165. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Edward Gierek, First Secretary, Polish United Workersʼ Party
  • Piotr Jaroszewicz, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Polish Peopleʼs Republic
  • The President
  • Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

First Secretary Gierek welcomed the President to Poland. All the newspapers and media of Poland were giving the most extensive coverage to the Presidentʼs visit. His talks in Warsaw were considered an extension of his Moscow talks. The whole world attached great significance to these talks. The First Secretary then asked his friend the Prime Minister to present Polandʼs views on concrete matters.

Chairman Jaroszewicz greeted the President and Dr. Kissinger warmly. It was his profound conviction that the Presidentʼs visit would be most useful. The rise of living standards of the Polish people was their most important task. Per capita income in Poland was only $1100; the government wanted to increase the national income. There had been a 3% increase in wages; production had also increased. They would keep the economic balance of the country, especially the balance of payments. Despite great expenditures they had kept the economy stable. Poland was now embarked on a vast program to develop and modernize its economy. As part of this, Poland was now reaching for the most advanced technology, and that was why they attached so much importance to relations with the United States.

The Polish Government had sent us four aides-mémoires last year on these matters. Poland was particularly interested in the consumer goods industries: foodstuffs, agriculture, light industry, chemicals. They would like to purchase several plants containing the most advanced technology, for textiles especially. Some of their plants had machinery dating back to the last century. Food processing plants were highly desired. They needed highly processed products. They also wanted to enter negotiations to bring about a new agreement for the long-term purchase of grain, especially soybeans. They were prepared to make a five to seven-year agreement for a 10-year credit at not-too-high a credit rate.

Poland had a large engineering industry due to Soviet assistance. They regretted the absence of participation by U.S. technology. They had no engineering plant. In order to raise agricultural production and use tractors to replace $2.7 million in houses they wanted an entire truck factory—to produce 100 thousand tractors a year. They wanted the assistance of the U.S. to develop an electronics industry. They had a program for heavy industry. In this regard Chairman Jaroszewicz particularly wanted to thank the President on behalf of the Polish Government for the catalytic cracking plant2 and the transforming of the sheet metal industry. It helped Poland enormously. Both projects were [Page 394] now being implemented. Their conversations with American firms proved our interest in developing their copper and zinc industries. Poland had the metals but needed the technology to develop them further. American firms were expecting the Presidentʼs decision. Poland also hoped for $140 million for cinematography and television and wanted to work out a five-to-six-year program of scientific cooperation.

EX–IM credit the Chairman recognized was essential. Poland needed $3.3 billion over five years. This depended on the President. Poland was one of the most reliable debtors. “We pay back everything.” If Poland got a ten-year credit she could pay back $250 million a year. This would lead to $500 million in trade—the same level as Poland had with West Germany. This credit would represent only 3 percent of the total trade turnover and ten percent of that with the Communist world.

On P.L. 480, Poland was requesting a postponement of payments for five years. Poland would like to use this money to make purchases in the U.S. markets for machinery. They wanted to use the counterpart funds of zlotys for social programs, for example, hospitals and water reservoirs for farmers. The Prime Minister envisaged a program for a skyway using counterpart funds. Poland also wanted to build a center for Copernicus and to expand East-West tourist visits.

On fishing, there were a number of agreements. Poland would like to settle this issue in a comprehensive agreement. They had marked out a full program. If this was not realized, the U.S. trade share would decline. This program would have a spectacular significance as cooperation between a big country and a medium-sized country which stood for peace, restraint and stability in Europe. U.S. machinery in Krakow was a good advertisement vis-à-vis Soviet machinery.

Finally, Chairman Jaroszewicz said he could recommend a permanent joint organ of some kind to foster economic cooperation between the U.S. and Poland.

The President in reply thanked the Prime Minister for the sweep of his ideas. We were in the position where the President agreed to the goals the Chairman had outlined, but Congress implemented. The President nevertheless could make a few commitments now—for example on the Polish request for postponement of P.L. 480 repayments, which he now agreed to. Once the bond problem was solved, we could move more easily on EX–IM credits. Once that was worked out we could go ahead. First Secretary Gierek remarked that Poland was ready for a settlement. The President then stated that we could agree in principle to a joint economic commission as well as a joint scientific body. He recommended that the commission on our side include also representatives of U.S. private industry.

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Dr. Kissinger commented that the Poles always thought in big terms. History gives us no other choice, Chairman Jaroszewicz replied.

The President noted that economic cooperation between us of course also required the participation of private industry. He asked how much of Polandʼs trade was with socialist countries and how much was with Western Europe and Japan. The Chairman gave the figures: Polandʼs trade was 63 percent with all the socialist countries, 35 percent with the USSR, 4 percent with Japan, 8 percent with West Germany, 14 percent with East Germany, and 2.5 percent with the United States. Poland wanted to get the latter figure up to 8 percent. Why do you want so much trade with the U.S., the President asked. Mainly for the advanced technology, the Chairman answered. First Secretary Gierek pointed out another problem: Some technology that Poland acquired from Western Europe, e.g., France, was indirectly from us [integrated circuits].3 Why not get it directly?

The Chairman explained his governmentʼs program for developing and modernizing the economy. Poland would like to be reliable about repayment of loans. Of course if the U.S. refused credit they would have to get credit elsewhere. The President said he wanted to discuss one problem. With the war in Vietnam going on, there was resistance in the U.S. Congress to extending credit to countries which have given aid to North Vietnam. We would be forthcoming on all these problems. But a settlement in Vietnam would remove a difficult irritant in our relations.

First Secretary Gierek then summed up the conversation. The two sides had discussed all the problems before them. He wanted to repeat one thing following what the President had said. If the U.S. really meant to help Poland, what was needed was actions and not words. The U.S. should not reproach Poland too much and should not say too many nice things about Poland either.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 487, Presidentʼs Trip Files, The Presidentʼs Conversations in Salzburg, Moscow, Tehran and Warsaw, May 1972 [part 2]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting took place in the First Secretaryʼs Office in the Parliament building.
  2. See Document 151.
  3. Brackets in the original.