President not to be pushed by military action.
I will return to this briefly later. Could I ask now for a two-minute break?
I am prepared to see some of the concessions made de facto. But they should withdraw their divisions across the DMZ.
[It was 1:45 p.m. The meeting resumed at 1:50 p.m.]
Brezhnev: Now I would like to make some comments on ABM limitation and the freeze on ICBMs. This is an important measure, and we have been discussing it for two years now.[Page 529]
I want to show how the Soviet side solves problems in a constructive spirit. We have taken into account all the communications made to us by President Nixon. We have had quite a few over the past few months, and we have tried to take them all into account, particularly those in the most recent period.
[The General-Secretary then read the Soviet note on ABMs:]6
“It is recognized as expedient to limit ABM systems in the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. to covering the capitals and to one area each for the location of land-based ICBM silo launchers.
“The location of ABM facilities for the covering of the capitals would be limited to an area in the form of a circle with a radius of 150 km whose center would be within the limits of the capital.”
This is a reflection of your proposal to us.
Kissinger: One member of our delegation is an adviser to your delegation.
Brezhnev: [resumes reading ABM note:] “The location of ABM facilities for covering land-based ICBM silo launchers would be limited to an area in the form of a circle with a radius of 150 km whose center for the United States would be in the area of location of ICBM launchers where the deployment of ABM facilities is most advanced.”
This also reflects your proposal.
“The quantity of ABMs and their launchers for each side should not exceed 100 units for covering the capitals and 100 units for covering land-based ICBM silo launchers.”
That, too, reflects your proposal.
So now you have something to take back, a proposal from your confidential channel.
Kissinger: The only one which does not reflect our official thinking, but that of a member of our delegation, is the 150 km radius.
Mr. General-Secretary, let me say this is a constructive approach. I will reserve comment until I hear what you say about submarines.
Brezhnev: Be patient. What can I say about them? They travel under water, we can’t see them, they’re silent—
Gromyko: [in English] Puzzle, puzzle!
Kissinger: You do have something on submarines?[Page 530]
Gromyko: You can’t read it before Sukhodrev!
[Sukhodrev then reads the text of the note on submarines:]7
“We have thoroughly considered the state of affairs at the strategic arms limitations talks taking into account the considerations expressed by the U.S. side through the confidential channel, relating to the freeze on ballistic-missile carrying submarines.
“In this connection we believe it appropriate to state the following:
“1. The question of the freeze on the number of modern ballistic-missile carrying submarines and the total number of launchers thereon is of very significant importance.
“Ballistic-missile carrying submarines occupy a special place in the composition of strategic offensive weapons and their consideration should not overlook differences in the geographies of the sides, the ballistic-missile carrying submarines at the disposal of the U.S. NATO allies and the U.S. forward submarine bases.
“As is known, that offers important strategic advantages to the American side, and under these conditions the number of submarines and ballistic missiles thereon at the disposal of the sides cannot be the same.
“2. In order to bring about relaxation of international tensions, normalization of relations between our two countries and cessation of the strategic arms race we agree to consider the question of including ballistic-missile carrying submarines in the suggested freeze agreement provided, naturally, that there should be established for the sides appropriate limits for such systems taking into account the considerations set forth above.
“The Soviet Union would agree that the U.S. and their NATO allies should have, for the period of the freeze agreement, up to 50 modern submarines with the total number of ballistic missile launchers thereon of up to 800, including 41 submarines with 656 ballistic missile launchers thereon at the disposal of the United States. Over that period the Soviet Union could have 62 modern submarines with the total number of ballistic missile launchers thereon of no more than 950.
“It is understood that over that period the sides will reduce the number of land-based ICBMs through dismantling older launchers. The sides would also be entitled to modernize and replace older submarines by new submarines but without increasing in the process the above-mentioned number of modern submarines and ballistic missile launchers thereon.[Page 531]
“However, since the above proposal would only be a partial compensation for the strategic disbalance in the location of missile carrying nuclear submarines of the sides, the Soviet side proceeds from the premise that the whole of this problem—and primarily the issue of dismantling U.S. missile submarine bases outside the territory of the United States, should be appropriately resolved in the course of subsequent negotiations.
“If over the period of the Interim agreement the U.S. NATO allies increase the number of ballistic-missile carrying submarines to the excess of those operational or under construction, the Soviet Union reserves the right to the corresponding increase in such submarines.
“3. Taking into account the proposals of the U.S. side the Soviet Union could agree to include in the suggested freeze agreement the obligation not to start, in addition to ICBM silo launchers, new construction of fixed soft land-based ICBM launchers as well.
“4. Moscow believes it possible to have the period of the Interim freeze agreement—5 years.
“5. Given understanding in principle on such an approach we would be prepared to give necessary instructions to the Soviet delegation in Helsinki to discuss practical matters related to the final elaboration of the corresponding articles of the Interim Agreement on certain measures with respect to strategic offensive armaments having in mind that this Agreement together with the Treaty on the limitation of ABM systems would be signed during the forthcoming meeting in Moscow.”
Brezhnev: I think that is a very constructive proposal and it is in keeping with the spirit of all those communications you made through Ambassador Dobrynin. I would think President Nixon should think it very constructive. Apart from the constructive nature of our proposals, that paper is another sign of the spirit with which we approach the Summit meeting.
Kissinger: If the General-Secretary says as little on Vietnam as he said on submarines, we will make enormous progress today.
Brezhnev: I’d have been pleased to say less on Vietnam, but Dr. Kissinger took so much time.
Kissinger: That was meant as a compliment. You had said You’d say nothing on submarines.
It’s a very constructive approach. I recognize that it incorporates many of the points we made in the confidential channel. It is a serious effort to address many of our concerns.
May I ask a practical question, simply for my understanding?
When you say, “Over the period the sides will reduce the number of land-based ICBMs,” does this mean you accept the obligation I [Page 532] mentioned to Dobrynin to dismantle older land-based missiles once we grant you the right to build more submarines?
Brezhnev: That is what is implied. We have accepted that principle. We won’t build new ones to replace the ones removed. We will build submarines according to the terms allowed, and we are prepared to inform you of the exact month and date we will dismantle the ICBM facilities.
Kissinger: We will have a problem in explaining to our Congress why you have a greater number of missiles in both categories. If we have an understanding that you will dismantle some of the older missiles, we will instruct our delegation to work out the precise numbers. Semenov can work this out with our delegation. We needn’t do it here, at this level.
Gromyko: We will instruct accordingly.
Brezhnev: It is very easy. Of course we will be dismantling.
Kissinger: I only want to fix this so we can make this instruction to our delegation and make this part of the negotiation.
Brezhnev: We will give similar instructions.
Kissinger: No problem. But I have one other point. It is difficult for us to discuss limitations on British and French submarines. It would be easier if you make a unilateral declaration. We agree to 41, then if the British and French build more than 9 and if the total number reaches more than 50, then you can respond accordingly. This will be easier, because we have no right to tell the British and French what to do. You will make unilateral deal. We have no right to negotiate the total number.
Brezhnev: Of course. We shall certainly give thought to a unilateral declaration. But the figures are agreed.
Kissinger: The figures are agreed. There is no problem about figures. I will show you what a bad diplomat I am. Gromyko wouldn’t do this, but I think the submarine matter is acceptable in principle.
Brezhnev: This shows what a strong diplomat you are. I agree our Foreign Ministry would never do that, but that’s an example of how bad it is.
Gromyko: It’s your advantage. I would never have said this outright. I would have waited at least three minutes.
Brezhnev: I don’t want to raise the question at this time, but I do want to mention the serious matter of the U.S. military bases ringing the Soviet Union. This relates to your air force and intermediate range missiles.
Sonnenfeldt: We have no IRBMs.
Kissinger: We are going to ground Sonnenfeldt.
Brezhnev: We mean forward-based missiles. It doesn’t make any difference what kind of rocket you die from.[Page 533]
Kissinger: Sonnenfeldt is right. We have no forward-based missiles that can reach the USSR, but I understand the General-Secretary’s point.
Brezhnev: Of course it’s useless to deploy intermediate range missiles in the U.S., so you deploy them abroad.
Kissinger: We have airplanes that can reach the USSR. As it happens, we have no missiles in Europe that can reach the USSR, but we have airplanes that can. But we understand the General-Secretary’s point and we take it seriously.
Brezhnev: As we see it, this could be the start of an important future process. It could be the start of the strengthening of confidence; this should be followed by further measure of goodwill to strengthen normal relations between our two countries.
Brezhnev: … measures that would be in no way prejudicial to obligations each of us has to other countries, and would be at the same time encouraging to the Allies of us both. Therein lies the greatness and noble purpose of our two countries.
Kissinger: This attitude can be a principal result of the Summit.
Brezhnev: These are indeed problems of great importance. First, the statement of principles yesterday, then this,—all this carries great significance. It will last the commentators and analysts about 2 years, until the next Summit. I could write a good commentary. I could write a good article for the U.S. press. How much do you pay for a good article?
Kissinger: My only hope is that the next meeting is sooner than 2 years, and I hope the General-Secretary can visit us next year.
Brezhnev: I don’t think I have an invitation or visa yet.
Kissinger: You will have an invitation when President Nixon comes here. We hope to have that in the final communiqué.
Brezhnev: Thank you. In the coming 4 years, the United States and Soviet Union should take even more important steps to increase the spirit of good will.
Kissinger: As for ABMs, Mr. General-Secretary, we have proposed using 2 ICBM fields, rather than Washington and 1 ICBM field, but I consider your proposal constructive.
Brezhnev: Then you said 2 and 2.
Kissinger: I will have to discuss this in Washington, but we will do so in very positive attitude.
Brezhnev: Mr. Kissinger—I would not want this on the record—this has the advantage for you, which your military are aware of, that yours covers more ICBMs than ours does.[Page 534]
Kissinger: I understand, but not necessarily if there are 150 km radius. It depends on where you put your fields.
Brezhnev: This won’t be the case. The area will be clearly defined. It is a secret now, but not for long. Your military will photograph it anyway.
Kissinger: If you can give me informally some idea of the number of ICBMs you will put in this field, it would help persuade some of my people. You don’t have to tell me the field, just an idea of the number, to tell the President.
Brezhnev: I will tell you that later.
Kissinger: It’s just for the President.
Brezhnev: But I can say beforehand that we will have fewer than you have.
Kissinger: May I make a suggestion?
Brezhnev: It is not to be made public. Because it is really to your advantage and it would be bad if it came out.
Kissinger: I must be honest with you. Anything in the White House we can keep totally secret. Once it leaves the White House, as your Ambassador can tell you, I can’t completely control it.
Brezhnev: That’s why I say I should have invited Rogers in the first place!
Kissinger: You would have gotten more publicity. Therefore what you tell me here will not become public. Once agreement is completed, I can’t guarantee that numbers won’t become public, but what the General-Secretary says here will not.
Brezhnev: In nature of speculation, but not officially.
Kissinger: But once we have a treaty, our people will have to testify before Congressional committees. We will try to control it, but the testimony will only happen several months after an agreement.
Brezhnev: That’s a procedural matter. If we agree on this principle, procedural matters won’t be a problem.
Kissinger: The submarine matter is certainly acceptable. The ABM matter I will have to discuss in Washington but it is certainly in the direction….
Brezhnev: I feel it incorporates your latest suggestion and incorporates the principle of equality, and I don’t foresee changes.
Kissinger: I don’t see any problems. Let me suggest the following procedure. I will take this up with the President as soon as I return Monday or Tuesday.8 we’ll then call back our negotiator from Helsinki [Page 535] and simultaneously get together our military people. All of this will take about a week. We’ll then instruct our negotiator. If you can send your Ambassador back…. If in the meantime Semenov can be kept under restraint so he doesn’t reveal this, it would speed this matter.
Brezhnev: We have given him instructions. But if you think this is easier, we can send him a telegram to keep it back for a time.
Kissinger: Let me think about it.
Brezhnev: We have enough time to cable him to hold up.
Kissinger: When will he propose it? Monday?
Gromyko: At his discretion. He met with Smith yesterday and said nothing.9
Kissinger: He hinted at it.
Brezhnev: On submarines, Semenov knows nothing.
Kissinger: Let him propose it. Let me on second thought talk to the President. I’ll tell Vorontsov.
Gromyko: we’ll hold Semenov up.
Brezhnev: We have a closed phone link, so we will phone him immediately.
[Aide goes out to do so.]
Kissinger: How should we do it in Helsinki? Should they conclude the whole thing in Helsinki, or should we leave something for the Summit? We can settle certain things privately but not in Helsinki.
Brezhnev: The signing should be on a high level. The final decision and signing should be at the Summit level.
Kissinger: The signing and final decisions should be at the highest level, yes.
Gromyko: Since this matter relates to a text, it may be best for our delegations to finalize as much as is possible. Because it is a text, the lawyers should look at it. If all is done here, there is a risk of not having enough time. But the final decision and signing should be here.
Kissinger: I agree with the Foreign Minister that perhaps we should pick some issues, perhaps one or two—I don’t want to take the time of the General-Secretary on this—on which the delegations should write the text, but then, the President and the General-Secretary can settle them here.
Gromyko: Deliberately you mean?
Brezhnev: But to have reached confidential agreement beforehand?[Page 536]
Brezhnev: So there will be a special signing ceremony in the Kremlin.
Kissinger: We will have a SALT agreement, there is no question.
Brezhnev: I think so too.
Kissinger: I will let your Ambassador know by the end of the coming week when we can proceed in Helsinki, but it will be very soon.
Brezhnev: Good, because there is not so much time left.
Kissinger: Let them talk about radars this week. They have a lot to talk about.
Brezhnev: Yes. That’s my view. I don’t think they’re in any hurry. They don’t have much to talk about, but let them talk. Let them talk about the nature of the universe. The Delegations should be locked in a room for the final 3 days without food and told they must get an agreement or not get food for another 3 days.
Kissinger: we’ve reached the point where despite all the efforts of our delegations we will still reach an agreement.
Brezhnev: No matter how hard they try! That’s our success.
Kissinger: Our delegation is so complex we don’t understand them anymore.
Brezhnev: You want an example of how to make something very complex? I can pose one or two questions that neither you nor the President can solve for months. So we can consider this closed.
Brezhnev: I would like to say a few words on another important question, that is, the problem of Europe. I won’t go over old ground on the importance of this issue not only for the Soviet Union, the FRG, the GDR, and France, but for all European nations generally, and I would say for world affairs and from the standpoint of our joint desire to direct matters toward a general détente in the world. As I see it, both your efforts and ours are directed at that goal.
I would like to ask you to tell President Nixon that we value highly the President’s position on this matter, the support he is giving to ratification of the treaties and the agreement on Berlin. I would like you to bear in mind this is not [just] a compliment to the President, this is the truth. At the same time, I don’t want to be too reticent or shy in speaking my mind on other aspects. I want to express the wish that at this decisive stage for Chancellor Brandt and the FRG the President should say a still more weighty word in favor of ratification. This would have a considerable significance and would be much appreciated in the Soviet Union and throughout the world. I would like to ask you Dr. Kissinger to draw President Nixon’s attention to this.[Page 537]
Kissinger: You can be sure I will.
Brezhnev: President Nixon does have an unlimited capacity in this respect. It would be a very important step toward very successful negotiations.
Kissinger: In what respect “unlimited?”
Brezhnev: If I were elected President, I would show you. It would be good if I were elected President, but I don’t seek the nomination!
Kissinger: With respect to influencing the Germans?
Brezhnev: The President has unlimited capacity with respect to ratification. We do highly appreciate his position. The point I make is that we would appreciate any further efforts he could make in favor of it. Intuition is sometimes a good guide, and I have the impression President Nixon will respond favorably.
Kissinger: As you know, there are elections tomorrow in the German state of Baden-Württemberg.10 If these go badly, that is, if the Free Democrats get wiped out or get reduced substantially, or if the Social Democrats don’t do well, then I don’t think anything we do can make any difference. I think the Brandt Government will fall. I give you my honest judgment.
Brezhnev: Would that be to our advantage for the Brandt Government to fall?
Kissinger: No, we don’t want this, but I state it as an objective fact.
Brezhnev: The U.S. President still has 24 hours to act. I know you sometimes put out surprise press conferences. Well, the President knows better how to do it.
Kissinger: No, we cannot influence a State election in Germany. It is too difficult. I don’t think it will happen, but I wanted to say it would be difficult.
Brezhnev: You are a difficult man to come to terms with. We came to agreement immediately before, and we have already notified Semenov immediately.
Kissinger: But can you influence elections for us?
Brezhnev: Isn’t all this understanding we have reached in favor of that? On SALT, ABM, European issues, long-term credits, the whole radical improvement in the atmosphere of U.S.-Soviet relations?
[The Russians conferred among themselves briefly, at which Dr. Kissinger remarked: Everytime I say something, there is a brawl on the Russian side.][Page 538]
Brezhnev: Because, after all, the President is a politician, not a merchant. Politics cover all questions. The important thing is for us to reach agreement.
Kissinger: Realistically, what I would like to do is to claim credit when the elections go well tomorrow and then ask you for concessions.
Brezhnev: What concessions?
Kissinger: I’ll think of one.
Brezhnev: I’ll be prepared to give you credit if it goes well, but if things go badly, I’ll say it was your fault.
Kissinger: You must have read in the Ambassador’s cables that I am vain.
Brezhnev: I have never read that.
Dobrynin: I have told them you are modest.
Kissinger: I will have revolutions on my hands. Realistically, it is too late to do anything. If the elections go as expected without radical change in Bonn, we will see what can be done.
Brezhnev: What is your general forecast?
Kissinger: My forecast is that tomorrow’s election will not affect the parliamentary situation in Bonn. Perhaps some minor parliamentary changes, but it will not affect the situation. Confidentially, we have attempted to be helpful. We invited Bahr to Washington11 and let it be known, and we have not received anyone from the Opposition. This is a fairly clear signal in Germany. We have not seen Barzel since the ratification debate started.12 He wanted to come in April and we did not receive him.
Brezhnev: I know you received Bahr.
Kissinger: And when Barzel came in January, your Ambassador in Bonn can confirm we did not encourage him.
I want to be honest with you. I had arranged with Bahr to send a memo that perhaps he could use confidentially in early April.13 But this became impossible because of the Vietnam situation. Our domestic situation became more complicated. We will review what can be done between now and May 4.
Brezhnev: This is a very important component of the general package of problems we will be having discussions on and hoping to resolve. We feel that on all the issues, agreements should be reached that will be worthy of our two countries.[Page 539]
Kissinger: Mr. General-Secretary, we have invested so much in the Berlin agreement that we are in favor of ratification of these agreements. In light of these discussions, we will see what additional steps we can take to assist ratification.
Brezhnev: We know that, and that is why we said we value President Nixon’s position regarding European matters very highly. I have said so publicly, too, in our Central Committee. My feeling is that European problems will be discussed in a favorable spirit.
Kissinger: We expect it too.
Brezhnev: We feel sure that when President Nixon hears what we have to say he will see that we are not trying to inject any “underwater rocks” in our European policy. We are not self-centered.
Kissinger: Will you be introducing new European matters at the Summit?
Brezhnev: We would like perhaps to have something to say on the European Conference. The general position and attitude of the U.S. Administration is known to us, that is to say, agreement in principle. What is needed is just a few specifics. By that time we may have ready in written form how to conclude a European Conference, that is to say the basic principles for a European Conference. Possibly even before the May meeting, we could agree on or discuss certain additional points bilaterally.
Kissinger: You will find it easier to discuss with President if there have been prior exchanges, so he’s not confronted with entirely new matters when he gets here.
Brezhnev: We will follow the channel.
Kissinger: May I raise in this connection the problem of mutual force reductions? In your considerations regarding the European Security Conference, has your thinking reached the point where you would be willing to have parallel discussions on force reductions?
Brezhnev: Just to return to European affairs generally, there will be discussed the ratification of the treaties, the Berlin agreement, agreement on principles of convening a conference, and the relation of the GDR to the FRG. Then on a purely confidential basis we would certainly like to know the answers to such questions as when the U.S. would support the admission of both Germanies to the U.N.
With respect to force reductions, that question is one that we do not intend to withdraw from the agenda, but perhaps it is one that should not be linked too closely to the Summit so as not to impede matters of top priority. But at some stage we would be ready in the future to discuss it on a confidential basis bilaterally. Of course, the general portent of our proposals on this score is to have the least possible number of troops in Europe, reducing to a minimum the risk of war [Page 540] in Europe. At some stage, we will certainly start to talk to you on this. Even if at first there is only a very slight reduction, the mere fact of a reduction will have a tremendous significance. It will be a token of our desire for a reduction of tensions and a token of goodwill and spirit of confidence. No one is implying that we will have 3 million and you will have 600. There can be no unacceptable proposals made in this field. Mutually acceptable principles will have to be found. There can be no unilateral advantage.
Kissinger: How about if side by side with preparations for a European Security Conference we begin discussions on reductions, directed at basic principles?
Brezhnev: In general, that would be a very good thing. But what we both have to bear in mind is that the merging of these 2 issues would divert attention from the main issues. Because it is to be foreseen that with respect to a European Security Conference hundreds of questions will come up. Luxemburg, Switzerland, Denmark can all raise questions.
Kissinger: You like chaos.
Brezhnev: On the contrary. So let’s get this question out of the way first.
Kissinger: We do not think force reductions should be discussed at a European Security Conference, because a European Security Conference is a much larger forum. We think a force reduction should be discussed in a parallel body among the countries whose forces would be reduced.
Brezhnev: Mr. Kissinger, of course it is certainly possible that the Conference itself could say something favorable on approaching it. Perhaps the Conference could set up a special body or another organization with the necessary diplomatic and military personnel—naturally with the participation of countries concerned. On this question, we could use our bilateral channel to conduct quiet and steady discussions on this. But at the forthcoming meeting, we should register our general attitude and desire to advance to a European Security Conference.
Kissinger: Assuming that ratification goes through, which we expect, we are prepared to do this. But our attitude is that side by side, we would have discussions on this subject in a separate forum.
Brezhnev: We are certainly in agreement to start in the confidential channel. As soon as we feel we have come to a common approach, we can then involve more openly the others who are concerned. Because of course attitudes and positions of states in this are different. Brandt at the Crimea asked me, should we also discuss Luxemburg and its 94 policemen? Should this be covered?
Kissinger: That is consistent with his practice of always getting to the fundamentals of an issue.[Page 541]
Brezhnev: But as on the subject of the admission of the 2 German states to the U.N., you know when we signed the treaty with the FRG, there was a clause in the statement on efforts of the sides to secure the admission of the 2 Germanies. Since at the Summit we will be discussing important issues, it would not be understood by the public in the USSR or the GDR or also in the U.S. if nothing was said on that subject.
Kissinger: The Foreign Minister knows the sequence. It is possible that the treaties won’t be ratified by the Summit. They may pass on May 4 and then be rejected by the Bundesrat, then go back to Parliament for a full majority in June.
If this is the sequence, then a successful Summit would be a guarantee of ratification. It would be impossible that a German Parliament could reject them after a successful U.S. and Soviet meeting. Secondly as regards the GDR, I don’t want to raise the wrong expectations as regards what we can say at the meeting. I don’t think we can go much beyond the Berlin Agreement. With respect to admission of the 2 Germanies to the U.N., we frankly have not yet taken a position. My informal view is that we will back whatever Chancellor Brandt wants to do. If he proposes it, we will be prepared to support these steps.
Brezhnev: Brandt did register in a document his readiness to support entry.
Kissinger: We will check with Brandt before the Summit.14 We will not be an obstacle. If he is willing, we have no American interest to oppose it.
Brezhnev: Yesterday after a meeting devoted to the memory of Lenin I briefly informed my colleagues of my meeting with you. Naturally I touched on the main points and general questions which came up, and the questions you are prepared to settle at the Summit: Europe, bilateral relations, (for example, MFN, credits, broad commercial cooperation, increased cultural ties, environmental, etc.) and I could see that generally my colleagues were favorably disposed. Of course, there is a lot to be specified here, with respect to MFN, the scale of credits, etc. As we see it, the specifics could be gone into through the [Page 542] channel, and then discussed finally at the Summit. As we understand it, broad prospects are opening up in the field of commerce. Your commercial circles are interested in it, for example, in Soviet natural gas. This could be done by a long-term contract, e.g. for 20–25 years. This could be good for both sides. I won’t go into details, but perhaps at our next meeting you could agree on the broad outlines. I welcome at the next meeting your readiness to give your general views and your readiness to go into these matters.
I must add, in all frankness, that when I informed my colleagues, they did all voice concern over our discussion of Vietnam. That is only too natural, and you should currently understand. But we did come to an understanding today that we would discuss it again after you think things over.
Kissinger: After we both think things over.
Brezhnev: Certainly there is never any harm in thinking things over. It can get tiring sometimes, but I’m a man who is always thinking things over. Perhaps it is dictated by the post I hold. Like all of us, I get such a torrent of information every day, on problems both international and domestic, that are difficult to manage. With a planned economy, 15 Republics and autonomous regions, all of this has to be plugged into my computer [points to his head]. So by 1:00 a.m. when I get to sleep I still dream of these problems. Some are difficult; others aren’t but are interesting. It’s a question of logic again. One tries to bring them to some kind of useful resolution. Without being personal, just abstract, we Russians have different kinds of logic. One kind is horses’ logic. It is difficult to face the prospect of that. We have a Proverb: A teacher asked a student a difficult question. The student did not know, and he said, “Let the horse answer it, he has a big head.” That is an old story.
Gromyko: Horses should be put to the task of conducting foreign policy. I wonder what would happen then?
Brezhnev: The back page of our newspaper Literaturnaya Gazeta is called “Horns and Hoofs.” It is devoted to jokes. My jokes of course are just meant to be a “lining,” or a little respite from the seriousness of our discussions. There can be curious results from translations of jokes.
I have another story. This one is fact. Two years ago, we were appointing an able man to be Ambassador to a certain country. He was well known, positively, in the host country. Fortunately, its leader was on good terms with me, and could speak freely. He told me, “He’s a fine man, but his name translated into our language sounds very rude and rather indecent. It would be okay in a male society but not in our country.”[Page 543]
I hope my jokes aren’t misunderstood. It is not consistent with my character. I know Americans like humor. If I see a glum look on President Nixon’s face, I will tell him a couple of stories to cheer him up.
Kissinger: Your Foreign Minister looks a bit like the President.
Gromyko: The President said that to me himself. But I don’t know whether he looks like me or I look like him. Next time in Washington I will pick a dark night and try to walk into the White House.
Kissinger: I will take you to dinner and we will go in together.
Brezhnev: If President Nixon will be like Gromyko, I am horror-stricken. It is impossible to talk to Gromyko. It will mean a lot of grief. The word “grief” reminds me of a joke. A foreign visitor to the Soviet Union wanted to buy flour for baking. But the word “flour” in Russian [muká] is the same as the word “grief” [múka], except that the stress is different. So after looking up the word quickly in a dictionary, she went into a shop and asked for two pounds of grief!
It has been a good day. Useful. Of course, the Vietnam issue is still there. It is complex, but we have agreed to think things over and return to it. You are now armed with sufficient material to report to President Nixon.
I have one request and wish: I would like to say something privately to you and directly for the President when we take a walk. That is the end for today. We will resume Monday morning. Time is an important factor in these matters. As for tomorrow, certain urgent matters have just come up—not related to these discussions. I think it is possible for you to stay until Monday. Perhaps you can meet tomorrow with Gromyko, at 10:00 a.m.
Kissinger: I will do my best. The President is getting restless in my absence and has expressed the hope that I will return tomorrow. I will suggest to him that we have unfinished business, but I think we will be able to do it.
Kissinger: I must in all events leave by 6:00 p.m. Monday.
Announcement of Visit
Kissinger: I have another point to raise, and it would be useful to communicate your view to Washington. I believe that after my return we should make a brief public announcement that I have been here. Otherwise it could leak out. If it leaks, it would look very mysterious. Hanoi already knows, probably, but would be confused. We could work out the text tomorrow with your Foreign Minister.
Brezhnev: I give my consent in advance, although I have not discussed it with my colleagues and they understand this as a confidential visit.[Page 544]
Kissinger: It will remain confidential while I am here.15
Brezhnev: I will discuss it with my colleagues, but I will not stand in the way.
I have another story, not related to anything. A man was seen carrying two TV sets over his shoulder, and he was asked why he needed two. He said, one is for myself. As for the other, my mother-in-law told me she would give her life for a TV set!
[The meeting then broke up, at 4:05 p.m. General-Secretary Brezhnev took Dr. Kissinger aside for a private conversation, standing, in a corner of the same room.]16
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 72, Country Files, Europe, USSR, HAK Moscow Trip—April 1972, Memcons. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting was held at the Guest House on Vorobyevskii Road. For his memoir account of the meeting, see Kissinger, White House Years, pp. 1146–1150.↩
- All brackets in the source text.↩
- A copy of the U.S. redraft of the Soviet draft on Basic Principles, including handwritten changes by Kissinger, Sonnenfeldt, and others, as well as a 15-page paper with parallel columns comparing the two drafts, is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 72, Country Files, Europe, USSR, HAK Moscow Trip—April 1972, Exchange of Notes. According to a list of notes exchanged during Kissinger’s trip to Moscow, Kissinger handed the U.S. redraft to Dobrynin the morning of April 22. (Ibid.) Kissinger submitted further revisions of the text to Dobrynin on April 24; see footnote 4, Document 159.↩
- Reference is to the peace plan Nixon unveiled during a nationally televised address on January 25. (Public Papers: Nixon, 1972, pp. 100–106)↩
- See footnote 16, Document 126.↩
- A copy of the Soviet note on anti-ballistic missiles, including the original Russian text, is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 72, Country Files, Europe, USSR, HAK Moscow Trip—April 1972, Exchange of Notes.↩
- A copy of the Soviet note on submarines, including the original Russian text, is ibid.↩
- April 24 or 25.↩
- See Document 136.↩
- See Document 159.↩
- Bahr visited Washington in late-March; See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XL, Germany, 1969–1972, Document 348.↩
- Barzel visited Washington in late-January; see ibid., Document 338.↩
- On Kissinger’s refusal to send a “memo,” see ibid., Documents 80, 86, and 87.↩
- Kissinger later sent the following undated message to Bahr: “Brezhnev has approached us with a request to support UN membership for the GDR and the FRG. We have told him that we will be guided by the FRG’s approach on this matter. I would greatly appreciate your suggestions on how we should handle this in Moscow.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 426, Backchannel Files, Backchannel Messages, Europe, 1972)↩
- For text of Kissinger’s message reporting Soviet agreement to announce his trip, see Document 145.↩
- Although no verbatim account has been found, Kissinger later described his private conversation with Brezhnev; see Document 148.↩