200. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Nixon
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Senator George D. Aiken [R–Vermont]
  • Congressman John J. McFall [D–California]
  • Senator John O. Pastore [D–Rhode Island]
  • Senator Harry F. Byrd, Jr. [D–Virginia]
  • Senator Hugh Scott [R–Pennsylvania]
  • Senator Mike Mansfield [D–Montana]
  • Congressman Carl Albert [D–Oklahoma]


  • Joint Leadership Meeting on the Summit Trip to Moscow

The President: We have a full plate today. I will go over the Brussels meeting2 and highlight Moscow and Henry will follow up on the meetings with the European leaders following the summit.3 They were significant. Those of you who saw the communiqués and heard the public utterances know most of what went on.

The stop in Brussels was useful. The Europeans have always been concerned about a US-Soviet condominium. We stopped to consult and sign the NATO declaration.

When I went to Europe in 1969, they thought we should do something about China and relations with the Soviet Union. The problem then for them was a possible US-Soviet confrontation. Since then, European attitudes have turned 180°. They have urged a European Security Conference on us; now they are cooling on it and on the idea of having a summit conclusion. Détente is a period of great opportunity and also of danger for the alliance. The Europeans wanted our assurances on security but they have been less than cooperative on economics, the Middle East, etc. They can’t have it both ways—they can’t keep our forces up and confront us everywhere else. They don’t always have to agree—but they can’t go off on their own and in antagonism. In [Page 1016] Brussels, I met with the NAC and then individually with Schmidt, Wilson, Rumor4 and with others at the reception. Giscard was not there—he is more cooperative but he still depends on the Gaullist forces and he can’t move too fast. The Alliance was invigorated by this. The allies said they would try to strengthen their forces. The Alliance got a security shot in the arm—which is difficult when all of them see the tension receding. On the economic side, we laid the foundation for more cooperation between the US and the Community. The Europeans’ interests were almost exclusively economics. After talking with them, I wouldn’t exchange our problems for theirs.

About Moscow: We didn’t know the type of public reception we would get. There had been differences on the Middle East conflict and the October confrontation. The Soviet approach to the Middle East is to do everything at once. Ours is to use Geneva but also anything else which is helpful. They insist on having the Palestinians and immediate withdrawal to the ’67 frontiers. That would blow up any conference. Thanks to Henry, we have cooled the area. Therefore the positions of the US and Soviet Union were far apart.

The discussions this year were the fullest and the least belligerent, and the relationships were “friendliest” in the proper interpretation of that term. We have laid over the years the groundwork for laying the hard problems out on the table, discussing them frankly, not giving up about disagreements but to continue to grapple. The Soviet Union now has positive interest in good relations with the United States.

In the bilateral area, it can’t be said that these nonsecurity agreements will keep them from confrontation with us when our interests clash; but each one gives them an incentive not to throw over détente. We signed some new agreements—in economics, housing, energy, and on research on the artificial heart. These don’t get much play.

Then we discussed the international field. Europe. The Soviet Union wants a CSCE summit. We agree we’ll do it if the substance warrants. On the Middle East, they accepted the proposal that we must continue bilateral step-by-step efforts but they insist on playing a role and even more so on an early Geneva Conference. Our position is—if you take the steps remaining, to get a pull-back on both fronts, the West Bank and the Palestinians—if you lay it all out in Geneva, everyone there would oppose us and Israel. So they don’t agree, but will go along with some bilateral efforts—but we can’t say this publicly.

Southeast Asia was also mentioned.

[Page 1017]

In the strategic area, we made some progress which if it happened two years ago would have been monumental. On ABM, we agreed to go to one site. Their field covers not only Moscow but also much of their industry and a missile field.

The TTB: The Soviet Union proposed it. Their motives are that we are far ahead in testing. They are worried about the Chinese, so the threshold at 150KT makes sense. Our military think that more testing is essential but fundamentally a comprehensive test ban is unverifiable. We won’t yet submit the TTB because of the side issue of peaceful nuclear explosions. We will work out agreement on PNE. They have agreed on prior announcement and observers. It’s the first on-site inspection ever agreed.

On environmental warfare, we agreed to talks. While it doesn’t seem important now, but who knows what science will bring?

SALT is the toughest of all, as I told you before. The Soviet throw weight is greater but our advantage is enormous—we have a 3.5-to-1 advantage in warheads and also in sophistication and accuracy. As we look to the future, if the Soviet Union agreed to freeze now, it would be freezing itself into a public position of inferiority—which they won’t do. The Soviet Union has a missile advantage, but you get hit by warheads. We would first discuss this, but our own warhead advantage doesn’t include our allies—but they count them. They are also worried about China; and we might have to be also. In 1972, I had a rough 4½ hour session on Vietnam.5 In 1973, from midnight, we had a rough three hours on the Middle East.6 Had we crumbled in either case, there would not have been a Vietnam settlement or the present Middle East situation. What we come up with now was an agreement to conclude a 10-year agreement on quantitative and qualitative steps. We have to choose whether to conclude an agreement which will protect us and yet be acceptable to them or, with their MIRV breakthrough, go into a race which we will win but which would leave neither side really better off. There comes a point where it makes no difference who has the most. Those are our choices—negotiate a decent agreement or increase our defense and race with them.

Kissinger: At one point, we told Brezhnev what he would have with MIRVs; he confirmed our intelligence estimate. Then he told us what we had, which included everything—bombers, overseas bases, everything. We never think this way, because we think of second-strike. The significance is that they can’t hit NATO without fearing we will hit them as they cannot hit us, or if they hit NATO and the US, we will still have enough.

[Page 1018]

The President: I had a talk with Grechko. We agreed that Henry would go back this fall. We have narrowed the differences. There is still a gulf, but we hope we can agree on something. If we can’t, they will go balls out, and with their throw weight, it will be a problem. It would be a race no one would win. We are laying the groundwork for a longer-term agreement.

Senator Aiken: What effect will the French development have?

The President: The Soviet Union puts great emphasis on French and British developments—and also the Chinese. Looked at coldly, they are mini-powers.

Kissinger: [2 lines not declassified]

The President: The last thing the Europeans want is for us to be more inferior to the Soviet Union, but they also fear a runaway race.

A Senator: Where is China? Better than France?

Kissinger: [1 line not declassified]

The President: But the Soviet Union thinks the Chinese are going much faster.

Kissinger: Also, how much is enough? The Chinese in four years could kill millions of Russians, and might accept millions of Chinese killed.

McFall: What would be a reasonable agreement? Can they both agree?

The President: We think so. It is very complex. All systems must be considered. We can’t discuss numbers now. Our general view is that all of us concerned with this must not adopt the view of why bother to try for an agreement because we could win a race. But we don’t want a bigger budget—neither do the Soviets—but lacking an agreement, we will move and have told them so.

Pastore: We have had a deterrent policy for 25 years. Our military now think there could be a limited nuclear war. That is impossible. Do the Soviets think that?

The President: The Soviets believe in inevitable escalation.

Kissinger: Soviet weapons are not geared that way.

Senator Pastore: Then why have more artillery shells?

Kissinger: We must distinguish between battlefield and strategic.

Pastore: A President shouldn’t have to make a holocaust decision because artillery shells are 30 miles from the front.

Kissinger: We agree, but then we need more conventional forces.

The President: That is the point. More and more weapons won’t help us.

Pastore: Let the Germans put up the forces.

[Page 1019]

Kissinger: The tough speeches the President made last spring have brought the Europeans to fundamentals.7 The changes in Germany and France have been very helpful.

The Europeans now also see that our energy institutions were far-sighted. They all wanted to talk energy. They are all running balance of payments deficits because of oil prices. Also the new deposits coming in are short-term and lending is on a long-term basis. They now realize we weren’t talking hegemony but enlightened self-interest to keep Europe healthy. The Europeans now want to cooperate. France has been stuck with exorbitant oil prices as result of bilateral deals, and energy cooperation is working so well that Giscard now wants to cooperate if he can do it without publicly reversing his course.

On the previous summits, the Europeans feared condominium. This time most felt it was successful—it contributed to easing the atmosphere; they liked the measured way we are proceeding; and it encouraged progress on CSCE and MBFR. I made good progress on those two without backbiting. The most troublesome things are US domestic carping over US inferiority. Spain asked about Zumwalt’s comment on the Navy having to stay out of confrontations.8 We must get the Europeans to strengthen their forces. The Soviet Union can’t get superiority strategically, but at some level, though, strategic forces cancel each other out and conventional forces become critical.

They are okay on SALT, but they don’t know enough to discuss the details. Their concern is to look into the future and their concern is economic.

Italy is in bad shape. Talking to them is like talking to a Harvard professor’s seminar. With the communists and fascists, the democratic factions have little maneuver. They are tempted to move to the communists and we told them that would be dangerous.

Scott: Isn’t it time they have decent alternatives?

Kissinger: Yes, they need able democratic parties to govern. In France, Giscard wants to cooperate; he has no hangups. They just need time and must maneuver carefully. Whatever France’s policy, as long as they don’t bring pressure on their allies, we can work it out.

Schmidt has none of Brandt’s rapid sentimentality. Where a year ago they thought we needed them, that has changed. In the Middle East they see we are right and we are urging them to move in economics, as long as it is supportive.

[Page 1020]

Byrd: What were the issues that were impossible of resolution?

What are parameters of trade and what are the quids pro quo?

Kissinger: There are words being thrown around. Take throw weight. Married with MIRVs and high accuracy, they can be dangerous against fixed targets—so they are more vulnerable than we. So far things have not gone to maximum MIRVing. If we can keep it there, we are okay. But if they put 20 MIRVs on a missile, it would be a problem. Also, we can put a big missile in the Minuteman III silos if need be.

In the Crimea we each told the other our intelligence projection of the each other’s forces.9 Any MIRV limitation we could accept would severely limit them and look bad. Also, most of the buildup is coming just at the end of the extended period. We thought if we could extend the time, we could put a cap on numbers which is below the capacity of each side and slow down the arms race. It’s still large numbers, but the instability comes from each racing. There is no way an attack on the United States could leave us with less than 4,000 warheads.

The President: An agreement means nothing unless it means both sides restrict what they would otherwise do.

Kissinger: We could have juggled the numbers, but it would have been hard to justify that it was less than their program. We want either to restrict them or to be sure they refuse to be limited.

The economic agreement doesn’t involve transfer of resources. They facilitate trade.

There is a myth developing that détente is one sided. But:

(1) We settled Vietnam on our terms.

(2) We squeezed them in the Middle East in an unbelievable way.

(3) We protected Berlin.

(4) We stopped a Cuban submarine base.

What did they get? Some Ex-Im credits, a little trade, some wheat—which was not part of détente. We tie everything to good foreign policy behavior. If we prevent benefits to them, they will go back to the cold war.

The President: The balance of trade with the Soviet Union is very favorable.

Kissinger: And if we don’t trade, the Europeans and Japanese already are doing it, and it’s better if it’s done under our close controls than without them.

The President: We are trying to work out methods how a private trading economy can trade with a state system. Also, it will eventually pertain to the PRC.

[Page 1021]

Scott: They are opening a big trade center.

Kissinger: Look at the record. Every time they have moved, we have been tough. We have showed them if they move militarily, we will stop them. Conversely, if they cooperate, we will make it useful. Remember, until the 1972 summit, there was no trade at all.

When you get the Soviet leadership and news talking the success of détente, it gives them a stake—though they can change.

We have paralyzed the left in Europe with this policy. What would happen if we had one crisis after another? There were no commitments as to loans, or transfer of resources.

The President: We told them we couldn’t yet get MFN but we’re working on it.

Three things moved them at this summit:

(1) What will happen with China? Will they force us into détente with China and opposition to them?

(2) Why didn’t they react in Vietnam and the Middle East? Why did they settle Berlin: (1) fear of the tough United States. They are still obsessed with World War II. The people were out, and they could not do it just for peace but for friendship. Good relations with the United States is in their interest. They are doing better but they are far behind Europe and even more so, the United States. (2) The more stake we can give the Soviet leadership and people in peace and cooperation, the more they will lose if détente fails.

MFN—you can say: “cut them off”—but it applies in spades to the Chinese. But the more we can give them a stake in good relations, the more we can influence them. If we can get the trade bill, it may improve trade, and it will be more help on Jewish emigration than if we slam the door. In 1969 there were less than 1,000 per year; last year it was 33,000. This year it’s down, probably because of the October War. So we need them to fear us but also there has to be a positive element to give them an incentive. There is no give-away. There will have to be a quid pro quo, but no unilateral giveaways. Without MFN, they certainly won’t change their policies.10

[Page 1022]

Cedarburg: Any thought to sending the Secretary of Defense to Moscow?

The President: It might be good for someone to talk to Grechko.

Kissinger: If we want to drive the Europeans and Chinese crazy, just let the military staffs talk.

The President: That is not what the leadership is saying. But it is a sensitive area.

Mansfield: It is most inadvisable, Mr. President, and you better keep control.

The President: I will.

[omission in the original]: Netherlands defense cuts.

Kissinger: I think it won’t happen.

Albert: How about energy?

Kissinger: It’s an agreement on research and development exchanges on alternative sources, etc. It has nothing to do with purchases of Soviet energy, resources.

The President: Just an exchange.

Mansfield: Aren’t these private deals?

Kissinger: For Armand Hammer, etc., yes—but this agreement is on technical exchange. The development of energy resources is private. This is totally separate.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversation, Box 4, July 10, 1974. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room of the White House. Brackets are in the original.
  2. See Document 185.
  3. On leaving Moscow on July 3, Kissinger traveled to Brussels, Paris, Rome, Vatican City, Dusseldorf and Munich, London, and Madrid. He returned to the Washington on July 9.
  4. Mariano Rumor, Italian Prime Minister from July 1973.
  5. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 271.
  6. See Document 132.
  7. See, for example, Nixon’s radio address about the Fourth Annual Foreign Policy Report to the Congress, May 3, in Public Papers: Nixon, 1973, pp. 345–347.
  8. Possibly a reference to Admiral Zumwalt’s remarks on June 29 that the United States had lost superiority at sea.
  9. See Document 190.
  10. The Trade Act of 1974, signed into law on January 3, 1975, included an 18 month authority to waive the Jackson–Vanik Amendment, and consequently the ban on Soviet most-favored-nation status and restriction on Expot-Import Bank credits, on the determination and a report to Congress by the President that the waiver would substantially promote the objectives of the amendment. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXI, Foreign Economic Policy, 1973–1976, Documents 222 and 223. Subsequently, on January 14, Kissinger announced that the United States and the Soviet Union had decided to nullify the 1972 Trade Agreement because of Soviet objections to the requirement imposed by the Trade Act to allow freer Jewish emigration. The text of Kissinger’s statement was printed in The New York Times, January 15, 1975, p. 5.