86. Editorial Note

Throughout the last week of March and the early days of April 1973, the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger exchanged and discussed drafts regarding a nuclear non-use agreement with Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin. Kissinger also consulted with the British Embassy in Washington about the draft agreement.

On March 21, Minister Yuri Vorontsov delivered the latest Soviet draft of the agreement to Scowcroft. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 495, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 15) In a memorandum to Kissinger, March 26, Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the NSC Staff analyzed the new Soviet version. Sonnenfeldt wrote that it “moves further away from the contingent quality of our last draft.” The new version, he wrote, “now becomes a bilateral non-aggression pact, with particular emphasis on nuclear war, and some reassuring phrases for third countries.” Sonnenfeldt noted that a revised Article VI of the agreement “introduces two qualifications that may have some meaning.” He continued:

“—The Agreement does not affect the ‘inherent right of collective self-defense’ (in our draft), but the Soviets add ‘provided for in Article 51 of the Charter.’ We had this earlier but dropped it at UK suggestion for the broader right of self-defense. Presumably, the Soviets want to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate rights to self-defense. [Page 295] This requires a lawyer’s judgment; my instinct is against adding the Article 51 reference.

“—The obligations toward third countries are also not impaired or affected, but the Soviets add a qualifier that relates to those obligations undertaken ‘in appropriate treaties and agreements’—presumably narrowing the effect to formal arrangements only. (Is our nuclear commitment to NATO in a treaty or agreement, for example?)

“—It could be that these two changes are designed with China in mind—in that the U.S. has no treaty obligations and China could only appeal to self-defense under the Charter.” (Ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 67, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Map Room, Aug. 1972–May 31, 1973)

On March 27, Kissinger contacted Minister Richard Sykes at the British Embassy regarding the latest Soviet draft (telephone conversation, March 27; ibid., Kissinger Telephone Conversations (Telcons), Box 19, Chronological File), and on March 30, British Ambassador Cromer forwarded to Kissinger a telegram from Sir Thomas Brimelow, Permanent Under-Secretary in the British Foreign Office, commenting on the latest Soviet draft. (Ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 67, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Map Room, Aug. 1972–May 31, 1973) On March 31, Kissinger contacted Dobrynin and told him “we have had a long message from the English with their views.” He said that “we want to study it because we don’t want to hand over a document the day we get the message. And secondly we want to study it to see whether we can accommodate some of their concerns, which will not require a major change, incidentally.” (Ibid., Kissinger Telephone Conversations (Telcons), Box 19, Chronological File) Sonnenfeldt submitted two subsequent drafts to Kissinger on March 31 and April 1, revised on the basis of comments from the British and from Kissinger. (Ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 67, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Map Room, Aug. 1972–May 31, 1973 [3 of 3]) On April 2, a revised U.S. draft of the nuclear non-use agreement was delivered to Dobrynin. (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 495, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 16)

Dobrynin discussed the revised U.S. draft with Kissinger in a telephone conversation at 6:25 p.m. the same day. Dobrynin said the U.S. draft “is a complete disappointment to me frankly.” He told Kissinger: “Now in Moscow it will look like a step back from what we already discussed two weeks ago. I am perfectly sure of this reaction because it’s from the text from your declaration which was a half year ago.” Dobrynin objected to the revised second paragraph of Article I of the U.S. draft agreement, which stated that the United States and the Soviet Union “agree that they will, in the conduct of their international relations do their utmost to create conditions in which recourse to nuclear weapons will not be justified, to prevent the development of situations [Page 296] capable of causing a dangerous exacerbation of their relations, and to avoid military confrontations.” Kissinger told Dobrynin that “the British attach enormous importance to that one sentence.” He added that “it therefore would make it a lot easier to sell it if the British would join us.” Kissinger said that he would discuss Dobrynin’s comments with President Nixon the following afternoon. (Ibid., Kissinger Telephone Conversations (Telcons), Box 19, Chronological File)

Kissinger called Sonnenfeldt after his phone conversation with Dobrynin. He told Sonnenfeldt that Dobrynin “is shedding bitter tears over the phrase ‘conditions in which nuclear war would not be justified.’ I told him he should wait 24 hours before transmitting it; I’ll talk to the President again, which doesn’t mean we’ll have to change it. You know, there is in fact an argument to be made that even if we are going to drop it out we could drop it in Moscow.” Sonnenfeldt replied that “there is a chance if we hang in there and tell them that this is just how it’s got to be that they may accept it.” The conversation continued: “HAK: And there is an advantage in showing the British we submitted it. Sonnenfeldt: Yes, because we’re going to have a big problem when this thing surfaces so we might as well show the agony that we went through. Because it’s in there twice now, in the preamble and the article. HAK: Which is one reason why we could drop it from the article. Sonnenfeldt: Yes, I think though that their objection is largely bureaucratic and can’t really be substantive because they got the first sentence and this thing is almost totally logical.” (Ibid.)

On April 3, Kissinger phoned Dobrynin and told him that the President “would like to submit the document as it is.” Kissinger added: “On the other hand, he [Nixon] will look with great sympathy at counter-proposals from Mr. Brezhnev. But he feels that he must at least submit it—that one phrase.” Dobrynin replied that “this phrase is three times repeated.” Kissinger told Dobrynin: “Well, I can tell you that we will be very receptive to deleting it from Article I. I mean I tell you that on an informal basis.” The conversation continued: “HAK: Anatole, we have never failed to complete an agreement and we will not fail this time. We will not fail this early in the Administration and this late in our relationship. But we have to go through some steps and you have to go through some. Dobrynin: I understand. All right. HAK: Particularly when we have to discuss the history at some point.” (Ibid.)