4. Letter From Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev to President Nixon1
Having read your letter,2 I would like first of all to say that I fully share your positive assessments of the May talks, of their results and of the contacts that were established between us. I would like, in turn, to share with you some of my thoughts that come in this connection.
No doubt, a great job has been done—a good foundation has been laid for a fundamental improvement of Soviet-American relations. Now the main thing becomes—and I note with gratification that you are of the same opinion—to consistently put into life what we have agreed about.
I can inform you that all Soviet ministries and agencies involved have received concrete instructions on that score. And our representatives are ready to continue talks on those questions the discussion on which was impossible to complete during the Moscow meeting; this refers first of all to commercial and economic ties.
We are getting prepared also for the continuation of the official negotiations as well as, naturally, of the confidential contacts on strategic [Page 12] arms limitation. We are in accord with you too, that it would be useful to continue the bilateral exchange of views on European matters.
The Soviet people welcome the turn for the better that appeared in our relations, and they expect this to strengthen peace and thus to serve the benefit of all mankind. So far as we can judge, most Americans think likewise.
It is clear by now that in other countries of the world too, the reaction to the results of the Soviet-American summit meeting, with certain nuances present, is on the whole quite positive. The peoples directly connect their hopes for a general warming of the international climate with a betterment of Soviet-American relations.
At the same time, as we can see, many—both in our countries and in others—while giving due credit to what has been accomplished, pay attention also to the fact that there still remain dangerous hotbeds of tension in the world. In the spirit of frankness that marked our conversations in Moscow, I would like to say that this, regrettably, is indeed so.
First of all, of course, there is the matter of Vietnam. I will not come now to repeat our position on the Vietnam question. It was expressed to you in Moscow with all clarity and in full.
As you know, a Soviet delegation headed by N.V. Podgorny visited Hanoi the other day.3 In accordance with the wishes you expressed, the delegation brought to the attention of the DRV leadership the information about the position of the American side on Vietnam as it had been stated to us in the conversations in Moscow.
The Vietnamese leaders displayed an attentive attitude to this information. On their part they stressed great significance which they attach to the Paris negotiations and spoke of their readiness to the resumption of both plenary sessions and private meetings. It was stated that Le Duc Tho and Xuan Thui will shortly return to Paris with this aim in view.
As we understood the Vietnamese side has a business-like approach toward the resumption of the Paris talks and thinks that the talks can be constructive if the American side displays a broad realistic approach to the situation at hand and readiness to conduct really serious negotiations with the North Vietnamese side for the settlement of the war in Indochina on a basis, just for all. We did not understand the matter in such a way that the Vietnamese side proceeds on the basis [Page 13] that only its proposals should be considered at the talks, and this is important.4
We are deeply convinced as before that the way to end the war in Vietnam goes not through its intensification and expansion but through a search of mutually acceptable solutions at the negotiation table.
It seems, Mr. President, that now, taking everything we tell you into account, the American side would do a right thing if it proposed to the Vietnamese side a concrete date of the renewal of the talks and did not complicate the situation by bombings and other military actions in Vietnam (the more so that it does not solve the problem), and also raised the blockade of the entries to the North Vietnamese ports, i.e. that U.S. step is most unpopular with the world public opinion and it affects many countries in the world.5
The situation in the Middle East remains to be dangerous as well, and that was also a subject of frank talks in Moscow. A radical change of the situation there can be achieved only by speedily going over to practical measures on peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. We are looking forward to receive from you concrete considerations on that matter in pursuance of those general principles that were talked over in the course of the Moscow meeting.
It is perfectly clear that our coordinated efforts in the interests of removing hotbeds of tension existing in the world, would also fully correspond to those basic principles which, as we have agreed, our countries should be guided by in relations with each other and generally in their activities on the international scene. It would serve at the [Page 14] same time the purpose of extensifying and intensifying the cooperation between our countries in most varied fields for the mutual benefit both of our two peoples and of all mankind.
A great work, both for you and for us, lies ahead. Indeed, the leaders of the two powers face a task, tremendous in its scope and complexity, to bring about a turn in the relations which were shaping up in the course of more than a quarter-century and which gave rise to their traditions, their customs and, if you please, their own force of inertia.
Tenacious efforts are needed to overcome them all. In this connection I would like to emphasize once again, on the basis of the experience we gained, the usefulness of regular contacts. Such contacts will be useful also for discussing problems, arising in the course of implementation of the treaties and agreements signed in Moscow.
We believe that mutual understanding and mutual account of positions of the sides should be a permanent part of our countries’ policies. All this is important too for making conditions favorable for further improvement of the relations between the USSR and the USA, including the next Soviet-American summit meeting, which you refer to in your letter, and the preparation of which, as experience shows, should be thought about and looked after in advance.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 494, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 12. Top Secret. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it. A handwritten notation reads: “Delivered to Gen. Haig by Mr. Sokolov at 9:30 a.m. on 6/22/72.” In message Tohak 15, June 22, Haig forwarded to Kissinger in Beijing a copy of the letter and wrote: “As you will note it is a general smorgasbord without any specific indications of real progress, other than an obvious reference to the fact that Hanoi is willing to enter into give-and-take secret negotiations during which our positions would be carefully considered.” (Ibid., Box 993, Alexander M. Haig Chronological File)↩
- See Tab A, Document 1.↩
- Podgorny visited North Vietnam from June 15 to 20.↩
- In a draft message to Kissinger on June 22, Haig wrote: “After sending the Brezhnev letter early this morning Dobrynin called late this afternoon and made the point that Brezhnev was most anxious that we consider very carefully his language on Vietnam. He pointed out what Dobrynin considers to be three significant portions of the paragraph on Vietnam: (a) The fact that the North Vietnamese had agreed to resume both private and plenary sessions in Paris. (I did not tell Dobrynin that we had had this information earlier from the North Vietnamese) (b) The fact that the North Vietnamese had agreed to ‘business-like’ discussions. Dobrynin stated that this meant there would be no resort to polemics or propaganda during the talks. (c) Dobrynin emphasized that the North Vietnamese had apparently agreed to listen to and negotiate on the basis of our proposals as well as their own.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 993, Alexander M. Haig Chronological File)↩
- Haig wrote in message Tohak 15 to Kissinger: “The Soviet reference to the cessation of bombing and mining does not appear especially starchy. From my humble perspective and prior to having the benefit of your guidance and assessment of the situation there, it would appear that our best bet is to lay on in the weeks ahead, especially between now and the next secret meeting, the most concentrated bombing of high-value targets in North Vietnam that they have ever experienced.” Haig stated “that we have got just about all the diplomatic leverage we could hope for both with respect to Moscow and the PRC but that if we are expecting this leverage to do the trick at the negotiating table we may well be disappointed.”↩
- Printed from a copy with this typed signature.↩