142. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev
  • Foreign Minister Andre Gromyko
  • Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin
  • Mr. T. M. Kornienko
  • Mr. A. M. Alexandrov-Agentor
  • Mr. Victor Sukhodrev (Interpreter)
  • Other Soviet Interpreter
  • Notetakers
  • Secretary of State Kissinger
  • Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Sisco
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary Roy Atherton
  • Mr. Helmut Sonnenfeldt, NSC Staff
  • Mr. Winston Lord, Director of Planning and Coordination of the State Department
  • Mr. William Hyland, NSC Staff

(There was some cordial small talk before the formal meeting began. The General Secretary pointed to the pictures of Marx and Lenin on the wall. Secretary Kissinger brought President Nixon’s personal greetings to Mr. Brezhnev. Mr. Brezhnev mentioned that he had received a message from the President in which he had assured him that [Page 571] Secretary Kissinger had full power to negotiate.2 He then congratulated Secretary Kissinger on his appointment. Secretary Kissinger commented that in future summits it would not be necessary to set up separate meetings for the Foreign Ministers. There was then some discussion of the map of the Middle East on the wall and the fact that both the Arabs and Israeli sides were liars with regard to the military situation. The group then sat down at the conference table and the meeting began.)

Brezhnev: Welcome, Dr. Kissinger, and gentlemen. I am profoundly satisfied to see you here, particularly taking account of the important and complex situation we have at hand. My decision to send a message to President Nixon requesting that he send you to Moscow for discussion was dictated by me late at night. The experience in the past in preparing for the summits of 1972 and 1973 has amply shown that meetings and discussions with you have contributed in a very big way to our common success. When I received a very prompt reply from the President, I equally promptly late last night sent a reply3 that I was gratified at his swift decision. Please know that my reply of gratitude reached the President before you left Washington.

It is, of course, a fact that previous meetings that we had were tremendously effective. And it is not only my thought, but yours as well, when we say we trust that the present visit reaches very good and favorable results.

The situation from our point of view as I see it will conform to your own views, namely that it has assumed a very acute nature. Guided by the principles that have already been laid down between us, the principles of joint cooperation in the interest of maintaining peace and the interest of the peaceful resolution of conflicts, and guided by the feelings of respect and confidence for one another, I believe we should conduct these discussions calmly and frankly, in a businesslike way, with both sides freely putting forth propositions, suggestions and various suppositions in a quest for a solution. If we depart from these principles, that can only lead to further complications and cannot be beneficial in the search for a solution to the present situation. And that would not extinguish the flames of conflict. Therefore, we will put forward concepts, thoughts, views and facts. Recent times have certainly given more than enough food for thought.

In making these preliminary remarks, I already have the view that, although military matters can be presented in some way, in these discussions neither you nor I hardly need to go into the details. We do not [Page 572] have military staffs. We can take account of the information in the reports emanating from both sides on the understanding that they are not absolutely accurate. But that is not the most important thing, and that was not the most important thing in our discussions in Moscow and San Clemente on the question of the Middle East crisis.

Therefore, taking account of the state of affairs existing today, we should conduct frank and sincere discussions. This will better inform the President of the gist of our discussions so that he can better understand. I trust that Dr. Kissinger will agree to proceed in this way. If so, we can today lay the foundations for discussion of all these problems, trying at the same time to take a look into the foreseeable future.

I hope that both today and tomorrow that you and I will adhere to the principles that we adopted and that we want to continue to cooperate in the spirit of the agreements that have already been concluded and are now being further developed, notwithstanding any complicated situation that might arise. I feel we should not lose the feeling of equilibrium, of balance. We should act in a spirit of common sense so as to promote the finding of an acceptable solution. This does not mean in any way that we want to dictate our will to others. This is in spite of the slander leveled at both of us. So let us ignore these things. There have been attacks both by certain circles in your country and certain circles in Asia, but that is not important. What is important is governments and the decisions they take.

I hear you are preparing to stay here all day tomorrow and the day after. That is very positive. It is not because I see that the discussions will be acute, but I believe it is important that we see all the important propositions of both sides. I am not referring to allies. We do not have an alliance with the Arab countries. I don’t know—perhaps you have certain commitments to Israel. That is something I am not going into.

I am well experienced in my many meetings with you, and in your conversations with me you are a person who likes good jokes. I appreciate that very much. In the general course of my visit and conversations, I saw that the American people like jokes. They don’t get in the way of serious discussion.

You notice I have a very quiet voice today.

Kissinger: I noticed. I’m waiting.

Brezhnev: If it’s a very quiet voice, don’t think I am weak. I am just a little ill in the vocal cords. I just wanted you to understand.

Gromyko: That is not something that is detrimental to the gist of the talks.

Brezhnev: Let me add that I trust that, as agreed earlier with the President, we will conduct these discussions not from a position of strength but from a position of good will.

[Page 573]

Gromyko: Both sides know the strength of each other well enough.

Brezhnev: That is one point I want you to bear in mind. I certainly will as I conduct the discussion. (Mr. Brezhnev then told the story of people traveling in an open car on a country road in which there is very much dust. When the winds are blowing in your face the dust remains behind and doesn’t cover you. If the wind is coming from the left and you turn right, you avoid the dust. But if the wind is from the left and you turn left, then you can find dust covering you. The only answer to this dilemma is to turn left as fast as you can so as to avoid the dust covering you.)

So we can be guided in these discussions by the need to evade turns which might cover us with dust. This is one example from life that can be translated into policy. These stories always give me an incentive when I see you across the table. Now, if we could get down to the subject of the present discussion.

Kissinger: Did the General Secretary want to continue?

Brezhnev: Yes. We are now confronted with the fact that guns are firing in that area and hostilities are beginning. And that is certainly something to give us cause for concern as a fact, as such. After all, we agreed on both sides to exert efforts in order to find an agreed position. And we agreed to act in a certain way so as to prevent guns from firing, and in such ways to preclude guns from firing in the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, that did not come true. I trust you are equally concerned at the turn that events have taken, and justly so.

And confidence is indicated by the immediate exchange of messages that ensued between us and President Nixon.4 Various reports have appeared in the press, but certainly the fact and the core of the matter lies in the direct exchanges between us and the President. At today’s meeting, I do not want to go into analyzing all the details of the exchange of views that have taken place up until yesterday. We might have to do that tomorrow or the day after in order to compare various positions and elements. But I don’t think we should do that today.

I would like to express the hope, Dr. Kissinger, that you understand me when I say that, in the exchange of messages recently, the most important message was the one I sent to President Nixon the day before yesterday.5 I would certainly welcome it if Dr. Kissinger could comment on my message and proposal in this context because we have not received an official reply. But, instead, we received something very [Page 574] pleasant for us, that is the news that Dr. Kissinger was coming to Moscow. If Dr. Kissinger is in agreement with that, I would be most happy to hear whatever comments that President Nixon has on that score. When I say that I would like to hear that, it is because, on this score, the President has informed me that Dr. Kissinger is empowered to speak on his behalf.

Kissinger: I think, as the Foreign Minister would probably agree, that it is dangerous for a foreign minister in foreign countries to assume that they have full authority. If we come to some understandings, I will still want to check them with the President.

Brezhnev: When Foreign Minister Gromyko is in the United States, he meets you or the President, and he is in exactly the same situation as you. The only thing I can do is to sympathize with both of you.

Kissinger: We have negotiated very much, and I think we can communicate very rapidly. And I have a pretty good estimate of what is possible and what is not possible. So we will not play games with you, while we are here, of hiding behind instructions.

Brezhnev: Dr. Kissinger, these matters are so important and complicated that perhaps I am ahead of myself. I am not talking from a position of threats of military operations but from a much deeper position. After all, for the last year we have been talking against the background of comparative stillness. Now we are talking about one side having moved to another side and another side having to move to this side. If we proceed from those positions, we will never agree.

Kissinger: I agree. (Not translated.)

Brezhnev: Therefore, I believe that both sides must rise above any statements by Golda Meir or Dayan or Sadat or aside. Otherwise, we have nothing to talk about. We can just go away and draw lines according to the relative reports that each side makes. You and I are not Chiefs of Staff, and that is the important fact. Of course, events in the area have a certain significance. We must rise above these factors and take a broader view of the problem. It just so happens that on one side there are certain differences in relationships between the Arabs and us and you, on the one hand, and certain attitudes of Israel toward us and other states. So we should not go into that matter.

Kissinger: Well, Mr. Secretary General, over the last two years, President Nixon and you have established a unique relationship which we believe is essential to the peace of the world. I have said to your Ambassador on behalf of President Nixon that in many areas we exchange ideas and information more freely than any other nations, and, therefore, our relationship has really a unique character. It would be inconceivable, to speak personally, that President Nixon would permit me to leave in the middle of a crisis for any other reason except to talk to the General Secretary about world peace. That is why in the face of do[Page 575]mestic opposition by people opposed to the improvement of relations, the President and his associates have stood absolutely firm and will continue to stand firm for the relaxation of tension and improvement of the relations between the United States and the USSR and founding world peace on the basis of a good relationship. And, therefore, the President will be very glad to hear the comments by the Secretary General that he and his colleagues are dedicated to the principles for which we have both made such a great effort. Our intention is to develop even further these relationships in the remaining years of President Nixon’s terms in office.

Brezhnev: And I certainly reaffirm that once again, including the agreement reached in principle of a new visit by the President to this country in 1974 and then another visit by me in 1975, and then another return visit by the President in 1976.

Kissinger: These principles, of no unilateral advantage, no exacerbation of tensions, are central to the peace of the world, and essential to our relationship. Rarely in history have two countries had such a great opportunity for a cooperative relationship as we have already begun, and even greater in the future.

And, therefore, I agree very much with the General Secretary that, in the conditions of the Middle East, we should not look at the tactical situation and particular grievances. The problem of the Middle East is that the opposing parties have very strong convictions about the local rivalry, but they have no responsibility to the peace of the world. Our present responsibility is to the peace of the world and to apply a global perspective to what is going on in the local area. So it is in this spirit that we should conduct our discussions.

To get to the concrete situation. We have, as we have analyzed, two problems. First, to put an end to hostilities, because as long as the war goes on, there is always the possibility of some irrational act. In reality, each of us is giving to one side, and therefore there is a contest between the U.S. and the Soviet Union for objectives that do not concern our vital long-term national interests.

Secondly, in ending the war we should also make provisions to move energetically to remove the causes of war after the ceasefire has been achieved, and we are prepared to do that. Now our success in bringing about the first objective—the first objective being to bring an end to the war—can be extremely important for our relationship. As your Ambassador must have reported to you, there are many forces in the U.S. right now that are attempting to exploit the current crisis to destroy a policy they have always opposed, namely rapprochement between the United States and the Soviet Union. Therefore, if we should succeed in this trip to develop a joint agreement that would bring an [Page 576] end to the war on reasonable terms, it will be the best counterargument to these people who have claimed that we can no longer cooperate.

Brezhnev: I would add that this would have great importance for public opinion all over the world and people everywhere would take an entirely different view of our relationships if we do achieve our objective. And I will add that it will bring to an end all allegations about the two super powers wanting to dictate their will to others. And those allegations relate equally to your side and ours. Some say the United States can’t be believed, and others say the same things about the Soviet Union. I’d say that, if we can bring an end to the gunfire, we can also bring an end to this slanderous allegation.

Kissinger: That’s exactly our attitude.

Brezhnev: That is of paramount importance. That objective would be a great help to us in pursuing a policy we have been pursuing of late.

Kissinger: That is exactly why the President sent me here.

Brezhnev: As I said, it is certainly something I value very highly.

Kissinger: Let me make one or two practical comments and then make a few observations about the message the General Secretary sent to the President on Thursday6 night.

I will have to leave Monday7 afternoon at 2:00, or the latest 3:00, o’clock, either to return to the United States or to make one stop on the way depending on our conversations. If I make that stop, it will be in Israel. The reason, I will be very honest with you, Mr. General Secretary, is that we have not had an opportunity for full discussion with Israel as you have had, during the visit of your Prime Minister Kosygin, with the Arab countries.

Brezhnev: Well, Kosygin’s visit only enabled us to exchange views with President Sadat.8 He did not exchange views whatsoever with Syria or Iraq or the other countries.

Kissinger: In the spirit with which we talk to each other, the reason we have not been very explicit with Israel is because we didn’t want to unleash a propaganda campaign in the United States before we knew where we were going. And this we could not know until we talked to you. As your Ambassador may have told you, your friend Senator Jackson at the moment is engaged in a very active campaign against me and the President, accusing us of having been taken in by you, which is not impossible considering the General Secretary’s persuasive power.

(Mr. Brezhnev stands up at the mention of the words “Senator Jackson” and asks for water immediately. Laughter.)

[Page 577]

Gromyko: This should not be repeated.

Brezhnev: I will lose my voice completely. I might not lose my voice, but I think it will bring the discussion to a close. (He stands again. Laughter.) Will you please make it easier for me, calling him “our friend” and “your friend?”

Kissinger: I agree. That is our first agreement.

Brezhnev: Good. We will handle this, but we will have to think of the tactics of implementation together with the special agreements reached.

Kissinger: Now, if I may suggest . . .

Brezhnev: And I think we can both agree if we say that the question before us is far from being an easy one.

Kissinger: For both of us.

Brezhnev: And we certainly should not labor under any illusions about the fact that the two sides of the conflict, the Arabs and Israelis, have totally different, opposing views on this entire matter. That should not deprive us of the opportunity in terms of finding a solution to ensure peace and tranquility in the area, with all the necessary guarantees of sovereignty—whatever they want, let them have it so long as there is tranquility in the area. Both sides, the U.S. and the Soviet Union, have an interest over anything else to achieve tranquility on both sides.

Kissinger: Now the central point is that we have an impossible problem when every few years war breaks out and threatens world peace for objectives which neither the United States nor the Soviet Union can determine.

Brezhnev: That is indeed very well said. It was not for nothing—and I did not mean to bear pressure on the President—when I indicated in my last message that the continuation of the present situation could expose the entire area of the Middle East and involve other matters, for example, oil for all leading to hostility toward the U.S., etc. I had in mind those circles in the United States who are inflaming matters, promoting hysteria, unmindful of all the implications of this for the prestige of the United States and the world, and oblivious as patriotic American citizens.

Therefore, I wrote from the bottom of my heart, and we can state as facts today. Dr. Kissinger, you and I have spent many hours and days together in very complicated discussions. I trust you are very familiar with my manner of speaking, and I am telling you this in frankness and sincerity. In all my discussions with you, Dr. Kissinger, and the President, in our replies we have always taken account the differences existing in our respective societies. In this country, we have complete unity of views and aspirations; we don’t have the difference of views [Page 578] and shouting of the U.S. We have to be continually aware that the situation in the United States is different, very different from ours. It does not mean we cannot agree in principle. First and foremost, we must display goodwill toward one another. My attitude is also prompted by the lofty responsibility I have when conducting negotiations entrusted to me by our leadership.

Kissinger: For these reasons . . . I agree also that it is impermissible to let this or that tactical situation determine our discussions over the next few days. The first reason is that we can’t find out the truth. And, secondly, while, whose tanks move five kilometers forward on one side or the other is terribly important to one side or the other, it’s basically irrelevant to the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Brezhnev: Of course, some factors do have some relevance to these relationships. That is only too natural because arms are being delivered to Israel; and we are fulfilling our agreement that we had gone into with Egypt and Syria, four years ahead, these existing longstanding agreements according to which we must send so many guns.

Kissinger: To us it looks like you are fulfilling the four-year agreement in two weeks. It is an impressive performance.

Brezhnev: I didn’t hear what you said. My only answer would be to turn the whole thing around.

Kissinger: Perhaps if we settle the other problems, this problem will settle itself. At some point, we should talk because both sides keep pouring arms into the area. And an explosive situation can arise because of our actions.

Brezhnev: And the situation will become even graver; in fact, things can reach a point today we can even foresee.

Kissinger: Let me make this suggestion. I’ll make some comments on the three points of your message of Thursday night. Then perhaps we can meet tomorrow and be concrete about where we go from here. I read in a book that I should not negotiate after an airplane trip. At any rate, I am at a disadvantage with the Secretary General, and I don’t wish to compound this by negotiating right off an airplane—not to speak of the Foreign Minister.

Brezhnev: I can’t conduct myself from a position of advantage—all the more so because Dr. Kissinger still has to fulfil his promise to give me a belt. He’s given me a holster, but no belt.

Kissinger: You’re right.

(Mr. Brezhnev stands up.)

(There was then some discussion of the two pistols and the belt that Secretary Kissinger promised Mr. Brezhnev as well as a reference to Mr. Gromyko’s wearing a hat saying “Nixon’s the One.” There was [Page 579] further discussion about how much money it would take to get Mr. Gromyko to wear the hat and who would split the money.)

Brezhnev: Dr. Kissinger, I certainly appreciate the fact that you have had no chance to rest and that you are tired after your flight. I am perfectly willing to hear what you have to say about the three principles that I mentioned to the President. I am not offering tea or coffee because I will hope you will join me for a private supper. You must have some food.

Kissinger: I already had some at the Guest House, but I will be glad to join. Let me make a few comments.

As I understand it, the General Secretary’s message to the President had three principles for a ceasefire and then an associated understanding. Speaking very generally of the three principles, the first is, in general, acceptable. By the time Kornienko, Sonnenfeldt, and Sisco work on it, this will not be easy to recognize. But, in principle, it is acceptable. It is a drafting problem.

The third principle is also, in general, acceptable, although it presents a slightly more complex drafting problem, but I believe a soluble one. That is, we accept the idea represented here. It is a question how to express it in ways that take account all the complexities.

The second principle has some ideas which we can accept, such as reference to the Security Council Resolution 242.

Gromyko: Can or can’t?

Kissinger: Can. But I must say something. We can accept it in principle; the rest of it is expressed with perhaps unnecessary precision and refers to matters like “to the line of Security Council Resolution 242.” As you know, the resolution does not establish a line, but a general principle. It contains an idea, Mr. General Secretary, and if we work on it in a spirit that you and I have expressed, we should be able to find a formulation that is mutually acceptable.

Now on the understanding which you suggest, namely that you and we in some sense should provide auspices under which negotiations take place, we are quite sympathetic to that. (Ambassador Dobrynin translates further.) We are not rejecting the idea—on the contrary. I must point out to you, Mr. General Secretary, that it is my impression that Israel, at this moment, would reject a reference to Security Council Resolution 242. I must simply point this out for your information.

Brezhnev: Israel?

Kissinger: That is our impression. We have not had a chance for a full discussion, so we will have to weigh speed against the formulation at some point.

[Page 580]

But to sum up, our belief is that in the proposal you transmitted to us we can incorporate much of the language without specific references as a possibility.

(Gromyko and Brezhnev confer.)

So to sum up our reaction, we believe what you transmitted to us was constructive. It has the basis for a solution and should be discussed in detail tomorrow. And we will be prepared to do that with specific language, point two being the one that is most difficult.

Brezhnev: That is a point I wanted to raise myself. The Foreign Minister is quite right in raising it. Apart from the various collections of the various principles and forums, whether or not you decide to accept the principles such as referring to the resolution and other matters, one very important fact is the question of guarantees, and the form the guarantees will assume in implementing the principles once they have been agreed upon by the two sides. It is a fact that the so-called Security Council guarantees have of late become less than reliable. The Arab world doesn’t believe in them; Israel doesn’t accept them. So I don’t think we can leave the matter tomorrow without drawing up guarantees. For if we just gave the Security Council a paper, that would be dooming the matter to failure. We feel we must give thought to a form of guarantee of a different kind, and we can agree on this tomorrow. In principle, it is hardly worthwhile to entrust the guarantee to those parties. For example, if we give the guarantee to a man like Waldheim, it would be just an empty gesture. No one believes he is capable of enough guarantee.

Kissinger: I think the General Secretary is wrong. Mr. Waldheim believes he could guarantee it.

Brezhnev: That is possible.

Kissinger: I wish you would invite him to Moscow because he calls me three times a day.

Brezhnev: I would do that, but there’s no empty space here for him. The same goes for the so-called Jarring Mission.9 He’s left the scene altogether. Realistically, if our two countries could come to a conclusion, then we would be believed by all parties. If the U.S. and the Soviet Union could find an acceptable form to provide the necessary guarantees, if that were done, it would be believed by the Arab world, the Israelis, and the entire world. I am convinced—because our guarantees are not taken lightly. I doubt in the future that there would be any doubt about the guarantees of our two countries. So we need to get together and reach an accord on guarantees.

[Page 581]

I certainly appreciate your joke about Waldheim. He has only a narrow capability to give effect to guarantees. I get the irony of that remark.

(Mr. Brezhnev then tells a story about a scientist who was considered a towering figure, but this was very ironic because he was a very weak person.)

I see that you have, in brief, touched upon the three principles. I appreciate the fact that you have had certain reservations about guarantees and don’t want to refer to them right now. But if you could say a few words on this, it would help our planning for tomorrow.

Kissinger: No, I’m prepared to do this, Mr. General Secretary. I’m like a professor.

Brezhnev: Good. Just let me add that, as we see it, these guarantees need not be in the form of a Security Council resolution, but in the form of a guarantee bilaterally.

Gromyko: Bilateral, in the sense of two powers?

Kissinger: There are two senses. One, a guarantee to speed up the process, and two, a guarantee to assure the results of the process are, in fact, carried out.

Gromyko: We were talking about the second, the guarantees that were related to the second point.

Kissinger: I had the impression that it was used in connection with both senses, that you propose that we assume responsibility for speeding up the consultations and afterwards to guarantee the results.

Gromyko: Yes.

Kissinger: In principle, we are prepared to move in that direction in both senses, keeping in mind it is a very delicate problem. I agree that the Secretary General can’t do it. I agree that in the Security Council, if the permanent members were to do it, they would fight among each other rather than settling local disputes. So we understand the problem. We would have to discuss how to give effect to a bilateral understanding, but in principle it is not rejected.

Some of my colleagues are of the impression that Alexandrov agrees with what I just said.

Brezhnev: I cannot see Alexandrov.

As I see it then, in principle, all the points in our last message are acceptable as a basis for discussion. What we have to do is to think over ways to correlate them in appropriate form.

Kissinger: Except there’s a paragraph which has a precision we don’t think is necessary.

Gromyko: We will talk with you tomorrow.

Brezhnev: In short, it’s a question of formulating a joint position.

[Page 582]

Kissinger: And how we express the obligations of 242.

Brezhnev: Now we are agreed after that discussion on the basic principles.

Kissinger: Good, Mr. General Secretary.

Brezhnev: You have experienced a time difference. I would suggest we start tomorrow at 11:00 o’clock and meet without any time limit.

Kissinger: I agree. That gives the Ambassador a chance to go to a Mass in the morning.

Brezhnev: That is his innermost desire. Good.

Kissinger: Thank you.10

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 76, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Kissinger Trip to Moscow, Tel Aviv, & London, October 20–22, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting was held in Brezhnev’s office in the Kremlin. Brezhnev requested that the President send Kissinger to Moscow “in an urgent manner” in a note to Nixon that Dobrynin read to Kissinger on the telephone on October 19. Nixon agreed later that day. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXV, Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1973, Documents 209 and 210.
  2. Nixon’s October 20 message to Brezhnev states that “Kissinger speaks with my full authority.” For the entire text of the message, see ibid., Document 215.
  3. Brezhnev replied on October 20; see ibid., Document 215, footnote 4.
  4. See Documents 138, 139, and 140.
  5. The October 18 message outlined three provisions that the Soviets wanted to include in a draft resolution of the Security Council. Additionally, the Soviets proposed that both the United States and USSR sponsor the resolution. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXV, Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1973, Document 202.
  6. October 18. See footnote 5 above.
  7. October 22.
  8. Kosygin traveled to Cairo and met with Sadat on October 17 and 18.
  9. See footnote 6, Document 130.
  10. For Kissinger’s report to Nixon on this meeting, see Scowcroft’s October 21 memorandum for the President’s file, printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXV, Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1973, Document 219.