53. Note From the Soviet Leadership to President Nixon1

Moscow acknowledges receipt of the President’s letter to L.I. Brezhnev of February 152 on questions concerning the forthcoming [Page 185]summit meeting in May. In a while we will, of course, outline our considerations on this score.

But at the moment the following question arises with L.I. Brezhnev and other Soviet leaders. What indeed is going on?

On the one hand, there is a conversation going between us, mostly in a confidential matter, on improving relations between our countries, on strengthening peace and international security. It is precisely in this way that we agreed with the President to conduct preparation for the summit meeting too.

On the other hand, in the United States more and more frequently statements are made and documents published, which contain totally groundless reproaches addressed to the Soviet Union and in which its policy is presented in a distorted light and intentions are ascribed to it which we never had and do not have. And this is being done not by private persons or small functionaries. What is meant here is the statements of the President himself and such a document as his foreign policy report to the U.S. Congress outlining the fundamental approach to the questions of relations with foreign states, including the Soviet Union.

Or, to take as another example, the speeches and recent report of the U.S. Secretary of Defense Laird which abound with concoctions alleging a “Soviet threat”. Largely the same can be said also about that report, the only difference being that Secretary Laird decided to apply still more zealous efforts in the same direction.

What is all this being done for? Indeed, that kind of statements make a deliberately distorted picture of the Soviet Union’s policy and accordingly shape the public opinion, setting it in fact against improvement in the Soviet-American relations.

It is also quite clear that we, on our part, cannot and shall not bypass that kind of distortions. We have to explain to the public opinion the real state of affairs regarding both our policy and the policy of the U.S. But the main thing is that all this, in our deep conviction, is not at all facilitating but, rather, can only hamper the conversation which is being held between ourselves in a confidential manner. It is, indeed, impossible to conduct business in a double way at the same time: in a business-like way and in parallel also in another one which contrasts the first one. To try to merge both these ways is in practice unrealistic. It seems to us that the President cannot but agree with that.

On our part, we believe, as before, that both sides should have to work for better Soviet-American relations and to prepare ourselves for the summit meeting accordingly. With all the existing differences which are viewed by both sides with open eyes, we duly appraise the significance that the meeting may have, proceeding from the responsibility [Page 186]of our countries for the preservation of peace and from the assumption that it is desirable to use their possibilities for influencing the general international situation. Relaxation of international tensions and improvement of relations between the USSR and the U.S. would be, we are confident, in the interests of our peoples and other peoples of the world. Such is our firm line and we are consistently following it.

It is important, however, that both sides have the same approach as regards the main thing—the genuine desire to constructively solve the questions which have accumulated. That is why we decided to express the above thoughts in hopes that this will be useful from the viewpoint of achieving those aims which, as we suppose, both sides set for themselves, specifically in connection with the forthcoming meeting as well.3

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 493, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1972, Vol. 9 [Pt. 1]. No classification marking. According to the handwritten notations on the document, Haig received the note from Sokolov at 4:45 p.m. on February 23.
  2. Printed as Tab A to Document 51.
  3. Haig forwarded the note to Nixon and Kissinger in China in telegram WH20461/ToHAK 112, February 24. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 717, Country Files, Europe, U.S.S.R., Vol. XVIX) In a telephone conversation with Dobrynin, Haig relayed their response: “And they wanted you to know—both the President and Henry—that they have read it very carefully and understand it and Henry will give you a reply at some length upon his return. In the interim they want you to be assured the sentiments of the President are reflected in the policy that has been outlined to you and which he intends to fully implement.” (Transcript of telephone conversation between Haig and Dobrynin, February 25, 9:10 a.m.; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 371, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File) Following Nixon and Kissinger’s return from China, Kissinger told Nixon that “last week the Russians sent us a message saying, ‘What’s going on? You keep criticizing us,’” to which the President responded that the Soviets were in fact not being criticized. Kissinger added: “I sent them a message saying quiet down; we are serious about pursuing a détente. Since then there have been no opposing articles and TASS so far has communicated only in a very factual way.” Nixon directed that Kissinger see Dobrynin and promise him a meeting with the President at a later date. (Transcript of telephone conversation between Nixon and Kissinger, February 28, 10:55 p.m.; ibid.)