100. Record of Meeting1
DISCUSSION BETWEEN PRESIDENT NIXON AND PRESIDENT KEKKONEN AT THE WHITE HOUSE AT 10:45 A.M. JULY 23, 1970
The President, Mr. Kissinger, and Captain Erkki Minkkinen, USN, DOD, Interpreter; President Kekkonen and Ambassador Max Jakobson, Finnish Permanent Representative to the UN, who served as interpreter, were present.
Conference on European Security
President Kekkonen said the Soviets are pushing a conference on European security because they want their western front to be secure in the face of Chinese pressures. However, they also are influenced by the economic situation within the Soviet Union. There has been much pressure recently to raise the Soviet standard of living. The stationing of troops indefinitely within the East Bloc is a severe drain on the Soviet economy. A third reason is pressure from the East Bloc satellites. The satellites strongly desire such a conference. History has shown that armed rebellion does not work, as evidenced in Hungary. It has also shown that quick economic change does not work, as evidenced in Czechoslovakia. The last resort for the East Bloc satellites is to get more individual freedom through the conference table.
President Kekkonen said that security talks should be held in Finland because Finland has representation (albeit non-diplomatic) from both Germanys. Furthermore, Finland is neutral. When questioned by President Nixon as to the Soviet approach to holding a security conference, President Kekkonen replied that, for the first time in all of his trips to Moscow, the Soviets had used the word “flexible” in explaining their desire to reach agreement through East-West talks.
President Kekkonen suggested that exploratory talks be held in Helsinki at the Ambassadorial level. President Nixon remarked that he has much faith in the United States Ambassador to Helsinki because Ambassador Peterson is a close personal friend and he had nominated him to that post. He requested President Kekkonenʼs evaluation of the competence of other Ambassadors in Helsinki. President Kekkonen jokingly replied that an assessment such as this would be very difficult.[Page 247]
Some of the Ambassadors are good, some are bad, and he doubted that any of them would be the type of person normally sent by their governments to negotiate international treaties. However, this would be a good place to start. Even the SALT talks perhaps started in the same fashion. President Nixon asked Mr. Kissinger whether such a suggestion had been made before. Mr. Kissinger said he was not familiar with the suggestion. President Kekkonen observed that this was only an extension of an earlier Belgian recommendation.
President Nixon said he did not believe we should enter a security conference unless there is reason to believe it would not be used for propaganda purposes, and that some agreement could be reached. He explained that the Glassboro talks2 are an example of what he does not want. During these talks the whole world was lifted to the point of believing that such talks could end the Cold War, but nothing came of them. For this reason he would like to look further into President Kekkonenʼs suggestion. President Nixon reiterated that it would remain a requirement that some substantive solution would result from such talks before we entered into them.
President Nixon described the status of the SALT talks. He explained that the SALT talks will result in an agreement on two or three points. This is a good start. The talks would continue in Helsinki and perhaps the announcement of an agreement would be made there.
President Nixon asked President Kekkonen for his assessment of the current leadership in the Soviet Union. Kekkonen replied that he believed the collective leadership is currently stable. Kosygin is strong. This is a change from last February when Kosygin had confided to Kekkonen that he had asked to be relieved of his duties for reasons of health. The collective leadership had denied his request. During his last weekʼs visit in the Soviet Union, Kosygin appeared to be his same old self. Each of the Soviet leaders has his own strong professionalism which is not challenged by the others.
Kosygin had told Kekkonen that he knows that the West always asks about the aging Russian generals. Kosygin advised Kekkonen to tell the West that behind each general is a younger man. President Nixon commented: “With a knife?”[Page 248]
The Middle East
President Nixon asked President Kekkonen about Nasserʼs visit to the Soviet Union.3 Kekkonen replied that, although the climate did not appear disturbed and everybody said that Nasserʼs visit was completely successful, he felt that the long communiqué4 resulting from the meeting indicated there were problems.
President Nixon explained the United States position on the Middle East. The entire population of the United States is agreed on our Middle East position. The Middle East is many times more dangerous than Viet-Nam has ever been. Any increase in aid to Egypt, particularly Soviet personnel, will increase this hazard. The first Soviet encounter with Israel will be extremely dangerous. Any increase in the size of the Soviet fleet will be considered as an escalation of the war.
President Kekkonen said that Nasserʼs decision to come to the conference table resulted, without a doubt, from Soviet pressure, but he stressed that he had no message for President Nixon on the Middle East situation. Earlier Kosygin had given Kekkonen a message but withdrew it by saying that he, Kosygin, can communicate with Nixon directly.
President Nixon gave President Kekkonen a status report on VietNam. He said he understands well that neither the Soviet Union nor China can reduce tensions in this area because it is the policy of each to export revolution. As such, neither could press to end the war. The Cambodian affair5 was significantly and strategically important to the war in Viet-Nam. Over a yearʼs supply of weapons and food were captured and destroyed.
President Nixon explained that the United States will pull out of Viet-Nam on schedule, and he suggested that it would be wise for North Viet-Nam to come to the conference table now, because after withdrawal negotiating with South Viet-Nam may not be as attractive as would be negotiations with the United States. Vietnamization is going well. These things sometimes change. However, even if Vietnamization does not go as well in the future, the United States can still withdraw its troops on schedule.[Page 249]
President Kekkonen said that he had no direct knowledge about the situation in China. Moscow is not as concerned about China as it was in February. However, the China question would continue to linger on and be a basic consideration in Soviet foreign policy decisions for the foreseeable future. The China question would remain for some two to three years even after the death of Mao.
President Kekkonen said he had two or three very important economic questions to raise with President Nixon which might not be important to a country like the United States but are vital to Finland. President Nixon suggested that these could be discussed later, but in any event President Kekkonen should discuss them with Secretary Rogers and Secretary Stans.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 915, VIP Visits, Finland, Pres of Finland, July 1970. Secret; Nodis.↩
- Reference to the June 23 and 25 meetings of President Johnson and Chairman Kosygin at Glassboro, New Jersey. Documentation is in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XIV, Soviet Union, Documents 228–229, 231–232, and 234–235.↩
- June 29–July 17.↩
- Extracts of the statement are printed in Keesingʼs Contemporary Archives, 1969–1970, pp. 24117–24118.↩
- Reference is to the April 29 invasion of Cambodia by U.S. forces in an effort to cut off supply lines for North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops in South Vietnam.↩