186. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Leonid I. Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
  • Nikolai V. Podgorny, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR
  • Aleksei N. Kosygin, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR
  • Andrei A. Gromyko, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR
  • Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Soviet Ambassador to the United States
  • Andrei M. Aleksandrov, Assistant to the General Secretary
  • Georgiy M. Korniyenko, Member of the Collegium of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chief of USA Division
  • Leonid M. Zamyatin, Director General of TASS
  • Viktor M. Sukhodrev, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Interpreter)
  • Andrei Vavilov, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • President Richard M. Nixon
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Ambassador Walter J. Stoessel, U.S. Ambassador to the USSR
  • General Alexander M. Haig, Jr., USA (Ret.), Assistant to the President
  • Ronald L. Ziegler, Assistant to the President and Press Secretary
  • Major General Brent Scowcroft, USAF, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor to the Department of State
  • William G. Hyland, Director, State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research
  • Jan M. Lodal, NSC Senior Staff


  • Tour d’horizon

General Secretary Brezhnev: Mr. President, American guests, it gives me and my colleagues great pleasure to welcome you once again to Moscow. In effect, we began this round of talks yesterday, but yesterday we devoted most of the time to protocol, and had no time to get into substance.

I would like to note, first of all, that this new meeting takes place under new circumstances: many important political events are taking place in the world. But, first, I would note that in meeting here with you once again, I cast my thoughts to the past, to the first meeting in 1972 [Page 900] when we had very businesslike discussions and negotiation and signed the most important agreements, which laid the groundwork for very good relations between our two states and two peoples.

That first meeting is past history, and it is universally recognized that it belongs to a prominent place in history, so that meeting in world history and the contents of its agreements constituted a turning point in relations. Then we stood at the beginning of the road that we were to follow together.

I think that we both recall that at the time of the first meeting there was great pessimism on the part of many; many said the meeting itself was impossible, let alone the agreement we signed. And following that meeting it took a great effort to go further, and we all of us value very highly your persistent efforts, of the President and Secretary Kissinger, to make it possible in 1973 to continue what we began in 1972, and to sign some important documents.

There is no need to list all of the agreements. They are universally known—known to the peoples of the Soviet Union and the United States, and indeed, they are agreements that have been duly appreciated by the peoples of the Soviet Union and the USA. While we would not want to belittle the others, the most important ones that we signed here and in the US are the Prevention of Nuclear War Agreement, the Treaty on Limiting ABM and the Treaty on Limiting Strategic Arms, and, of course, the Basic Principles. All of these are documents of great historical importance. Figuratively speaking, all served to prepare conditions for building a broad avenue between our two countries, based on principles of mutual respect and confidence and development of political, economic and cultural ties. Of course, to be frank, we have to say that along with the highest assessments, we hear in the press and from others differing assessments of these documents. But what they all achieved are already a matter of history and reality, and history will judge what we have done correctly, and history will assess what we have achieved, the courage it took to do it, and the justice of what was achieved in a short time.

And it will also be realized that in the past period, how our relations have improved from a purely practical standpoint. For example, there are thousands of visitors to the Soviet Union—statesmen, businessmen and others. Many travel to the US—ministers, heads of departments and others. Thus, indirectly, Soviet-American relations are becoming a fact whether some are against it or whether anyone likes it or not.

And it is probably worthwhile noting the improvement of relations is playing a role of no small importance in world politics. In this period, we recall that improvement existing in Vietnam, there is no firing in the Middle East, and there is cooperation by the four powers in [Page 901] Berlin, and, not without your support, we have important agreements in Europe between the USSR and FRG, and Poland, and between the two Germanys. Both are members of the UN. And there is agreement with Czechoslovakia—all of very great significance.

A considerable amount of work has been done in the economic field. We have several agreements, and contracts have been negotiated and signed, both short-term and very long. These cement the positive elements written into various documents that we signed.

In short, we positively evaluate the work done between the Soviet Union and the United States in the past years. We do not say this simply today in this meeting, but in several public statements. Regardless of extraneous or momentary conditions, even during the recent Soviet elections campaign all of my comrades here gave a high assessment of what we had achieved jointly. I would not like to omit the fact of more frequent group visits to the Soviet Union—various representatives of business and social organizations. We express our gratitude for hosting the Supreme Soviet visit recently. Of course there are quite a few other important events, some of which we will be mentioning later on.

Nonetheless, without belittling what has been achieved, we believe it is too early to put a full stop to this process. We have jointly begun the process of détente and improving relations in all spheres, but we have traversed only the initial stage, and we have to consolidate it. Ahead of us lies a great volume of work, issues that require intensive efforts and goodwill on both sides.

There are other reasons for not weakening our attention and concentration for progressive advance in Soviet-American relations. You and we would not be realists if we closed our eyes to certain circles who want to put a brake on our progressive advance in relations, and arrest the process of improvement.

In saying this I emphasize that the process of improvement of relations not be allowed to run its course, but requires an effort to overcome obstacles and negative accretions of the past. As our two states, we have occasion to confirm that we are building relations in terms of the perspective of peace, good neighborliness and friendship, and, as before, we are firmly in favor of joint efforts to make the process a continuous and stable one and irreversible. And this is a line of ours that we seek to extend to all spheres—political, economic, scientific and cultural, technical.

In short, that is what we are trying to do today with the third meeting. I would like to express the hope that as in the two previous meetings this one will end with very impressive results. Mr. President, we will discuss many issues, some more or less agreed before, and requiring less effort, but there are quite a few that will require a [Page 902] strenuous exchange of views. The main purport and direction of the meeting, we see in showing to the world the clear, unflagging determination of the US and Soviet Union to go on following the line defined in the document and to take further steps to give practical effect to that line. I am sure that you know yourself, but I want to say, that we are fulfilling honestly in good faith all the agreements signed in the past two years. I believe that the main meaning of our meeting, not only in the documents signed but also in the communiqués that continue this line, is to show the world that there is a relaxation of tensions, a slow down in the arms race, including strategic arms, and the chance for general and complete disarmament. Also we believe it is only too natural for communiqués to include a provision that we are determined to remove and to prevent outbreaks of new hotbeds of tension and to consolidate and extend the process of the relaxation of tensions to new regions of the world. Also there is the question of principle in trade and commerce. The net result is that life itself is making the way—the business communities are interested in more contracts and we should register this important fact in the communiqué as well. I should like to comment on the important aspect of the machinery of Soviet-American meetings at the highest level. It is proven in practice that regular summits are a positively important sign to ensure the favorable development of relations. Indeed, precisely, the holding of meetings as nothing else creates the possibility for open discussion and solution of more complicated questions of principle, and as I feel—and I said this to my comrades after our brief meeting yesterday—the President is of a like mind, and has invited me to pay a new visit to the US. That is something we welcome, but we also feel that we could build on the existing practice and have additional, briefer meetings, to take up not the full range of relations but one or two issues.

In concluding this opening statement, we all value very highly your personal contribution to the process of improvement of relations between our two countries and we want to express in confidence our hope and belief that the present visit will serve the broadest interest of our two peoples and the interests of universal peace. At this opening stage, we have expressed our views on general problems, so that after we can turn to a specific review in whatever order the President prefers.

President Nixon: In response to the General Secretary’s statement, we all share the spirit of his remarks and also the goals he sets out for eventual achievement. We feel, as does the General Secretary, that these highest level meetings serve useful purposes. When you have the two strongest nations, there is inevitably a positive impact, when we work together, and many bilateral matters can only be settled at the highest level. The value of summit meetings is that there is an incentive [Page 903] to make progress on substantive issues. We cannot have a meeting and labor at the summit to produce a mouse. I think that we have found that the preparations for each meeting have laid the groundwork for agreement and negotiations and for signing documents at the summit. The work of our associates—Dr. Kissinger, Minister Gromyko, Ambassador Dobrynin and all our colleagues—are extremely constructive, making possible real results, rather than atmospherics at the highest level. For example, after this meeting, we have to think to next year, to think of projects we might have underway that we can negotiate. I agree with the General Secretary that where there is something specific to negotiate, which cannot be delayed to the annual meeting, that on our side there will be every support for a meeting whenever necessary to serve a useful purpose. We live in a fast moving world, and some events will not wait for a year.

I will address some of the subjects which the General Secretary raised.

First, we have significant progress already made, and a recognition of some disappointments that in other areas we have not made progress as fast as we would like.

We begin by recognizing that as the two strongest nuclear powers there will be inevitable areas of competitiveness and our interests will not be identical. We would add the fact that for many years we did not have the frank avenue of consultations that has now been established by the summit meetings. This does not mean that simply by meeting and knowing each other that this settles very complicated problems. But it is also true that differences cannot be settled at all if there is no direct consultation between the two parties concerned. So by establishing at various levels—at the highest and other levels, and in other sectors—these contacts set up the process for settling differences where we can and of avoiding disputes that might occur if there were no communication.

That brings us to those areas of agreement that are relatively easy, and from this we can move to the ones that are more difficult because of the mature relationship we have.

Bilaterally, the negotiation of an agreement on energy, for example, or medical exchange, the artificial heart—these are mutually beneficial, and they do not place us in opposition in any way. And though there is a tendency on the part of many foreign policy experts to downgrade the importance of these, the more we find areas to work together the more we make the relationship binding, and thereby irreversible. In other words, it takes small as well as large threads to make a fabric that binds.

Now we come to those areas, because of differences in substance, we have more difficulty in reaching agreement.

[Page 904]

We are pleased that we are going to negotiate a long-term economic relationship at this meeting. We are not pleased that due to the policy of the Congress we have not gone forward on the MFN,2 on which I made a commitment in these meetings. But considering the fact that trade between the private and socialist economies is difficult—like oil and water—we have made significant progress, and I believe that we can safely say that we can make far more progress in the future.

Every private businessman that has visited the Soviet Union returns very excited about the prospects of more trade with the Soviet Union.

Another question is how to work out the problem of credits—a problem that the experts are quite familiar with. We shall continue to push forward and to work politically with the Congress on MFN and the credit side of this issue. Here we believe as more understanding develops between our two governments at the highest level we can make progress that influences prospects at the Congressional level on this issue.

In a third area, the two strongest nations can and must work to find ways to work together in what might be called crisis areas, in other parts of the world. Here we have the European Security Conference. We can discuss where problems are arising, which we are all familiar with. Related to this is the reduction of forces in Europe. On our part we desire to have very frank discussions because Europe is a critical area of the world, and our two great nations should reduce to a very minimum conflicts between themselves in this area.

We have a problem here which the General Secretary and his colleagues are very familiar with. It is more difficult for us to speak for our allies than for the General Secretary to speak for his. For example, I made a commitment to conclude the CSCE by the end of 1973. We have done as well as we can and we are continuing to try, and perhaps with the Finnish compromise,3 which the General Secretary is familiar with, and other working level compromises, we can break the logjam at the Conference. I emphasize here that just as with MFN, where we made a commitment, we will not drag our feet, but will show goodwill and make progress; though there are problems—(1) political problems in the US, with which the General Secretary is familiar, and (2) problems of political influence in the Atlantic Community.

[Page 905]

The Middle East is the other area where our interests are not identical. This does not mean that we both are not for peace, but because of our long association that each of us has in that area, we have had some differences. The point I particularly want to emphasize is that the US will play whatever role it is useful to play to bring about a more peaceful atmosphere in the Middle East. But there has not been, and will not be any effort to push the Soviet Union out of its traditional role, which it has because of historical tradition and geographical location.

There, as in Europe, there are times when each of us can best accomplish the objectives of a peaceful settlement which both of us have, by working bilaterally, and other times [working] collectively. But the rule is that at all times we consult and closely, so that we are never in a position of acting at the expense of the other party. What counts in the end is the result: if it is best achieved in a larger forum at one time, then it should be used; but, at other times, discussions in a smaller forum are more useful. I use the analogy of the UN. The UN generally is not suitable for settling differences on many important problems.

The most difficult, and it has always been the most difficult because it involves vital questions, but one in which we have made considerable progress and can take satisfaction to date, is strategic arms control. We have the ABM agreement in 1972 and the Interim Agreement on offensive weapons and the agreement on preventing nuclear war. There are others, but these are the most important. We have made a good beginning for this summit, but we must admit that we have only begun; I refer to the limitation of ABMs to one site. Our experts will have to work out the language satisfactorily. We have the threshold test ban. Here we have considerable differences between us. This is an area we believe can be explored to find an agreement in principle to lay foundation for final agreement later.

On SALT, this is the most difficult of all. I well recall our first meeting, when the General Secretary explained by drawing the changes in silos, that he was more expert than I. We have to have very frank discussion of whether we can reach agreement in particular, as far as MIRVs are concerned. We do not discount the importance of ABMs, of non-proliferation, or even the test ban. They are all important. But in terms of an overriding runaway nuclear arms race, agreement on offensive arms is crucial.

The problem that I present to the General Secretary and his colleagues is this: if we are unable to reach agreement or to make progress in reaching agreement in the future, inevitably the reaction will be, on our side, to go forward with our offensive nuclear weapons program; and, of course, the Soviet Union will do likewise; it is inevitable. So the question we have is whether to control the nuclear arms race before it controls us.

[Page 906]

I wish I had the solution to offer at this point, but as the General Secretary implied in his own remarks, this subject requires extensive discussion to see if we can narrow our differences.

I will conclude by saying that the very fact of this meeting is important. When we have this close personal relationship that we enjoy, it means that where differences arise we have a better chance to resolve them, by contacts between ourselves. I can assure the General Secretary and his colleagues that I will use my influence in a way to find a solution fair to both sides, while always recognizing that we are negotiating as equals, and that there could be no settlement or agreement that either side could accept if it gave an unfair advantage. Not only are meetings important, but this great host of agreements that we have signed and will sign, apart from strategic arms, is very important. Because, as I indicated earlier, we must establish as many ties between our two nations as we can. Because in the end not only a single agreement, but even more important agreements in a number of areas, means that we are cooperating together, and will make détente irreversible. Above all, we establish ties that others in the future will find very difficult to reverse. We must say, finally, that we must not expect that at one meeting we will settle everything; we must not be discouraged, because we recognize, as I said at the outset, that because of our strength, and because we represent two powerful people, there will be competition and differences. But what we can achieve is that such differences and competition will not result in conflict. For that reason it is vital to make as much progress as we can in this third meeting so that forces will not be set in motion that will undo all our good work.

General Secretary Brezhnev [pointing to Secretary Kissinger]: Dr. Kissinger is not working, because he is not eating enough.

Secretary Kissinger: I am eating.

General Secretary Brezhnev [picking up a pirozhki]: I treat you equally; I am also eating.

Secretary Kissinger: I will gain weight and then surrender.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Mr. President, maybe we could have our minister state what we have.

President Nixon: Yes, we could round up from them our work.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Then I call on Foreign Minister Gromyko.

Minister Gromyko: We have three agreements, on energy, urban construction and artificial heart. These are fully agreed, fully prepared including from the technical preparations and as agreed, we can have a signing ceremony at 3:30. We have a new understanding as regards ABMs. This is agreed in principle but will not be signed today; that will be signed in the second round of signing. We have agreement on [Page 907] long-term economic relations that is agreed by both sides. We also have two protocols: one to a previous agreement on strategic arms, and the other to the ABM treaty. These are agreed and are fully ready for signing.4

We have given before this meeting, a possible agreement on the non-use of environmental means for military purposes and we received a counterdraft which is markedly different in content. Without going into details, your counterdraft creates problems, but that can be taken up in other discussions. If an agreement on this subject is possible, it would result in a relevant document to be signed in the second round.

I have nothing to add to what the General Secretary said on underground tests. There is no document agreed, therefore we have differences of views.

On the communiqué, leaving aside further limit of strategic arms—because as Comrade Brezhnev mentioned to you these require further exchanges of view—we find that the communiqué is not finally agreed, partly because important issues that form part of our discussion are not agreed, and partly because formulations are in the process of being agreed. As regards other matters, work is continuing.

General Secretary Brezhnev: This shows a lot of work is ahead of us.

President Nixon: This leaves the easy work for us.

General Secretary Brezhnev: Yes, it appears so.

The President will sign the agreement on energy? Kissinger will be signing on artificial heart? Energy will be signed by Comrade Podgorny and housing by Prime Minister Kosygin and artificial heart by Foreign Minister Gromyko.

President Nixon: [What is left] for you?

General Secretary Brezhnev: You see how they have taken it all out of my hands. See, what my role is.

Minister Podgorny: We have left the most important for him.

President Nixon: I want to add that on MFN, we will get it.

General Secretary Brezhnev: That is good sign.

President Nixon: I knew that I did not have to remind you.

General Secretary Brezhnev: It was not in my opening remarks, but I had not forgotten.

Minister Podgorny: He put it very delicately.

[Page 908]

General Secretary Brezhnev: Could we read the communiqué for this meeting?

Mr. Sukhodrev [reads aloud texts at Tab A]:5

“On June 28 the talks began between General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU L. I. Brezhnev, Chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet N. V. Podgorny, Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers A. N. Kosygin, USSR Foreign Minister A. A. Gromyko and the President of the United States of America Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger.

“A broad range of questions of Soviet-American relations was discussed. Both sides noted that the agreements concluded between the Soviet Union and the United States of America are being implemented and that as a result of this, the relations between the two countries are increasingly assuming a character that meets the interests of peace. This in turn creates additional possibilities for their further development and deepening.

“It was also noted on both sides that the continued reshaping of the relations between the USSR and the USA not only meets the fundamental interests of the peoples of both countries but constitutes an important element in the general process of relaxation of international tension.”

[Sukhodrev then hands over texts at Tab A.]

President Nixon: Let us agree, unless Dr. Kissinger has anything to add.

Secretary Kissinger: Foreign Minister Gromyko has correctly summarized the status of our discussions, in terms of what documents are ready. We had prepared the ABM protocol for signature conceivably for tomorrow, but this is not yet decided. At the end of the summit we might have a protocol on environmental questions and the test ban. I am confident, while agreeing that points remain open, that we can have an important communiqué in time for signature.

General Secretary Brezhnev: That is a good statement. [He takes another sandwich.]

President Nixon: I suppose that we are not restating [in the communiqué for this meeting] that it is agreed to have another meeting in Washington next year. The suggestion that the General Secretary made is constructive: if there is a single subject that comes up that is worth our exchange of views at the highest level, we do not wait for a year. That is a fundamental point.

[Page 909]

General Secretary Brezhnev: We could mention that in the final communiqué.

President Nixon: I agree, but we will not mention it in this communiqué today.

General Secretary Brezhnev and Minister Podgorny: Yes.

President Nixon: We have a good network of communication established: through Dobrynin, Gromyko and his colleagues, and Ambassador Stoessel, but maybe an occasion will arise, even growing out of this meeting, that we might have another summit.

General Secretary Brezhnev: The trouble is that Dr. Kissinger is not always disciplined. He was here last March and said that he would come in May.

President Nixon: He went to Leningrad instead.

General Secretary Brezhnev: You know that we will make it easier for him to go to Leningrad.

President Nixon: In Leningrad, Mr. Kosygin will be the host because he is a Leningrader.

Minister Kosygin: Of course, with pleasure.

President Nixon: I want to say that as two great powers, we are now speaking directly. Considering our differences in the recent period of the cold war, the establishment of a new relationship would not have occurred if there was only one meeting. It was a beginning, but it must be constantly renewed to give it new impetus.

General Secretary Brezhnev: That is precisely our goal, as time goes by there are new ideas.

President Nixon: The situation changes. Too often in world history, treaties are signed, and statesmen depart, and people say “peace, it’s wonderful.” But treaties are put in desk drawers and gather dust.

General Secretary Brezhnev: We are not that kind of country. If we give our word, we never break our word.

President Nixon: The difficulty is that our differences cannot be the subject of one meeting. What we achieve we must keep building.

General Secretary Brezhnev: True. We can so we have a solid foundation on which this meeting can build. As I see it, judging from agreed statements, our views coincide in wanting to strengthen the peace between our two countries but also in the world. This is the reason why our talks should be open and frank, and testify to the fact that the line jointly chosen has been progressing.

President Nixon: Each of us appreciates that the other is equal; each of us appreciates the other is honest.

General Secretary Brezhnev [interrupting]: That is exactly the principle we agreed in our first meeting.

[Page 910]

President Nixon[continuing]: And, second, we recognize our differences and lay them on the table honestly. And, finally, each of us recognizes that over a period of time our negotiations reduce those differences. But only on the basis of where each recognizes that for an agreement to be lasting it must serve our mutual interests. I have to defend agreements with the Congress and our people, and the General Secretary has to defend the agreements with his colleagues and with his people.

General Secretary Brezhnev: The principles which you have just stated, that we are building good relations, that is espoused by the entire Politburo and our entire state. And as I promised to you yesterday, we will be completely frank, honest and open.

Well, I now wish that you have a good rest.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 77, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Memcons, Moscow Summit, June 27–July 3, 1974. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in St. Catherine’s Hall at the Grand Kremlin Palace. Brackets are in the original.
  2. The Senate version of the Trade Bill was still in markup as of June 1974. The President met with Senators Long and Bennett on May 23 to discuss, among other things, progress on the bill. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXI, Foreign Economic Policy, Document 208.
  3. On June 5 in Geneva, the Finns proposed two amendments to language in Basket III.
  4. In all, seven agreements were signed at the end of the Summit, as well as the joint communiqué and a joint statement on environmental warfare. See Document 199.
  5. Attached but not printed.