58. Memorandum From President Nixon to his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

I believe that the expectations for the Moscow trip are being built up too much. What I am concerned about is not that we will fail to achieve the various goals about which there has been speculation but that when we do make the formal agreements there will be no real news value to them because of their having been discounted by an enormous amount of discussion prior to the Summit.

There are two ways to attack this problem. First, as I have already indicated to you, it is vitally important that no final agreements be entered into until we arrive in Moscow and it is also important that speculation with regard to negotiation of such agreements be limited. I realize that the latter objective is very hard to achieve due to the fact that so many people will be talking to Dobrynin but we should make every possible effort to put a lid on speculation with regard to matters we expect to reach agreement on at the Summit with the Russians.

Another line of attack which should be used to the fullest extent possible is to begin a line of pessimism with regard to what may be accomplished in certain fields. This is particularly important insofar as SALT is concerned. When I see a news story to the effect that we are asking Congress for funds to implement our SALT agreement as if it were an accomplished fact, I realize how difficult it is going to be for us to make the agreement seem like an achievement at the Summit. We know that there would be no possibility of the SALT agreement had we not done the work we have participated in up to this time. On the other hand, there will be an attempt to make it appear that all of this could have been achieved without any Summit whatever, and that all we did was to go to Moscow for a grandstand play to put the final [Page 200] signature on an agreement that was worked out by Gerry Smith, State, etc. The Mideast is another case in point. Of course, we should attempt to see that very little is said about the Mideast as a possible Summit agenda item, but at any event we should indicate wherever the subject is raised that we expect very little at the Summit on that score.

As far as the other items are concerned, probably most of them are too far down the track for us to do much about them. But I think that to the extent you can, through backgrounders, in which you can possibly use Scali rather effectively in those cases where you do not want to involve your own credibility, you should indicate that there are some very serious problems involved in reaching agreement on the major items, that there are road blocks that we may not be able to break, and thereby build a case for having a Summit for the purpose of removing those road blocks.

Again emphasizing the danger I see emerging, our critics who oppose summitry in any event will try to say that everything we finally agree to was all worked out through the usual State Department and other channels and that the Summit was really not necessary except as an election-year spectacular.

With regard to the Summit on another point, I realize that the Russians will have far more plenary sessions than did the Chinese. They have to give a considerable amount of lip service to the whole idea of collective leadership. In view of the fact that Brezhnev, Podgorny, and Kosygin will be on their side I think it is important for us to limit the participants on our side. In other words, if they have those three as well as Gromyko we should have Rogers, yourself and myself as the three on our side, possibly adding Hillenbrand if that becomes necessary. I suppose that Beam poses a problem and it might be that you would have to have him included. Where I think you should draw the line, however, is on the attendance at plenary sessions, except where they are totally formal, by Scali, Ziegler and other press people. The moment we add them on our side they will have to add others on their side and the meetings will become so big that they will be totally useless. There, of course, should be a note taker on our side and I suppose in this instance we would have to have our translator because we should not rely only on theirs, but I want you to make every possible effort to limit the number of people who participate in the plenary sessions. Needless to say, in any session I have with Brezhnev I only want you, our translator and a note taker present on our side. Under no circumstances would Beam or any State Department representative be present.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Personal Files, Box 3, Memoranda from the President, Memos—March 1972. Eyes Only.