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

Dear Mr. General Secretary:

I have read with great interest the account you so kindly sent me of your visit to the Federal Republic and the conversations you held with Chancellor Brandt.2 It is evident that the visit was a fruitful one and produced very favorable results. Both you and the Chancellor are to be congratulated.

We are now in the final stages of preparing for your historic visit to this country. All the signs point to an outcome that will further [Page 475] strengthen the beneficial relations between our two countries and the prospects for lasting peace in the world.

I should like in this letter to review certain of the major items on our agenda.

First of all, as you noted in your letter of May 15,3 we have now completed the work of drafting an agreement on the question of the prevention of nuclear war. The agreement that we will sign will be of truly historical importance. Building as it does on the basic principles we signed last year, this agreement will undoubtedly be a most important aspect of our meetings. I profoundly hope, as I know you do, Mr. General Secretary, that in signing it, we will be taking a significant step not only toward reducing the danger of a devastating nuclear war, but also toward creating the conditions in the world where wars of any kind and the use of force will no longer afflict mankind. That we have taken this step while fully recognizing and respecting the rights and interests of other countries, is a mark of statesmanship. I am convinced that as our relations improve and worldwide peace is strengthened, additional important steps toward the ultimate exclusion of wars will become possible.

The negotiations that have produced this agreement have lasted for more than a year during which we have had many frank exchanges on the complex and delicate issues involved. Both of us will of course be expected to assess and interpret the meaning and significance of our agreement.

To avoid any possible misunderstanding, let me therefore tell you briefly the view that I shall express. It would be my hope that we could both express ourselves in similar terms since any significant differences would detract from what we have been able to accomplish.

My view is that we have set forth an objective and certain modes of conduct applicable to the policies of each of our countries in the years ahead. In doing this, we have not agreed to ban the use of any particular weapons but have taken a major step toward the creation of conditions in which the danger of war, and especially of nuclear war, between our two countries or between one of our countries and others, will be removed. In short, the obligations we have accepted toward each other we have also accepted as applicable to the policies which each of us conducts toward other countries. In subscribing to the agreement and, in particular, in agreeing to consult with each other in certain circumstances, we have made commitments to each other but have in no sense agreed to impose any particular obligation or solution upon other countries. At the same time, we have left the rights of each of our [Page 476] two countries, and obligations undertaken by each of them unimpaired.

Thus, while the agreement contains a number of limiting clauses, it is nevertheless a major achievement in the development of peaceful relations between our two countries and a very significant step toward the creation of a stable peace in the world as a whole. We have demonstrated that the basic principles on which we agreed last year as well as all the other agreements that were concluded at that time and since did indeed mark a turning point in our relations. We can take satisfaction that with this new agreement we have given further substance to our developing relations and that the course upon which we are embarked has become even more firmly set toward a future of progress and peace.

The effect of our prospective agreement would undoubtedly be further enhanced by our ability to record, during your visit, additional progress toward the limitation of strategic armaments. I had hoped that we might be able to agree on some specific measures, but the joint statement which we have been discussing should give our negotiators a new impetus so that the talks can be accelerated, just as was the case when we agreed on a joint statement in May 1971.4 I look forward to reviewing the status of the strategic arms limitation talks in detail with you so that we might be able to give fresh instructions to our representatives looking to concrete progress this year.

On European affairs there have been many favorable developments and we will have the opportunity to review the two important current projects—the conference on security and cooperation and the negotiations on mutual reduction of forces and armaments in Central Europe.

We will also want to review the situation in Indochina as well as in the Middle East. I share your concern that the situation in the Middle East is potentially explosive, and I appreciate that we are both working toward the same objective of a solution that is just for all the parties and at the same time a durable one. I will be prepared to go into this matter in more detail during our discussions, and Dr. Kissinger and Ambassador Dobrynin can pursue their consultations on it in the period before our meeting.

As regards our bilateral cooperation, it now is clear that there will be several new areas in which agreements can be concluded during your visit. On some matters we could also provide guidance for further negotiation to be conducted after our meeting.

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We will of course want to go into the question of expanding our economic ties. I have reviewed your discussion with Dr. Kissinger on the long term relationship that might develop between our two countries.5 I agree substantially with the directions you indicated. These are highly complex matters, requiring much detailed and technical work. But in this area we should signal a positive direction, as well as develop some of the specific ideas to be taken up by the Commission we set up last October.6

Altogether, the agreements which will be concluded during your visit due to the serious and constructive preparatory work that has been done under direction by our representatives, will add new momentum to our relations. They will ensure that your visit will have both symbolic importance and real substantive significance.

I believe the practical arrangements for your visit are progressing well. It will be a pleasure to conduct our discussions here in Washington as well as in Camp David, and then to continue our talks in San Clemente in a more informal and relaxed atmosphere. If there are any wishes that you have in regard to the schedule or itinerary, do not hesitate to raise them in our channel.

We all look forward to repaying the splendid hospitality shown to us in the Soviet Union last year.


Richard Nixon
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 68, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 17, May–June 7, 1973. A handwritten note at the top of the page reads: “Handed to D by Gen. S[cowcroft], 3:00 pm, 6/8/73.”
  2. The letter describing Brezhnev’s May 28 visit with Brandt, is ibid.
  3. Document 117. The May 13 letter was given to Kissinger on May 15.
  4. A reference to the United States-Soviet communiqué, May 28, 1971, which was issued in Vienna at the end of the fourth session of the SALT I talks. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXII, SALT I, 1969–1972, Document 162.
  5. See Document 111.
  6. Presumably a reference to the U.S.–USSR Joint Commercial Commission who first met July 20–August 1, 1972, in Moscow; see Documents 19–22. The second session was held October 12–18, 1972, in Washington, at the end of which the Trade Agreement and theLend-Lease Agreement were signed; see Document 65.