56. Memorandum for the President’s File1


  • The President
  • Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko
  • Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

The conversation began with social talk comparing Camp David to resorts in the Caucasus, and also on the subject of General-Secretary Brezhnev’s forthcoming visit to the United States.

The President opened the conversation by saying we had to lay the groundwork for a successful visit by the General-Secretary in May. On the nuclear-use treaty we could find an agreement. The President wanted the Foreign Minister to tell the General-Secretary that the U.S. side set it as a goal. We also had to work on the Middle East early in the next term and simultaneously with the nuclear-use issue. With respect to the Middle East, the U.S. would like significant progress made before the May meeting. After the election we would have a mandate to move forcefully in this field. We could not leave the problem unsolved. We had to grapple with the problem early. The President was taking personal responsibility in these three areas—in SALT, on the Middle East, and on the nuclear treaty.

Foreign Minister Gromyko then said he wanted to thank the President for setting out his views so clearly. We could say, on the Brezhnev visit, on his behalf, there were real possibilities for this visit, growing out of developments since the summit. The visit of Dr. Kissinger to Moscow had been very helpful. The General-Secretary was preoccupied with the conditions that would surround his visit, and the President’s statement now meant that an impasse would not be permitted. The Soviet side believed that the obligations of the two powers in the document should be stronger than in the basic document of principles. (The Foreign Minister, in effect, made the Brezhnev visit conditional on the nuclear treaty.)

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The Middle East was also significant, the Foreign Minister continued. A solution was in the long-term interest of both the United States and the Soviet Union. The Soviet side was not guided by momentary considerations. They were not satisfied with the present state of affairs in the Middle East. They would take note of what we could and could not do before November, but we should be guided by the long-term interests of both countries. We should have a practical approach. If there was no progress it would pull our relations back. Here too it had to be found that withdrawal from Arab territories was essential. Both sides had to be prepared to exercise joint efforts.

The conversation then turned to Vietnam. The Foreign Minister said the Soviet side was convinced it was an acute problem in relations between our two countries. It had a great influence on our relations. If the problem was removed, this could improve U.S.-Soviet relations.

The President said he wanted to cover this subject privately. When Dr. Kissinger next went to Paris he would lay on the table a comprehensive proposal to settle the war. If the U.S. were dealing with the Soviet Union, we would be able to settle this next week. This would be our final proposal, the President emphasized. It would be the ultimate, the last offer we could make. If the other side said no, then the negotiation track was closed. We would then have to turn to some other methods, the election having been concluded. It was our final proposal, he repeated.

Foreign Minister Gromyko replied with some laudatory words about Dr. Kissinger’s role in the negotiations. The conversation then ended.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 495, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 13. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. This meeting took place from 5:32 to 6:32 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) In a letter to Brezhnev, September 21, thanking the Soviet leader for the hospitality shown Kissinger in Moscow and reaffirming plans to invite Brezhnev to the United States, Nixon wrote by hand at the bottom of the letter: “I shall show Foreign Minister Gromyko the accommodations we are preparing at Camp David for you + your party. It should be beautiful there in May.” (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 495, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 13)