241. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rogers to President Nixon 1

SUBJECT

  • Moscow Talks: Opening Presentation

In your meetings with Brezhnev and Kosygin, I think your opening remarks will go far toward establishing the possibilities for enduring changes in our relations with the Soviet Union. We will have enough agreements in hand before your arrival to ensure that an acceptable summit will ensue. Beyond that, you have an opportunity to get deeply into the prospects for U.S.USSR relations, not in terms of [Page 938]meaningless generalities, as the Soviets might prefer, but by testing Soviet intentions case by case, issue by issue.

The first substantative session, however, is scheduled as a plenary. Since Russians generally find deduction from principles more persuasive than a purely pragmatic approach, I believe you should take that tack in your initial presentation, reserving discussion of the more difficult issues for the restricted sessions with Brezhnev or Kosygin and the details for the parallel talks which I will have with Gromyko. In addition to impressing the assembled Soviet leaders with our strength and confidence, you will also want to convey our commitment to negotiating differences with a reasonable regard for Soviet interests.

We know from experience that the Soviet leaders maintain close contact among themselves in dealing with foreigners. What a visitor says in the morning to Kosygin may be alluded to by Brezhnev or Gromyko in the afternoon. It might be useful, therefore, for us to meet with Henry Kissinger and Martin Hillenbrand for a few minutes each day to compare notes and to discuss the next day’s meetings.

None of your principal interlocutors in Moscow understands English and this will make it imperative to have an accurate, properly-nuanced interpretation of all your presentations. Although Soviet interpreters may be skilled in translating the substance of remarks, they understandably are more concerned with conveying the force of the statements made by their principals, and less intent upon giving full effect to the points expressed by the non-Soviet participants. I would therefore urge you to use an American interpreter throughout to make sure that your message is conveyed accurately in tone as well as substance. To ensure the utmost precision, I would also suggest that your interpreter be briefed in advance regarding the topics under discussion and the impression you wish to convey.

William P. Rogers
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL USUSSR. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Matlock on May 17 and cleared by Davies.