104. Letter From Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev to President Ford 1

Dear Mr. President,

I would like to express to you in a frank way some considerations of mine and of my colleagues on the question which is the matter of principle for the relations between our two countries.

The question is of the state of affairs which is shaping up in the field of trade and economic ties between the USSR and the US.2 Due to both purely practical and—to no lesser extent—to political reasons, this question was constantly a subject of exchanges of views including those at the summit meetings—from the first one in 1972 and till the latest our meeting with you in Vladivostok.

We, of course, remember the statements of former President R. Nixon, and then your statements to the effect that you definitely stand for the removal of earlier introduced in the US discriminatory limitations for the Soviet Union in the questions of trade and credits.

Moreover, both sides also undertook legally defined clear obligation to discontinue unconditionally—I emphasize, unconditionally—the discriminatory practice and to develop commercial and economic relations on the generally accepted basis of most favored nation status.

However, the results of the discussions in the US Congress of the new legislation on trade and credits in its part dealing with the Soviet [Page 406] Union cannot but raise questions and—to say even more—firm objections on our part. Any attempts to condition the removal of discriminatory limitations with various kinds of artificial demands like the one for “freedom of emigration” from the USSR etc., cannot fail being considered as nothing but a clearly expressed intention of interfering in the affairs of our state, which are of no concern either for American legislators or anyone else.

In fact, a direct attack was waged against the very basis of our relations—the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of each other. Of course, we cannot but react to such matters, we cannot assume an air as if we do not notice them. And we, as you know, have said our word on this matter in the TASS statement, published several days ago.3

It would seem that in our days nobody will seriously believe that it is suffice to have a wish to interfere in the affairs of the USSR and it will be allowed to do so. However, in the US, as one can see, there are still people who think in such absurd categories. At that, whatever efforts these people may try to use to cover their actions aimed against normalization of Soviet-American relations with pseudo-democratic, pseudo-humanitarian motives, in reality there is nothing of humanism or democratism in their actions.

If to take such a road, we also could, as a condition for dealing with the US in trade and economic matters, introduce a number of demands. For example, we could say that we shall not buy goods in the US until the racial discrimination is eliminated there. And in this case we would be guided by really the most humanitarian and noble motives. Or in solidarity with millions of American unemployed we could tie up the questions of our trade with the US with easing their situation. But is it not clear what will happen, if all such questions are to be introduced into our state relations.

The fact remains that agreement to the effect that trade and economic ties between the USSR and the US should be implemented on the basis of equality and non-discrimination has not yet been fulfilled by the American side. And this fact cannot but raise the question on our part and, probably, in the US as well as to how sure one can generally be of the implementation of what both sides agree about.

As a result of the aforesaid actions by the appropriate authorities of the USA, the questions of trade and economic ties between our countries—and we have to face the truth—have turned out to be unresolved at the present time. Moreover, in many respects the situation in this area became even worse to-day than ever before.

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To avoid any sort of ambiguity in this respect, we consider it necessary to state officially that the very basis of trade and credit legislation adopted by the US Congress in its parts dealing with the USSR is unacceptable for us on the abovementioned grounds. This, of course, relieves the Soviet side as well of the obligations which has been taken by it in a comprehensive complex of agreements on trade and credit questions.

Thus, our trade and economic relations have undoubtedly been seriously damaged, and that by no means helps the development of Soviet-American relations in other areas either.

In this connection we would like to know, Mr. President, your views with regard to improving the existing situation.

On our part, we shall do everything what is necessary to move further forward in our relations in the areas which so far have been the subject of our keen attention and to which both sides have devoted so many efforts. It applies both to bilateral Soviet-American relations and to the international problems touching upon the interests of our two States. We believe that this very approach will be the correct one.

The cause of relaxation of international tension and of strengthening peace is of too great importance and responsibility to retreat from it or to get discouraged on the account of forces which counteract this cause. We are deeply convinced that to do so would not be in our common interests. In any event, as far as the Soviet side is concerned, I can definitely say that this is not our intention.

In other words, we would like to view the future with optimism as before, supporting it by our joint efforts. We hope, Mr. President, that you share such an approach and that in practice the American side will act accordingly.

In conclusion, I would like to say that the degree of mutual understanding revealed during our meeting in Vladivostok and agreements reached there on certain concrete questions create not a bad basis for further intensive work with the purpose of completing the business we began, in the interests of the Soviet and American peoples, and in the interests of all mankind.


L. Brezhnev 4
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 8, Trade Bill, 1975. No classification marking. According to marginalia, the letter was delivered to the White House on the afternoon of December 25. In his memoirs, Kissinger recalled: “On December 25, Brezhnev addressed a personal letter to Ford, the first time he had done so since Vladivostok. At once blustering and melancholy, Brezhnev once more rejected congressional legislation linking East-West trade to Jewish emigration. The Soviet Union would not accept the waiver or any form of conditionality other than the settlement of the Lend-Lease debt.” (Kissinger, Years of Renewal, p. 305)
  2. The Trade Act of 1974 (Public Law 93–618) was approved by both Houses of Congress on December 20.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 100.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.