283. Letter From Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev to President Ford1

Dear Mr. President,

I have attentively studied your last letter2 and would like to share with you some further thoughts concerning the state of affairs in the Soviet-US relations. In doing so I also have in mind the circumstance [Page 1045] you have mentioned in your letter—the importance of maintaining a regular dialogue between us in the spirit of frankness and a businesslike approach to the solution of arising problems.

Whatever the complexities of the present period and whatever the reasons causing them our mutual task is to work persistently in order to overcome them. The relations between our countries are too important and serious matter for both sides to approach them with a routine yardstick. Here a constant attention is needed at the highest level and now perhaps even more so than ever before. I think you agree with this.

I shall not conceal, Mr. President, that in studying your letter we had a double feeling. We regard as a positive moment your confirmation of the intention to follow the road of a further improvement and expansion of the relations between our countries in accordance with the policy mutually adopted by us. We also notice with satisfaction your assurance that the US leadership will not do anything that could jeopardize the progress in Soviet-US relations.

At the same time it is difficult to agree with the idea that we should not pay attention to public statements made by responsible US figures in which the line at the relaxation of tension with the Soviet Union is actually called in question. Of course, we cannot bypass, disregard such statements.

But it is not only the statements that matter. It is quite obvious that for the relations to develop and not to come to a standstill or still less to be thrown back, consistent efforts and practical work are needed with a view to solving specific questions constituting the subject matter of these relations. It is clear, for example, that one of these questions is the completion of working out a new strategic arms limitation agreement which, as your letter says, you also regard as an essential goal.

But it is exactly here that we see an obvious delay with the answer to our considerations of March 17,3 and meanwhile upbuilding of the military budget which has already reached an astronomic figure, is going on in the United States, new far-reaching armaments programs are initiated.

Of course, there can be no two opinions as to the right of each country to ensure its security, as is stated in your message. However the interests of ensuring security and a new spiral of arms race, uncoiled now in the United States—and this is exactly the fact—are far from being one and the same thing. I would be less than candid if I do not once again draw your attention to this fact having in view a long-term prospect of relations between our countries. Here, by the way, a cardinal question of mutual confidence is involved.

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There is no need to cite other examples, including those of recent time which reflect as in focus the contradictoriness of a present-day US approach toward our relations. The examples of that kind are well known.

We, naturally, take note of your, Mr. President, explanations regarding the peculiarities of a current debate in the United States when “many things are said for domestic political purposes”. However, it cannot be all the same to us that many things among those that are not only talked about but also done now in the United States, and by the Administration itself for that matter, go objectively beyond the election campaign and can damage our relations. We cannot understand at all the reasons for such actions since, as it is acknowledged in your letter, there is no alternative to the course jointly set by our two countries and the American people support this course.

On the whole, as we see it, the relations between our countries are passing through a very responsible moment. Their future perspectives are to a considerable extent built today and it is very important that those perspectives should not fall a victim of momentary conjunctural gains. It seems that both you and we should be equally interested in it.

And this requires, I would like to stress it once again, a determination and persistency in upholding and pursuing consistently a course we agreed upon, active efforts for moving ahead wherever it is possible in resolving practical issues. On our part we are ready to do it.

The completion of the working out and signing by us of the treaty on peaceful nuclear explosions signifies that mutually beneficial agreement could and should be reached in spite of all complications. I am sure that granted an objective approach and necessary desire the working out of a mutually acceptable agreement on further limitation of strategic arms could be also completed without unreasonable delays and a real progress could be made in the talks on the reduction of armed forces and armaments in Central Europe. Incidentally, our delegation at the negotiations in Vienna will be ready in the near future to communicate in the interests of making progress data regarding the strength of the armed forces of the Warsaw Treaty countries in that region. Quite a lot could be done in other areas of our relations.

And the last thing we need is to put artificial obstacles in the Soviet-US relations. In particular we consider it wrong and harmful to represent the events in Angola as an example of some confrontation between the USSR and the United States in that country and in Africa in general. I would like to state it quite definitely that the Soviet Union is not interested in such confrontation. It did not pursue and does not pursue for itself, both in Angola and in other part of the world any advantages of political, economic or military nature.

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The Soviet side is faithful to its line of principle aimed at solidifying and developing everything constructive and useful which exists and should exist in future in the Soviet-US relations. We would like to hope that the US leaders will also show a due concern for these relations.


L. Brezhnev4
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 10, POL 2 USSRUS. No classification marking. According to a handwritten note by Sonnenfeldt, “Dobrynin saw the Secy yesterday and dropped these off.” In addition to the letter, Dobrynin also delivered Soviet proposals on disarmament and on the environment. (Ibid.)
  2. Document 282.
  3. Document 272.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.