10. Letter From President Nixon to Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev 1

Dear Mr. General Secretary:

Your letter of June 21, 19722 was most welcome, continuing as it did the very frank and concrete exchanges that characterize this channel.

Since receiving it, I have been very pleased to see even further progress in the various fields of bilateral cooperation in which agreements were completed at the summit. My Science Advisor, Dr. David, has informed me that his visit to your country3 was rewarding and that a number of interesting and mutually beneficial joint projects in science and technology are underway. I am also pleased to see that there have been further advances in health and space cooperation.4 I look forward to similar progress with respect to environmental cooperation.

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On European questions and strategic arms limitation as well, Dr. Kissinger will continue to be in private contact with your Ambassador. The senior officials of this Government are reviewing these issues intensively under my direction in the light of our talks in Moscow. I understand that other Western governments are also preparing in detail for the multilateral consultations on the European conference and on reciprocal troop reductions. American representatives are participating actively in this and I hope, as agreed in our final communiqué, that exchanges between governments can proceed without undue delay.

I was especially gratified that our governments were able to reach a major agreement in regard to trade in agricultural products.5 The constructive spirit of the Soviet negotiators was greatly appreciated. You are probably aware that the agreement has been widely and favorably commented on in this country. Both our governments can take satisfaction that a new and fruitful economic relationship is in process of developing between our countries along with the major improvement in our relations in other areas.

In this connection, Secretary of Commerce Peterson and a delegation of senior U.S. officials will shortly be leaving for the USSR to participate in the first sessions of the U.S.-Soviet Joint Commercial Commission. As I mentioned to you in Moscow, Mr. Peterson is exceptionally well qualified for his task. He will be under instruction to proceed in a constructive spirit and with the aim of making major progress in placing U.S.-Soviet commercial relations on a mutually profitable and permanent basis. I am prepared to move rapidly in this regard and with a far-seeing attitude, along the lines we discussed in Moscow. Mr. Peterson and his colleagues will be ready to discuss and move toward a solution of all the elements of a trade agreement between our countries, as well as the question of lend-lease and the various joint projects previously discussed in a preliminary way. I am also confident that the maritime agreement can be completed. I shall follow these negotiations closely, and Dr. Kissinger will, as in the past, be prepared to work with Ambassador Dobrynin to ensure the progress that both of us desire.

At this juncture, there can be no doubt that our relations are now on a positive course which offers great hope for the future. For this reason, I place utmost stress on Dr. Kissinger’s September visit to the Soviet Union as a logical continuation of the progress made thus far. He will be prepared to discuss in the frankest terms major steps which [Page 30] should lead to further understandings between our two governments in the area of the Middle East and in the nuclear field.

In your letter, you referred at length to the conflict in Indochina. I greatly appreciate what you said concerning President Podgorny’s trip to Hanoi, which we had of course followed with interest in view of your comments in Moscow. It is quite evident that President Podgorny’s visit had a positive impact. In the meantime, it has been agreed to resume negotiations in Paris, both in plenary sessions and in private. I am profoundly convinced that conditions exist to move these negotiations ahead, and quite possibly even to achieve the breakthrough that will end the conflict and the agony of the peoples involved and open the way to an equitable and honorable political solution. In this connection, I was naturally interested in your impression that the North Vietnamese side is not proceeding on the basis that only its proposals should be considered in the talks. If this indeed turns out to be the case, it should be possible to make progress, since, as you know, we for our part are prepared to give full weight to the views and proposals of the other side. The proposals I outlined on May 86 and which were explained and elaborated in our discussions in Moscow represent a serious effort to take account of the position and interests of the other side. The American negotiators in the Paris talks will continue to proceed in this spirit.

I believe the time is ripe for both sides to grasp the opportunity that now exists to achieve a settlement. Your letter and other private communications from you indicate that you share this view. I am most grateful to you for the efforts you have already made to facilitate a peaceful solution.

Mr. General Secretary, this, as you know, is a year of intense political activity in my country, preparatory to our Presidential election. If I may close on a somewhat personal note, I cannot help recall a similar period exactly twenty years ago. As a result of that election, in 1952, I first assumed national office. The ensuing years were marked by many ups and downs in the relations of our two countries. But one can truly say that in 1972 the general trend is now “upward.” There is every reason to believe that this favorable trend will continue. From our talks I know that the leaders on both sides are committed to this course, which fully reflects the interests and desires of our people. I agree with you that tenacious effort and continuing close contact are required to maintain the momentum that has been achieved.

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I have reiterated my personal interest in this to your Ambassador during his recent visit to San Clemente.7 As the Ambassador will undoubtedly report to you, we had an opportunity to discuss these important issues at some length in the relaxed atmosphere of the summer White House. During these discussions we again reviewed the importance and desirability of maintaining and indeed strengthening this special channel between us—a channel which has proven so instrumental in achieving the new spirit of cooperation that now characterizes our relations and which affords promise of even greater progress in the period ahead.

I look forward to hearing your further thoughts on all the questions which are of common concern.


Richard Nixon
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 494, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 12. Top Secret. A handwritten note at the top of the letter reads: “Delivered by hand to Sov. Embassy 1:45 pm, July 19, 1972.” Haig, who drafted the letter, wrote in a July 13 note to Kissinger: “Henry: I have included the items you asked for in a new redraft: (a) moved the European issues to the smorgasbord portion at the beginning of the letter, (b) made special reference to your Moscow visit and included reference to the Middle East and the nuclear field in conjunction with that visit, and (c) made special reference to Dobrynin’s discussion with the President and the special channel.” (Ibid.)
  2. Document 4.
  3. Edward David, Science Adviser to the President and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology, visited Moscow for talks with V.A. Kirillin, Deputy Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers and Chairman of the State Committee of the USSR Council of Ministers for Science and Technology, from July 2 to 8. On July 7, they signed a record of their discussion providing for closer scientific and technical cooperation. (Department of State Bulletin, August 21, 1972, pp. 216–217)
  4. In an August 12 memorandum to Nixon, Kissinger discussed cooperation in outer space: “Delegations from NASA and the Soviet Academy of Sciences met from July 6 to 15 at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston to continue work on the planned 1975 joint manned Apollo–Soyuz space mission.” The memorandum also discussed progress in cooperation in medical science and public health. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 720, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Vol. XXIV)
  5. See Document 7.
  6. A reference to Nixon’s nationally televised address on May 8 during which he discussed negotiations to end the war in Vietnam. See Public Papers: Nixon, 1972, pp. 583–587.
  7. See Document 8.