182. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Richard Nixon
  • Anatoli F. Dobrynin, Soviet Ambassador
  • Major General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Dobrynin: I just got a personal note from Brezhnev. [He reads:]

“The time of your visit is coming closer. We will exchange ideas. As it approaches, time may not permit much unless we begin preparations. Our meetings promise to be impressive. We will be able to reach agreement on ABM, a threshold test ban, long-term economic cooperation, scientific and technical cooperation, energy, construction and artificial heart. We continue to proceed from the possibility of progress on other problems where our discussions have not reached the point of drafting but we expect to reach agreement. In human terms, I want to express some thoughts I have. We attentively follow events in the United States. Much of what is happening is not understandable to us, but it is clear that the forces which are up in arms against the President are not friendly and also these are matters which affect not only internal politics but also foreign policy as well. Foreign policy is the toughest issue for opponents to attack for those who want to undermine the important things in the US-Soviet agreement and the other things you and I have agreed upon.”

“The best testimony that our joint course is correct is that détente is close to the hearts of the Soviet and American people. My colleagues and I do not identify the opponents with the majority of the American people. You, even with your domestic problems, are busy with foreign policy, including US-Soviet relations. That is the course for a statesman. [Page 892] Tenacity and firm spirit are needed, and these the President has. There are those who may think you may give way but we note with satisfaction that you will not give them such a pleasure.”

“We are telling you this personally from the good relations enjoyed between us and believing in the success of our forthcoming meeting. Meanwhile we are looking forward to your visit and the visit of Dr. Kissinger.”

President: I don’t want you to think that domestic politics will affect my trip or our relations. Mansfield agrees. Jackson is just playing 1976 politics. The important thing is not my problems—they will pass—but the legacy of peace that we will leave. Brezhnev and I came up the hard way. Both of us believe deeply in our own systems, and we bargain hard. But we see overriding our interests in peace. We must overcome our domestic problems. Tell Brezhnev not to worry about me and my health.

As you know, Kissinger’s visit has been delayed. I hope he settles it so we don’t have to talk about it—just the general area of the Middle East.

As I told your Parliamentarians,2 the idea the U.S. is playing a role to force out the Soviet Union is baloney. As you know, right now we are the only ones who can handle the Israelis. As I told a group the other day, only the U.S. and the Soviet Union can resolve the big issues of peace in the world. We won’t always agree, but we must have close contact. As for the Kissinger trip, I hope we can meet with you first to iron things out to see if a trip is required.

Dobrynin: Kissinger and I are having lunch on Thursday.3

President: The main problem is MIRV. It’s tough for your and for our military.

Dobrynin: When Kissinger was with Brezhnev last time, Brezhnev was very outspoken on the situation.

President: As you know, I may visit the Middle East. It depends on the negotiation. The main point is we must announce the Soviet trip before my Middle East trip. Since I have to be here in July, I probably would have to go in June or postpone it to November. The Soviet trip comes first. A Middle East trip doesn’t take preparation.

Dobrynin: It will be good that the Soviet trip will be announced first.

[Page 893]

President: Yes, let’s try to do it Thursday or Friday.4 I understand Brezhnev will go to the Middle East. That is good. We both must play a role in the Middle East. We don’t want to push you out at all. The Middle East requires the participation of us both.

I told Boumediene the Soviet Union has a relationship there and so do we.5 We may compete at times, but we cannot try to push each other out. There are differences, yes, but in final analysis we must be able to get a common interest which overrides these differences. When you study Potsdam and Yalta,6 we made mistakes and you out-negotiated us. We won the war because we kept our eyes on winning the war. Now we must win the peace. We will have tough talks—but we must deal as equals and we don’t paint over our problems. That is a good part of the NixonBrezhnev relationship.

On the announcement, Friday would be good.

Dobrynin: What city would you like to visit in the Soviet Union? Brezhnev has asked me.

President: He knows the country. You and he figure it out.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1029, Presidential/HAK Memcons, MemCons—HAK & President, May 8–31, 1974 [1 of 3]. Secret. The meeting was held in the Oval Office. Brackets are in the original.
  2. Nixon met with a group of Politbure members on May 23. A record of the meeting is ibid.
  3. May 30.
  4. An announcement was released in Washington and Moscow on May 31 that Nixon and Brezhnev would meet in Moscow for a week beginning June 27. See “Nixon to Go to Moscow June 27,” The New York Times, June 1, 1974, p. 1.
  5. Boumedienne and Nixon met on April 11.
  6. A reference to the Potsdam and Yalta Conferences, July 17 to August 2, 1945, and February 4 to February 11, 1945, respectively.