111. 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 USA
  • Andrei M. Aleksandrov, Assistant to the General Secretary
  • Georgi M. Kornienko, Head of USA Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Viktor M. Sukhodrev, First Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Interpreter
  • Andrei Vavilov, First Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Mr. Helmut Sonnenfeldt, NSC Senior Staff
  • Mr. Philip Odeen, NSC Senior Staff
  • Mr. William Hyland, NSC Staff
  • Peter Rodman, NSC Staff
  • Richard P. Campbell, NSC Staff


  • Economic and Other Bilateral Relations; (Briefly) Middle East and Vietnam

[Outside, Brezhnev tells Dr. Kissinger he has incriminating documents on him. Dr. Kissinger replies, “I knew that sooner or later you’d get them.” Inside Brezhnev’s office, Brezhnev hands over photos of the boar hunt the night before.]

Dr. Kissinger: I wonder if I could ask General Secretary to sign some of these.

Brezhnev: For a thousand dollars.

Gromyko: A hundred million each.

[Brezhnev signs three of them.]

Dobrynin: You look like revolutionary partisans.

Brezhnev: I think we look more like gangsters. [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: Thank you very much. It will be a very pleasant souvenir. It is a good photograph.

Brezhnev: Let’s take up a new field today, the prospects for economic cooperation. If you have anything you would like to say, I would like to hear it. If not, I’ll say something.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me say a few general words on this subject. Then we can discuss any specific matters the General Secretary would like to raise.

[Page 421]

Brezhnev: I agree.

Dr. Kissinger: First, our general philosophy with respect to commercial relations and cooperative projects. We have always taken the view these were closely related to the general context of Soviet-American relations and part of our political relationship. And whereas in the first part of the Administration this delayed it, now it accelerates it. We evaluate our relationship as very positive politically and we are determined that in the economic field matters keep pace. And we are determined to resist any attempt to impose additional conditions on the Soviet Union in addition to agreements we have already reached. Our immediate objective has to be to obtain the legislation for Most Favored Nation status for the Soviet Union.2 The President has asked me to tell the General Secretary—he will repeat it to you personally—we will put the full prestige of the Presidency behind it. We expect to have it certainly before the end of the year. We can then begin full implementation of the trade agreement we signed last year,3 and we would then be prepared to begin immediately negotiations for follow-on agreements of even wider scope. In fact, we would be prepared to begin preliminary discussions on follow-on negotiations even before MFN, though it would have to be done fairly quietly so it doesn’t add to the Congressional problem, that is, jeopardize the trade bill. But it is up to you. If you’d like to begin some preliminary discussions, we will be prepared to do that.

We are also glad it has been possible to work out some export-import credits of over $200 million, and we still have in mind the target figure of last October, $500 million, and we are prepared to go beyond that.

On the trade agreement, I believe one good place to begin discussions is in the Economic Commission.

On cooperative projects, we are very impressed by the imaginative ideas the General Secretary has developed. We are in principle very receptive to this approach. We believe our two countries are complementary in the economic field and there are vast possibilities that we have only begun to explore. We have given strong encouragement to various companies interested in your gas deals and we have also encouraged the Japanese to invest in Siberia.

The big obstacle at this moment is the reluctance of some of our companies to invest in the required amounts without some governmental guarantee. This is a problem to which we will turn energetically as soon as Congressional approval for Most Favored Nation is ob[Page 422]tained. In the meantime, we have taken action to raise the price of American natural gas. This is a domestic matter; but the purpose is to make Soviet natural gas more competitive and to justify and stimulate greater investment.

With respect to agriculture, we believe the General Secretary’s idea he mentioned the other day, of long-term agreements . . .

Brezhnev: I give you these cookies on a mutually-advantageous basis.

Dr. Kissinger: I will have to change all my pants again.

Brezhnev: That doesn’t relate to the substance of the matter!

Dr. Kissinger: A long-term agreement has the advantage that we can arrange long-term assurance of supplies and can ensure the transportation. It also will enable us to give the Soviet Union preference over other countries. For example, I just received word that India is seeking a long-term arrangement for agricultural products and credits. And the governmental credits available are for periods of three years, and you are familiar with these conditions. On this we have no flexibility. The Indians requested credits for five to eight years, but we have a law against it.

But I think when the General Secretary and the President meet, one of our objectives should be to plan ahead three to five years on an acceleration of our commercial relationship and work out big goals. Some goals can be stated publicly—such as long-term plans. Others, such as Soviet credit requirements, we shouldn’t publicly state. But in either event, our objective should be a maximum expansion of this relationship.

Many of our ideas are reflected in the draft communique you handed us,4 which we find acceptable in outline. And we can refine it in light of the conversations the General Secretary and President will have.

This is our general approach, Mr. General Secretary, and I believe it is one of our most positive aspects of our relationship.

Brezhnev: Good. I would say on that subject that since last year’s meeting with the President, in this field as in others quite visible progress has taken shape, and the positive elements that have appeared cannot be allowed to pass unnoticed. We can both state as regards this field that several agreements already have been signed between our two countries, directed at normalizing and developing concrete economic ties. And a still more concrete expression of this process is the fact that several big and mutually-advantageous projects have been [Page 423] agreed upon between the Soviet Union and American companies. I think it is well worth noting that the volume of trade has been growing. In 1972, 538 million Rubles, compared to 187 million Rubles in 1971. That is gratifying.

On the other hand, we can’t fail to note the fact that trade so far has been primarily of a one-way nature. In 1972 Soviet exports were 76.5 million Rubles, while imports to the Soviet Union from the United States amounted to 461 million Rubles. It stands to reason that such a situation cannot last for long; it is not normal. Therefore, it is obvious that this economically abnormal situation should be rectified and this disproportion be removed. It is up to both sides to display interest in achieving this.

In this area we come up with the MFN treatment problem. We are familiar with the general situation with respect to that question. I cannot give you any recommendation how this best should be resolved. I could say the best way is just to announce the granting of MFN tomorrow. You can’t do that, but we count on the assurance from the President that always guarantees that the decision will be taken in the fall. And we place the highest value on this assurance.

But before that happens, we will have our summit meeting. In that meeting, it is impossible to avoid talking about commercial matters.

Dr. Kissinger: Absolutely.

Brezhnev: A few words on what short-term measures should be taken. We could agree beforehand to note in the joint communiqué the progress already accomplished, and we could reaffirm the attitudes of both sides to go on deepening our commercial relationships. We feel it is possible to share the President’s view that we agree—and this too could be in the communiqué—that the general volume of trade between the USSR and the United States within the next three years could be raised to the amount of $3 billion. By way of developing broader and longer term economic ties, we could state the intentions of both sides to maintain and give every support to cooperation of American companies and Soviet companies. We could even perhaps have an indication of the fact that such projects could be agreed upon for 40 years or even 50 years, which is a good enough period. In this connection, the question arises whether it might be a good idea to create a special commission to deal with gas. We could give them long range tasks.

Dr. Kissinger: Is the General Secretary thinking of more than the gas sub-group set up under our existing trade commission?

Brezhnev: That group is not really a very specific one. They have meetings but they are rather sporadic.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand. Because of the transition of Peterson, this has not been as active as it might have been.

[Page 424]

Brezhnev: This could be a permanent group that could work throughout the duration of the project. First it would work on the negotiations to arrange for the project. Controlling and technical functions, because the President and I could not go into detail.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand. We already agree in principle. After your meeting with the President, we will issue an instruction to the agencies.

Brezhnev: That is as far as gas is concerned. You have expressed your readiness to grant to the Soviet Union through the Export-Import Bank credits to the amount of $500 million. Last year the President said, in addition to the $500 million he had already given, he would be able to grant another $500 million. This year he committed the United States Government to the step of going beyond $500 million.

Dr. Kissinger: Beyond $500 million, but he did not say how far beyond.

Brezhnev: Beyond $500 million.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, and this without prejudice to the longer-term arrangements.

Brezhnev: We therefore will be calculating that credits over and above $500 million will be used for current purchases in the United States of agricultural and certain industrial goods which we made projections of, and various household goods.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. General Secretary, I am not familiar with the details, but we will consider it. This is why at the Summit we should have projections in mind so we can be concrete.

Brezhnev: Part of the credit we would use to purchase equipment and part to purchase consumer goods.

Dr. Kissinger: I will give an answer to your Ambassador in principle within two weeks.

Brezhnev: This subject concerns credit for projects, not the large-scale projects like gas.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Brezhnev: Not gas or other things in Siberia. We could absorb U.S. credits to the amount of $200 billion.

Dr. Kissinger: For current purchases?

Brezhnev: I am giving a very rough figure. Out of it we could spend perhaps on consumer goods—this would be good for the United States.

Dr. Kissinger: The largest credit ever extended for Ex-Im Bank was $1.1 billion for Brazil and Japan.

Brezhnev: Brazil is not the same as the Soviet Union.

Dr. Kissinger: I know, but . . .

[Page 425]

Brezhnev: If you give each town and city in this country one exchange, it won’t be enough. One cannot live just by working on the basis of precedents. Twenty years ago something was not even in existence. I am sure no company would enter into what was not a mutually-advantageous deal. After all, we would pay the interest rates. America’s greatest dream is to get an interest rate . . .

Dr. Kissinger: Not since inflation. It barely covers the inflation!

Brezhnev: You want us to cover all your sins?

Dr. Kissinger: It is a good idea but I don’t think you will do it.

Brezhnev: These are not my words. I am quoting your magazine Amerika, which I read. It had an article about “what others think of us.” It has remarks by philosophers, statesmen and writers—like Bernard Shaw. That is where I read the only thing that Americans think of is profits.

Dr. Kissinger: We have to replace the editor of that magazine! We didn’t need to bring that quote to the attention of the country of Lenin.

Brezhnev: I wondered why Americans had that quote.

Dr. Kissinger: One trouble foreign governments have, and intelligence services have, is that they assume everything we do has a rational explanation.

They never take into account stupidity! [Laughter]

Brezhnev: That is why I wanted to say on measures that could be carried out in the short term, the next three years or so.

On longer-term arrangements, I will repeat now for the President that in the field of agriculture we would also agree to enter into long-term agreements. That is a view shared by all my colleagues. I am sure in this field we could reach an understanding.

We have already discussed the question of gas. That would be a large-scale deal. If that deal could help the United States over a 50-year period to rectify the situation in the United States regarding power sources . . . I am sure our gas will be competitive. All this goes to the matter of mutual respect and to improving relations between our two countries.

I would like to say also to the President that this is not the only question or area in which we would be willing to enter into long-term agreements. We would be prepared to discuss long-term cooperation in copper, nickel and certain other rare metals, in timber, but I think I have already explained in what way. Plants and factories should be built that could turn out the most up-to-date modern products—products that the United States would need for the next 50 years. And we would repay the United States in the product itself, in the finished product.

[Page 426]

This is a secondary question, and it could be the subject of an agreement. We could agree that the repayment would be 10–20 years and that through that period you would dispose of 80% of the product, and we could send it to any address you chose, and we would take 20% for ourselves.

Just half an hour ago, I asked Comrade Aleksandrov for factual material, and I received this from Moscow. In 1972 we simply burned the gas by-product as a waste product to the degree of 16 billion cubic meters. And every year they are increasing the extraction of oil in that area, and this increased the gas by-product. It could reach 30 billion in a few years. We would intend to build a plant for the processing of the gas, with the intent to turn it into a wide variety of products. Our planning organizations intend to collect gas in that area and build processing plants.

I have not consulted on this and the idea came to me this morning—but I think I can safely say: your companies could build that plant, take that gas, and make some necessary products. That could be a deal lasting 50 years, and again, repayment would be by delivery of finished goods. Given the necessary goodwill, we could have a further arrangement whereby the United States could use the product even after the repayment period, but under new commercial conditions.

The reason that I mention this, is that these are realistic things. Provided your companies are interested. The advantage lies in its long-term nature. The experts will have to go into it, of course. We won’t have Brezhnev and Kissinger sign it.

I don’t know of any other country in the world that could offer such advantageous terms.

That is our general approach.

I am not mentioning the fact that Armand Hammer will be doing something in the chemical field. Boeing has offered some cooperation in the technical field, and we have instructed our people to talk to them a bit and see if it is mutually advantageous.

I just talked by phone with Moscow. Comrade Kosygin has a letter that West European banks have asked us about the amount of credit we wanted to receive from West Europe. I am not familiar with the background of this question; we are still going to study it. But speaking in confidence, I feel that by virtue of objective laws, various nations and companies, the world and individual nations, are now entering a period when it is becoming a vital necessity to enter into vital cooperation in this way—without, of course, ignoring other possibilities. There have been discussions—I am not sure whether they have concluded—on the building by West German firms of a giant metallurgical plant on the Kursk metal deposits. It will be a big factory, five million tons capacity. I myself have seen a letter from an Italian company which of[Page 427]fered to build on the basis of our kerosene, and certain other things, an artificial fiber and artificial fur plant with a capacity of 90 thousand tons. Which means, in terms of clothing items, 505 million sets of various articles—jackets, pants and pullovers. France is building for us three plants in Orenburg to purify gas and remove sulphur. It will give us one million tons of sulphur.

These are all examples just taken from memory. Indeed life itself is confronting us with new forms of cooperation. Surely we can, none of us can be conservatives, forever; none of us can stand still. When I talk about this, I have no figures on the profit or actual monetary gain that we or the American companies will gain. For calculations of that sort, we have our relevant experts. I was trying to show the scale of what we can do.

Speaking on a purely personal plane, I want all this to happen while President Nixon is in office.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. General Secretary. I have listened to your presentation with great interest.

Brezhnev: [Interrupting] Sorry, Mr. Kissinger. Then we have agreed to building in Moscow a trade and exhibition center and to the expansion of the US Embassy in Moscow to cover the trade office. There are minor matters about who will build, but we will agree.

I thought America was a much richer country. Now I see America is afraid of large-scale deals; she wants to deal in kopeks, not rubles. I told the visiting American Senators last week that American business circles were richer than all of America.5

Dr. Kissinger: But businessmen are timid. Contrary to Leninist theory, they don’t understand their interests.

Brezhnev: A kind of leftover from the past.

Dr. Kissinger: To invest on a large scale in the Soviet Union is a new experience for them. I know, I have talked to David Rockefeller. I understand the Chase Bank is thinking of an $80 million loan.

Dobrynin: For agriculture.

Dr. Kissinger: And when they learn how to deal with Communist countries, it will accelerate.

But let me comment on your remarks in two categories: first, the short-term, and second, the large-scale projects.

On short term, which will be reflected in the communiqué, we agree in principle with everything you said. We will have to look into [Page 428] the amounts of loans, and so forth, but we are sure it will keep pace with the expansion of our trade. Also, if the communiqué reflects a very positive spirit, which I think it will, this will accelerate the process in the short and middle term.

Another necessity is to create a focus in our government that understands the political goals we set ourselves and can gear our commercial policies to them. One reason we have moved Sonnenfeldt to Treasury is to make sure that East-West trade, specifically the US-Soviet Economic Commission, is given political guidance which frankly in the last months it has lacked. So we will give the maximum influence to our government in the next weeks on these subjects.

Incidentally, on that figure of $3 billion over three years, that was meant to be cumulative, not annual.

With respect to the long-term projects, first, gas. We will activate the Gas Committee immediately after the summit, if not before. As for the other ideas the General Secretary mentioned, of course, a great deal will depend on the stability of our political relations. But I am assuming those will continue to improve. If that happens, we have two problems: one is to stimulate the imagination of American business to explore the possibilities of investment in the Soviet Union. The second is to find credit guarantees for the amount of investment necessary.

With regard to the first problem, we are now already actively encouraging American business to invest in the Soviet Union. I gave you as an example the Chase Manhattan Bank. It is just an example.

With regard to the second, credit facilities, we have had internal discussions with former Secretary Connally and others on how it is best approached. As soon as the MFN problem is settled with Congress, we intend to turn to the realization of these ideas of the General Secretary.

But we agree that the direction sketched by the General Secretary is the course we should follow. We will organize ourselves within the government both as to direction and facilities to this end, and if our political relations continue to develop, this progress will be achieved. And I agree with the General Secretary, it must be achieved while President Nixon is still in office. [Brezhnev goes out briefly and then returns.]

Brezhnev: I have reached an agreement with the United States. I have the President’s full agreement on all questions. So from now on all things will move smoothly, much easier than with you, Comrade Kissinger.

Kissinger: I have been promoted to Comrade.

Brezhnev: I am sorry to leave you for a few minutes; it was on internal matters. I couldn’t get in touch with the President.

[Page 429]

Dr. Kissinger: It is impossible. He returned to Washington last night.6

Brezhnev: How do you reach the President on an island?

Dr. Kissinger: We cable to Key Biscayne. They radio-phone to the President telling him that a message is coming by boat. He became so restive he sent me a rather sharp message; usually he is more patient with me.

Brezhnev: Good. I think we have exchanged views on commercial matters.

[Sukhodrev then translates the last paragraph of Kissinger’s last statement.]

Brezhnev: Yes indeed, and that will leave a mark in history. Of course, from that point of view it is important that the man who replaces the President is like that. You mentioned one possibility, Rockefeller.

Dr. Kissinger: That is a different Rockefeller.

Aleksandrov: He has never been in the Soviet Union, has he?

Dr. Kissinger: No.

Brezhnev: Kosygin told me over the phone that he was meeting with Lindsay.7

Dr. Kissinger: He is not one of our best friends.

Brezhnev: We know that.

Perhaps I might briefly refer to one other question. Since we are both of one mind on the need for our meeting to be hallmarked by the maximum number of agreements, and by way of further expansion of this sphere of Soviet-American relations, you know we have proposed to the President that several more agreements be signed during the meeting. I might just list them: on cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy; on cooperation in the field of agriculture; on cooperation in the field of research in the world’s ocean; in the field of transport; a general agreement on contacts, exchanges and cooperation in various fields of science and cultural affairs, this time for five [Page 430] years. And we are proceeding from the fact that the agreement on the most important topic, and also perhaps on nuclear energy, could be signed by the President and myself. And other bilateral agreements could perhaps be signed by Gromyko and your Secretary of State.

Dr. Kissinger: On the list you submitted, Mr. General Secretary, I see no difficulty in concluding them, except in the field of peaceful nuclear energy, where we have enormous legal obstacles which may not be overcome by the time of the Summit.

Brezhnev: I think we should try, and it might turn out to be easier.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree, we will make an effort. It is the one area where there may be a problem.

Brezhnev: If we don’t get to an agreement on the peaceful uses of atomic energy, we might reach an agreement on military uses. [Laughter] As soon as we get to peaceful uses, Americans will always have problems.

Dr. Kissinger: We have instructed all our agencies to proceed to the completion by June 1, actually.

Brezhnev: Actually, that agreement would fit in very well with our first agreement, and second, it is a question in which great interest is displayed by both American and Soviet scientists. A prominent group of intelligentsia on both sides will be brought together.

Dr. Kissinger: If there are any difficulties, we can discuss them. I must say, the General Secretary omitted from the list of agreements to be signed the strategic arms limitation field. As I told your Ambassador this morning,8 for the other agreement to stand alone would be very difficult. And that it should be signed by the General Secretary and the President. As for the others, it is entirely up to you. We are prepared to have all of them signed by Secretary Rogers and Foreign Minister Gromyko.

Brezhnev: We can reach an understanding on this very easily.

Dr. Kissinger: You just tell us what you want. We can do it either way.

Brezhnev: Also I certainly believe that there are three things that could be signed by the President and myself: first, the agreement on nuclear war, second, the agreement on peaceful nuclear energy, and if we reach an agreement on the SALT principles, they too. As for the others, they can be signed either by Minister Gromyko or others. But that can be discussed later.

[Page 431]

In order to speed up the work, we should discuss who should go where to finish it, e.g., whether our people should go to the United States or the other way around.

Dr. Kissinger: We gave instructions to our people to approach yours.

Dobrynin: You can decide what you want.

Dr. Kissinger: You make a decision and let us know.

Dobrynin: I will take the last two: transport, the general exchange agreement, and oceanography. Your embassy will take nuclear energy and agriculture.

Dr. Kissinger: I think nuclear energy should be in Washington. You will take cultural exchange and transport and oceanography. And we will take here agriculture and atomic energy.

Dobrynin: OK.

Dr. Kissinger: We will give instructions tonight.

Brezhnev: For the next phase of our work, I suggest this procedure. Quite frankly I was acutely distressed with the result of the discussion on the Middle East question, and to prevent what would be an unnecessary explosion and so as not to spoil the general picture for us—for the United States and the Soviet Union—I would request you talk it over once again with Gromyko and Dobrynin. They are more peaceable.

And after that discussion, I would like all those in the room to have supper together.

Dr. Kissinger: Thank you.

Brezhnev: And after supper we might have an hour’s discussion on other matters.

Dr. Kissinger: All right.

Brezhnev: Supper at 10. Usually we do it later.

Dr. Kissinger: All right. The only problem is where should we have the discussion of Southeast Asia.

Brezhnev: Tonight perhaps. You mean Vietnam?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Brezhnev: You could at least start on that with Mr. Gromyko and follow up later with the General Secretary.

Dr. Kissinger: All right.

Brezhnev: I don’t really see any disagreement.

Dr. Kissinger: We really have to express our strong view that the violations are very serious and that we cannot as a great power tolerate such violations indefinitely without taking strong counteraction.

I can discuss the details with the Foreign Minister.

[Page 432]

Brezhnev: As signatories of the Final Act of the Paris Conference,9 I can say that we will do all in our part to insure the vigorous implementation of the accord. How can we sign the agreement and see such violations take place?

Dr. Kissinger: I know in your formal note you said ours was one-sided. You have to in a note. But the North Vietnamese violations are cynical and constant, not accidental. We have prepared here a report on the violations [Tab A].10 It is only a brief summary.

When should we meet, Mr. Foreign Minister?

Gromyko: 6:00 p.m.

Dr. Kissinger: May I say one thing about the Middle East, Mr. General Secretary? When my trip to the Soviet Union was being planned, a detailed discussion of the Middle East was not foreseen. It was only the night before I left, when the President had already left, that I learned the General Secretary’s desire to discuss the subject in detail. And I myself was leaving in four hours.

We share the General Secretary’s concern that there must not be an outbreak of war either before or after his visit to the United States, and we will cooperate seriously in that effort. I will go over the principles with the Foreign Minister, and then I will meet with Mr. Ismail, and after that we should see if we can develop a concrete procedure that gets the process started.

Brezhnev: Right, discuss it with him.

[The meeting then ended.]

  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 at the Politburo Villa. Brackets are in the original.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 98.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 13.
  4. Attached to Document 108 at Tab E; not found.
  5. An account of the meeting between the Congressional delegation and Brezhnev is in telegram 4580 from Moscow, April 24. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 722, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Vol. XXIX)
  6. Nixon was in Key Biscayne, Florida, from May 3 to May 7. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) On May 6, Kissinger received message Tohak 58 from Scowcroft, which indicated that the “message regarding the nuclear treaty” had been given to the President along “with the statement that a reply was urgently needed before noon.” Nixon, however, had “left to go fishing for two to three hours and said that he would make a decision upon his return.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 32, HAK Trip Files, HAK Moscow, London Trip, May 4–11, 1973, TOHAK 1–74)
  7. John V. Lindsay, Mayor of New York City.
  8. No record of this conversation was found.
  9. See footnote 2, Document 87.
  10. Attached but not printed. For the Soviet note, see Document 87.