126. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The President
  • Secretary of State William P. Rogers
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger
  • Mr. Helmut Sonnenfeldt
  • General Secretary Leonid I. Brezhnev
  • Foreign Minister Andrey Gromyko
  • Ambassador Anatoliy F. Dobrynin
  • Mr. A. M. Alexandrov
  • Mr. G. M. Tsukanov
  • Viktor Sukhodrev, Interpreter

Brezhnev: Mr. President, my colleagues are very industrious, they got up at six in the morning and had breakfast. I only found out today they have these qualities. Gromyko as Foreign Minister is really entitled to a second breakfast, but when he was in our country, Dr. Kissinger kept resisting the food we had for him, the little pies.

Kissinger: I resisted only for two minutes.

Brezhnev: But you did resist.

Kissinger: I have a passion for the little pies they serve.

Brezhnev: I have been told by my people who watched television of the excellent coverage of all the events since our arrival.

President: Yes, and also of the boat ride last night.

Brezhnev: I saw the photograph in today’s press where I was trying to hide from the photographers.

President: Since the SALT principles are scheduled for tomorrow, we have one item to complete—the date we select as our goal for a permanent agreement. This is very important, as I indicated on the first day in view of what we will do on Friday,2 so that the SALT principles will have real meaning and we give impetus to negotiations which are now pretty well at a standstill. For that reason, if we could select 1974 as [Page 516] a goal rather than making a vague statement about 1974–1975, it would be very important for our negotiators. If we set a deadline in 1974, this would be something we might achieve when I go to Moscow next year.

Brezhnev: That is indeed a very important matter and it is a point that has been left open. I can see that Dr. Kissinger and Dobrynin left it to be decided at the summit. As always, they leave the easiest things for us. Now I should ask: Is this the only point?

President: Yes, as regards SALT.

Brezhnev: I just wanted to check on them. I have great respect for Kissinger and Dobrynin, but we should check them occasionally. Checking and verification are not incompatible with respect.

Kissinger: As long as it is by national means.

Brezhnev: What other kind is there? We have a small understanding with the President that we will set up a small machine of one and one-half million people. You do the same thing. They go around and look and then we are secure. But I recall that there was a lot of talk in the recent past whether it is possible to use national means to verify these things. Now it is clear that it is possible. Both sides can pay tribute to man’s geniuses. In the very recent past you and I could not have conceived of such things, but now the scientists have done it.

Mr. President, I agree we should discuss that matter. [The date]. It is a very important one. Perhaps you can raise all the outstanding questions as a whole, so we can settle them.

President: All together?

Brezhnev: Well, yes. There are not too many left. If we could identify all the issues and then have a personal talk our colleagues can work them out and then we can meet with them again. We should agree to settle it all today.

President: We should work out the other areas. Perhaps the Middle East should be worked on by others, the Secretary of State, Dr. Kissinger, Mr. Gromyko and Ambassador Dobrynin. It involves complicated language. We should not have to work it out but they should try this afternoon.

The other point at issue is with regard to CSCE and the starting date of MBFR. The positions vary in that your side definitely wants a summit committed for CSCE but the allies do not want it. We are in a tough spot there. Regarding MBFR, we consider it important to state the date for starting—October 30th. You have indicated you want to leave it open; it is very important to us because of the allies and because Congress wants progress. If you could come with us on the October 30th date we could take language “considering” a summit. It would cause some problems for us with the allies but we would be prepared to do it. Those, Mr. General Secretary, are the only issues left. If we could [Page 517] reach agreement we would have the communiqué all set and of course the SALT agreement tomorrow would then be in order.

Brezhnev: Has your position on MBFR since the meeting in Moscow undergone any changes?

President: We consulted with our allies, though I don’t think we can say now what the details are. But we can have constructive and very concrete negotiations. There is no change in principle from last year.

[At this point photographers entered the room to take pictures.]

Brezhnev: You remember Mr. President, when the idea was first advanced to have the CSCE in Paris. We discussed it in Moscow and also in Oreanda with Brandt and we were proposing 1972. But then there were many consultations and discussions. We can now note with gratification that all parties favor the conference and that July 3rd has been chosen for starting at the Foreign Minister’s level. Then there will be commissions. And then the third stage. What do you say to this? It should end this year so that it does not drag on and people will lose interest. So we should agree to 1973 for the ending. If we can agree on this, the other problems will be easier.

President: It is difficult to set the end before the conference begins. There are a great number of nations involved and it would not be realistic. We, ourselves, have no objection but we cannot speak for our allies and you would have similar problems with yours. All I can say is that we can press forward to get a conclusion as soon as possible. You and I can agree to that as a goal.

Brezhnev: I did not mean that I wanted to select a definite date, a month or a day for the end. I merely was talking about the end of 1973. It could be anytime in December, say. It would have a great significance in Europe and the world. The matter was first raised during 1972. Pompidou first took the initiative when I was in Paris and he supported it. It was set out in the communiqué at the time. Several others felt the conference would be held in 1972, certainly France did. Then it transpired that it was not held. Now it seems that even 1973 will pass without result. We should try to do something definite. The word allies has a relative sense. After all the two of us are allies in working out things. Any way our allies support the end of 1973. We favor saying that we should end all stages, including the last one at the summit by the end of 1973. If we could do that, then we can set the start of mutual force reduction negotiations, since you say you have a problem with your allies on this.

It seemed to me that from the previous discussions with Brandt, Pompidou and you we could say in a gentlemanly fashion that this has been solved. Sometime ago I met Pompidou at Zaslavl. I met him half way by saying that the commissions should meet one and one-half months after the Foreign Ministers. Pompidou did not raise any ques[Page 518]tions about ending the conference in 1973. So the French don’t oppose it and in Bonn we also discussed this with Brandt—and I informed you in detail—and he also did not object. I don’t see anyone who opposes this except perhaps the British. Certainly the others don’t. I don’t see any significant objection. Anyway, our joint voice is generally heeded in the world. If we don’t speak out it won’t be taken seriously. So if we could agree, then we could agree on the points you raised.

So, I believe if we could get full understanding on all these questions we would just have one. I agree that it is very knotty. The Middle East. Our colleagues could talk about it today. But we should settle all other matters today. While our colleagues talk we could also talk on the Middle East, the two of us.

President: Keep in mind that in regard to the SALT principles, if they are to be signed tomorrow, it is very important to set the 1974 date. Because Friday’s agreement has to be coupled with specific things on strategic arms. So the date, not just the vague 1974–1975, is very important. The same applies to the starting date for MBFR in relation to Friday. We have to put meat on the bones. It is very important.

CSCE is a different problem. The starting date has been set for July 3. We both are not dragging our feet. But from contacts with the allies, we know they don’t want a commitment to a concluding date. When you say that Pompidou and Brandt don’t oppose, it is quite different from what you are saying, which is to settle between us a precise date. Perhaps we could try to give this to our colleagues for drafting: “And therefore they are of the view that it should proceed as expeditiously as possible.” That is on page 9 [of the draft communiqué].3 That way we would not be commiting our allies. This would come in the sentence: “The USA and the USSR proceed from the assumption . . .”

Brezhnev: If we take that form of words it might seem that we are creating haste and are afraid of something. We should get an acceptable form of words but not a specific date, just this year. This would give the allies greater assurance. This would not be diktat, it would just be that we favor it and it would mean that we still have six months to complete the work. If this were done, I could then think over the date for the start of the mutual troop reductions.

President: Let me suggest a procedure. This item, MBFR and the Middle East will not be decided today because they are in the communiqué. If we could make progress it would be fine but it could be finished later. On the other hand, the SALT principles have to be decided today. The note that was just handed to Dr. Kissinger 4 was whether the [Page 519] two press secretaries can announce today that we can have a SALT Agreement. I feel very strongly that the SALT principles will be a shattering disappointment if we fail to put in 1974. Also it would be consistent with our meeting in Moscow in 1974. For example, we would never have had an agreement in Moscow last year if we had not set a goal for ourselves. I would suggest that if we could get that item settled, which is separate from CSCE, then the experts could work on CSCE and MBFR.

Brezhnev: I certainly cannot object that these two are interrelated and of great importance to us and the world but I would like you to agree that settling a time limit for CSCE is also very important. I would like a private talk before we reach final decisions on all these questions. I have a feeling, a sixth sense, that a little discussion between us could lead to a settlement including all those questions in the communiqué. Certainly I am guided by an earnest desire to reach mutually satisfactory solutions on all these questions. I suggest we adjourn and have a discussion while our colleagues have a discussion on other matters. I am sure we can agree today and then have an easier day tomorrow.

President: We have to remember that SALT has to be agreed.

Brezhnev: That is the point of my suggestion. It is with a view to reaching agreement. They keep talking about a summit. The only thing higher than us is the ceiling. So we have to be the ones to do it.

[The meeting ended at 3:10 p.m.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 75, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Brezhnev Visit Memcons, June 18–25, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Brackets are in the original. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon met with Brezhnev from 1:08 to 3:07 p.m. The U.S. and Soviet parties left Washington the evening of June 19 and traveled by helicopter to Camp David. They returned to Washington the afternoon of June 21. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary)
  2. June 22. The two leaders signed the Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War. See Document 129.
  3. See footnote 8, Document 130.
  4. Not found; not further identified.