44. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Leonid I. Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU
  • Andrei A. Gromyko, Soviet Foreign Minister
  • Anatoli Dobrynin, Soviet Ambassador to the United States
  • A. M. Aleksandrov, Assistant to the General Secretary
  • Viktor M. Sukhodrev, Interpreter
  • Soviet Notetaker
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Winston Lord, NSC Staff Member
  • Jonathan T. Howe, NSC Staff Member
  • John D. Negroponte, NSC Staff Member


  • Vietnam; Middle East; Germany; Far East

Dr. Kissinger: There’s a new building in Camp David. Dobrynin was there, and we will show you the cabins. There’s a new building and that’s where the President wants you to stay.

Mr. Brezhnev: Thank you for your courtesy. Even long before my visit, I am contemplating a letter to the President, through Dobrynin and not through you, because I will write that the visit depends on how Kissinger behaves and what I mean by that I will only tell President Nixon. Now you are worried.

Dr. Kissinger: I am glad that the discussion proceeds without threat or pressure and strictly on the basis of reason.

Mr. Brezhnev: And profound respect.

Dr. Kissinger: True.

Mr. Brezhnev: Sometimes our conversations have been acute but never with offense. I never bear malice towards anyone, but I like justice and I think it should be a basic principle—objectivity and straightforwardness. If anyone lets me down once, he loses my confidence. I feel that is the correct line to be taken.

Dr. Kissinger: There are inevitable disagreements. As long as we retain confidence and move in the spirit which the General Secretary has so movingly described yesterday, then we can work together and handle difficulties.

[Page 145]

Mr. Brezhnev: Of course, there can be debate and discussion but so long as we stay to the principles of our first meeting, then we can move ahead. If we backslide, then we are in trouble. Now, indeed, the whole world knows the history of the relations between our two countries, particularly since World War II. Today the world witnesses a new stage and looks to us to see if we are serious or merely engaged in tactical maneuvers on the part of our two countries. If the whole world’s people are let down over the hopes generated, then this will undermine the confidence in the President and ourselves. And that is precisely why I am so determined to go forward towards the solution of the important problems we have before us. If we take bold steps towards realizing those sound ideas on which we base our discussions, people will understand and take to heart. But if we do it gradually, then their ardor will cool off towards these new and momentous developments. Even though our two social systems are different, it does not preclude going ahead on the basis agreed at our first meeting.

This is the spirit of our meeting and I wish to reaffirm that on this basis we are prepared to go ahead. I hope you will convey this spirit to the President. (Brezhnev makes an aside in Russian to Gromyko and then says:) I have my contradictions with Gromyko.

Mr. Gromyko: Within this government.

Mr. Brezhnev: Because I said what he said yesterday. He said I took his bread. So I offer him a bun, and he says it is not enough. He wants some butter.

Dr. Kissinger: Our experience with Gromyko is also the same. You offer him one thing and he always asks for something additional and then says it is a Soviet concession that he accepts it.

Mr. Brezhnev: We keep criticizing him for his willingness to make concessions. He has good qualities; he gets things done. As a result of his long years in the Foreign Ministry he gets too soft in his dealings with the United States. Sometimes a willingness to make concessions gets to be a way of his doing things. I’m giving him one more year or so and then deal with him.

Dr. Kissinger: I want to say on behalf of the President—I had a long talk with him before I came here—that the sentiments expressed by the General Secretary yesterday and this morning reflect exactly our policy. The most important achievement of our Administration will be if we can reverse the pattern of hostility and move to a cooperative relationship with the Soviet Union and both make ourselves responsible to further the peace of the world. We agree that if big steps can be taken—and there has already been much progress—after the General Secretary’s visit to the United States the process will become irreversible, and it cannot be disturbed by anybody in our country or outside forces, and this will be our policy during the next four-and-a-half years.

[Page 146]

Mr. Brezhnev: I too feel that the shortest road to achieve the goals that we have set for ourselves would be to formalize all we discussed the day before yesterday, yesterday, and today. Of course, our earlier talks have been useful but, if we could formalize them, it would be a useful step. Then the forthcoming visits, not just one but several, will create the atmosphere we wish and seek in our relations.

Dr. Kissinger: As the General Secretary said yesterday, we have never failed to come to agreement in these talks, and we won’t interrupt this record now. As for repeated visits, and I say there’s an element of selfishness in this, the President feels that the sooner the General Secretary comes to the United States, the sooner the President can return to the Soviet Union.

Mr. Brezhnev: That is indeed so.

Now I think we have certainly dealt with sufficient bilateral questions in the past two days, but we must be both alive to the fact that we conduct bilateral relations not in the stratosphere but in a world where quite a few states are looking at us and assessing our actions and assessing the general world situation. We must realize that all we do is against a background of events in Europe, the Middle East, and Vietnam. We cannot abstract ourselves from all of these events. Otherwise we would be misunderstood by the world at large.

Therefore, I want to say a few words about the Middle East and Vietnam. I don’t want to repeat the acute but nevertheless just assessments that we said to President Nixon on Vietnam and the Middle East, even though it was perhaps unpleasant to say what we did.

But in concise form I do want to point out it is our earnest view that it serves the best interest of the United States and the U.S. Government and President Nixon, particularly in light of the forthcoming election, if Vietnam could be resolved as soon as possible because it has been going on far too long. Obviously it is one of the most unworthy, unpleasant, dark spots on the United States record. In all the years it has gone on it has yielded the United States nothing. Nor can it yield the U.S. anything as it goes on. I am sure you are aware of that fact. It is also necessary to point out to the President that, though he said at the election four years ago that he would negotiate an end to the Vietnam war during his first term, he is approaching the election with the war still on his hands and this circumstance is being exploited by his domestic opponent in the U.S. I don’t want to interfere in U.S. internal affairs but it is a fact that the United States public is not indifferent to how things go in Vietnam. You are quite familiar with our position on Vietnam and there have been no changes. I recall our conversation with President Nixon.

President Nixon observed that Dr. Kissinger should do more thinking on Vietnam and that you should come up with something. We [Page 147] saw this not as a jocular statement but a serious one. I know you are meeting with them soon and have met with them in the past. If you can inform us on the progress of the talks, I would be grateful and I can give you some of our thinking on the eve of your visit to Paris to meet with the North Vietnamese. It is a fact that the war in Vietnam and the actions there of the United States and the plan which the United States obviously has adopted, which is to settle the problem militarily, even though we have said 100 times that this is completely impossible, all this sometimes sadly complicates the relations between us and impedes the solution of certain issues for both of us. I do not reveal any secret if I say that.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. General Secretary, I am grateful for this opportunity to talk to you about Vietnam. We recognize you conduct your policy on a principled basis and therefore you are opposed to our course in Vietnam. Yet the Vietnam problem concerns us both, because not only are we both directly affected, but it also forces us to take steps regarding other countries which we otherwise would not take. It is not only a United States problem, but also a problem which concerns the whole world. I am prepared to talk with great frankness and in some detail, but I just wonder how much detail the General Secretary would like to hear.

Mr. Brezhnev: Just as you see fit. The important thing is not the history but the way you contemplate ending the war as President Nixon avowed that he was going to close this shameful chapter in your history.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me give you an explanation of where I think we stand concretely and then, if the General Secretary has any questions, he can raise them.

There are a number of things to keep in mind. First, the United States domestic situation. The General Secretary pointed out that the Vietnam situation affects our domestic situation adversely. As it turns out, it has proven to be a liability for our opponents. That is to say that the margin of support for the President is two to one. In May it was 44 percent to 41 percent, today it is 60–30. If one asks specific questions, the margin is even greater. For example, 58 percent to 18 percent disapprove of McGovern’s statement about the bombing, and 51 percent to 26 percent disapprove his criticism regarding my travels on negotiations, and 76 percent to 21 percent believe President Nixon is doing everything possible to end the war. This is an example of our domestic situation. It does not affect our judgment. We were not affected when the polls were unfavorable, and we will not be affected now that they are favorable. We are not under pressure to end the war. The reason why we want an early end to the war is that it has become a senseless war [Page 148] with the sacrifices out of proportion to what is being achieved. Therefore we are serious about ending the war.

Now let us go into the negotiations, and I will tell you exactly where we stand. First, I will discuss the basic problem. I have thought a great deal about why these negotiations have failed, why precisely this negotiation has failed, which we are most eager to conclude, while others with other countries have succeeded and many of them on more difficult issues.

When we talk to the General Secretary for example and with Soviet leaders, they are very tough, they defend their interests with great passion, but it is possible to set objectives and work towards them in stages. These objectives are allowed to animate the discussions themselves. By contrast, when we talk to the North Vietnamese, they behave as if we are settling a traffic accident in a police court. I understand the political issues are paramount to them, but they constantly try to close loopholes and they miss the strategic opportunity. I can’t understand why as Marxists they cannot leave anything to the historical process. On May 31, 1971 we proposed a withdrawal within 9 months of a ceasefire and exchange of prisoners, and that nine month period was negotiable.2 It could have been six months. Instead we had a long philosophical discussion about the connection between political and military matters on which we wasted four months and they never seriously talked to us. I give this only as an example, and then I will go into the current negotiations.

Now let me discuss the current situation. The General Secretary said we want a military victory. This is not true. We want a negotiated settlement. The one thing we cannot accept is a proposition whereby we do the political work for the other side. Hanoi wants us to end the war, not by withdrawing our forces, which we are prepared to do, or by ending our military operations, which we are prepared to do, but by overthrowing the existing structure for another structure. Now they have a slightly different formulation, but I can show you how their political proposal would have the objective consequence of immediately imposing their preferred form of government on South Vietnam. We want to separate the military outcome from the political outcome, and we want to withdraw and start a political process whereby the Vietnamese can express themselves. We want the outcome to reflect Vietnamese conditions and not a United States imposition. If the DRV had any confidence in its own political strength, then it would not reject our position. No self-respecting country can accept what they are proposing. I will explain in detail how this comes about.

[Page 149]

Now in addition, and I’m being very honest with you, they do many things which are extremely infuriating to us without doing them any good. They are releasing three prisoners of war to a peace group. If they had released them to us, it would have created a moral obligation on our part to reciprocate. Instead they are releasing them to a group with no significance in the United States. They are releasing them to this group which is a disadvantage to them because everyone knows they are doing this to exploit the situation for propaganda purposes.

The release will be, we think, on a Soviet plane, which is a disadvantage to our relations. If they release them to us, I can assure you we would have had to reciprocate.

Mr. Dobrynin: It is just a regular Soviet flight.

Dr. Kissinger: I know, but people won’t realize that. If they had put them on an ICC plane to Vientiane, this would be a positive transaction.

For months they said we haven’t responded to their seven points.3 On August 1 we responded point by point.4 We accepted six of them and we advanced a compromise formulation on the other. They didn’t react at all. They in turn put forth ten points and seven principles.

On August 14 we accepted the seven principles and suggested they be signed as a document between us.5 They refuse to sign the principles we accepted and they had advanced as their own proposals. Then they say there is no progress. Now I understand their strategy is to pretend that there is a stalemate so that there is public pressure on us, and at the same time to have real progress in the negotiations. They have made it really difficult. Negotiating with the North Vietnamese is very difficult. I just wanted to explain this and then I propose to tell you about the negotiations, where do we stand and what we propose to do.

I want to make clear that on July 196 we proposed exactly what the President told the General Secretary we would propose, namely, a ceasefire and a resignation by President Thieu two months before the election, and they haven’t even answered that. Now there is the following contradiction in their position: on the one hand they say we should withdraw and on the other hand they say we cannot withdraw until we have done their political work for them. On the one hand, they say we want a military victory, on the other hand they reject a ceasefire. They have rejected a total ceasefire; they have rejected an unconditional ceasefire; they have rejected a temporary ceasefire; they have rejected a [Page 150] reduction of hostilities. We are realists. We know that if we stopped certain activities, it would be hard to resume them.

Thirdly, they accuse us of not recognizing the PRG. Let us be realists. If a ceasefire took place, there would be de facto recognition of the PRG. It would establish clear areas of control, one for the PRG, and the other for Saigon. The most effective way to gain recognition of the political forces would be to do what the General Secretary suggested in May, namely, a ceasefire. If I may say so, if the North Vietnamese had accepted your idea and our proposal of a ceasefire which we made, they would be in an incomparably better position today than under existing circumstances.

Now where do we stand? I will tell you what we are going to tell them Friday in Paris, except for one point.7 We will propose a withdrawal of all our forces within three months of a settlement, that after a settlement Vietnam be neutral, a ceasefire and that after a settlement we are willing to accept a limit on military and economic aid in some relation to the military aid they accept. But we are also prepared to have a private undertaking with them afterwards about the extent of our aid. And we will table sweeping political proposals. We cannot do what they ask, which is to install their government. I will tell you frankly, we have spent a month of enormous controversy with Saigon about what to table on Friday, and it would be a mistake for the DRV to say that it is nothing, because neither public opinion nor President Nixon will have any further patience for negotiations. I will give Ambassador Dobrynin the full text Monday of my opening statement, but I feel morally obliged to table the proposal with the DRV first. You’ll be able to judge for yourself. We have gone to the absolute maximum and accepted many of their principles.

Now what is the real issue? The real issue isn’t the paper that will be signed. They want guarantees, but what are the facts? Dulles8 didn’t go into Asia because of how the Geneva Accords9 were drafted. He went in because of the objective tendencies of our policy and because he drew lines against his concern over the Communist world. The United States is not looking for an excuse to go into Indochina; we are looking for an excuse to get out. It is absurd to believe that if we can coexist with Moscow, that we cannot coexist with Hanoi. If we can work out agreements with the General Secretary of the world’s largest Communist party and one of the most powerful countries in the world, [Page 151] why can’t we deal with an insignificant little country in Southeast Asia that represents no threat to the U.S.? If we can get a settlement, even if every clause is not precisely worked out, then that will start a real political process and change the situation. If not, the war will continue, and perhaps intensify and at this point continued military operations are to their disadvantage.

If an agreement is reached soon, we are prepared to implement it faithfully. We are also prepared, if you want, to give you assurances which they insist we give to them. So we would risk not only our relations with them but also with you.

These are the basic issues and I can give you the details. I am sorry I have talked so long.

Mr. Brezhnev: When you say withdrawal three months after a settlement, what do you mean?

Dr. Kissinger: A signed agreement. All forces would be withdrawn, including air forces. I shall give your Ambassador on Monday the text of my statement and the text of my proposal, so you can judge personally whether we have acted in good faith and openly as we have done once before.

Mr. Brezhnev: That is all, Dr. Kissinger?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but I am prepared to answer any question on the details.

Mr. Brezhnev: I can ask, have asked, and should ask quite a few questions to which it is difficult to find answers. You made a statement justifying the United States position, yet the war is going on with people being killed along with United States soldiers. That in itself shows that there can’t be any justification for what is going on.

I would not like to delve into the substance of the various proposals or the responsibility on the Vietnamese side. Obviously both sides have certain deficiencies in their proposal. That is not the overriding consideration. The main thing is to solve the problem of ending the war, and this we feel the United States is in a position to do, and we can’t understand why the United States does not want to. What interest is the United States protecting by its military actions? Does the U.S. understand that war is abhorrent to the entire world? What goals does the United States have?

Those are the basic issues. Otherwise, it’s a long, weary process and you ask me questions and I ask you questions and we make a legal analysis of the negotiations in Paris. That’s not the issue. It is on the United States and not Vietnam that ending of the war depends. It does not depend on long speeches and various formulas.

What the Vietnamese demand foremost is the withdrawal of United States forces and the United States must reply. It is not a ques[Page 152]tion of how many months. I think the Vietnamese would readily agree if you said by October 15th you would completely withdraw. At the same time, of course, there would be a ceasefire. That’s how the Vietnamese themselves pose the problem. Then, of course, a coalition government is to be established. If the United States were to accept these three principles, then there would be no more bloodshed in Vietnam and no more bombing.

You say the Vietnamese refuse to make concessions. They say you refuse. The crux is that you should withdraw and there should be a ceasefire and a coalition government, a coalition government in which the North Vietnamese would have no part. That is the quickest way to end the war.

The Vietnamese may have certain shortcomings in the way they negotiate, but a country like the United States could perhaps help the Vietnamese in negotiations.

There is no risk for the United States to lose face. Rather it is the contrary. There are no complexities for the United States. It is hardly right to justify the war by the fact that a greater percentage of United States population supports the policy in Vietnam. A few more months may pass and all that may change as it has in the past. It is not a basis for policy.

I do not wish to indulge in sharply worded statements. Our position remains unchanged and it is our earnest desire to see the U.S. Government and President take steps to really put an end to the war. It should also be clearly understood that Vietnam affects our own relations and cannot fail to have a certain influence upon them.

I see three basic elements in order to reach a settlement. First, your complete withdrawal of forces; second, a ceasefire; third, the creation of a coalition government naturally involving the resignation of Thieu and some agreed period for release of prisoners of war.

There is another consideration. Even if you withdraw your forces from Vietnam, it is still a fact that an enormous number of troops and naval ships are stationed in countries neighboring Vietnam. That, too, has a bearing on the situation in Vietnam. What I want to do is to wish you success in the talks in Paris. I would hope our wishes could be taken into account. These are the same wishes I expressed in May at a meeting when Dr. Kissinger said measures would be taken to end the war, and these have not yet happened. As for information about the talks, we would appreciate whatever you provide through Ambassador Dobrynin.

Dr. Kissinger: I appreciate the farsighted way in which the General Secretary has posed the issue. Let me say without prolonged discussion, I would like to comment on the three principles the General Secretary has mentioned. We agree to withdrawal. We agree to ceasefire. [Page 153] These are not in dispute. If you have information to the contrary, it is not correct. There is no dispute about this.

Regarding a coalition government, it is not quite correct to say that North Vietnam does not want to participate. At the last meeting they said the entire North Vietnamese army is under South Vietnamese command and must remain in South Vietnam after a settlement. And that can hardly be considered new [non] participation in the political life of the country. The specific proposal on Friday which we will make to the other side will enable members of the NLF to participate in the Government of South Vietnam in a particular formula. I will transmit it to the General Secretary and he can judge our proposals.

I appreciate the General Secretary’s remarks and they will be transmitted precisely to the President and will be taken extremely seriously.

One other point I want to tell the General Secretary personally—we can’t make it part of the negotiations—that after a settlement there will be a substantial reduction of our naval forces and a gradual reduction of the forces stationed in neighboring countries. I can give this as a personal promise of President Nixon, though for obvious reasons we cannot make the deployment of forces outside of Vietnam part of a settlement with the DRV. But I can give this as an absolute assurance of the President which we will honor.

Mr. Brezhnev: The Vietnamese also say that they are not empowered to decide things affecting neighboring countries because after all, the Geneva Accords related to Vietnam and not to other countries.

Dr. Kissinger: Then it would help if they got their troops out of there. [The other countries of Indochina]. I can also tell the General Secretary that, if he wishes we would not object to his telling the DRV about our assurances regarding deployments of our forces outside Indochina. It is up to him but he is authorized to tell them as far as we are concerned. We haven’t told them [interpreter asks question]. I think they are talking about Thailand.

Mr. Brezhnev: It is my own personal impression that at the forthcoming meeting the Vietnamese intend to reach either final agreement about ending the war and a subsequent political set-up or once again, they will reaffirm their will to resist more resolutely and to fight more staunchly. If you consider it useful to take this into account, I would be pleased. It is not for us to get involved in the negotiations. It is for you and for you [them?] to draw the consequences. My impression is that they take into account both your electoral situation and possible post-election developments, and our talks here.

Dr. Kissinger: I can assure you that I will go with an attitude of making a maximum effort to settle the war at the next meeting or shortly afterwards. If that is their attitude, they will find us meeting them in a very forthcoming spirit.

[Page 154]

Mr. Brezhnev: Let us end on that.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree.

Mr. Brezhnev: Well, do you think we should now take up the question of the Middle East because that is a subject which leaves an imprint on our relations and sometimes complicates them. This was also an issue we discussed at our last meeting. There is nothing new in the channel lately and if you have anything new to say, I would be happy to have your opinions because the situation there remains very acute and is becoming more and more tense.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Secretary-General, of course, there are a number of developments in the Middle East since we met, and not all of them have been favorable; in fact, none have been favorable to a settlement. I agree with you, the situation is not improving. I also must say on behalf of the President that some of the charges made by the Egyptian leaders against you reflect the serious and responsible role you have played in the Middle East and the careful way you have carried out your discussions with us. It has been carefully noted and appreciated by President Nixon and puts on us a certain responsibility to deal towards you in the same spirit.

Mr. Brezhnev: That is a logically correct analysis. It is a logical and absolutely correct analysis by the United States.

Dr. Kissinger: That does not mean that the people we are dealing with are always logical. [Brezhnev makes off-record remark.] Regarding our general attitude towards the Middle East, we have established and communicated to you the principle that this area is a good test of our relations and that it will always be an area of the world where one side or another has an opportunity to make tactical gains.

For the sake of the principles you described and the fact that with two great countries neither should be put at a permanent disadvantage, we have adopted the policy that we will take no major initiative in this area except in full consultation and discussion with you. Now we have, as I told your Ambassador, restrained some of the more impatient members of our government from making immediate moves in the Middle East. We are confronted constantly with overtures through various channels to the point that we cannot tell who speaks for whom or whether some of these people are just speaking for their own fevered imaginations. In any event, before we act on any information we receive we will discuss it with you and do it in concert with you in a spirit consistent with the principles we have established. We are not now in receipt of any information. But in any event, we will not act on the sly, which was one comment you made.

Mr. Brezhnev: What then are we to do nonetheless?

Mr. Kissinger: First . . . I don’t know what your information is from the Middle East, how you receive it. We receive such floods of informa[Page 155]tion which are contradictory. We should check with each other to see whether there’s any basis for the information received. We’ll inform you and you decide whether to inform us and decide what to do. Second, we are prepared to continue to elaborate the principles which the Foreign Minister and I worked out. I have developed, as I mentioned to you, Ambassador, some ideas about the nature of security zones which he asked for.10 Perhaps we could submit them to the Foreign Minister when he comes to Washington on October 2, in some detail plus discuss other principles that we develop here.

Mr. Brezhnev: There’s such a flood of information, you never get to the bottom of knowing who’s to blame for what.

Dr. Kissinger: And who represents whom. I read in the papers something saying I was supposed to meet Heykal in Munich.11 It was not true, but over the years at least five people have tried to set up a meeting with Heykal, and I don’t know if they even represent him. I don’t even know who Heykal is. Of course, I know his title, but I don’t know what he stands for.

Mr. Brezhnev: You didn’t meet him in the elevator?

Dr. Kissinger: That was our cover, and now you know.

Mr. Brezhnev: I agree. I would just then ask you in all seriousness to think over possible ways to act in this problem. We stated our position very well at the last meeting and have not changed. We should not freeze ourselves in the present position. Indeed Foreign Minister Gromyko is coming to your country soon and we expect then you will give us some formulations, ideas on what to do.

Dr. Kissinger: We believe after the election we will be much freer to act than we are now. [Pointing to some photographs of the meeting just handed to Brezhnev by an aide.] If these are pictures, can you sign them?

Mr. Brezhnev: Not before the end of the Vietnam war. You will get nothing from me until the end of the Vietnam war, not even photographs. I will sell them to the Times. [There is further banter about selling the pictures.] So you agree to discuss with Gromyko some new formulations? Of course I will sign them. [Brezhnev autographs photos.]

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, along the lines we told your Ambassador in Washington about security zones.

Mr. Brezhnev: Just to return to one of the points, not for any discussion, I just want to observe the war in Vietnam places us in a very [Page 156] difficult situation. At certain phases it reduces our ability to make still more serious improvement in Soviet-American relations. I hope you’ll take this into account.

Dr. Kissinger: We recognize this problem for the General Secretary, and we believe he has handled it with the greatest statesmanship up until now. We can assure you we will do everything possible to remove this particular obstacle in our relationship. [Brezhnev hands over three photos.]

Mr. Brezhnev: What else. Perhaps German affairs.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, the General Secretary mentioned German affairs yesterday, and then perhaps I can make some comments regarding the Far East.

Mr. Brezhnev: We have all along sought to promote a settlement between the two German states to the best of our ability. You and we helped Brandt on the ratification12 but that is past. There are still further outstanding issues. One of the most important is the admission of the two Germanies to the UN, then negotiations between the two Germanies. That is their own business, but we have an interest. My latest information is that there has been some progress. There is also the question of quadrilateral rights of the allies arising from the post-war agreement. This arises because of the UN issue. We have drafted a formula here relating to the rights of the four powers. [Brezhnev reads a text which he then hands to Dr. Kissinger. Text at Tab A.]13

“The Governments of the Soviet Union, Great Britain, the United States and France note the existence of the necessary prerequisites for the admission of the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany to the United Nations and state in this connection that the admission of the GDR and the FRG to the UN does not affect the question of the rights and responsibility of the four powers under the wartime and post-war agreements and decisions.”

When do you think we can practically expect a settlement of the question of the admission of two Germanies to the United Nations?

Dr. Kissinger: I talked to Bahr and Brandt in Munich.14 As you know, in principle we are not opposed to the admission of two German states. We believe that if a satisfactory formula can be found for the four power responsibilities, and I frankly want to examine this, then I pro[Page 157]pose the following process. My understanding from Bahr is that he expects to conclude the agreement with the GDR by November 1.15

We’ll certainly encourage this from our side and if you could encourage your German allies it would be helpful. After the agreement is signed, we are prepared at this UN session, to support observer status for both Germanies at the UN and, after it is ratified, we are prepared to support membership.

It looks all right to me, but there are always details. But I am sure we can settle it.

Mr. Brezhnev: We are encouraging our allies.

Dr. Kissinger: I have that impression. We can be in touch.

Mr. Gromyko: We do, however, still have some serious disagreements. To a great extent it will depend on the attitude of the West Germans.

Dr. Kissinger: You are, of course, informed of the latest meeting.

Mr. Brezhnev: You mean the one of two days ago?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. I had the impression from Bahr that he was optimistic that it could be settled by November 1 and I strongly urged him in this direction. Speaking confidentially, I urged him that those issues related to Berlin that he simply say that they should be handled in accord with the Berlin Agreement so we do not have to get into new legal arguments. But this is between us. This was my advice to him.

Mr. Alexandrov: In order not to go through this once more.

Dr. Kissinger: In order not to negotiate again.

Mr. Brezhnev: That is the right thing to do.

Mr. Dobrynin: Otherwise it’s a waste of time.

Dr. Kissinger: But what I told Bahr, my remarks to Bahr, should be treated especially confidentially and not repeated to him. It’s my idea.

Mr. Brezhnev: Don’t worry.

Dr. Kissinger: I was also urged by opposition leaders16 to use my influence in the opposite direction.

Mr. Gromyko: Are you going to do it?

Dr. Kissinger: No, I am going to do it in the direction I indicated to you. We will use our influence to settle by November 1 and then support observer status afterwards, before ratification.

[Page 158]

Mr. Gromyko: Although in all fairness we should say that the GDR is already entitled to ask for observer status. We must be clear on this issue. The Federal Republic already has observer status.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand your point but it is a complex issue which will create enormous debate, and we are only talking really only about a period of six weeks.

Mr. Brezhnev: But perhaps that step—observer status—now could have some positive role for subsequent events. I ask you to put that to President Nixon in my name.

Dr. Kissinger: If it were done now, before the signing of the general treaty, there would be an enormous crisis in Germany. Moreover, Brandt doesn’t want it. It would complicate our relations with him. It would reduce our influence in the treaty negotiations. I will, of course, mention everything you say to the President, and your views are always taken seriously. But, I believe it is more practical not to mention observer status now and raise it immediately after signature and then I can assure you it will go through quickly.

Mr. Brezhnev: I just want President Nixon to hear this in my name as I said it.

Dr. Kissinger: I will convey what you said to the President.

Mr. Brezhnev: I would see this as an important step in our relations.

Dr. Kissinger: I will raise it with him.

Mr. Brezhnev: We will have to come to it sometime.

Dr. Kissinger: I will raise it, but I think it will be settled anyway before the end of the General Assembly. But I will mention it to the President.

Mr. Gromyko: It also would certainly produce a very favorable impression in the GDR. We cannot conduct negotiations only on the strings of tension. This would be a great positive effect.

Mr. Brezhnev: I am sure this would prompt the GDR to take a more amenable stand and to make more concessions. It would show that an objective approach was being taken to the whole situation.

Dr. Kissinger: I will report fully to the President. I will discuss the matter and I will let your Ambassador know our reaction, that is if we ever see him again in Washington.

Mr. Brezhnev: That depends on how you act to prepare all these questions for agreement. If not, I will send him to the Crimea and keep him there.

Dr. Kissinger: He will be badly missed. I do not know if you saw the photograph of him in Hollywood, the one in which he was holding a rock over my head in his usual negotiating method.

[Page 159]

Mr. Brezhnev: I have no knowledge of this so far.

Dr. Kissinger: It was his usual method—a big rock over my head.

Mr. Gromyko: There is a famous sculpture in clay by the Soviet sculptor Chadre which shows a Soviet worker bending to pick up a rock and the title is “Weapon of the Proletariat.”

Mr. Brezhnev: Did Brandt ask you to convey anything to us?

Dr. Kissinger: There was no special request but he did confirm his desire to come to an agreement by November 1. But his basic attitude towards relations with the East, as you know, is extremely positive.

Mr. Brezhnev: What is his assessment of his prospects for the elections?

Dr. Kissinger: All leaders to whom I spoke were confident they would win the elections. My assessment is that if he completes the treaty before November 1 and there is no crisis which we don’t expect, then I think his chances are reasonably good. Whatever the result, it will be very close, and therefore, the management of the government will be very difficult no matter who wins the election. He has been hurt by the events at the Olympics, not in a negative sense of losing votes, but because he thought the good sentiment created by the Olympics and himself being photographed there and so forth would add to his votes. He has lost that possibility. The Olympics hurt him, Schiller’s17 resignation hurt, and the scandal of the two secretaries paid by the German magazine hurt him. It will be a very close election. If the Christian Democrats win, it should be by a narrow margin and the possibilities of radical changes in policy will be very limited. We will use our influence in the direction of the continuation of the present course. We, in any event, will not attempt to influence the outcome of the elections. We will do nothing to encourage Brandt’s opponents and we are thinking of doing a few things that will show our close association with the policies of Brandt.

Mr. Brezhnev: That is extremely important indeed, because I think given the desire President Nixon can do a great deal to help Brandt.

Dr. Kissinger: Everything here is confidential. These are very sensitive comments when we talk about the domestic situation of other countries, but the General Secretary has correctly understood our attitude, and indeed we have asked Brandt to suggest some symbolic steps which we could take to help him.

Mr. Brezhnev: In all confidence, too, I had occasion to observe over the past two years the policies and actions of Brandt. He is a wise politician and it is wise to go on dealing with him. He is better than the [Page 160] others. Because Brandt should, of course, be regarded as a politician whose general line is leading towards the general reduction of tensions in Europe. Both you and we are interested in seeing that happen. That should be the principal criterion, especially since the alternative is someone else in office who will want to return to the past situation. We shall pay attention to Brandt and if you and we are of like opinion, we should find a way of helping Brandt.

Dr. Kissinger: There’s no need to discuss this now because the elections are two months away. We’ll pursue the course discussed with the General Secretary. If for some reason the opponents should win, we will use our influence with them not to change policy, but if that happens we will be in touch before then anyway. There is no need to discuss this now, and I don’t expect this.

Mr. Brezhnev: You wanted to discuss the Far East.

Dr. Kissinger: I wanted to make a few remarks to the Secretary General about the Far East and how we see the evolution, in the nature of explaining our thinking rather than a specific policy discussion.

I always read in the newspapers, and in other articles, that we are playing a balance of power game between Peking and Moscow and that we are using it to affect Soviet policies. I wanted to use this opportunity to tell the Secretary General that we are not pursuing so naive and shortsighted a course. There is little relationship in the power between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, and we recognize that for the immediate future, while China may be a powerful country in the distant future, at this particular moment the peace of the world depends to a very large extent on the ability to negotiate our relationships. And therefore, any attempt to use the People’s Republic of China against the Soviet Union, even if we could do so, would be foolish and is therefore not our policy.

Whenever we are in Peking we avoid any discussion of issues that affect the Soviet Union. For example, we avoid discussing the border issue on the grounds that we are not ever going to become involved and therefore any information with respect to it is not operationally in any sense useful to us. And on other topics concerning your bilateral relations we don’t believe we have a right to express an opinion. You never ask us to discuss China policy with you. You can be certain that we pursue the same course in Peking.

In the immediate future there is no equivalence in power between the People’s Republic and the Soviet Union. If one looks at the longer term, the situation could arise where efforts might be made for a policy directed at both of us and an attempt to separate each of us from other countries.

[Page 161]

This is particularly a problem in relation to Japan. In recent discussions with the Japanese Foreign Minister18 we gained the impression—again this is very personal—that there are some tendencies in Japanese politics that believe that we should base our China policy on Taipei and that Japan should base its China policy on Peking. We would take care of the defense of Taiwan, and they would take care of the relations with mainland China and form a sort of détente. And they would kindly offer in that situation to act as a broker.

If such a shortsighted policy were being pursued then perhaps we might see the large industrial capacity of the one together with the more subtle views of the other, which would be a formidable combination. And this development could even have an orientation based on racial grounds rather than political grounds. If that were to occur, we believe a serious situation could arise for both of us.

We believe that it is in both of our interests that Japan’s relations in the Far East not be tied exclusively to one country, but also to others such as the Soviet Union. This is why investment in resources has a certain political significance and not only an economic significance.

So we will, of course, continue our relations with the People’s Republic and have periodic exchanges and periodic visits there—less frequent than in the past year—and periodic exchange of views. We are in no sense synchronizing our policies and in no case will we conduct our policy in a manner that could be directed, or indirectly considered to be directed, against the Soviet Union.

We are prepared to exchange views with you on the long-range tendencies that might affect the peace of the world and the security of our two countries.

Mr. Brezhnev: Well, we must, of course, sober-mindedly assess the situation here, and it is a fact that developments in the world situation, and first and foremost in our relationships, are influenced by the Chinese question. We sometimes mention China directly; more often we keep it in mind mentally. We have certainly duly assessed the statement made by the President and other Americans’ statements regarding the priority of US-Soviet relations in American foreign policy, and that is indeed our impression. At the same time it has to be said that China is certainly not enthusiastic over the improvement of relations between the Soviet Union and the United States.

[Dr. Kissinger interjected that “that was putting it mildly”—this was not translated.]

They do not like our taking the line of our developing our relations to mutual advantage in friendship and cooperation. If one assesses the [Page 162] present policies of the Chinese, they are primarily aimed against the positive processes now underway in Soviet-American relations. From all that is published in the press and from the information provided by our ambassadors, Peking has taken a negative attitude to the recent Soviet-American summit meeting in Moscow. According to Peking’s comments, our relationships are nothing but collusion between two superpowers, and this line can be seen not only in the direct assessment of our direct relations but also concerning the European Conference, German affairs, the Middle East, etc. In short, any bilateral contract is interpreted by them to be collusion.

Dr. Kissinger: The Secretary General may want to know . . . [not translated].

Mr. Brezhnev: If I might just continue.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, it’s better.

Mr. Brezhnev: The entire trend of Chinese policies is directed toward ranging the United States against the Soviet Union and is aimed at our becoming involved in confrontation with one another. I recall a slogan uttered by Mao here in Moscow the last time he was here for an international conference. [Quoting the Chinese saying] “I sit on the mountain and watch two tigers fighting.”

That is the precise policy the Chinese are pursuing. They are claiming to play a dominant role in world politics. But there are various slogans the Chinese use to justify their position, such as their slogan about the world village against the world city.

Dr. Kissinger: That was Lin Piao.

Mr. Brezhnev: All this reaffirms that same trend. On the other hand, we have not been, nor are we now, for isolation of China in the world. The position taken by the Supreme Party organ, the Party Congress, is that we favor normal Soviet relations with China. Nor are we against the development of relations between the U.S. and China. Of course, we are not indifferent to the basis on which these relations develop.

I am happy to accept the statement that you made, Dr. Kissinger, on this score against the background of relations between the Soviet Union and the United States on the one hand and the United States and China on the other hand. All sorts of guesswork is involved in various quarters. Some people talk about various triangles and quadrangles and various other geometric figures. Some people endeavor to act on the sly concerning these problems. It is a certain fact that China’s policy is mainly spearheaded against the Soviet Union. A great deal is due to the various internal problems and instability in China.

This is confirmed by events connected with Lin Piao. I wish to say here confidentially a few words about Lin Piao’s fate.

[Page 163]

Lin was in disagreement with Mao’s policy and when things had come to a head he tried to escape from China aboard an aircraft. We have made a thorough investigation of all the circumstances surrounding the plane crash. Perhaps the plane ran out of fuel or there was engine trouble or perhaps they had time to shoot at it and knock it down . . . anyway, it fell on the territory of the Mongolian People’s Republic, and the Mongolians invited our experts there. We made an investigation—we have all the expert photos and documents. Our people investigated the whole thing.

Actually in China his daughter betrayed him; when the conflict came to a head he was betrayed by his daughter. As for this information on his daughter, we don’t take that at face value—that is Chinese information.

Dr. Kissinger: The rest is yours.

Mr. Brezhnev: We had treated Lin Piao earlier when he came to Moscow for medical treatment; we have documents in the files; X-rays of his teeth, etc. It is confirmed definitely that the body is Lin Piao’s, probably together with some members of his family. It proves beyond a doubt that Lin Piao was in the plane that crashed. Some in China now try to spread incorrect versions of what was supposed to happen. The crash was a fact and so was Lin Piao’s presence.

I mention this to show that there is very serious internal dissension in China. It is still a country with an unstable internal situation. There is a need for us to follow closely the events in China, both the domestic situation and the foreign policy. But we are at the same time endeavoring to pursue principle, to follow a policy aimed at friendship with the Chinese people.

I would agree with what you say, that we should follow events closely and endeavor to prevent too great a rapprochement. The combination of Japan and China, a combination which could rest on nationalistic, racial principles, such a combination could indeed play a pernicious role in that area of the world.

I also want to say that the development of good relations between the Soviet Union and Japan would not in any way run counter to the interests of the United States. Considering our attitude toward Japan specifically, our policy cannot and will not be against the interests of American-Japanese relations, and we will continue negotiations with Japan regarding the treaty between the two countries with that principle in mind.

It is quite clear that China will attempt to do all it can to impede our relationship with you and also with Japan, and we will certainly have to act proceeding from these facts.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me make a few comments on this, if you will permit me. We know curiously little about the domestic developments [Page 164] in China. In all our visits there we see only a particular group of leaders. Therefore we are very grateful for the information you have provided, and you can be sure that it will be treated in the strictest confidence and told to nobody but the President. Whenever you believe that information is useful, it will be treated in the same way and with the same people.

Secondly, concerning the two tigers fighting. It is a settled principle of our policy that this will not happen. On the contrary, we have discussed sufficiently at these meetings how we want to adopt an exactly contrary course and not permit any country to put us against each other. So we are very much aware of this.

Thirdly, we are occasionally asked by other countries what their course should be. For example, Bahr, which I very confidentially mentioned to the Ambassador, asked us sometime ago what our view was on the Federal Republic of Germany’s relationship with the People’s Republic. We answered, of course, that this was a matter of domestic jurisdiction and sovereignty for the Federal Republic. I added that we thought that the weight of their interests lay in Europe and not outside of Europe. We thought that we made that basic view fairly clear.

Concerning Japan, we agree that the improvement of your relations with Japan will not be at the expense of our relations with Japan. We therefore encourage not only the development of economic relations between you and Japan, but also a peace treaty between Japan and the Soviet Union.

And finally we will, of course, continue normalizing relations with the People’s Republic at a not extremely fast rate. We will do nothing to discourage an improvement in their relations with you, and we will consider that a positive development and not one we have any interest in impeding.

I want to thank the Secretary General for having spoken with such frankness, and we will always reciprocate in the same spirit.

Mr. Brezhnev: The Chinese have a very tight, small group of leaders. If anyone tries to meet you without authority . . . [Brezhnev gestures as though he were cutting off his neck with his hand.] During the time of the Cultural Revolution they ranged twenty men in the public square and executed them in public. It is a country where marshals could be put in cages and carried around and beaten up.

Dr. Kissinger: Really? I didn’t know that. [Not translated.]

Mr. Brezhnev: Of course, this is for the President’s information.

Dr. Kissinger: Only for him. You can be sure that it will not be given to anyone else.

Mr. Brezhnev: There may come a time when we wish to make a public statement on this.

[Page 165]

Dr. Kissinger: That is your privilege. You can do with the information what you wish. Until you publicize it, we will keep it confidential.

Mr. Brezhnev: I hadn’t anticipated that we would be discussing the case of Lin. Next time you come, I will show you all the documents and photos.

Dr. Kissinger: That would be very interesting.

Mr. Brezhnev: It would seem that our discussion is nearing a close.

Dr. Kissinger: Correct.

Mr. Brezhnev: Just a few words on Korea. The last time we had a discussion on this subject, and we communicated to the Koreans that this time they should not raise the issue at the UN. I am not going into the details, but recent information from the Koreans is that they insist on the Korea issue being on the agenda of the UN General Assembly but they agree that the issue be debated after the United States elections, that is to say during the second half of the General Assembly. Perhaps you could consider this and convey it to President Nixon.

Dr. Kissinger: I will and I will study that constructive position.

Mr. Brezhnev: Finally, perhaps not for the record, I was very sensitive to the facts that relate to the Jackson Amendment19 regarding the Moscow treaty. It appears that his actions were concerted in advance. I am speaking in a personal way. Then there is another fact that deeply affected me. You appropriated large sums of money for new strategic arms at an accelerated pace. I am not saying this for discussion, but I hope that in future talks some attention will be devoted to this matter because we have a freeze and an agreement to make the interim agreement a permanent one. When we agree that one agenda item will be on non-use and then comes the United States decision to spend increased money on arms—it is only tomorrow that I will tell my comrades that I raised the matter with you. It is not proper to discuss it now but it is just my feeling that this runs counter to the spirit of earlier talks.

I think the talks were useful and I thank you personally for your constructive approach and your patience, and your efforts to make these talks productive. This has been a good meeting and I hope that all we discuss will become reality. In October we will announce the Lend Lease agreement and so forth. In short all that we discussed here will bear fruit. I convey my best wishes to President and Mrs. Nixon and you will bring him a personal memento. As for a personal note, I have not had time to write, and I will give it to you before you leave if I have time.

Dr. Kissinger: First, regarding the Jackson Amendment, to do the subject justice I would have to go into all of its intricacies. If it passes the [Page 166] Senate it will not pass the House. If the Senate passes it, arrangements have been made for the conference report to drop it. Secondly, special arrangements have been made to seek passage this week. I haven’t mentioned this to the Foreign Minister yet, but I hope he will be able to participate in the ceremony solemnly depositing the instrument of ratification.

Regarding the expenditures, we leave it to your Ambassador to explain to you the personality of our Secretary of Defense. Requests for funds are those already made, but he is justifying them by the SALT agreement. To explain that is a boring domestic issue and this did not require a presidential decision.

Regarding our meetings here, you have been courteous and the meetings have been most productive. We expect at the end of October to conclude a trade agreement including most favored nation status, the extension of export-import credits and also expect the announcement of the beginning of SALT and the preparatory meeting of CES and the exploratory meeting on force reductions. So we can say our relations have had an enormous impetus and have been given concreteness by what we have agreed here. Let me thank you for your courtesies, hospitality and the enormous comforts we have enjoyed during our stay and, as I said yesterday, we are now not only developing relations between our two countries but also very strong personal bonds and I look forward to a very early return to your country.

Mr. Gromyko: And to Leningrad.

Dr. Kissinger: To Leningrad and to see Giselle.

[During the course of translation of Mr. Brezhnev’s remarks above the following additional exchange occurred:]

Dr. Kissinger(to the interpreter): You might point out that if you are speaking about the Minister of Defense—on a personal basis—that he will not be long with us, so that situation will change.

Mr. Brezhnev: The absolute figures have increased.

Dr. Kissinger: By about 50 million. There are two things, he submitted a budget in January and then increased it in April and then there was a small increase in June. He justified the April increase with the May treaty. It is a bit strange.

Mr. Brezhnev: So long as the situation doesn’t arise where our military people don’t start that way before we’re back in the old arms race.

Dr. Kissinger: Some Senator told me as a joke that he didn’t know how many SALT agreements we could afford before going bankrupt. Also, we have agreed that our new Defense Minister could come here in the new Administration and we would reciprocate; or your Defense Minister could come here first if you wish.

[Page 167]

Mr. Brezhnev: Yes, but we haven’t addressed that question yet.

We promise you that. (Referring to Dr. Kissinger’s seeing Giselle on his next trip.) And please don’t forget to give President Nixon my very best wishes.

Dr. Kissinger: I certainly will.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 74, Country Files—Europe—USSR, HAK Trip to Moscow, Sept. 1972, Memcons (Originals). Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting took place in the Kremlin. All brackets except those indicating corrections are in the original.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume VII, Vietnam, July 1970–January 1972, Document 207.
  3. See ibid., Document 226.
  4. See ibid., volume VIII, Vietnam, January–October 1972, Document 225.
  5. See ibid., Documents 237 and 246.
  6. See ibid., Document 207.
  7. September 15; See ibid., Documents 262 and 263.
  8. John Foster Dulles, U.S. Secretary of State, 1953–1959.
  9. The Geneva Accords were a collection of agreements rather than a single document. For these agreements, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, volume XVI, The Geneva Conference, pp. 15051539.
  10. See Document 34.
  11. See footnote 13, Document 30.
  12. A reference to the West German Bundestag’s ratification on May 19 of the Moscow Treaty with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Treaty with Poland. The texts of the agreements are in Documents on Germany, 1944–1985, pp. 1103–1105 and 1125–1127.
  13. Attached but not printed.
  14. See footnote 3, Document 38.
  15. The FRG and the GDR were negotiating a treaty on relations between the two states.
  16. Reference to the Social Democratic opposition parties in the Bundestag, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU).
  17. West German Economic Affairs Minister Karl Schiller, who resigned in July.
  18. Ohira Masayoshi.
  19. See footnote 2, Document 23.