255. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1
- Moscow Politics and Brezhnev’s Position
Very recent developments in Moscow indicates that Brezhnev has encountered certain problems regarding his foreign policy, but he has apparently maneuvered successfully to overcome them for the moment.
- —The full Central Committee was called into special plenary to hear a report by Brezhnev. The list of speakers in the debate contained mostly his cronies and Marshal Grechko. There is a suggestion in a sensitive intercept that Brezhnev used his friend Grechko to justify his military policies, including SALT.
- —A Brezhnev associate who is in charge of foreign policy in the Party machine, Ponomarev, was elevated to the Politburo as a “candidate” member.
- —The man reputedly the chief critic of Brezhnev’s Western policies has been given the job of deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers (deputy premier, one of several). This man, Shelest, is currently the powerful party boss of the Ukraine, and it is highly doubtful that he will retain that position. He may even lose his seat on the Politburo since no deputy premier has such a seat.
Thus, there has clearly been last-minute maneuvering in Moscow, in which Brezhnev has succeeded in bolstering his position. This will not mean that he is a free agent. But he currently seems stronger than ever. Passage of the German treaty undoubtedly also helped him. Almost certainly, he views his encounters with you, in which he will be the dominant Soviet participant, as a further boost. He should be quite self-confident and act very much the boss.
- 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.↩