269. Editorial Note

In his May 24, 1972, diary entry, White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman recorded that immediately after the signing ceremony that afternoon, General Secretary Brezhnev and President Nixon “started down the hall with our advance party meeting them. And we thought they were going across to go into the Residence and down to get in his car, when all of a sudden the P and Brezhnev disappeared down a corridor, zipped into an elevator, shot downstairs, came out into the driveway, popped into Brezhnev’s car and roared off with Duncan [Secret Service man] just barely catching up.”

Nixon commented in his memoirs that “surprise is another favorite technique of Communist negotiators” and recalled that after the May 24 signing of the agreement on cooperation in space exploration, he and Brezhnev had walked out of the room together. Brezhnev had begun talking about the dinner planned for them at one of the government dachas outside Moscow that evening and suggested that they go to the country right away so that he could see it in the daylight. Nixon wrote that Brezhnev propelled him into an elevator that took them to the ground floor, where they climbed into one of his limousines and drove away while the Secret Service and the others rushed around trying to find cars and drivers to follow them. ( RN: Memoirs, page 612)

Haldeman wrote that “K had been waiting over at the Residence, planning to ride with the P out to the dacha to get a chance to talk with him, and the motorcade left without him. K missed the whole thing and was, of course, furious, but got in the P’s car with Brennan and shot on out. They didn’t get back until well after midnight.” (The Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition) In his version of this event Assistant to the President Henry Kissinger recalled that when Brezhnev proposed going to the dacha immediately, “Nixon accepted—there was little else he could do, since Brezhnev was physically propelling him into his car.” He wrote that “Presidential Assistants learn rather quickly to stay close to their chiefs, especially on foreign trips” so he jumped into a Soviet follow-up car. Kissinger described the “small motorcade containing Nixon and Brezhnev in one car and me in another [speeding] out of Moscow … followed by Nixon’s own car, full of Secret Service agents beside themselves that the President of the United States had been abducted in front of their very eyes by the Soviet Union’s Number One Communist.” He added that “the evening was to be marked by sudden unpredictable changes. Having successfully ‘kidnapped’ the president once, Brezhnev, in high good spirits on our arrival at the dacha, then whisked him down to the boat landing for a hydrofoil ride.” (White House Years, pages 1223–1224)