254. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Your First Talk with Brezhnev, May 22, 1972

Brezhnev’s Intentions.

This is a get-acquainted, sizing-up meeting. We know [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] that Brezhnev intended, as of three days ago, to say little of substance but to put you at your ease including with a joke or two. He apparently wants to put you in a mood of expectancy, banking on your authority to make decisions on the spot. He apparently plans immediately to give Podgorny and Kosygin a debrief to show how well he has done. Despite his apparent intention to be agreeable, he could get carried away a bit and lapse into an oration on Vietnam, though probably more in sorrow than anger.

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Basically, Brezhnev will want a successful Summit, including not only SALT, the various bilateral agreements and improved trade but progress toward his goals in Europe and the Middle East. He probably wants Vietnam talks started again and claim credit, if possible, for any de-escalation of our actions against the North. He will want to demoralize the Chinese, who he hates, by trying to make your Peking trip appear as hollow compared to this one.

Undoubtedly he will try to sell his success to his colleagues as meaning he got the better of you. But he cannot do this unless he gets agreements, and these he cannot get unless we accept the terms, too. So, your leverage is ample.

Your Posture.

Since the first session is partly a psychological exercise, you should show that you know what you want and have a systematic approach to the week’s work. He will try to get you off-stride with jokes and interruptions. You should return to the point you wanted to make when he is through.

In your remarks you should stress:

  • —The unique character of this meeting in our relations—long preparation, relative equality of power, concrete issues;
  • —The unique opportunity of this meeting to speak frankly about our responsibilities as great powers, to demonstrate that the benefits of peace and practical cooperation transcend differences in philosophy and systems;
  • —The importance you put on discussing not only the very specific and important subjects on which we want to try to agree but also how we go beyond these agreements to the “traffic rules” of the nuclear age—restraint, respect for interests, resisting temptations to accumulate tactical advantages, greater contact among peoples;
  • —The fact that we have an open society where debate is vigorous, especially in an election year, but the essential unity of the American people in supporting the quest for a stable world order on which you are embarked;
  • —The importance of personal contact of top leaders but the recognition that what we want to build should endure regardless of personalities.

Caution: Do not initiate any reminiscence of your talks with Khrushchev. Brezhnev may do so by mentioning again that he met you in 1959. If the subject does come up, simply note that we are 13 years further along and that the nature of our discussions has changed with the times.

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You should avoid:

  • —The impression that you are under pressure to settle everything at these meetings this week.
  • —Lengthy justification of what we are doing in Vietnam; a crisp explanation that we are doing what we must to protect our interests and will continue it will impress Brezhnev even if he can’t endorse it.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 487, President’s Trip Files, The President’s Conversations in Salzburg, Moscow, Tehran, and Warsaw, May 1972, Part 1. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.