3. Notes of Cabinet Meeting1

[Omitted here is discussion on the economy, wage and price controls, taxes, and labor.]

The P then turned to the Russian Summit. Made the point that this did not develop out of the blue, that there have been discussions in detail over the past two years, that there could be no meeting until there had been progress in other areas to indicate that a Summit would be useful. Gromyko brought the invitation this year, and we accepted it. You have to realize what has happened up to now in foreign policy, such as the sea beds, the completion of the nonproliferation treaty, biological warfare, accidental war, hot line,2 and most significant, Berlin. What about Vietnam, Middle East, arms control and trade? That all depends on the situation at the time. Those are all possible areas of discussion with the Soviets. The agenda will be determined by developments between now and May. There will be a very limited group going with the P. It’ll be a working visit. Regarding China, each of these trips is separate. We’re seeking new relations with China, and we’re seeking to continue our negotiations with the Soviets. We’re doing neither at the expense of the other. We’re not playing them against each other. About our allies, on questions such as mutual balance, enforced reductions, etc., we’ll discuss with them in detail first before we take any steps with the Soviets. What it really means to United States defense is that the fact of the meetings is itself a hopeful sign, but we recognize that our differences are very deep and very broad. We will continue to have different views, and we’ve only agreed to discuss those differences. For some to conclude naively, as they have, that the whole world has changed, and so forth, is ridiculous. None of that type of thing is true. We’re aware of the differences, but we should talk about them. Re Soviet Union, now in military strength—offensive—well ahead of US and still building so US must continue its own program [Page 11] until have agreement on offensive and defensive [weapons] that doesn’t put us [in] inferior [position].3

We welcome the opportunity to talk, it could be hopeful. It can change the relationships, but there is no reason for euphoria. There is no real change in either attitude, but the big fact overall is that the superpowers know that if there’s a conflict, there are no winners now, only losers. And neither of us will allow the other to gain an advantage. So if SALT breaks down and the Soviets continue their buildup, then the United States must also build up. So the two great powers have a common interest in limiting the arms race and negotiating the areas where they rub, such as Berlin, the Middle East, South East Asia, Caribbean, etc. We look to this period to continue to maintain our strength, to continue to negotiate with the Soviets and to work on a new relation with China. We’re on a very high wire. We’re trying to stay there vis-à-vis the Soviet and China. Ironically, we’re in the position that each of them rates the other as more of an enemy than either of them rates the United States. So we must handle the whole thing very evenhandedly.

Rogers then made the point that it’s very important that no one attempt to express substantive views, that there’s no need to add anything to what the P has said on the subject (of the Summit). He said that he felt there were four ideas that we should consider. First, that there’s no time in the history of the United States where a President has undertaken such a comprehensive effort for peace. No President has ever tried so hard before. Second, the world is a more peaceful place now than it was two and a half years ago. What the P has done has been effective up to now. Third, everything the P has done is consistent with what he said since the beginning. In other words, it’s an orderly foreign policy. It’s hard to handle and anticipate, and the way the P has managed it has helped in being able to do this. Fourth, as a result of all this, it is an era of negotiation. So you add it all up, and it’s clear that the P is the world leader for peace. People will come to appreciate this, the kind of leadership the people expect. Other country’s leaders will say this, and it’s time that we started recognizing it.

[Omitted here is discussion of Vietnam, prosperity, and baseball.]

  1. Source: The Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition. No classification marking. The diary is based on Haldeman’s handwritten notes, portions of which are inserted below. The time of the meeting is from the President’s Daily Diary. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files) Special Assistant to the President, Raymond K. Price, Jr., also prepared notes of this meeting. (Ibid., White House Special Files, President’s Office Files, Box 86, Memoranda for the President, Beginning, October 10, 1971)
  2. The phrase “biological warfare, accidental war, and hot line” was excised from the published Haldeman Diaries. It is reinserted here from Haldeman’s hand-written notes. (Ibid., Staff Members and Office Files, Haldeman Files, Box 44, Haldeman Notes, Oct.– December 1971, part I)
  3. This sentence was excised from the published Haldeman Diaries but is reinserted here from Haldeman’s handwritten notes. (Ibid.)