171. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Nikolay V. Podgorny, Chairman, Presidium, USSR Supreme Soviet
  • Vsevolod Kizichenko, Minister-Counsellor, Soviet Embassy, Paris
  • Andrey M. Vavilov, Interpreter
  • The President
  • Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Assistant to the President
  • Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

The President’s breakfast meeting with Podgorny lasted about one hour and three-quarters. A good part of it was composed of conversation about ballet (Kirov versus Bolshoi), opera, food, reminiscences of the Kremlin and Leningrad and where the President might go during the next trip. (Podgorny suggested perhaps Georgia, Uzbekistan and Bratsk, but was rather noncommittal.)

Podgorny began the substance of the meeting with a remark about press stories to the effect that Secretary Kissinger’s trip to Moscow was a failure. He said they were lies; while Kissinger did not find common basis on some subjects, there was progress. He said there were those in the United States (and fringe elements like Solzhenitzyn and Sakharov2 in the USSR) who were against improved relations, but we must resist them and press on. He knew that Secretary Kissinger and the President were trying and he hoped all Moscow agreements would be implemented—especially those involving trade and MFN. The President responded that we had very tough problems in Congress but that he had made a promise in Moscow and would do his utmost to fulfill it.

Podgorny then took the United States to task for statements that the United States had to be first in defense, noting that it resulted in some of their people doing the same. He could understand when the military and Secretary Schlesinger did it, but not “political leaders.” [Page 818] Our relations must be based on equality. The President agreed, but said that did not mean equality in everything; for example, they had a bigger army and we a bigger navy, although they were building rapidly.

On the summit, Podgorny thought there could be no agreement on a test ban and on SALT. He said MIRVs pose a difficult question but that this could be worked out on a basis of equality—noting that the USSR was far behind and a freeze would not be equal. The President responded by saying he would be personally involved in U.S. SALT analysis. He noted that Soviet throw-weight was much greater so that their MIRVs were more destabilizing than ours. Podgorny said it could be worked out, whether it was 600, 1000, or 1,2000 MIRVed missiles.

The President asked Podgorny to look into the future. If we two limit arms and perhaps reduced them, what about the PRC. Podgorny said the Soviets are optimistic about US-Soviet ability to develop mutual confidence and control arms, but if the PRC continued to build up, it would be dangerous—for us as well as them. We need to find a way “to drag the PRC into the field of disarmament.” He said he understood our relations with PRC were “in a state of freeze.” He added that the PRC is trying to drive a wedge between us. We both would like better relations with the Chinese. The present leaders are not eternal.

The President mentioned that it was of importance not to have a runaway arms race in conventional arms. Podgorny acknowledged that was so.

On the Middle East, Podgorny expressed extreme disappointment with U.S. behavior. He insisted that negotiations for a settlement should take place within the framework of Geneva. The President responded that it was important as an urgent first step to defuse a very unstable military situation, but we are working hard for a permanent peace and wished to consult closely with the USSR. We should use all available measures to move the situation to a position of greater stability. The USSR should not underestimate the strength of Israeli concerns and should move in a manner which took account of their sensitivities. He concluded we would work closely with the Soviets and would talk further about it with Gromyko next week.

The President and Podgorny then concluded their conversation during a walk in the garden at Ambassador Irwin’s residence.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 69, Country Files—Europe—USSR, US–USSR Presidential Exchanges, TS-/Sensitive, 1974. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting was held at the residence of the U.S. Ambassador in Paris. Nixon was in Paris from April 5 to 7 to attend memorial services for former French President Pompidou.
  2. Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov, a nuclear physicist and dissident, urged the Soviet Government to work with the United States to limit ABMs in order to prevent nuclear war.