71. Letter From President Nixon to Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev1

Dear Mr. General Secretary:

I should like to avail myself of Ambassador Dobrynin’s return to Moscow to continue our full and frank exchange of views in the private channel. May I use this opportunity to extend to you, your colleagues and your people best wishes on the occasion of the anniversary which you will shortly be celebrating.2 Since we are approaching the end of [Page 249] 1972, may I likewise extend my personal good wishes for the coming year and express the hope that the positive and constructive relationship that has developed between our two countries will be further broadened and deepened in the period ahead. A high point next year will be your visit to this country to which we look forward with keen expectations as another milestone in our common effort to cooperate in the cause of peace and progress for all nations.

Looking back over the past year, our two countries have reasons to view what has been accomplished with considerable satisfaction. The agreements concluded at the meetings in Moscow and since then represent a solid beginning of a new and more fruitful era in cooperation. In Moscow, I recall, we both agreed that our people would evaluate our work on the basis of whether we could put into practice the documents and principles we had signed. In our bilateral relations and in various aspects of international relations, we have continued to make steady progress since the summit. The momentum has been reinforced and should now be accelerated.

The success we have enjoyed in this past year presents us with a challenging agenda for the coming year. The high hopes in both countries for further agreements in limiting strategic arms compel us to a more intense effort when the negotiations resume in February. Evidently, our task will be more difficult, and this is understandable because we will be considering both a new range of measures as well as long-term commitments suitable to a permanent agreement. As you know from our exchanges in this channel, our concerns are with the central weapons systems that can threaten the stability of strategic relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. You have expressed parallel concerns with various other weapons systems and other issues. We will need to consider most carefully in this channel how we can devise a framework for balancing the concerns of each side. During the period when the formal talks are in recess, I hope we can pursue these issues in the private channel in order to give impetus to the negotiations when they resume. We should use the private channel to seek to crystallize a significant agreement that could be signed at the summit.

There are other areas of arms control—for example, chemical weapons—where I believe progress is possible.

In addition I am prepared to continue the discussions on working out a mutually acceptable agreement relating to the non-use of nuclear weapons. I have kept in close touch with the exchanges on this subject that have taken place between Foreign Minister Gromyko, Ambassador Dobrynin and Dr. Kissinger and will continue to do so as these exchanges continue.

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In European affairs, as you have pointed out, there are now new prospects for dealing with matters of security and cooperation and the reduction of armed forces. The initial contacts in Helsinki suggest that we can accelerate the preparations and define an agenda that will allow a full conference to be convened in June. We are also preparing for the initial talks on mutual reductions of armed forces. While the talks in January, as we have agreed, will be preliminary,3 we hope that some discussions can take place that will point up the issues that will be negotiated beginning next autumn.

Our Allies, as well as countries allied to the Soviet Union are deeply involved in both of these negotiations, and I am not suggesting that the United States and the Soviet Union can or should arrange the outcome without their participation or against their interests. Nevertheless, our two countries can facilitate the course of these talks and help ensure their success, and to this end we are prepared to remain in contact through this channel.

There are two areas where, quite frankly, we have met disappointment—in arranging peace in Vietnam and in moving toward a settlement in the Middle East.

Our views on the Vietnam negotiations have been conveyed to you,4 and there is little to add at this time. The Soviet Union has played a constructive role in these past months, and any further efforts would be greatly appreciated. I assure you that such a peace remains my paramount goal, as I know it also remains your goal.

In the Middle East, we are both limited in our roles, but within those limits we are prepared to pursue discussions in the interest of finding a means to revive the negotiations on either an interim agreement, or, if you think it more feasible, on a lasting settlement. In any case, this is a topic we should consider high on the agenda for the coming year.

In the present phase of our relationship, it appears that we will be more involved in negotiations that concern other countries—such as discussions about European security and cooperation, the Middle East, and even those aspects of the strategic arms limitation talks that touch [Page 251] the interests of others. At the same time, we still have room for considerable expansion of our bilateral relations. As is customary in our government, we have been making some changes of personnel for the second term, and when this is completed we will be making appropriate adjustments in our representation in the bilateral commissions we have established. I want to assure you, Mr. General Secretary, that questions of Soviet-American relations are not involved in our personnel changes. We fully intend to continue with an active program in each of the major areas of cooperation. It is particularly gratifying to note, for example, that in cooperation in outer space the technical experts seem to be making important progress.5 Progress has also been notable with regard to cooperation on environmental problems and on health matters.6 We look forward to further advances in the important area of science and technology.7

Next year, early in the Congressional term, we will submit legislation to facilitate Soviet-American trade. There will be difficulties in this area, but I will stand fully behind this legislation.

Meanwhile, we should continue our discussions on the question of long-term ventures for the supply of various kinds of natural resources, in particular natural gas.8 I hope we can make early progress in reaching understandings between our governments that take account of the very long-term character of the relationships involved and of the unprecedented magnitude of the investments required. I would hope, therefore, that contacts between responsible officials on both sides as well as between experts will be pursued in this spirit.

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In sum, Mr. General Secretary, 1973 will be a year of great expectations in Soviet-American relations, highlighted by your visit to the United States. There are a number of questions which I believe can be brought to fruition during that visit. We want to make it comparable in every way to the summit meeting in Moscow. To do so will require both sides to undertake detailed preparations and agree on an agenda of issues on which we might complete agreements here in Washington.

In certain areas, it may be wise to focus on reaching agreements in principle which would then be refined in subsequent contacts. This could be the case in the field of arms control and on certain of the broader political issues that remain. In other areas, chiefly that of bilateral relations, I believe it would be desirable to prepare specific and concrete additional agreements which could be announced at the time of the visit. If this general approach meets with your approval, the most efficient way to proceed would be to have your Ambassador and Dr. Kissinger identify the various subjects involved early in the New Year so that we then have common objectives to aim for in the ensuing months before your visit.

I shall await your reaction to these considerations with interest and meanwhile Mrs. Nixon joins me in wishing you and your family a healthy and happy New Year.


Richard Nixon
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 495, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 14. Top Secret. A handwritten notation at the top of an attached note from Kissinger to Dobrynin reads: “Hand-delivered to the Embassy at 5:40 p.m., 12/18/72.” Kissinger also attached to the letter a copy of a message delivered to the North Vietnamese in Paris the same morning. The message reiterated the importance of a speedy peace agreement.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 70.
  3. On November 6, Sonnenfeldt forwarded to Kissinger a note Dobrynin had presented to Rogers that morning. In his covering memorandum, Sonnenfeldt wrote: “The substance of the Soviet communication is that the sequence of the initial CSCE and MBFR talks is accepted for November 22 and January respectively, and a tentative timetable for actual negotiations in June and September–October, respectively. The Soviets also accept that initial MBFR talks will develop an agenda and take place in a city other than Helsinki.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 25, HAK Paris/Saigon Trip, TOHAK HAKTO 11/4/72–1/7/72 California Before Elections)
  4. See Document 62.
  5. See Document 70. Kissinger wrote in a memorandum to Nixon, November 8, that five U.S.-Soviet working groups were busy planning for a joint manned Apollo–Soyuz test flight, scheduled for 1975. “Additional, bilateral work continues on cooperative projects in the fields of space meteorology; study of the natural environment; exploration of the near-earth space, the moon and planets; and space biology and medicine,” Kissinger added. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 721, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Vol. XXVI)
  6. Kissinger wrote in his November 8 memorandum to Nixon: “The September 18–21 meeting of the Joint Committee on Cooperation in the Field of Environmental Protection resulted in a memorandum of implementation providing for 30 initial U.S.-Soviet environmental projects in the 11 subject areas of the agreement.” He also outlined joint endeavors in mental health, environmental health, and cancer research.
  7. In his November 8 memorandum to Nixon, Kissinger reported that a tentative agreement had been reached to hold the first meeting of the Joint Commission on Scientific and Technical Cooperation in Washington. “The Commission is expected to approve the reports of its working groups for cooperative programs in agricultural research, chemical catalysis, water resources, energy, computer applications to management and applications of microbiology. It was also expected to approve a memorandum of cooperation in agricultural research between Agriculture and the USSR’s Ministry of Agriculture.”
  8. See Document 69.