153. Letter From Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev to President Nixon1

Dear Mr. President,

I have received and carefully studied your letter of November 3.2 As well as you, we want to be sure that on the basis of fundamental agreements and understandings that we have previously achieved we shall not only overcome the present Middle East crisis but we shall also move even further ahead in strengthening relations between our countries. We, on our part, from the very beginning of events in the Middle East, proceeded from this very perspective and correspondingly built our line of actions in accordance with them.

At the same time it is obvious to us that in order to proceed further along this path it is very important not simply to damp down temporarely the acuteness of the Middle East crisis but to do away with its roots. To do otherwise would mean to act contrary to the lesson that latest events in the Middle East taught us.

Certainly, to find cardinal solutions for the Middle East is not an easy task. In this case one needs selfcontrol and tact but not less also energy and principled approach. Without this nobody and nothing can gurantee us from a new explosion in the Middle East with possible even greater complications. We now believe in this as firmly as when we warned you before about unexpectedness and dangers lying in wait for us in the Middle East.

I shall not now touch upon the details of the Middle East problem, we have done this more than once, and soon they will be a subject of negotiations between sides concerned with active participation of the USSR and the US, what we have agreed between ourselves. I shall emphasize only one thing: the key element of the Middle East settlement was and still is the question of withdrawal of Israeli troops from all the Arab territories occupied by them in 1967 with simultaneous provision for guaranteed security—with the participation of the USSR and the US—of all states of that area, including Israel.

To make the progress in the Soviet-American relations more stable and less painful it is very important also, in our view, to draw correct [Page 626] conclusions from the latest developments, both taking place in the Middle East and accompanying them.

You write, Mr. President, that throughout the difficult days of the Arab-Israeli conflict you have kept carefully in mind the second of the Basic Principles of relations between the USSR and the US, and you quote in your letter certain parts of that Principle. Neither did and do we forget even for a minute both the quoted by you and other provisions of the Basic Principles, including those related to preventing the development of situations capable of causing a dangerous exacerbation of the relations between the USSR and the US or situations capable of increasing international tensions. We also remember and strictly follow the Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War, including its Article IV, providing for urgent consultations between the USSR and the US when certain situations emerge.

Since you yourself touched upon the importance for the sides of living up to the provisions of the above basic documents and in order to make that question completely clear for the future, I should frankly tell you, that some steps taken by the US in this period of time cannot be considered by us as fully corresponding to the letter and spirit of those documents. I have already informed you about my opinion regarding that matter, and I do not think it is necessary now to touch upon the issue again.3

I believe it extremely important that we and you have common understanding of what has happened and that both sides make equally correct conclusions from that.

I agree with you that the fundamental documents signed at the two Soviet-American summit meetings have passed the test in the concrete situation and that now it is in real life that their deep substance has already been reconfirmed. The fact was also proved that the peace of the world greatly depends on the actions and policies of our two countries. That once again emphasizes the responsibility resting upon their leadership and necessity of exerting all efforts to remove dangerous hotbeds of conflicts. Everybody will benefit from that and none will lose with the exception of those who would seek profit for themselves from the opposite development of events. And such forces, as you know, do exist.

It is with satisfaction that we note your reaffirmation of our agreement of bringing the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe to successful conclusion in the near future. I am convinced that through joint efforts of our countries the success of that Conference will [Page 627] be ensured inspite of the artificial obstacles which are sometime being created on its path.

We consider it important in this respect to have between us an understanding regarding the necessity to strictly adhere to the principle of noninterference into internal affairs of states. I recall that you had fully agreed with the necessity to adhere to this principle strictly. Secretary of State Kissinger spoke about it in his recent talks with A. A. Gromyko in Washington.4

We also believe in the success of the negotiations which started recently in Vienna on the reduction of armed forces and armaments in Central Europe. As we have already told you it would be probably unrealistic to put before us the goal of achieving at once major reductions. It is important, however, to commence the process of reducing armed forces and armaments in that area and, as I have recently stated in public, the Soviet Union would be prepared to such reductions already in 1975. Evidently, we will have additionally to exchange views on this matter in a more specific way. The most important thing here is not to try to change the existing situation to the detriment of the interests of security of any of the parties.

As for the negotiations on the limitation of strategic arms going on in Geneva, indeed, no special progress has been shown as yet there. Attaching great importance to that question, we are considering all its aspects now. We shall be also prepared to review carefully those concrete thoughts which some time ago Dr. Kissinger promised to send us by the end of October but which we have not yet received. In this question as well, the main thing now as it was in the past is that, while taking any steps on the limitation of strategic arms, the interests of neither side are infringed upon and equal security for them is provided, taking into account as well the unequal strategic position of both sides. Proceeding from that main premise, we would like to find real points in common between our respective positions and to work out a joint good basis for agreement. Of course, we agree that a confidential exchange of views on that question should continue between Ambassador Dobrynin and Secretary of State Kissinger.

We share the satisfaction, expressed by you, Mr. President, concerning the fact that the bilateral relations between our countries continue to develop and that numerous agreements, signed during the past two years, are being in general successfully carried out.

This cannot be said, however, about one sphere of our relations.

I have in mind the issues of trade and economic relation which presently happen to be to a large extent in a suspended condition be[Page 628]cause the question of granting the Soviet Union the most-favored-nation treatment in trade with the US remains unsolved.5 To-day the respective understanding reached at Moscow meeting and confirmed during my visit to the United States still remains unrealized.

It is, of course, up to the American side to define how and at what moment to better solve this problem. We cannot, however, remain unconcerned when attempts are being made to somehow tie up the problem of granting the most-favored-nation treatment for the Soviet Union with other completely unrelated questions, when the solution of this problem is in essence being conditioned by the USSR position at the Middle East negotiations.

If some people in the United States continue to consider that the Soviet Union allegedly is interested in development of economic ties with the US more that Americans themselves, and therefore, they say, attempts should be made to get from the USSR “an additional price” for it at the expense of some principal concessions to the detriment of our social and state system, then I would like once more to stress the following.

We stand for the development of large scale and long-term trade, economic, scientific and technological ties between our countries. We are convinced that such their development would be mutually beneficial to the USSR and the US on purely practical grounds as well, and at the same time that would make our political relations more stable. But there is only one possible basis for the development of Soviet-American relations including the economic sphere: full equality of the sides and complete non-interference into each other’s internal affairs.

Speaking about all this I and my colleagues would like to tell you that we view with understanding the complexities you have to face in undertaking certain steps aimed at the deepening of the cooperation between our countries in accordance with the letter and spirit of the agreements concluded between us.

Without claiming for ourselves the right to go deeper into the question of the source of these difficulties since one can easily slip into analyzing some aspects of purely internal situation in the US, we would like to emphasize that we do value very much your efforts directed at the implementation of those agreements between us which have not been carried out yet. We have not also passed by your repeated statements to the effect that the commitment taken by the Amer[Page 629]ican side in the field of strengthening economic ties between the Soviet Union and the US will be fulfilled.

We would like to think that you and your closest assistants and aides see better what has to be done on the American part to bring this whole matter to the successful end.

We would like, so to say, to wish you in a personal human way energy and success in overcoming all sorts of complexities, the causes of which are not so easy to understand at a distance.

For the understandable reasons our wishes of success relate first of all to the field of developing Soviet-American relations, the great significance of which for easing further international tensions in the world has been already properly appreciated by the peoples including peoples of our countries.

In conclusion, I would like to tell you, Mr. President, once again with full certainty that our determination to proceed further along the path of decisive improvement in the Soviet-American relations has not diminished as a result of the events in the Middle East. And we note with satisfaction that you are also resolved, as your letter says, to persevere on the chosen course.


L. Brezhnev6
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Material, 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 to Gen. Scowcroft by Yuri Babenko 4:30 p.m. 11/10/73.” Babenko was a Third Secretary in the Soviet Embassy.
  2. Document 152.
  3. See Document 149.
  4. See Document 137.
  5. A reference to the administration’s attempts to either delete Title IV of the 1973 Trade Bill, which included the JacksonVanik Amendment, or delay Congressional consideration of the bill. For documentation, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXI, Foreign Economic Policy, 1973–1976, Documents 188199.
  6. Printed from a copy that bears Brezhnev’s typed signature.