75. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Your Next Meeting with Dobrynin

Polish Trip. I don’t know where exactly this stands and whether you plan to take it up with Dobrynin. If you do, you can assume that [Page 240] his response will be positive, or that he will refer the question home and then come back with a positive response. Although Gierek undoubtedly has particular objectives of his own in issuing the invitation, the idea was bound to have Soviet approval. It is almost certainly intended to help Brandt in the ratification debate and, in the longer term, to deflate Romania’s special position. Both the Poles and Soviets presumably are prepared to run the risk of emotional demonstrations in the streets of Warsaw. (For us the question is whether the undoubted short–term spectacular that will occur is worth the fact that there will be few longer–term results and that we risk offending the West Europeans who have been told, via Luns,2 that the President cannot stop for schedule reasons.)

Brezhnev Letter.3

It is generally positive in tone and you should tell Dobrynin that this is our reaction. You should also agree with him that this correspondence should now be held in abeyance until there is something specific to write about.
As you know, Brezhnev offered a three–year freeze. I assume Semyonov will unveil this shortly. We, of course, will propose five years. You should note the Soviet move and point out that we will make our own proposal in Helsinki. Clearly, the final duration will have to depend on the contents of the agreement. You should not go beyond this with Dobrynin this time.
Brezhnev indicates some possible Soviet flexibility on SLBMs. In Helsinki, there have been similar signals, though nothing specific yet. You could see whether Dobrynin has something concrete to offer. Smith has hinted to Semyonov that we may be ready to accommodate the Soviet desire to defend ICBMs if the Soviets accommodate us on SLBMs. It is too early to unveil our two–for–two position but you should reinforce what Smith has said in general terms. If Dobrynin does have an SLBM proposal, you should still withhold our ABM position to give us time to examine the Soviet proposition.
Brezhnev again picks up our readiness to talk confidentially about the conference4 (though, curiously, he does not actually mention the conference per se). He claims they have already made specific proposals and it is now our turn. You should avoid this for now and tell [Page 241] Dobrynin that we have never really had a persuasive private Soviet explanation of what they want to accomplish by a conference (i.e., stall).
Presumably; you will want to comment on Bahr.5 The point here is to keep the burden of promoting ratification on the Soviets. Hence you should not stress Bahr’s optimism. You should also make the philosophical point that it is important that ratification is a German decision, rather than one forced on the Germans either by overt US pressure or by Soviet threats. We want German–Soviet reconciliation to be lasting and not vulnerable to a stab–in–the–back legend.

Other Issues.

If you review the status of other matters, the main one is trade. To avoid later misunderstandings, you should tell Dobrynin that Peterson has kept you informed of their exchanges,6 that we look forward to Patolichev’s visit, but that the Soviets should not expect basic decisions on EXIM and MFN before the summit. (Avoid a specific commitment to do them at the summit.) The Patolichev visit should be seen as part of the preparations for the summit and should not preempt it. We should make progress on the simpler issues and agree on terms for a US–Soviet Commercial Commission to be set up at the summit.

Patolichev apart, we would hope to have an agreement by the time of the summit on (1) grain deal—Butz and (2) shipping, and substantial progress, if not agreement on lend–lease.

Trip Arrangements.

I am not up to date on what Chapin and Vorontsov have been doing. One idea that evidently has germinated is a Presidential radio–TV address in Moscow. (Eisenhower was to have done this: Khrushchev in 1959/60 and Kosygin in 1967 had televised press conferences.) If this has not yet been mentioned to the Soviets you should do so promptly since it undoubtedly requires Politbureau action.

If Dobrynin has a communiqué text or comments on ours, take them under advisement. It is probably too early to begin textual haggling with him.

Note: The Soviets have twice—including once at KuznetsovBeam level—suggested that summit preparations be carried on in Moscow [Page 242] as well as Washington. You should tell Dobrynin to get this knocked off until further notice. It will only confuse.

Note: The Soviets jumped the gun by a day on the agreed announcement of the BW signature ceremony.7

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 67, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Sonnenfeldt Papers [2 of 2]. Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Sent for information.
  2. Joseph Luns, Secretary–General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
  3. Document 72.
  4. Reference is to the proposed Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
  5. Bahr met Kissinger at the White House on March 28; see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XL, Germany and Berlin, 1969–1972, Document 348.
  6. In a March 28 memorandum to Kissinger, Peterson forwarded an account of his meeting with Dobrynin the previous day to discuss the proposed visit of Soviet Trade Minister Patolichev. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 718, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. XX)
  7. At the end of the memorandum, Haig added the handwritten note: “You will wish to review Hal’s think piece on ME [Document 74].”