67. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rogers to President Nixon 1


  • Status of Bilateral U.S.–Soviet Issues

Ambassador Dobrynin came in to see me today to review the status of various bilateral issues we have under negotiation or discussion with the Soviets in preparation for your visit. The state of play on each can be summarized as follows.

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Lend–Lease Talks. The Soviets have agreed to send a delegation to Washington to negotiate a settlement of their outstanding lend–lease debt. I proposed to Dobrynin that the talks begin April 7.2

Feed Grain Delegation. The Soviets have agreed to receive a delegation to discuss credit sales of feed grains. I told Dobrynin that you had asked Secretary Butz to participate in the talks on grain sales.

Maritime Talks. I informed Dobrynin that our negotiators are prepared to go to Moscow for a second round of talks on outstanding maritime issues, but we are still waiting for a clarification of the Soviet position regarding port entry for non–commercial vessels. (Agreement was impossible during the first round because the Soviet delegation was not empowered to negotiate on this basis.) Dobrynin said that a reply would be forthcoming, but it might take a week or more since it would require Politburo approval.3

Space Cooperation. Technical talks on a joint space–docking mission will resume in Houston March 27 and we have proposed that a NASA team go to Moscow April 3 to work out the broader aspects of an agreement. Dobrynin indicated that this is acceptable in principle, and that his government expects an agreement to be reached.

Trade Delegation. I asked Dobrynin to clarify a suggestion he made earlier that we send a delegation to Moscow for another round of trade talks. He said that the Soviets have in mind further talks to prepare the ground for possible political decisions at the summit. Topics they would like to pursue include MFN tariff treatment, credits, trade offices, joint development projects and a joint committee on science and technology. No commitment was made to Dobrynin to talk on any of these subjects and none will be until we receive a directive from you.4

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Other Agreements. Prospects appear good for an agreement on health cooperation. HEW plans to have further discussions with the Soviet Ministry of Health later this month. Mr. Train 5 will give Dobrynin a preliminary draft tomorrow to be used as the basis of discussion for an agreement on cooperation in the field of environment. We will also be entering a second round of talks on preventing incidents at sea, probably in April.

Removing Irritants. I mentioned to Dobrynin three areas where irritants in our relations might be removed, thereby improving the atmosphere for your visit. I mentioned the possibility of reduction of travel restrictions, and the cessation of jamming the Voice of America. Finally, I told him that Soviet action to allow persons in the Soviet Union to join their families here would be a favorable step.

SALT . After our review of these bilateral issues, Dobrynin asked how we view the prospects for a SALT agreement. I told him that we thought progress had been made but I stressed the importance we attach to an offensive weapons freeze which would include SLBM’s.6

William P. Rogers
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 493, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1972, Vol. 10. Secret. The notation “Action: Sonnenfeldt” appears on the memorandum. Rogers also sent a summary of his discussion with Dobrynin in telegram 49839 to Moscow, March 23. (Ibid.) An attached covering note indicates that Haig transmitted the telegram to Kissinger via backchannel message WH21106, March 23. In a March 16 memorandum to Nixon, Rogers wrote: “I intend to hold one of the regular meetings with Ambassador Dobrynin on Monday in preparation for your visit to Moscow.” (Ibid.) In a March 18 memorandum to Nixon, Kissinger wrote: “There is no indication of what the Secretary plans to take up. I believe Dobrynin understands what topics are to be pursued in what channel.” (Ibid.) An attached note from Special Assistant Bruce Kehrli to Kissinger, March 29, reads: “The attached was covered with the President verbally by HRH [Haldeman].” Hillenbrand sent a March 17 briefing memorandum to Rogers in preparation for his meeting with Dobrynin. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL USUSSR) Hillenbrand had met with Dobrynin on March 14 and covered the same issues. His report appeared in an undated memorandum from Rogers to the President. (Ibid.) It was also transmitted in telegram 49710 to Moscow, March 23. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 493, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1972, Vol. 10)
  2. In a March 25 memorandum to Kissinger and Flanigan, Peterson strongly objected to the Department of State proposal of $500 million at 2 percent interest over 30 years to settle the lend–lease debt owed by the Soviet Union and proposed several alternative terms. (Ibid., Box 718, Country Files, Europe, U.S.S.R., Vol. XX, March 1972)
  3. In a March 21 memorandum to Hillenbrand, Spiers noted that the understanding on preventing incidents at sea previously reached in discussions in Moscow could not be finalized due to the lack of definitive provisions on aircraft overflight of ships and air–to–air incidents. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL USUSSR) In a March 22 memorandum to Nixon, Rogers expressed his concern that the guidelines for the incidents at sea talks as specified in NSDM 150 would not provide “sufficient flexibility” to allow for an acceptable agreement and would likely result in an impasse during the second round of these talks. (Ibid., POL 33–6 USUSSR)
  4. In a March 22 memorandum to Secretary of Labor James Hodgson and Flanigan, Peterson outlined the “complex inter–relationships” between domestic labor issues, Soviet trade, and “possible side effects on the Soviet Summit meeting.” (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 493, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1972, Vol. 10)
  5. Russell Train, Chairman, Council on Environmental Quality.
  6. At a news conference in the Oval Office of the White House, March 24, Nixon remarked: “The Moscow trip, at the present time, will be very different from the P.R.C. trip in the sense that it will be primarily devoted to a number of substantive issues of very great importance. One of them may be SALT, if SALT is not completed before Moscow. It does not appear now likely that they can complete SALT before Moscow, because in my conversations with Ambassador Smith before he left, I find that while we are agreed in principle on the limitation of offensive and defensive weapons, that we are still very far apart on some fundamental issues—well, for example, whether or not SLBMs should be included, matters of that sort. Mr. Smith went back to the meetings, this time in Helsinki, with very full instructions from me, both written and oral, to do everything he could to attempt to narrow those differences. I believe that there is a good chance at this point, particularly in view of Mr. Brezhnev’s quite constructive remarks in his speech the other day, that we may reach an agreement on SALT in Moscow on defensive and offensive limitations, and also agreements in a number of other areas. This is our goal, and I would say that at this time the prospects for the success of this summit trip are very good.” (Public Papers: Nixon, 1972, p. 498)