299. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Leonid I. Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU
  • Andrei M. Aleksandrov-Agentov, Assistant to the General Secretary
  • The President
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs


  • Middle East; Vietnam; Nuclear Understanding; Economic Relations; Cuba; Korea

General Secretary Brezhnev: I saw you on TV last night and I have heard about your visit to Leningrad. Henry Kissinger is the only one who is resting. The trouble with him is that even when you give him a job he finds a way of avoiding it. [The General Secretary then told an anecdote about the sex life of older men.]2

The President: I very much appreciate the opportunity of talking to you heart-to-heart. With respect to the communiqué3 and statement of principles,4 Kissinger and Gromyko have done very well. As you know, there are only two main points of difference remaining: the Mideast and Vietnam. I am willing to give on one: that is, the reference to maintaining the ceasefire in the Middle East section. It is important to maintain our channel of communication; the rhetoric in the statement does not mean so much. I will do my best to bring about a reasonable solution, and if the General Secretary does his best perhaps our experts can find a solution. I want the General Secretary’s consideration of our problem. We know our positions are different. And we have done useful work in the private channel to make progress. If you say it is a question of principle then there is no hope for solution.

[Page 1219]

On Vietnam, in the same vein, we would want to drop out the phrase “unconditionally.” The Soviet statement is very strong. And I understand why it must be strong. And as the General Secretary knows, our position is also strong, as he found at the dacha the other day.5 Neither side publicly can be expected to change its position. As Dr. Kissinger in his long talk with Gromyko indicated, we are trying to bring our positions closer together.6 It would be counterproductive to suggest that these are all issues of principle. It is essential that we agree. These are the only points I have to make. Otherwise, I have no suggestion to make. It would certainly be helpful for our common goal if you can agree.

General Secretary Brezhnev: I would like to put one question to you. You, Mr. President, then Dr. Kissinger, have communicated to us that the U.S. would be willing to go back to the open meetings provided that the DRV affirms a constructive attitude towards negotiations and is willing to consider your positions as well as theirs as a basis for discussion. I would like to set out one consideration. How would you see it if we sent one of our highest leaders to talk to the Vietnamese? The visit of any responsible leader might make a difference.7 But you should stop the bombing first. We know—and this is in confidence—quite for sure that of late Vietnam has been visited by delegation after delegation from China. We don’t know what they will discuss with you at the talks. We cannot absolutely guarantee complete success. But we would like to take this step to find the best solution. We do believe the President really wants to end the war. The Vietnamese attach greater importance to their fear of being tricked in a settlement.

Perhaps it would help if Thieu was willing to resign two months before election. I think this should be.

The President: If a top Soviet official goes there, you can be sure there will be no bombing of the Hanoi/Haiphong area. Unless he stays there for three months.

General Secretary Brezhnev: People like you and I and Kissinger can’t stay there for three months.

The President: It would be very constructive to stop all the killing right now.

Dr. Kissinger: Up to now, of course, all we have agreed to is only one month for the resignation of Thieu.

[Page 1220]

General Secretary Brezhnev: We want to do the maximum of what is possible, and two months would help us. We will not try to make a unilateral benefit from this. We will send our top leader as quickly as possible. Then the Paris meetings can start as quickly as possible. It is, of course, important to bear in mind another fact. According to their thinking a solution must be found between you and them directly.

The President: The procedure of a visit as you suggest is very constructive. After our meeting there may be a measure of progress. This is very important.

General Secretary Brezhnev: First, we must be clear about the assurances: we must have an assurance about the bombing and two months about Thieu.

The President: I will use my influence about the two months. But it must be kept absolutely secret.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Without going into the argument, I have already told my comrades that two months is possible. I don’t want the whole matter to be swamped by a difference of one month.

Dr. Kissinger: If we can settle all the other issues and the only obstacle remaining is one or two months, we will not find it insuperable.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Can I tell my comrades two months? This is crucial.

The President: If you keep it in this room, as part of settlement, I can agree to two months.

General Secretary Brezhnev: On the communiqué, we can accept the two deletions.

The President: Here is a paper I want to give you on the matter of non-use of nuclear weapons. [Hands over U.S. draft at Tab A.]8 It is a response to your paper. I know of your interest in this matter. In April you said it would be a “peaceful bomb.” I have given a great deal of thought to it, and we have this draft for your consideration. It should be discussed further in our confidential channel.

General Secretary Brezhnev: In principle I agree it will be a peaceful bomb. We will hold it strictly confidential. We should handle it in our special Washington–Moscow KissingerDobrynin channel.

The President: I appreciate this personal contact we have had. It is very important.

[Page 1221]

Now, on economic matters, Peterson is coming here in July. He will have full authority.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Thank you. I too value very highly the work we have done here together. I want to reaffirm our cooperation. Now that we have established personal contact we can say it with greater confidence.

I would like to raise a few specific issues. First, there is the issue of Lend-Lease and MFN. We are prepared to continue consultation, though you must understand we must have MFN. As for Cuba, a matter of concern to you, we abide strictly by our understanding on Cuba. Even when there are submarine visits, we will strictly abide by the understanding.

On the subject of Korea, Kim Il-Sung has assured me. They have said that North Korea is in favor of peaceful unification. They are not interested in military field. They are prepared to establish good relations with you. Some thought should be given to how South Korea can take advantage of this. Of course, the question of the presence of U.S. troops in South Korea also arises. We want you to know our concern about resolving this. Let’s continue our contacts on this.

Mr. President, this week you and I have signed an important document on strategic arms limitation. But France, the UK, and Peking haven’t signed it. Therefore, we must closely follow their development to prevent any unfavorable developments.

I want to leave you with one thought about Peking. We really are not clear about what its policies and intentions are. This places on us an obligation for us to follow these policies and consult with each other.

In general, I must stress the importance of restraint in propaganda on both sides. Let us promote the atmosphere of this week.

The President: I will do the best I can about propaganda. Of course, I cannot control our right wing in the Senate and among some newsmen. But I agree. Let’s keep the rhetoric cool.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Yes, we must keep the propaganda in line with the reality of foreign policy.

The President: We must keep in touch. I plan to keep the General Secretary informed on any major development.

General Secretary Brezhnev: I will certainly respond.

The President: I want to reiterate. You have my commitment that privately or publicly I shall take no steps directed against the interests of the Soviet Union. But the General Secretary should rely on what I say in the private channel, not on what anyone else tells him. There are not only certain forces in the world but also representatives of the press who are not interested in better relations between us.

[Page 1222]

[There were closing pleasantries. The President thanked the General Secretary and his colleagues for the warm hospitality and courtesies that were extended to him and Mrs. Nixon during their stay in Moscow. The General Secretary bade the President farewell and wished him and Mrs. Nixon a pleasant journey.]

  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 2. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting was held in the General Secretary’s Office in the Kremlin. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting was from 10:15 a.m. to 12:16 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) A note on the memorandum indicates it was transcribed from Kissinger’s notes.
  2. All brackets in the source text.
  3. For text of the joint communiqué issued on May 29, see Public Papers: Nixon , 1972, pp. 635–642.
  4. For 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, see ibid., pp. 633–634.
  5. See Document 271.
  6. See Document 292.
  7. In his memoirs Nixon called Brezhnev’s offer “the greatest surprise of the summit.” (RN: Memoirs, p. 617)
  8. Tab A is attached but not printed. For Kissinger’s discussion of his reaction to Brezhnev’s “peaceful bomb”—his proposal during their Moscow pre-summit talks in April of a U.S.-Soviet “understanding” not to use nuclear weapon against each other, see footnote 11, Document 234.