156. Memorandum by Secretary of State Kissinger for the President’s File1


  • Meeting with Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, in the Oval Office, Wednesday, December 26, 1973, 10:35–11:29 a.m.


  • The President
  • Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin
  • Secretary of State Kissinger

The President greeted Ambassador Dobrynin during a photo opportunity.

The President began the conversation by remarking on the vote in the Congress on the Trade Bill which prohibited MFN for the Soviet Union on grounds of restricted emigration.2 It was a “miserable vote.” The opponents of MFN were American Jewish groups and others who were hawks in the Middle East but doves in Viet Nam. The opponents thought better relations between the Soviet Union and the United States served parochial interests. The Europeans, too, were now attacking détente. But the United States and the Soviet Union were the two nations that mattered in the world today. It may not last, the President suggested. But we must take the responsibility. Ambassador Dobrynin asked, Why be so pessimistic?

The point of the matter, the President continued, was that we had to understand that the shape of the world would be determined by our two countries. Such matters as arms control in Europe were very much determined by us. The United States and the Soviet Union must come out working together in a world where the two superpowers can organize the world.

The newspapers did not reflect his views, the President continued. The course on which we were now embarked was irreversible.

Our decisions were so important, because of the danger of miscalculation. “Maybe we made a mistake in October,” the President said, “maybe you did.” But it was an interesting thing, with Jackson and with the liberals all moving to the right.

[Page 648]

The main thing was the shape of the world, the peace of the world. General Secretary Brezhnev must have his own problems. The American press was creating the impression that we could not succeed. Communication between our two sides could help the peace of the world. There were different kinds of opportunities for different countries. For our part, “we will continue to work together.”

Ambassador Dobrynin thanked the President for his remarks. The President had just covered the whole gamut. The Ambassador wanted to mention his analysis of the situation including our domestic situation. It was important to keep our relationship on a frank and good basis. He wanted to keep it on a personal basis.

On the Middle East, the Ambassador said that we agreed on the main points and he did not want to go into detail. A crisis should not occur. Both governments should work together in close cooperation and should not let the opposing sides in the conflict pit us against each other. The Soviet side was going to see to it very carefully that foreign policy would not pit us against each other. General Secretary Brezhnev gave instructions to Gromyko that he should work closely together with the United States, and there was very good cooperation at the Geneva Peace Conference.

The President emphasized one point he wanted to make to the Ambassador—that we must not be in conflict and we must not have one side try to drive the other out. That was a short-sighted view. The Ambassador agreed. It went without saying that that approach must not be used by either side. He looked forward to close cooperation as the negotiations proceeded. He wanted to mention once again that as the Soviet side evaluated the situation, the task was to make progress on implementing Security Council Resolution 339. Ambassador Dobrynin complimented Secretary Kissinger for bringing the parties together.

“I will deliver the Israelis,” the President declared. “It will be done.”

Ambassador Dobrynin then raised other matters of Soviet-American relations. On MFN, he expressed appreciation for the hard work the President and Dr. Kissinger had done on this. Of course the Soviet Union hoped the issue would be resolved. The President remarked that the idea that one nation could force the other nation to change its domestic system was clearly foolish.

Ambassador Dobrynin reiterated that General Secretary Brezhnev wanted the President to know that the Soviet Union stood firmly on the course of Soviet-American relations that was shaped at the two Summit meetings. Mr. Brezhnev was going to stand very firm on this, and he was firmly looking forward to the next meeting. Mr. Brezhnev gave instructions to prepare for a Summit meeting in mid-June. Secretary Kiss[Page 649]inger should come to Moscow in February to prepare the work of the Summit.

The President agreed that that would be a good idea, either at the beginning of February or in March.

Ambassador Dobrynin pointed out that General Secretary Brezhnev shared the President’s view that many nations wanted to undermine the progress in US-Soviet relations. Hundreds of times Mr. Brezhnev had explained to his allies that the US-Soviet Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War was not to be misunderstood.

Ambassador Dobrynin emphasized the Soviet view that our relations were not directed at the Chinese. The President interjected with a question: What was the Soviet intelligence on how long it would take the Chinese to catch up with the United States and the Soviet Union? We thought it was twenty years. Why did the Soviets think it was 10–15 years? Ambassador Dobrynin asked the President what the question was. Did he still think it would take twenty years? The President turned to Dr. Kissinger, who said that it was not a question of a Chinese capability comparable to that of the United States or Soviet Union, but a Chinese capability to do extreme damage. Ambassador Dobrynin emphasized the extreme demands of the Chinese in their border dispute.

The President noted that some like Senator Mondale3 might go as far as military assistance to China. But the President’s view was that we must not let anything in the world interfere with or poison our relations. What had always sunk great powers were the conflicts of smaller powers. He asked the Ambassador to remember the statement at Camp David that we must restore the spirit of Yalta.4 What made Yalta work was that the great powers didn’t permit small nations to interfere. We should not let matters like Cienfuegos or Hungary,5 etc., do us in, he concluded.

The meeting thereafter ended.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 69, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 21 [November 23–December 31, 1973]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only.
  2. The House of Representatives passed the Trade Bill on December 11. The House version of the bill included the JacksonVanik Amendment.
  3. Walter F. Mondale, Democratic Senator from Minnesota.
  4. A reference to the Yalta Conference, February 4–11, 1945.
  5. A reference to the Soviet military buildup in Cienfuegos, Cuba and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.