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

Dear Mr. General Secretary:

We have been in close and frequent contact in recent weeks in regard to the Middle East crisis. Much remains to be done to ensure implementation of the cease-fire and to commence the process that will bring about an acceptable and lasting settlement. We are working hard on bringing about a full implementation of the cease-fire. With respect to a permanent settlement, it is my policy to work closely with you within the framework of the understanding initialled by Foreign Minister Gromyko and Secretary Kissinger in Moscow.2

Today I would like to share with you some thoughts concerning the prospects for our relations as a whole.

Without reviewing in detail the many messages we have exchanged since early October or attempting now to characterize the course of events, I think it can be said that it has never been made clearer how much the peace of the world depends on the actions and policies of our two countries. This is true both in a negative and a positive sense. For we have seen that when we cooperate the prospects for peace can be advanced whereas the failure to do so can easily produce situations fraught with the gravest danger. Both of us recognized this truth when we met in Moscow and in this country and the agreements we signed on those occasions were a formal expression of it. Yet, as so often in history, it has taken concrete events, in real life, to give substance to what was set forth in documents.

The current crisis has led me to reflect again on the wisdom of the Principles to which we agreed in Moscow as the basis for our relations and on the agreement on the prevention of nuclear war which represented a further elaboration of those Principles. I want to assure you of the importance I attach to the course you and I have jointly charted.

I should like to stress that throughout the difficult days of the Arab-Israeli conflict we have kept carefully in mind the second of the Basic Principles in which “both sides recognized that efforts to obtain unilateral advantage at the expense of the other, directly or indirectly, [Page 623] are inconsistent” with the fundamental objectives of peaceful relations and the avoidance of confrontations. Likewise, we have sought meticulously to live up to the final sentence of the Second Principle in which we agreed that the “prerequisites for maintaining and strengthening peaceful relations between the USA and USSR are the recognition of the security interests of the Parties based on the principle of equality and the renunciation of the use or threat of force.” I remain totally convinced that these prescriptions for our mutual conduct must be our constant guide, and I am confident that on the basis of all the agreements we have concluded we will not only surmount the present crisis but make further progress in cementing our relationship.

Our two countries are at the moment engaged in several important conferences and negotiations. The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe is continuing its work in Geneva and I am hopeful that it will produce beneficial results before too much time elapses. We remain guided by the approach we agreed to at our last summit meeting. The second phase of the effort to negotiate mutual force reductions in central Europe has also just begun.3 I believe that if our two countries work toward the goal of safeguarding the security of all concerned, a goal I know we share, these important negotiations can be crowned with success in the shortest possible time.

The negotiations for the limitation of strategic arms have not progressed as rapidly as I had hoped following our agreement on basic principles in Washington last June.4 Secretary Kissinger has told me of Foreign Minister Gromyko’s comments to him on this subject during your most recent meeting with him in Moscow.5 I will of course look forward with keen anticipation to the results of your own review of the difficult issues involved but I want to assure you that for our part we are not standing still. We are seeking to establish the elements that would make up a meaningful and equitable agreement which would place permanent limitations on the strategic offensive arms of both sides and which would place the strategic relationship of our two countries on a basis of enduring stability. I recognize, as I know you do, that the complexities involved are great because the technology of strategic weaponry is difficult to bring under control and because there are many differences in the military requirements of our two countries which any agreement must take into account. Because of these complexities it is important that we continue our frank and informal exchanges and Ambassador Dobrynin and Secretary Kissinger keep in close touch, so that neither sides “freezes” itself into rigid negotiating [Page 624] positions. I would like you to know, incidentally, that it is precisely for this reason that our side has not tabled a new proposal in Geneva following the submission of your most recent proposal.

Mr. General Secretary, I have been encouraged to note that despite recent tensions, our bilateral relations have progressed satisfactorily, based on the numerous agreements signed by our two governments during the past two years. This demonstrates that our relationship has already achieved considerable stability and is able to withstand, at least to a degree, the kind of turbulence which has recently taken place. I make this observation not from a sense of complacency but because I believe we have here a new phenomenon in international relations.

As you know, it has not yet been possible to obtain the legislation required to complete the commercial agreements we concluded last year.6 The situation in our Congress remains complicated in this regard and, as I am sure you will understand, has not been made easier by recent events. Nevertheless, my commitment to the growth of mutually advantageous economic relations between us remains firm. I want to assure you again that whatever moves the Administration may make with respect to our trade legislation are designed solely to prevent the adoption of harmful measures by the Congress and to provide a basis for subsequently obtaining the legislative authority I need in order to implement our agreements. Let me say in this connection that I have vigorously resisted all efforts to tie matters that are your domestic concern to this issue. I will continue to do so, bearing in mind, at the same time, the very helpful steps you have unilaterally taken.

Mr. General Secretary, I thought it was desirable to step back some paces from the urgent and immediate events that continue to preoccupy us to give you a sense of my assessment of our current relations. My conclusion is that we are on the right course and that we must use recent events to strengthen our resolve to persevere.


Richard M. Nixon 7
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 69, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 20, October 12–November 21, 1973. No classification marking. A handwritten note at the top of the page reads, “Hand delivered 11/3/73 1:05 pm to Amb Dobrynin.”
  2. A reference to the U.S.-Soviet draft that became UN Security Council Resolution 338. See Document 144.
  3. MBFR negotiations began in Vienna October 30.
  4. See Document 129.
  5. Not further identified.
  6. Presumably a reference to the Long-Term Economic Agreement and the Lend-Lease Agreement.
  7. Printed from a copy that bears Nixon’s typed signature.