47. Editorial Note

On February 9, 1972, President Nixon issued his third annual report to Congress on foreign affairs entitled: “U.S. Foreign Policy for the 1970s: The Emerging Structure of Peace.” In an accompanying transmittal message, Nixon explained the function of the report: “As I prepare to set out on my summit trips to Peking and Moscow, it is especially timely for the American people and the Congress to have available a basis for understanding the Government’s policies and broad purposes in foreign affairs.” See Public Papers: Nixon, 1972, page 194. The report contained a review of the previous year’s foreign policy and also a forecast for future decisions in regard to various global regions. The portion of the report on the Soviet Union was under a section entitled “Areas of Major Change.” This section also included a review of policy towards China, Europe and the Atlantic Alliance, Japan, and International Economic Policy. In the subsection addressing the proposed summit meeting, the President stated:

“In Moscow, we will have three central objectives. We want to complete work on those issues which have been carried to the point of [Page 158] final decision. We want to establish a political framework for dealing with the issues still in dispute. And we want to examine with the Soviet leaders the further development of the U.S.—Soviet relationship in the years ahead.

“The tasks ahead rise logically from the present state of relations:

  • “—An accord on an initial strategic arms limitations agreement, or on the issues to be addressed in the second stage of the SALT negotiations.
  • “—A discussion of the problem of the Middle East and the reasons for the failure to reach a peaceful settlement there.
  • “—A discussion of the problem of European security in all its aspects and the identification of mutually shared objectives which will provide a basis for future normalization of intercourse between Eastern and Western Europe. No agreements in this area, however, will be made without our allies.
  • “—An exploration of our policies in other areas of the world and the extent to which we share an interest in stability.
  • “—An examination of the possibility of additional bilateral cooperation. The steps taken so far have been significant, but are meager, indeed, in terms of the potential. There are a variety of fields in which U.S.-Soviet cooperation would benefit both. Our economic relations are perhaps the most obvious example. Bilateral cooperation will be facilitated if we can continue to make progress on the major international issues.

“We do not, of course, expect the Soviet Union to give up its pursuit of its own interests. We do not expect to give up pursuing our own. We do expect, and are prepared ourselves to demonstrate, self-restraint in the pursuit of those interests. We do expect a recognition of the fact that the general improvement in our relationship transcends in importance the kind of narrow advantages which can be sought only by imperiling the cooperation between our two countries.

“One series of conversations in Moscow cannot be expected to end two decades’ accumulation of problems. For a long period of time, competition is likely to be the hallmark of our relationship with the Soviet Union. We will be confronted by ambiguous and contradictory trends in Soviet policy. The continuing buildup of Soviet military power is one obvious source of deep concern. Soviet attitudes during the crisis in South Asia have dangerous implications for other regional conflicts, even though in the end the U.S.S.R. played a restraining role. Similarly, the U.S.S.R.’s position in the Middle East reflects a mixture of Soviet interest in expansionist policies and Soviet recognition of the dangers of confrontation.

“In the past year, however, we have also had evidence that there can be mutual accommodation of conflicting interests, and that competition need not be translated into hostility or crisis. We have evidence that on both sides there is an increasing willingness to break with the [Page 159] traditional patterns of Soviet-American relations. A readiness to capitalize on this momentum is the real test of the summit.

“The U.S.S.R. has the choice: whether the current period of relaxation is to be merely another offensive tactic or truly an opportunity to develop an international system resting on the stability of relations between the superpowers. Its choice will be demonstrated in actions prior to and after our meetings.

“For our part, we are committed to a new relationship. I made this comment in my Inaugural Address, at the United Nations, and in my exchanges with the Soviet leaders. Our actions have demonstrated our seriousness. We have the opportunity to usher in a new era in international relations. If we can do so, the transformation of Soviet-American relations can become one of the most significant achievements of our time.” (Ibid., pages 211–212) The full text of the report is ibid., pages 194–346.

In a similar report from the Department of State entitled “United States Foreign Policy 1971: A Report of the Secretary of State,” submitted to Congress on March 8, Secretary of State Rogers noted:

“The President’s visit to Moscow will provide an opportunity to exchange views on world problems where greater understanding between us could contribute to peace. It should also greatly enlarge the prospects for bilateral progress. No visit in itself—not even a summit visit—will remove the very real differences separating us. The visit should, however, give impetus to the movement, already apparent, toward increased cooperation. Our objective is to see that it does.”

The full text of the report is in Department of State Bulletin, March 27, 1972, pages 459–470.

The Soviet reaction to especially the President’s Report was harsh. In a February 24 memorandum to Assistant to the President Henry Kissinger, Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council staff reviewed official Soviet criticism in the press and other media and noted that “the Soviets have not been reluctant to attack the Report.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 67, Country Files, Europe, U.S.S.R., Sonnenfeldt Papers [2 of 2]) Peter Rodman of the National Security Council staff submitted a February 29 memorandum to Kissinger that also analyzed the Soviet reaction. In particular, he offered arguments Kissinger could take to assuage Soviet apprehension:

  • “—As your friend [Dobrynin] himself noted on February 15, the parts of the Report that discuss the U.S.-Soviet relationship as a whole (i.e., Soviet and Watershed chapters) deal with it in a very balanced fashion. These sections make clear the positive thrust that the President has all along been aiming for.
  • “—At the same time, the individual chapters (e.g., Mideast, South Asia, Strategic Forces) simply reflect the fact that the two global [Page 160] powers impinge on each other in many ways and many places. You referred to this in your briefing accompanying the Report. The Report is thus a reflection of reality.
  • “—Candor and realism have all along been characteristic of this Administration. They are the only basis on which a durable positive U.S.-Soviet relationship can be constructed. This is our intent.” (Ibid.)