233. Paper Prepared by the National Security Council Staff1
BASIC PRINCIPLES OF US-SOVIET RELATIONS
For almost twenty years, the Soviets have been eager to get us to agree to some kind of a document codifying a relationship of “peaceful coexistence.” In 1956, they actually proposed a friendship treaty. They have approached many Western countries on this score and have also pressed for a NATO-Warsaw Pact non-aggression pact.
Among Soviet motives has figured Moscow’s desire to undermine the political and psychological basis of Western defense arrangements. They have also seen in these agreements a means of obtaining acceptance of the East European status quo. Their approaches to us over the years have undoubtedly reflected their desire to get us to recognize their status as a co-equal great power. Finally, the Russians are ritualistic; they like solemn declarations as visible results of meetings.
In the past, we fended off Soviet overtures precisely because we suspected Soviet motives and because we feared the very effects we thought the Soviets were trying to create.
Developments in the last two years have created new conditions which make some formal declaration on US-Soviet relations more feasible:
- —When Dobrynin first raised this, you instructed me to insist that we would not consider anything that smacked of condominium or could be used by the Soviets against third powers.
- —They have taken account of these admonitions and have agreed generally on a document that meets your concerns.
- —Second, the Soviets have signed similar documents with other Western powers, notably a long and effusive Declaration of Principles with Pompidou, a protocol on consultation with Canada, a declaration with Turkey, and, of course, the German-Soviet treaties and accompanying memoranda.
- —Third, we agreed to a communiqué with the Chinese2 that incorporated principles of Sino-American relations; and this has intensified Soviet interest in equal treatment. Our tentative agreement on principles with Moscow, of course, is more concrete and reflects the more extensive development of bilateral relations.
Earlier this year, we gave Dobrynin some paragraphs for inclusion in the summit communiqué3 wherein we would jointly state our desire for improved relations, agree to seek peaceful solutions to outstanding problems and to respect the independence and integrity of third countries, jointly undertake to exercise restraint in crises and to respect each other’s interest and agree to promote practical cooperation. The Soviets pressed harder than ever for a formal and somewhat more extensive document after they saw the communiqué at the end of your China trip, especially its references to peaceful coexistence.
In Moscow, Brezhnev gave us a draft and urged us to “strengthen” it.4 He was told that in general the document seemed sound but that we would propose some improvements. This was done before leaving Moscow. We made a counterproposal that introduced language (now points 2 and 3) that emphasizes the principle of mutual restraint and avoiding attempts to achieve unilateral advantages, and the principle of responsibility to discourage conflicts from arising. This may inhibit the Soviets somewhat, and at least we can claim this interpretation. And the principles may refute the Brezhnev doctrine. The resulting text is at Tab A.
The Soviets have a few changes they still wish to incorporate, in particular one which would refer to the responsibilities of the permanent members of the UN Security Council. Our approaches to the entire document have been that it could deal only with bilateral U.S. Soviet relations and should in no way be used, even implicitly, to lecture or make invidious comments about others. (We obviously have to watch the Chinese angle.)
As you will note, the document now has a general preamble and twelve points. (The Soviets had wanted a thirteenth about ensuring the ability of our respective diplomatic establishments to function—a reference to harassments here. We rejected this as not consistent with the [Page 880] forward-looking content and general spirit of the document and the Soviets readily dropped the point.)
- The first points deal with peaceful coexistence in the nuclear age and the fact that ideological differences should be no obstacle to normal relations.
- The second point deals with preventing dangerous situations, the need for mutual restraint and for avoiding attempts to obtain unilateral advantages; the need to recognize each other’s security interests on the basis of equality, renunciation of force and the desirability of conducting negotiations in a spirit of reciprocity.
- The third point—the only one still open—deals with out international responsibilities as UN members and includes language about the right of all countries to be free from external interference.
- The fourth and fifth points indicate intent to widen the juridical basis of our relations and to consult including at the summit level.
- The sixth point is a general one about promoting arms control agreements.
- The seventh point is about increased commercial relations.
- Points eight, nine and ten deal with improving various other bilateral relations.
- The eleventh point renounces claims to special rights and advantages and reaffirms the sovereign equality of all states. (Here, the Soviets wanted language that implied that China had made such claims but I insisted on broader language without invidious connotations.) This point also affirms that the development of U.S.-Soviet relations are not directed against third countries.
- The final point is the saving clause: the principles in the document do not affect any obligations with respect to other countries which we or the Soviets previously assumed.
Thus, the document avoids all connotations of condominium5 or aspersions against others. It embodies points you have repeatedly made about restraint and recognition of interests. They are all desirable points from our standpoint to get the Soviets to agree to, even on paper; and they are a considerable improvement over documents signed by France and Canada.
The Soviets, for their part, would achieve their objective of having a document. They will no doubt make unilateral interpretations—[Page 881]as we can also—and at some time or other accuse us of violating the terms. But this does not materially change the existing situation, since the Soviets already allege periodically that we are violating the UN Charter or the “norms” of international law. The Soviets no doubt will also derive the satisfaction of being recognized as a co-equal power, but this is hardly a concession by us, given the power balance and the conceptual basis of our foreign policy.6
Finally, we can plausibly argue that given the significant progress that has occurred and is projected in U.S.-Soviet relations in many specific areas, this document now is not simply verbiage and generalities: it provides a framework for an increasingly concrete and productive set of relationships and it provides a set of standards against which to measure our respective conduct in international affairs.
- —you should confirm to Brezhnev that this document is consistent with the present stage of our relations and you therefore welcome it;
- —we recognize that inevitably there will arise differing interpretations—it is in the nature of such an agreement—but in the spirit of the document we should try to minimize these;
- —we should both view the document as embodying a set of standards by which we should measure our conduct; if over time we find that it should be revised or refined, we should do so;7
- —if Brezhnev raises their version of the third point (assuming it still to be open at the time), you should take the position that we prefer not to make statements about the responsibilities of other countries but only about those of our two countries.8 (Brezhnev claims that the China communiqué mentioned “hegemony” and therefore was directed against the USSR and he may therefore claim you are being inconsistent. The problem can probably be resolved by a compromise draft and should not prove an obstacle.)
(Note: Brezhnev may propose that you and he sign the document. I have made no commitment on this because it would carry implications that this is some sort of a treaty. This creates problems with the [Page 882] allies and perhaps the Senate. But if Brezhnev presses, you could acquiesce and the consequences will be manageable.)9
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 487, President’s Trip Files, For the President’s Personal Briefcase, May 1972, Part 2. Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. No drafting information appears on the paper. A notation on the paper indicates the President saw it. According to a May 16 memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon, this was part of the first briefing book for the summit sent to the President. (Ibid., RG 59, S/P Files: Lot 77 D 112, Box 335, Lord Chronology, May, 1972)↩
- For text of the joint communiqué issued at Shanghai on February 27, see Department of State Bulletin, March 20, 1972, pp. 435–438.↩
- See Document 62.↩
- See footnote 3, Document 139 and footnote 4, Document 159.↩
- The President underlined the previous five words and wrote a question mark in the margin next to this sentence.↩
- On the back of the previous page, the President wrote: “ SALT = Temporary Dangers Condominium?—Sold out our allies?—Agreed to inferiority frozen. Agreed to permanent Soviet control of E. Europe (Brezhnev doctrine?) We must have a single standard. We can’t agree to free hand for Soviets in our background & no interference in theirs.”↩
- The President underlined the previous two points.↩
- The President underlined “you should take the position that we prefer not to make statements about the responsibilities of other countries but only about those of our two countries.”↩
- The President wrote a question mark in the margin by this paragraph.↩
- The text of this attachment is almost identical to the text of Basic Principles agreed to at the summit. There are only a few minor textual changes, such as putting the United States of America first, i.e., the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or U.S.-Soviet rather than Soviet-American. For the final text of the “Basic Principles of Relations Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” issued on May 29, 1972, at the summit, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1972, pp. 633–635.↩
- The summit text reads “social” rather than “political.”↩
- The summit text here inserts: “and to prevent outbreak of nuclear war. They.”↩
- The President underlined this sentence.↩
- The President wrote a question mark in the margin by this paragraph. The third point in the final text agreed to at the summit reads: “The USA and the USSR have a special responsibility, as do other countries which are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, to do everything in their power so that conflicts or situations will not arise which would serve to increase international tensions. Accordingly, they will seek to promote conditions in which all countries will live in peace and security and will not be subject to outside interference in their internal affairs.”↩
- The summit text here inserts “jointly.”↩
- The summit text here inserts: “The two governments welcome and will facilitate an increase in productive contacts between representatives of the legislative bodies of the two countries.”↩
- The President wrote a question mark in the margin by this paragraph.↩
- The summit text substitutes “in this document” for “herein.”↩