44. Memorandum From President Nixon to Secretary of State Rogers1

With regard to your memorandum of February 1,2 I would like for you to have the following guidelines in mind in your conversations with Dobrynin.

He obviously will be trying to find out what we are prepared to discuss or to concede at the Soviet summit and we, on our part, should therefore try to find out as much as we can as to what the Soviet leaders may be thinking with regard to the summit. As much as possible, therefore, I would like for you to get from him his evaluation of the recent conversations he has had with Brezhnev and Kosygin and other Soviet leaders on the summit and to avoid as much as possible giving him anything more than generalities with regard to our attitude toward the summit.

With regard to the summit agenda, I would suggest that you say that we both should be thinking about the agenda but that it will depend in large part on events that may occur between now and the time of our meeting in May and that, consequently, definitive discussions on agenda should not take place until around the first of April. This is, of course, true with regard to such subjects as the Middle East, SALT, and Vietnam, all of which are under active discussion in other channels at this time and which we will be able to appraise when we get closer to the date of the summit.

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On European Security, as you know, my views are to move as slowly and cautiously as feasible. In fact, since meeting with Gromyko, I have told Luns, Heath, Brandt and Pompidou in discussing this subject that there can be no conference this year and that while we do not reject the idea we cannot agree to it even in principle until we have had an opportunity to evaluate with our allies and later with the Soviet what the substance of such a conference would be. In other words, discussion of the European Security Conference—but without commitment should be our line at this point.

With regard to SALT, the guidelines developed by the verification panel would seem to provide the best line for all of us to follow.

With regard to trade, we, of course, should continue to indicate interest but again avoid commitments until we are further down the road on other subjects. While direct reference to linkage, of course, must be avoided for reasons we are both aware, it is my view that as far as our actions are concerned how forthcoming we will be on the trade issue, particularly where credits are concerned, will depend on how forthcoming the Soviet leaders are on political issues in which we are concerned. Incidentally, on this point, I do not share the view of Stans, Peterson, et al, that trade with the Soviets is a good thing for us in and of itself. Trade is far more important to the Soviet than it is to us. It is one of the few bargaining chips we have and while we must not say that we consider it to be a bargaining chip we must be sure that we don’t give it away for nothing.

On the Middle East, because of the high sensitivity on this issue during 1972 in this country, I believe it is essential for us to assess the on-going discussions with the Government of Israel and the other governments concerned in the area before going forward with discussions with the Soviets on this subject. This does not mean that we may not want to discuss the subject with them at a later time. However, this is an excellent example of one of those subjects on which no determination should be made with regard to the agenda until we get much closer to the summit date due to the fact that there are on-going discussions at this time which might change the situation before we meet in May.

Because of the frankness of some of the views I have expressed in this memorandum, I would like for you to keep it in your own possession and not distribute it to others in the Department. It is for your guidance only. I am giving Henry a copy so that in any discussion he might have with Dobrynin he will follow the same guidelines.

RN 3
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Personal Files, Box 3, Memoranda from the President, 1969–1974, Memorandum to Secretary of State, 2/3/72. Top Secret; Sensitive. Other drafts of this memorandum are ibid., NSC Files, Box 493, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1972, Vol. 9 [Pt. 2] An alternate memorandum from the President, drafted by Kissinger and instructing Rogers to limit his discussion on several issues, was not used. (Ibid)
  2. In accordance with the January 19 Presidential directive (see Document 36), Rogers had notified Nixon of this upcoming meeting with Dobrynin in a February 1 memorandum: “I plan to see Ambassador Dobrynin later this week to get a report from him on his recent conversations in Moscow. I will focus on the matters which are presently being discussed with the Soviet Union at various levels of our two governments. This will permit me to make an assessment on what we need to do or decide upon now in order to have these matters come to fruition when you are in the Soviet Union.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 493, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1972, Vol. 9, [Pt. 2]) In a February 1 memorandum to Haldeman, Kissinger noted that on four recent occasions the NSC Staff had transmitted to the Department of State documents relating to ongoing U.S.USSR negotiations while “in return we have received nothing.” He added: “Since the President’s directive we are worse off than ever before.” (Ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 148, State/White House Relationship, Vol. V, February 1, 1971—March 1972)
  3. Printed from a copy that indicates Nixon signed the original.