109. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Leonid I. Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Central Committee, CPSU
  • Andrei A. Gromyko, Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • Anatoli F. Dobrynin, Ambassador to the USA
  • Andrei M. Aleksandrov, Assistant to Brezhnev
  • Georgi M. Kornienko, Head of USA Division, Foreign Ministry
  • Andrei Vavilov, Foreign Ministry
  • Viktor M. Sukhodrev, Foreign Ministry, Interpreter
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, NSC Senior Staff
  • Philip Odeen, NSC Senior Staff
  • William Hyland, NSC Senior Staff
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
  • Richard Campbell, NSC Staff


  • Nuclear Treaty; SALT Principles; Middle East; Communiqués of HAK visit and Brezhnev visit

Brezhnev: I have one major question. The rest—the Middle East, the principles—are minor matters. Can we trust him—Gromyko?

Kissinger: I have often wondered. He knows more than any other Foreign Minister.

Brezhnev: I always think of the Chinese. They once ate one of their Political Guidance officers in a troop unit. Another man asked, “How could you do that? He is such a fine man.” The Chinese answered, “We don’t eat bad people.” [Laughter]

Gromyko: That is the best statement we have heard from the Chinese in recent years.

Aleksandrov: That is a fact. In regions of China they still do that.

Brezhnev: In better years of Soviet-Chinese relations, my brother was sent to China to help them build factories. He did not want to go. I told him he had to go, as a good Communist, if he was sent. The Chinese then used to send some of their people to the Soviet Union for industrial training. When my brother was working at the plant the Chinese followed his every step and wrote down every instruction. He invited them to his home for drinks. They became good friends. One of [Page 400] them said, “Yakov, you Russian people are so dilligent and strong. But you have one drawback. Among people like you there are so few goodlooking people. We Chinese are all goodlooking.” [Laughter] That is a true story. Honestly.

Is everything settled? Let us go out to the forest. We will leave all the rest behind, Sonnenfeldt and Gromyko. We will take the lead. We will have a high level meeting at one of the towers.

Nuclear Agreement

Gromyko: A tower meeting. [Laughter]

Brezhnev: I for one have fulfilled my mission. I have written notes to my three comrades I told you about [on the nuclear agreement]. I sent it off, and received a reply. They have all approved our talks. So there is no need to go anywhere anymore. It is all settled. We have done some clean work.

Kissinger: So we can just go to the National Parks in the United States and take walks.

Brezhnev: We can go to Lake Baikal.

Kissinger: I have great respect for the General Secretary, but I don’t think my destiny included ever leaving Moscow.

Brezhnev: That is the past. Now your destiny is never to leave Zavidovo.

So we have grounds for gratification.

Kissinger: I am sure the President will have the same feeling.

Brezhnev: My one regret is that the President is not here at this moment. We would both have reason to be in a good mood. He would say, “If there is any misunderstanding, let Kissinger handle it.”

Kissinger: And that it is my fault.

Brezhnev: Who could fault you?

Kissinger: That is what I keep saying in America but I can not convince everybody.

Brezhnev: A Swedish professor wrote that laughter adds ten years to your life. A second is running and the third is skipping rope. That is his formula for prolonging the life span. I would prefer laughter, but I think you should try skipping rope.

Kissinger: All the things I enjoy shorten life!

Brezhnev: That is a preamble.

Kissinger: We have reviewed the Principles.2

[Page 401]

Brezhnev: Aside from sending my comrades the document, itself, I also wrote them a brief note that our talks were going well, and in a good atmosphere—but we won’t be able to finish work until Sunday.3

SALT Principles

Kissinger: That is good news. I am enjoying it. We will certainly have a permanent agreement by then.

Brezhnev: Unless they keep giving us cookies and porridge.

I keep thinking, why should Dr. Kissinger and Comrade Brezhnev do all the hard work? We should have a little cabaret brought in. None of these people are old enough.

Sonnenfeldt: We will go back to our girls.

Kissinger: The General Secretary has made so much progress with Mrs. Andrews that she won’t talk to us anymore.

Brezhnev: I have not seen her lately. Where is she?

Kissinger: We are afraid that if we gave you two chances we would lose her completely.

Brezhnev: I will look into that. Let us tomorrow—Dr. Kissinger and we and all your girls—we will have dinner together. It is the only chance for us to be all together.

Kissinger: Are the Foreign Minister and Sonnenfeldt invited also?

Sonnenfeldt: Only if we eat our boar.

Brezhnev: Maybe we should go see our boars.

Gromyko: No, anyone who wants to see our boars has to buy tickets.

Brezhnev: I have never seen greater liars than hunters. And so, where are we?

Kissinger: On the principles, Mr. General Secretary, we, of course, have had only a few hours to study them. But we recognize a very serious effort has been made on your part to take into account our considerations.

Brezhnev: That is already a good thing. It would be worthwhile putting off discussion until tomorrow morning. You would see evidence of even greater effort. I feel you have no objections and are just pretending.

Kissinger: May I tell the General Secretary about your Vietnamese ally?

Brezhnev: Certainly.

[Page 402]

Kissinger: Mr. Le Duc Tho comes to every meeting and starts with the same speech. It is like a prayer. It is an invocation. I won’t repeat the whole thing; it takes exactly 45 minutes. He always has one phrase, “If you make a big effort, we will make a big effort.” One day he said, “If you make a big effort, we will make an effort.” Mr. Special Advisor, did I hear you drop the adjective? He said, “Yes, because yesterday we made a big effort and you only made an effort.” [Laughter] It is a true story. This is why it took us three years to negotiate.

Brezhnev: With us it is easier.

Kissinger: There is no question about that.

Brezhnev: We have experience in negotiating. I have noticed that you have only made some efforts. [Laughter] And it will take some time to make more effort.

Kissinger: After I have seen Leningrad, I will make a big effort.

Brezhnev: I will write President Nixon and you will have a smooth road ahead of you to Leningrad. It should not be a flying visit, in haste. There is much to see.

Kissinger: Then I will have trouble leaving Leningrad.

How should we proceed? Should we give you our comments? [The Soviet draft is at Tab A]

Brezhnev: All right. Whatever is appropriate.

Kissinger: We agree on the Preamble.

In the first principle we would like to change the word “converting” to “replacing.”

Gromyko: Either way would be all right.

Kissinger: “Replacing” we think is more in keeping with Article VII and indicates broader scope than the Interim Agreement.

Dobrynin: It could have broader scope.

Kissinger: It could; it doesn’t have to. That is the only change we propose for Article I.

Brezhnev: You know what that looks like? When I lived in the Ukraine—and it is the same thing still—my parents’ house stood on the avenue leading to the local cemetery. My mother was already an aged woman at that time. Whenever a funeral procession and music went by, everyone went to watch. Everyone said, “There is another dead person being carried off.” They would say, “They are taking another dead person back.”

Sukhodrev: That is hard to translate. It is Ukrainian.

Kissinger: In the second principle, we would like to substitute the word “agreements” for “arrangements.” “New agreements” instead of “new arrangements.” We gave you the word “arrangements” but on reconsideration we thought it should be “agreements.”

[Page 403]

Gromyko: In Russian it is practically the same. Use whichever you prefer.

Kissinger: All right. We have trouble with the phrase “equal security”—not on substance, but because the phrase “equal security” has become a code word. We are drawing on the Principles.

Dobrynin: Our is from the Communiqué.4

Kissinger: We are going in the ascending order that the Foreign Minister suggested.

Dobrynin: So there we are.

Kissinger: “Recognition of each other’s security interests based on the principle of equality.” It is drawn verbatim from the Basic Principles.5 The rest is the same.

I have known Foreign Ministers who don’t know the difference between the Principles and the Communiqué. They would be easier to deal with.

Third, we would like to add to the end of the third principle: “including types of multiple reentry vehicles.”

Dobrynin: You did not have it before.

Kissinger: No, we have reflected.

Sukhodrev: Is that MIRV or MRV?

Kissinger: “Multiple reentry vehicles,” which covers both.

I will skip IV. For the time being.

Number V: we would like to add the word “must be adequately verifiable by national technical means. We would like to add “adequately.”

[They confer over the Russian translation.]

Mr. Foreign Minister, it is the least important change we are making.

Hyland: They are having trouble with “verifiable.”

Dr. Kissinger: I understand your point. It is a different point.

Dobrynin: You have changed the substance. “Verifiable” and “verified” are different things.

Dr. Kissinger: “Verified” is a statement of fact. Here we are stating principles and requirements. And obligation. We don’t have any subject matter for verification. “Must be subject to verification by national technical means.”

[Page 404]

Gromyko: All right.

Dr. Kissinger: VI: In English ours is better. “Under agreed conditions.” We could find another phrase to meet your point: “under conditions established in the agreements to be . . . ”

Gromyko: If you mean conditions, you mean conditions expressed in the agreement?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Gromyko: It is all the same. “Under conditions expressed in the agreement.”

Dr. Kissinger: “Under conditions which will be established in the agreements to be concluded.”

Number VII: We made a big effort and we agree with your text. Let me say one thing when you see our text: We replied to your text very quickly. This is not a carefully prepared document.

With respect to the eighth point, you have accepted our formulation—but we would like to understand a little better what you mean by “mutual restraint” and what you are applying it to. Because we are no longer very happy with our formulation.

Gromyko: That is pointing at the Ambassador.

Dr. Kissinger: On this subject, for some reason, he is very difficult.

Gromyko: Because you do not have a hunting knife at your side when you are negotiating with him.

Dr. Kissinger: My question is—you introduced the idea of “mutual restraint”—

Dobrynin: It was introduced 100 times by Semenov.

Dr. Kissinger: If we want to do that, we can ship all the documents to Semenov and Johnson and let them do it.

I want to know concretely what kinds of weapons you have in mind.

Brezhnev: There are different things that could be implied. If we agreed on the freezing of military budgets, that could be one question.

Dr. Kissinger: We can live without the paragraph.

Sukhodrev: The whole paragraph?

Dr. Kissinger: Because we are trying to understand what it will be applied to.

Brezhnev: How would you interpret it, without elucidation on our part?

Dr. Kissinger: What could happen is—I am just trying to think what one result of this could be. We could say that every time you put in a new missile, a modernized missile, into existing silos—which we have the impression you intend to do—that you are not exercising re [Page 405] straint. You could say every time we improve a missile—a little later on, it won’t happen for a year or two—that we are not exercising restraint. With respect to nuclear delivery systems not subject to limitation, later still you will say something about our bombers. Since I do not know what Smirnov is planning, I do not know what you will be doing that we will object to.

So our fear is that this paragraph either means nothing at all or it will lead to constant controversy.

Brezhnev: We will take that into account.

Dobrynin: What else do you have?

Gromyko: Nine?

Dr. Kissinger: Nine, we agree. We accept it as it is.

Gromyko: It is a well-balanced principle.

Kissinger: I had better examine it! Number X we would like to delete. Number XI we substantially accept. We would like to add, “so that it can be signed in 1974.” At the end.

Now we return to Number IV, in which we prefer our original formulation. [Tab B]6

Dobrynin: That you gave in Washington? Or here?

Dr. Kissinger: Here. Those are all the changes we have!

Brezhnev: Let us put it aside, to think it over.

So, the next document?

Dr. Kissinger: The Communiqué.

Brezhnev: The Communiqué. Maybe we could put it off for now. We have five weeks.

Dr. Kissinger: I have just a few comments. It is up to you.

I think the draft is a good basis from which to work. We think our draft on bilateral agreements is perhaps a little more extensive and we can put them together.7 We don’t have to do that now.

Brezhnev: We agree.

Dr. Kissinger: Our principal problem has to do with some of the terminology. Since the draft is a Soviet draft, some phrases have a certain Soviet cast and we perhaps find more neutral formulations.

[Brezhnev gets up and goes out. Small talk.]

Should we wait for the General Secretary? I don’t think it has his undivided attention.

Dobrynin: We should wait.

[Page 406]

Dr. Kissinger: I have some very general comments. We can certainly reach an agreement.

I see this draft has a number of the Foreign Minister’s pet projects.

I think that on the principle of reciprocity we should have a Foreign Minister who knows every detail of every document and you should have one who is just starting out. [Laughter]

Gromyko: Your fourth principle, I must say, is hard. It is too one-sided. We tried to make it neutral in this one. Not the early one, but this one.

Dr. Kissinger: No, I can see you have made an effort. [Laughter]

Gromyko: Not a big effort!

Dobrynin: Just a small one!

Dr. Kissinger: You will say every plane outside the United States is a unilateral advantage.

Dobrynin: It is true.

Kissinger: I regret telling that story about Le Duc Tho. We could perhaps give that fourth paragraph to Semenov and Johnson to work on.

Gromyko: May I ask you, who is the most difficult negotiator you have dealt with?

Dr. Kissinger: The Joint Chiefs of Staff! [Laughter] The North Vietnamese are the most difficult in their methods. The Japanese are the most difficult in keeping what they negotiate.

I must say that the North Vietnamese have the ability to say untruths with more skill and elegance than any.

We had photos of 300 tanks. They said it was civilian goods! It is prohibited to carry civilian goods in tanks. Who is your most difficult?

Gromyko: For the Foreign Ministry it is the Ministry of Finance! [Laughter]

Sonnenfeldt: I met him. He is nice.

Gromyko: He is. That is why I said “Ministry”?

Dr. Kissinger: What foreigners do you find most difficult?

Gromyko: [Pauses] It changes.

Dobrynin: It is more a matter of personality than nationality. [Brezhnev comes back.]

Brezhnev: All settled?

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. General Secretary, I think your original idea was correct. There is a basis for agreement here, and there is no need to go into it here.

If Dobrynin and I do it through our channel, we can have a major portion of it done by the end of May.

[Page 407]

Brezhnev: Is there anything unacceptable in it?

Dr. Kissinger: Some nuances. We would like to formulate the reference to the nuclear agreement with greater care and with greater detail. We would like to include a reference to Article II as well as Article I. That is a drafting detail. Where it refers to other countries and what other countries should do, we are a little reluctant to tell other countries what to do. We discussed this last year in the Communiqué.

Brezhnev: Let us say Kissinger will be responsible for the Communiqué.

Kissinger: It will be a good Communiqué.

Brezhnev: Dobrynin will improve it too.

Dr. Kissinger: In principle it is acceptable.

The Middle East

Brezhnev: Let us turn to an easy question now, the Middle East. Let us send Dr. Kissinger to the Middle East for two weeks.

Gromyko: President Nixon and I will write out a brief lucid instruction, and it is done with.

Kissinger: You know the story of the scorpion who wanted to cross the Suez Canal. He asked a camel if he could ride on his back. The camel said, “If I do and you sting me, I will be dead.” The scorpion said, “I will drown also, so you have every guarantee.” So the camel took the scorpion on his back and they started across. In the middle of the Canal the scorpion stung the camel and as they drowned the camel asked, “what did you do this for?” The scorpion said, “you forgot this is the Middle East.” [Laughter]

Gromyko: Very good.

Brezhnev: I have heard a different version, a scorpion—on the back of a frog. And the frog said, “That is just my nature!”

Kissinger: There is a story about an Arab lying in his tent trying to take an afternoon sleep. There were a lot of children making a lot of noise. So he told the children, “In the village they are giving away free grapes and you should go there.” So the children went away to the village. It got very quiet. Just as he was falling asleep he said to himself, “You idiot, what are you doing here if they are giving away free grapes?” So he went to the village. [Laughter]

So I think it would take three weeks.

Brezhnev: Three! Since this is the evening of jokes, I will tell you one.

Kissinger: I was hoping to trigger you—you are much better at it.

Brezhnev: Sometimes in our negotiations something happens that applies to Jackson. Two Jews meet. One asks, “ Abraham, why are you not going to Israel? You applied for a permit and everything seemed to [Page 408] be settled.” The other replied, “Some goddamn fool wrote an anonymous letter on me alleging I am not a Jew.” [Laughter]

So with the communiqué we still have time, and Mr. Nixon can still take a look at it. The experience of the Moscow Summit shows it can be done.

Sonnenfeldt: Kornienko and I spent all night on it.

Brezhnev: Is not that a pleasant way? Let me tell you another story: Two Jews meet: One asks, “Abraham, did you hear that Isaac’s dacha burned down?” Abraham says, “So what, it is none of my business.” “It is really none of my business either,” the first one says, “but it is pleasant nonetheless.”

Kissinger: When your Ambassador and I drove in from the airport we discussed our mutual interest, first, that there should not be a war at all, and, . . .

Brezhnev: Let me suggest, we could discuss the principles we handed over8 some later time, and just discuss the general situation now.

Kissinger: I would be prepared.

As a result of this I asked our intelligence people to make an analysis of what they know, and I would be glad to discuss this with you.

Brezhnev: Please, I do think it is important.

Kissinger: Because we have a major and an immediate interest. The major interest is to avoid war altogether; the immediate interest is to avoid a war before the General Secretary’s trip to the United States.

The general assessment of our people is that it is unlikely that the Egyptians and the Syrians will start military operations in the next six weeks. And we also know from our sources that at a high level you have been urging restraint. We have this from our own sources too. Some of your lower level people are sometimes more adventurous.

Brezhnev: That is absolutely true; at the high level we are urging restraint. Then I guess we should discuss which one of us has more adventurists in our midst, the Soviet Union or the United States.

Kissinger: I am sure we have some too.

Brezhnev: We withdraw that from the discussion anyway.

Kissinger: We have some military information—I do not know if you want to go through it—of various movements in the Arab world.

Sukhodrev: Troop movements?

Kissinger: Airplanes, military forces. I can run through it.

[Page 409]

Brezhnev: Yes.

Kissinger: Within Egypt, they have moved what we call SA–6 surface-to-air missiles to within 20 miles of the Suez Canal. They have received 30 Mirage fighters from Libya. They have moved TU–16 bombers, which you gave them, from Aswan to Cairo. There is a high state of alert in the Egyptian Air Force, and reservists have been recalled. They have moved some commando units closer to the Suez Canal. We have information that at the Arab Chiefs of Staff meeting, April 21–25, there was an atmosphere of despair and foreboding because of the Egyptian determination to go to war regardless of the consequences. A Moroccan squadron of planes has gone to Syria. Two squadrons of Algerian MIG–21 aircraft have gone to Libya. They also may have sent MIG–16 and 19’s to Syria. But you would know that better than we. They also plan to send Sudanese ground forces to Egypt and there is a vaguer plan to send some to Syria.

So there are these movements of these other Arab forces. Our assessment is it is still largely psychological. But we do take it very seriously, and there is a possibility that there is a plan to do something before the summit to force us into joint action.

As I told your Foreign Minister, I am planning to meet Ismail next weekend in Paris, probably Paris.9

Brezhnev: That’s not bad intelligence. Israel also is recalling its reservists and has banned holidays and vacations for doctors. And they have deployed advance hospitals with a capacity for 1,000 wounded. I’m not familiar with other substantial latest developments, but we can both note from our discussions that certain preparations are under way. And on the part of all these countries together—Egypt, Israel, Syria, Libya and others—they can be assumed to have concentrated an army jointly of some million men. I’d say if we were to pool the intelligence available to both sides, we would be close to an accurate estimate. That is, of course, what amounts to a serious problem. I wouldn’t go so far as to take it for absolute truth, but according to TASS in Syria and Lebanon all sorts of committees are being formed and all sorts of military meetings are being held—not just to have a few drinks but to discuss military matters.

In any event, there are grounds to draw the conclusion that in this area where we would both like to see a just peace and guarantees for states, the course of events is proceeding in the wrong direction. If you take a superficial look at this general picture, the United States would seem to be taking a tranquil attitude toward these events, obviously [Page 410] drawing its own conclusion as to the possible results of a new military flare-up. I can conceive of the idea that perhaps they are thinking that the Russians can do everything in that area.

Kissinger: What do you mean?

Brezhnev: I’ll explain. In the sense that we can tell the Arabs not to fight. All that has been done until now in the direction of urging restraint has had its positive results in the sense of contributing to such restraint. And our influence could go on having a positive effect in that direction, provided the Arab states could see prospects ahead for a basis being found for a peaceful solution to the problem. But the mistake of the US—and obviously ourselves too—may lie in fact that neither side can count on its influence being effective if the sides there don’t see prospects for a peaceful settlement. If we don’t take steps in that direction, i.e., practical steps toward a settlement, we can’t count on a peaceful solution. All our hopes in that area will be proved untrue. Because the Arabs have before them the task of returning their lands and in those circumstances if Israel, counting on the success achieved in the short war, remains in place, we might not be able to maintain the status quo in the situation, and then we may be confronted by events that will present us both—the US and the Soviet Union—with complex problems.

I want to be quite frank. And in that spirit of frankness I want to say that all good things done by us in the direction at the Summit of achieving détente and avoiding a confrontation will all be scrapped, and no one will believe us any more. No one can say what practical nature such a war will assume. Secondly, beyond all doubt in that case the whole world will be in turmoil over this war—propaganda, mass media, everything.

That is how we view the general situation. It’s our feeling that you and we can prevent such a course of events only if we can work out some principles and measures aimed at putting both sides on the right track.

Such, as I say, is our view of the general situation. We had a brief opportunity to exchange a few words on this yesterday.10 It will certainly be very strange indeed and incomprehensible if two big states as the US and the Soviet Union should prove to be so impotent as to be unable to solve this problem. This is something no one in the world could understand. That is, I feel, the political basis upon which we should try to think about some practical measures. On this topic we have officially stated 150 times, and I wish to confirm this again, and you can say this to President Nixon: This isn’t a question involving the specific interests [Page 411] of the Soviet Union and the United States. It is a question concerning the need to restore order and assure a tranquil life for all the states in the area.

I’d also like Dr. Kissinger to communicate to President Nixon another important fact: We’ve never spoken with the Arab states—nor do we intend to take any action in that regard—in the sense of impinging upon the economic interests of the Arab countries regarding the interests of third countries. If I’m saying something that is not true, this will one day come out anyway. I stress this fact because we know there exist certain traditional ties regarding oil and other areas, and that is entirely the business of Britain, France and the US. And that is something we don’t interfere in at all. Our only interest is to preserve the peace.

Let’s reflect on this a little bit. In June, I’m supposed to be the guest of President Nixon personally, and I’m certainly counting on good results from that. Then, suddenly a war breaks out. Last year, you started a vicious bombing campaign in Vietnam and resorted to measures you had never done before, but nevertheless we gave President Nixon a warm reception in the Soviet Union. And our entire Party took an understanding attitude toward this. But if war breaks out now, the country will take an entirely different attitude.

Kissinger: That’s a delicate way of putting it.

Brezhnev: And in this country too, there would be a different attitude: a wave of protest among the working class and the intelligentsia. All this cannot allow us to simply turn a blind eye on this question. And all of the calculations and hopes that somebody might exert a beneficial influence or that one side may prove stronger, may be toppled. It is very easy to make a mistake in this field.

I don’t have much more to say. It’s quite enough for a general discussion.

Kissinger: I appreciate the General Secretary’s remarks and the spirit in which he made them.

First—this isn’t exactly relevant to what the General Secretary said, but it is important to his trip. We will make an absolutely maximum effort to prevent actions by minority groups inconsistent with the spirit of the development of Soviet-American relations, and will not allow any special groups to interfere with our foreign policy. This is separate from what the General Secretary said.

Brezhnev: To that I approach in this way: I am not going on a visit to any groups in the United States. I am going to visit the President. I am not interested in any actions by groups of 100 to 200 people somewhere; though they can be unpleasant. Any country, by normal international standards, tries to treat guests in a normal way regardless of [Page 412] the color of their skin or flag. No one will try to overturn my car. Nor am I going in the expectation of having the American people rise up with red flags. I have been abroad and seen people raise their own flags. Here too, foreign visitors come—the King of Afghanistan, Emperor Haile Selassie, King Hassan—and we fly our flag and theirs. If someone shouts catcalls, that’s their business. When I visited France, there was concerned discussion of anti-Sovietism—not because they were afraid of me but because they thought they should treat guests civilly in accordance with international law.

They don’t have to shout hurrahs. I’m quite sure indeed there are certain groups in the United States that would be very eager to inflict inconveniences during my visit or commit some act. But in that respect I value very highly the concern of President Nixon to avoid that.

Kissinger: Mr. General Secretary, let me turn to the specific problem of the Middle East. We agree substantially with your analysis of the situation. We agree there are great dangers, produced by the despair of the Arabs produced by their lack of a sense of proportion, on one hand, and the intransigence of the Israelis on the other side. The trouble is, the Arabs cannot win a war, and the Israelis cannot achieve a peace by their own efforts and on their present course. Now, in this situation, it is clear that unless some new element is introduced into the situation, the stalemate will continue. And again we substantially understand your point of view. But we have to be realistic in recognizing the scope of effective action. You have referred to the fact that some people overestimate what you can do with the Arabs, and this is probably true. But some people also overestimate what we can do with the Israelis, especially in a short period of time. The present situation is intractable because both sides would rather go to war than accept the program of the other.

Brezhnev: I would like to speak about our influence over the Arab governments. I spoke in the sense that it is hard to exert influence when there is no prospect for the liberation of occupied territory. The Arabs will ask us what we are in favor of. What are we proposing? If, on the other hand, the U.S. supports the present position of Israel, of course Israel will fly with wings in the air shouting “America will help us; what have we to fear?” So there are two sides to the question of influence.

When the United States really took the path of searching for peace in Vietnam, then we really started using our influence in Vietnam. We sent Katushev, and when that wasn’t enough, Podgorny, then Katushev again. And those efforts were contributions to the achievement of the agreement to end the war. But if you say you can’t influence Israel, how can you count on us to influence the Arabs?

Kissinger: We can influence Israel, and we are prepared to do so, up to a certain point. What is important is to know what that realistic [Page 413] point is. We can’t influence Israel in the direction of the maximum Arab position.

I told your Ambassador: When I met Ismail he said Israel had to withdraw. I asked “In return for what”? He said, an end of the state of belligerence. When I asked him what this was, it was indistinguishable from the present ceasefire. Then after that, Israel still had to have negotiations with the Palestinians. Only then would there be a state of peace. It is hard to convince the Israelis why they should give up the territory in exchange for something which they already have, in order to avoid a war they can win—only to have to negotiate then with the most intransigent element of the Arabs.

I give this example to show the complexity of the situation.

So we have been looking for some realistic formulation—not an Israeli one but perhaps one somewhat more flexible than the Arab one—that will perhaps start a process that will give the Arabs some hope that progress is being made. And we are prepared to discuss this with the Egyptians and with you. One difficulty is, when I look, for example, at the principles you handed us—and we won’t have time to discuss them tonight—I see this is essentially the Egyptian position. If we on our side give you then a set of proposals that is the same as the Israeli position, then there will be total deadlock. What we should do is to work out principles that are sufficiently general to urge on both sides and get negotiations going simultaneously on a provisional solution and an overall solution. At the same time we can try to work out concrete provisions for certain parts of it. If we discuss the situation only abstractly, it will only result in a continuation of the status quo or some irrational outburst of violence.

Brezhnev: I’ve been listening very attentively, and I would like again to introduce one element and to say that as I see it, the Arab world—that is, those directly linked with the military actions of Israel—and and Israel itself is waiting to see what will happen after the Brezhnev visit to the United States, and what Nixon and Brezhnev will have to say on the situation in the Mideast, and how what they say can influence the settlement of the conflict. If they simply read, instead of realistic things, a mere weak brew, it will be hard for them to find anything on which to act. Now they know preparations for this are under way, and this is a restraining factor. If on the eve of my visit, or during my visit, no signal is given to Golda Meir or Sadat or Assad, then it is very difficult to foresee what will happen. After all, all these are sovereign states—not our colonies, not your colonies. What can be expected in the U.S. is heating up in connection with this visit. Not so in this country. How then can Brezhnev go to the U.S. if we don’t have something realistic? We’ll lose the very ground from under our feet, and lose [Page 414] all the progress in our efforts for peace. It is a very complex problem, and it needs every effort.

When we sign the main document, the agreement on the prevention of nuclear war, everyone will understand what it means. There will be explanations, but the document is clear. It means there will be no war. But here, on this problem, if we pass over it in silence or have only a weak brew, it will have a harmful effect from the political point of view. Our interests are involved because this is very close to our borders, and the U.S. is very close. So it is impossible not to take some steps, or else President Nixon and I might find ourselves in an impossible situation. After all, nothing in this world is eternal—similarly the present military advantage enjoyed by Israel is not eternal either. Israel is somewhat concerned that some have severed diplomatic relations with her, and the front around her is growing tighter. But now she’s easy because she enjoys the support of the United States—but is that an eternal category? Maybe it will be shown as a result of my visit that both the U.S. and the USSR are quite impotent in the Mideast, but in practice that is not so.

All I’ve been saying on this score is something on which I’ve not consulted my colleagues. They are my own feelings and thoughts.

Kissinger: One problem about the Mideast is that there have been endless theoretical debates, and every side wants their total program. We are interested in concrete discussions, but they have to be in some realistic framework. You fear the Arabs may start a war if their objectives are not satisfied, or it is also possible Israel will start a war if they fear their concerns are not met.

Last night in the tower you spoke of the spirit of compromise. I agree we should have concrete discussions on a set of principles which we can try to urge on the parties to implement.

Brezhnev: Yesterday I was very modest in my discussion with you, because I felt it was a subject for fuller discussion.

Kissinger: No, I don’t consider it a formal statement.

Brezhnev: We were talking on a different plane.

Kissinger: Good, I agree.

Brezhnev: That’s all very true, but also it has to be borne in mind. But for six years we have been saying principles, principles, principles, but going no further.

Kissinger: I agree. That’s what I’ve been saying about SALT. It would be useful if one could think of some concrete steps that could be taken immediately, that could at least start the process.

In the case of our Berlin negotiations, Mr. General Secretary, we went through many years of abstract discussions, but then settled it in six months, nine months—by becoming very concrete and both sides [Page 415] making some concessions. I think the same procedure might work in the Mideast.

Gromyko: In the case of West Berlin, it took about three years.

Kissinger: But when we started getting serious between us, it took about a year.

Gromyko: The general bilateral talks took three years; the formal talks took one year. But that’s just a factual statement of the case.

Brezhnev: But finally, can we at least agree on a first point, a second point, a third, a fourth, and a fifth point? Because now we have no points; all we have is this weak brew.

Last year we had a discussion that seemed to inspire us with hopes that in 1973 some concrete measures might be possible. Now we’re already in the fifth month of 1973 and we’ve not yet even begun to talk about concrete measures.

So where do we go from here?

Kissinger: Well, of course, we have your proposed principles. And I will see—I expect—Mr. Ismail the end of the next week. And I will inform your Ambassador of the results, as I did last time. And perhaps out of these discussions some concrete statement can be developed that can be urged on both sides. And in the meantime we can discuss in a preliminary way the principles you gave us. But I would frankly like to hear what Ismail has to say before I make a final judgment.

Brezhnev: So you feel that it would be best first to wait for the results of your meeting with Ismail before becoming very concrete?

Kissinger: Yes. And frankly, this is what Ismail said to me last time I met him.

Brezhnev: I too have met our Ismail, another Ismail [referring to Egyptian War Minister Ahmed Ismail’s visit to Moscow following Hafiz Ismail’s visit.] I will probably become an Ismail too. And you too will become an Ismail. And then we will be two Ismails.


Brezhnev: On another subject, the question of the communiqué of your visit—it raises no problems. I’ll look through it tomorrow. Since we’re deep into the night, I seem to agree with it.

Sukhodrev [Reads] “Talks between L.I. Brezhnev and Kissinger . . . At invitation of the Soviet side, Dr. Henry Kissinger, Assistant to the President of the United States for National Security Affairs was in the USSR from May 4 to May 9. He had discussions with the General Secretary of the CPSU, L. I. Brezhnev. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR, A. A. Gromyko, took part in the discussions. These discussions covered a wide range of subjects of mutual interest. The discussions were conducted in a friendly atmosphere. Both sides expressed their [Page 416] satisfaction at the comprehensiveness and constructiveness of the exchange of views that took place.”11

Kissinger: Good.

Brezhnev: There is little draft on my visit to the United States that we can hold in reserve for now: “On the forthcoming visit of L.I. Brezhnev to the United States of America: On the invitation of the President of the United States, Richard Nixon, extended by him during his stay in Moscow in May 1972, and in accordance with subsequent agreement, the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU, L.I. Brezhnev will pay an official visit to the United States from June 18 to June 26, 1973.”

Kissinger: Or should we say, “starting June 18. Departure will be by mutual agreement only.” That was a joke.

Brezhnev: What happens if President Nixon asks me to stay another two days? Will you kick me out?

Kissinger: That’s what I meant. What if you come on the 16th?

Dobrynin: The official visit is the 18th.

Kissinger: Right.

Brezhnev: We will keep this to ourselves. It has been fully consulted on here. This is for the information of the President.

Kissinger: And we will publish a unilateral statement of gratification with our stay.12

Brezhnev: Thank you.

We then have the question of Vietnam. And also the question of economic relations will be an important topic of my talks with President Nixon. So perhaps we can start on that tomorrow.

Kissinger: All right.

Brezhnev: Then some minor points. But I can mention one thing. If the agreement on the major issue is signed, then I am prepared to sign it.

Kissinger: Yes.

Brezhnev: And I will be accompanied on my visit by Mr. Gromyko. As for the other people who might sign other agreements, we haven’t finalized it.

[Page 417]

Kissinger: Mr. General Secretary, of course it is up to you if you want to bring them as part of your entourage, or have them come separately.

We’ve instructed our agencies to begin talking to your side about these various draft agreements. They will be solved.

Brezhnev: [In English] Very good. [In German] “Sehr gut.”

Gromyko: In American, “OK.”

Brezhnev: “OK.”

Kissinger: We still have these SALT Principles. We can decide it afterwards.

Brezhnev: Anyway, we have something to work on tomorrow.

[Brezhnev goes out for a minute, then returns.]

Gromyko: Now we go boar hunting. You have to go down from the tower and look for them. I will explain the principles to you.

Kissinger: We should work out some basic principles of hunting. I can give lectures on it now.

Brezhnev: There is a story about a lecturer who used to get up and speak as follows: “The main merit of the previous speaker is that he has raised this issue. What does this mean, comrades? What if Dr. Kissinger had not raised this issue? It would never have been raised. The question would have been in a recumbent position. This is very important. Now the question is no longer recumbent; now it is a standing question. A standing question is not a recumbent question. Therefore I’d like to emphasize the fact . . .” And so on for a half hour.

Kissinger: Was he from Harvard?

Brezhnev: He was from the Institute.

Gromyko: Can we assume that the final communiqué of the visit is substantially agreed?

Kissinger: Well, as far as the main content—but as far as language is concerned . . . The main headings.

Gromyko: We gave it to you as a preliminary document.

Brezhnev: So in a preliminary way, it is agreed upon. One idea I have I should raise, so it is no longer recumbent. [Laughter]

Kissinger: It will certainly be better as a standing question. [Laughter]

Brezhnev: I’m quite certain if I don’t raise it, it will be recumbent. I did promise to raise it with you this morning, but because we’re so busy I didn’t get to raise it until tonight. You’ll appreciate this later: A recumbent question you can see only on one side, but a raised question you can see from all sides. [Laughter]

Kissinger: Or we can consider the recumbent aspect and then turn it over. Because while it’s recumbent we won’t be distracted by the other aspects.

[Page 418]

Brezhnev: That’s a good idea. But a recumbent idea is like a stone.

Kissinger: I am certain I will lose this exchange.

Brezhnev: I can give a brief two-hour lecture at the university on this question.

Kissinger: And it will make more sense than some of the usual lectures.

Brezhnev: I want to go, on the way out, to look at the trophies.

[The meeting then adjourned. The General Secretary and his party accompanied Dr. Kissinger and his party back to Dr. Kissinger’s villa, stopping on the way at the refrigerator sheds to inspect the boars shot the previous evening.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 75, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Kissinger Conversations at Zavidovo, May 5–8, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting was held in Brezhnev’s office in the Politburo Villa. Brackets are in the original.
  2. Attached but not printed at Tab A is the Soviet draft, “Basic Principles on Negotiations on the Further Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms.” The Soviet draft of principles was handed to the U.S. delegation earlier that day. See Document 108.
  3. May 13.
  4. Dobrynin is presumably referring to the joint communiqué issued at the end of the May 1972 Summit. For the text, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1972, pp. 635–642.
  5. Presumably a reference to the Basic Principles agreed to at the Summit. See ibid., pp. 633–634.
  6. Not found attached.
  7. The U.S. and Soviet drafts of the Washington Summit communiqué were exchanged during the earlier May 7 meeting. See Documnet 108.
  8. See footnote 9, Document 108, and footnote 3, Document 112.
  9. For Kissinger’s memorandum to the President describing his May 20 meeting with Ismail, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXV, Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1973, Document 63.
  10. See Document 107.
  11. The text of the communiqué was sent to Washington in message Hakto 24, May 8. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Material, Box 32, HAK Trip Files, HAK Moscow, London Trip, May 4–11, 1973, HAKTO & Misc)
  12. Both a joint U.S.-Soviet statement and a White House statement were released on May 9. See “Kissinger Leaves Soviet After 4 Days of Talks,” The New York Times, May 10, 1973, p. 3.