70. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Your Next Meeting with Dobrynin


The talks are to recess next week. There is an ad referendum agreement to resume February 27 but this awaits your approval.

The only concrete result will be a memorandum on the Standing Consultative Committee (SCC). This also awaits your approval. (Smith has wired you separately on it.)2 Guidelines for regulations governing the operations of the SCC are hung up with the agencies here but we hope to get this straightened out before the recess. If not, the memorandum alone could be signed. There also will be a broadly-phrased work program.

Substantively, the talks are really deadlocked over our insistence that we concentrate on equal aggregates in central systems (including throw weight) and Soviet insistence that we in effect not tamper with the interim agreement but add on to it a series of measures affecting FBS, submarine operations and aircraft armaments.

The Soviets have talked to Smith about the possibility of some additional interim agreement(s) for the next summit but it is not clear [Page 243] what measures they have in mind other than those with clearly detrimental effects for us.

The Soviets, I believe, owe you a reaction to your written response to the paper Dobrynin gave you some weeks ago,3 and the contents of which they have since put on the table in Geneva.

There has been some probing by Soviet delegates on qualitative restraints (MIRVs) but no initiative—indeed, the inference has been left that we should make the proposals.

It seems to me that since you have already left the message that there may be some bargaining room on matters of Soviet concern if they show flexibility on what bothers us, you should stand pat for now. I would judge that the Soviets feel some pressure to come up with potential deals for the Brezhnev visit (whenever that may in fact occur) and that we should be relaxed in this regard for now. Our message on central systems should stand undiluted as the Soviet leaders gather for their anniversary celebration.4

Other Arms Control

You should have a separate memo5 on the list of possible agreements that you have previously discussed. None look immediately promising to me except something on chemical weapons. But we have put on a work program to reexamine all the items. If Dobrynin refers to these matters, you may want to tell him that we are looking at them very carefully and hope they are doing so also and that the area of chemical weapons may be more promising than the others.


The preparatory meeting in Helsinki recessed today for a month. There has been much fencing about whether discussion of an agenda for the conference should come before settling the date, place and mo[Page 244]dalities of a conference. The Soviets want the latter done first; NATO the former. The Soviets have played up to our delegation to some extent but right now there is no special US-Soviet problem. A progress report is at Tab A.6


The Soviets owe the Western countries a reply to their invitations for the January preliminary talks7 and it is assumed that this will be forthcoming after the Communist summit in Moscow next week. There may be some haggling over participants (we have the formula concerning rotating flank participation) but otherwise the January talks seem to be on the rails. The Soviets did recently approach the State Department with a request for some of our MBFR studies to help them in theirs.8 State will reject this. It is of course tricky because of the enormous Allied sensitivities about US-Soviet deals. It will be interesting to see if you get an echo from Dobrynin on this point. If you do, we might actually consider giving Vorontsov a general feel for some of our work, perhaps after the January talks.

Bilateral Issues

(Note: If you have not been in touch with Peterson today, you may want to get a fill-in on his meeting with Dobrynin on Dec. 14.)9

1) US–USSR Trade Policy. With the President’s replacement of Peter Peterson and promotion of Jim Lynn, the Soviets are watching closely for any changes in US trade policy toward the USSR. We have told State to advise Embassy Moscow that should Patolichev or any other member of the Soviet hierarchy raise the subject they should be told that no change in US policy is anticipated and that US Chairmanship of the Joint Trade Commission after Secretary Peterson leaves will be subject to Presidential determination.

Dobrynin may want your views on the mood of the Congress and the President’s plans with regard to MFN for the USSR. (Kosygin, as you know, raised this with Senator Humphrey, and in discussing MFN with Patolichev and Arbatov, Humphrey said that the Jackson Amend[Page 245]ment reflecting concern over the issue of Jewish Exit Fees was not an electoral issue that would go away.)10

—You should say that the President still plans to submit MFN legislation early in the new session of the Congress.

—Add that the Exit Fee issue is taken very seriously on the Hill, that anything the Soviets can do to ease the concerns of the Congress in this regard can only be expected to help the prospects for MFN passage.

2) Natural Gas. You have my memoranda of December 12 & 14 on the status of the US–USSR natural gas proposals and the problems being encountered.11 We have told the USSR that we hope to complete the deliberations of our interagency task force on Soviet gas projects by the end of January 1973. Accordingly, Dobrynin may inquire as to the current US position. (Again, this is an issue which Kosygin raised with Humphrey.)

—Tell Dobrynin that the issue is still under consideration; because of the complexities involved you would not want to commit yourself to a specific deadline.FOLLOW

—Say that the Administration is currently reviewing the overall energy policy of the United States and that this involves many considerations in addition to those directly related to the US–USSR gas proposals, further complicating the picture.

—(Note: I do not think you should be overly optimistic at this point about an early, favorable governmental decision with regard to billions of dollars of monetary backing for the US companies interested in developing Soviet gas resources.)

3) Grain Deal. Four US ships loaded with wheat are currently enroute to Odessa. Dobrynin may remind you of the private understanding with regard to the Maritime Agreement12—i.e., that we would be ready to reconsider the question of Soviet ships being permitted to call at Cuba before coming to the United States to pick up wheat.13 Should he do so, attempt to discourage early action on this.

—Say that the maritime agreement is just in the process of being implemented, that it might be a mistake to consider the possibilities of [Page 246] any changes before Americans become better adjusted to this new facet of US–USSR relations.

—Note that Union leader Curran14 has already expressed misgivings that the United States may at some point back away from its insistence on such points as carriage of one-third of the cargoes in US ships—that the grain deal is being watched closely by suspicious people.

4) Science and Technology Summit Agreement. Deputy Chairman Kirillin was forced to request a second postponement of the first meeting of the US-USSR Joint Commission on Science and Technology—this time because of ill health. Dobrynin is currently expecting Ed David to propose a new date for the meeting, the Soviets having asked if it might be possible to hold it in early to mid-January. I see no need for you to raise the subject, but should Dobrynin do so:

—Say that you haven’t had a chance to discuss this with David, but that you see no reason not to schedule the meeting as soon as it is mutually convenient to do so.

—Add that it would be a mistake to let this initial implementing step drag on too long, bearing in mind the President’s desire to have all Summit Agreements moving ahead smoothly and productively.

—Further, you may wish to ask for Dobrynin’s views on the desirability of earmarking the proposed US–USSR Agriculture Research Agreement for the Brezhnev visit, as discussed below.

5) Brezhnev Visit. A recent article in the Washington Post15 reported Dobrynin at a Yugoslav Embassy function in late November as saying that the Brezhnev visit would not take place in the spring of 1973 but would be put off until later in the year to permit the Soviets to take a better look at the current status of US–USSR relations. Should you wish to raise the Summit with Dobrynin, including possible agenda items, you have my memorandum of November 29 and one of December 616 which suggest several possibilities (in addition to arms control agenda items). These can be summarized briefly as follows:

a) Agricultural Research. It is now planned that the first meeting of the Science and Technology Commission will approve an Agricultural research agreement between the US and Soviet Agriculture departments—an agreement dealing with research in the fields of farm crops [Page 247] and farm animals and the mechanization of agricultural production. There have been indications that the Soviets would rather have this as a separate agreement not linked to the overall science and technology agreement.

—You may wish to ask Dobrynin if the Soviet Government would prefer to upgrade this agreement and retain it for formal signing during the Brezhnev visit.

b) Space Cooperation.17 NASA Administrator Fletcher recently suggested three new cooperative projects to Keldysh—Keldysh said he would study them.18 These involve: 1) a joint unmanned Mars mission; 2) cooperative arrangements whereby the US would process real-time data from the USSR’s next Mars lander; and 3) a joint project involving the orbiting of a satellite around Venus to collect scientific data via ejected-balloon-borne equipment.

—You may wish to note that NASA has raised these possibilities with the Soviet Academy and ask Dobrynin if there has been any reaction thus far, and more generally, what the Soviet reaction would be to marking an additional step in US–USSR space cooperation during the Brezhnev visit.

c) Moon Treaty. The Soviets have been pressing for UN acceptance of their proposed Moon Treaty.19 There has been considerable give and take on the draft treaty provisions and it is now possible that the UN Outer Space Legal Subcommittee will resolve the outstanding issues at its meeting next spring and that a treaty will be ready for approval by the UNGA next fall.

Should the President and Brezhnev decide that it would be desirable to sign a bilateral agreement on use of the moon and other celestial bodies—an agreement that takes into account the UN’s efforts—this option would appear to be available for the Brezhnev visit.

—You may wish to ask Dobrynin for his reaction to arranging for a bilateral moon-and-other-celestial-bodies treaty signing during the Brezhnev visit.

[Page 248]

Soviets Very Itchy About the Future. Judging from Zhukov’s recent comments20 and other indications, the Soviets are quite uncertain about what is going on here. They are trying to figure out who is up and who is down and they are uncomfortable about getting used to new faces. The changes at Commerce and concurrent reports about John Connally’s influence seem to worry them particularly. Dobrynin may be asked to report his impressions and give an assessment when he sees Brezhnev not only of personnel changes per se but of policy implications, especially in light of the Vietnam situation.

You are presumably up to date on the Cox visit to Moscow21 which Jeanne Davis has been handling. The Soviets have been cooperative.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 67, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Map Room, Aug. 1972–May 1973 [1 of 3]. Confidential; Sensitive; Eyes Only. A handwritten note at the top of the memorandum reads: “Map Room, Breakfast, Dec. 16, 1972, 8:30 a.m.” According to Kissinger’s Record of Schedule, he met with Dobrynin in the Map Room from 8:42 to 9:50 a.m. on December 16. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1967–76) No other record of Kissinger’s conversation with Dobrynin has been found.
  2. Smith’s backchannel messages to Kissinger regarding the SCC, SALT 56 and 58, December 14 and 15, are in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 427, Backchannel, SALT, 1972. The draft memorandum of understanding establishing the SCC, transmitted in telegram 65 from the SALT II delegation, is ibid., Box 888, SALT TWO I—(Geneva), November 21, 1972–March 1973.
  3. The Soviet note on SALT, handed to Kissinger by Dobrynin on October 24, outlined the Soviets’ understanding of the goals that the Americans and Soviets hoped to achieve through SALT. Kissinger’s response, handed to Dobrynin on November 14, provided an overview of Soviet and American goals to be discussed in the forth-coming SALT negotiations. Both notes are ibid., Box 495, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 14.
  4. On December 21, the leaders of the Warsaw Pact gathered in Moscow to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the USSR.
  5. On December 15, Philip Odeen of the NSC Staff forwarded Kissinger a memorandum on “arms control and the summit.” It addressed SALT issues, specifically ABM deferral and offensive restraints, additional bilateral issues, and multilateral issues, including nuclear test bans and limits on chemical weapons. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 67, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Map Room, Aug. 1972–May 1973 [2 of 3])
  6. Attached but not printed is a December 14 memorandum from Eliot to Kissinger.
  7. On November 15, Beam presented the U.S. invitation to the Soviet Union for MBFR talks, based on a common text approved by the North Atlantic Council, to begin on January 31, 1973. (Telegram 4701 from the USNATO, November 10; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 6 EUR) For more on the invitation, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXIX, European Security, Document 119.
  8. The request was not found.
  9. No record of the meeting was found.
  10. On October 4, Senator Jackson introduced an amendment that would block implementation of key portions of the U.S. Soviet trade agreement unless the Soviet Union rescinded the high exit fees imposed on Jewish emigrants. See “Senate Plan Bars Credits if Soviet Retains Exit Fees,” The New York Times, October 5, 1972, p. 97. Senator Humphrey and a Congressional delegation visited Moscow at the end of November to explore Soviet-American trade. See “Kosygin Turns Down Appeal on Emigration Tax by Humphrey Group in Moscow,” ibid., December 2, 1972, p. 14.
  11. See Document 69.
  12. See Document 61.
  13. See Document 18.
  14. A reference to Joseph Curran, President of the National Maritime Union.
  15. Dusko Doder, “Delay Seen in Brezhnev Visit Here,” Washington Post, December 9, p. A1.
  16. Sonnenfeldt’s memorandum of November 29 on possible agenda items on space cooperation for Brezhnev’s visit is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 67, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Map Room, Aug. 1972–May 1973 [3 of 3]. The December 6 memorandum was not found.
  17. President Nixon and General Secretary Brezhnev signed an agreement on space cooperation on May 24, during the Moscow Summit. A draft text of the agreement was transmitted in telegram 4915 from Moscow, May 24; see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–1, Documents on Global Issues, 1969–1972, Document 281. The final agreement is printed in the Department of State Bulletin, June 26, 1972, pp. 924–925.
  18. Sonnenfeldt’s memorandum, November 29, summarizing Keldysh’s talks with Fletcher during the former’s visit to the Houston Space Center, is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 67, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Map Room, Aug. 1972–May 1973 [3 of 3]. James Fletcher was the NASA Administrator; Mstislav Keldysh served as President of the Soviet Academy of Sciences.
  19. The Moon Treaty was submitted to the UN General Assembly by the USSR in 1971. See Yearbook of the United Nations, 1972, pp. 40–42.
  20. Presumably a reference to the comments made by Yuri Zhukov, editor of Pravda, reported in the Los Angeles Times: “An authoritative spokesman for the Soviet point of view, Yuri Zhukov, wrote in Pravda, the official Communist Party newspaper last week, that participants in the security conference should ‘confirm the inviolability of European borders’ and commit themselves to develop their mutual relations on the principles of good-neighborliness and cooperation and renunciation of the use of force in settling outstanding issues.’” (“Proposed Europe Talks Facing 1st Serious Test,” Los Angeles Times, November 19, 1972, p. 2)
  21. Tricia Nixon Cox, the President’s daughter, visited the Soviet Union in early January 1973.