183. Memorandum of Conversation1

Private Meeting Between President Nixon and Ceausescu


  • President Nicolae Ceausescu
  • Ion Gheorghe Maurer
  • Interpreter
  • President Richard Nixon
  • Henry A. Kissinger
  • Colonel Burbec

Before entering the private talks, President Ceausescu invited President Nixon to stay over until Monday, to allow time for fuller discussions. President Nixon said he wished he could, but had to return to meet with Congressional leaders.

Private Meeting

Ceausescu: According to Romanian custom, we listen to our guest, although we could reverse this.

Nixon: Either way you wish. We should discuss a whole range of subjects, including both bilateral and broader issues. Bilateral issues [Page 439] would include: trade, cultural exchanges, and consular questions; we might consider these but leave more detailed matters involved to be worked out by the technicians. I would like to discuss with you such broad areas as world peace, east-west relations, Vietnam—where the Prime Minister was very helpful before—and other such problems. Do you have others?

Ceausescu: We should start here.

Nixon: First, I want to tell you that I have examined these bilateral matters and have instructed my staff to try to work out programs to deal constructively with these; and if you want to go into these briefly, I will do so constructively. It may be we can make an announcement, for example, of the Cultural Agreement. I understand both sides are ready to sign. Iʼm for it and would like to see more exchange between us.

Ceausescu: As far as problems are concerned, the relations between us have greatly improved. But by comparison with our verbal agreements, our formal agreements are small. Of course, I agree with the importance of the Cultural Agreement. It can be signed today or tomorrow, and may open other fields. But it represents only a portion. I attach great importance to cooperation in science and technology, because this field has a decisive part to play in the development of a country.

Nixon: I can have Dr. DuBridge arrange exchanges of views between our science advisers. I could send Dr. DuBridge on a mission to your country.

Ceausescu: I would welcome this mission.

Nixon: Perhaps you are interested in a scientific mission because I understand you have a son studying atomic physics in England.

Ceausescu: I have a chief of my home who is Director of Chemistry.

Nixon: Your wife.

Ceausescu: Yes.

Nixon: Dr. Kissinger will work with your Ambassador to arrange such a mission.2

Ceausescu: We are very much interested in exchanges in chemistry, as the U.S. is far ahead in this field. With regard to physics, we donʼt want nuclear weapons, but would wish to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Nixon: We will help you.

Ceausescu: The level of economic help we receive is low. First we can benefit from licenses to import equipment. This raises two problems. [Page 440] First, granting the license and finding banks to guarantee credits to cover the purchase. Second, the opportunity for Romanian exports to earn enough to pay for the imports. This brings us to MFN treatment or at least some other procedures to facilitate Romanian exports.

Nixon: I have studied the problem and have some new steps to present. MFN status would require our Congress to act. This is a difficult problem now because of the Vietnam war. We know that the amount of Romanian goods shipped to North Vietnam is small. But it is still a political problem to get MFN passage.

Kissinger: The same problem applies to Export/Import Bank loans and guarantees to Communist countries. This can be waived administratively. The Fino Amendment3 bars Export/Import bank credits to any country trading with North Vietnam.

Nixon: I want you to know I favor MFN treatment for Romania. Once the political problems of Vietnam war are gone, we will move expeditiously on this. I, that is the President, can now, without Congressional action, change the status of Romania on direct sales in several areas. I will do that. I will ease export licensing to Romania and Export/Import Bank questions where I can act administratively. Mr. Kissinger will follow up on this with the State and Commerce Departments. On MFN, the Fino Amendment, and the other questions, weʼll get to that when the Vietnam war is out of the way.

Ceausescu: I salute this declaration. Romania is interested in developing relations with the U.S. and others. We have an intensive program of development, including a great effort on the part of the people to give 30% of total national income for investment. Of course, to keep up the high rate of development requires great effort. We want to use the experience of other countries.

Nixon: Romania must look to its own interests to the extent that such assistance can be obtained from the Soviet Union, West Germany and U.S. I do not say that if you are a friend of the U.S. you have to be an enemy of someone else. What relations you have with other countries is your business.

Ceausescu: Romaniaʼs foreign relations must include the Soviet Union, China, and capitalistic countries. These relations are conducive to the development of the country. We will talk later about relations with other socialist countries. We regard Romaniaʼs relations with the [Page 441] U.S. as being between two countries which have different systems but which are willing to develop and expand their relations. We know what the U.S. is. Romania is a small country. If possible we shall be friends. We do not wish relations to be preconditioned. Our mutual interests will dictate our relations. We know no one wants to lose money in relations with Romania and we donʼt want that. We are a Communist country but we want to benefit. We want to build on this. We believe this is possible. What we can find in U.S., we will take. What we cannot take because of conditions, we will not take. We want to buy know-how and a heavy water plant, to equip factories to make synthetic rubber, electronics, computers and some other similar things. We have received some things from you indirectly. But one of your exporters was punished eight years ago for exporting something. We want to be in a position to have business men sell to us directly, not indirectly. We are not seeking to obtain special conditions, unusual conditions. Our system in this country is ours and we donʼt want to take over yours.

Nixon: My policy is: Any country can be our friend without being someoneʼs enemy. We understand that differences in systems can present problems in working out financial arrangements. We will explore every way to make progress—we have made much progress with Yugoslavia in this matter.

Ceausescu: And with Poland.

Nixon: Yes, but this fell down because of political problems. I personally made the decision to visit Romania and I wanted frank discussions to see how we can have better trade and other relations, with Romania and with other countries. Bluntly, developments in Czechoslovakia set back some progress which had begun in more communications and trade between the U.S. and other Eastern European countries. I hope this visit can be a starting point for new relations; it could conceivably be an example for our dealing with other countries.

Ceausescu: I would like to emphasize that we donʼt conceive of our relations with the U.S. as being directed against othersʼ interests. We have proceeded from fact that our relations with some countries does not mean we have to give up relations with others and may I express my satisfaction that we share the same point of view.

Nixon: I have a question for you. We are trying to negotiate arms control and an easing Middle East crisis with the USSR; we want good relations with the Soviet Union. We donʼt want to embarrass Romania. Do you consider that the Brezhnev Doctrine makes it difficult to have trade relations with us? We value Romanian friendship and do not want to put Romania in an embarrassing position with other neighboring countries. When this trip was announced, the Soviet Union did not approve. Tell me how far can our relations go without embarrassment to Romania or its President.

[Page 442]

Ceausescu: Openly—without diplomacy—my answer: As far as Romania is concerned, relations with the U.S. cannot embarrass us in any way. I say this having in mind that our relations are based on noninterference in each otherʼs internal affairs. They should not be made contingent on what Romania does with other countries. We developed relations with the Federal Government of Germany, France, England, Italy and others. With France we concluded a long term agreement to produce cars (Renault). On the occasion of President De Gaulleʼs visit, we concluded a long range agreement on electronics. All these did not cause or cannot cause embarrassment. The Soviet Union cannot object, as it has these relations with other countries as well—for example, the Fiat deal.4 Development of relations in this spirit cannot cause problems for the future of Romania. It may cause problems for the U.S. with the Soviet Union.

I am aware of the big negotiations on the Middle East and disarmament; we are in accord with these negotiations. We do understand their importance. We are interested in favorable results. Now my frank opinion and also the opinion of some friends of the U.S.: we do wish that your talks should not be detrimental to other countries but aid in their development. Some of your allies may have told you this, if not Iʼll tell you, we are worried about the results of your negotiations with USSR. My opinion is not in a long-range perspective. People do not want settlements made behind their backs, but openly. Big country problems can be made beneficial to peace if made with the interest of other countries in mind. In this sense, the doctrine of limited sovereignty canʼt have applicability. We have good relations with the Soviet Union and appreciate its role. We also have good relations with Peking and other countries. Our decisions are made here in Bucharest, not in Washington, Moscow, Peking, Paris or London.

Nixon: Do you run any risk in this policy?

Ceausescu: What can we risk?

Nixon: It depends on how one interprets the Russian statement on limited sovereignty and how Russia interprets it.

Ceausescu: Russia has denied an intention to limit sovereignty. I want to discuss this. In all our discussions with the Warsaw Pact and COMECON, you call it, Romania was frank and explained our position clearly. We reached acceptable results. We are determined to work along these lines. The problem of the independence of Romania is not to be questioned. As to the feeling of the people, that was expressed today.

[Page 443]

Nixon: That answers the question. The American press said this trip would embarrass Romania and be harmful. We do not want that. We want good relations with Romania and Russia. We do not want to break up the Warsaw Pact. We want good relations with all countries.

Ceausescu: I salute your answer. We knew you would say that for we never saw it in any other light. If we thought it would break up or weaken Romanian/Russian relations or bring pressures on our internal affairs, we would not have accepted the visit.

Nixon: If other Eastern European countries ask you about my policy, I hope you will tell them what it is. Our attitude towards them is the same.

Ceausescu: I want us to start from facts: relations with the U.S. cannot in any way impede relations with others. It is true that our Soviet friends were slightly disturbed with your visit. We advised them 36 hours before it was announced. They never commented officially. (Ceausescu then predicted that Russian predominance wonʼt last, based on historical analysis.) The Soviet comrades find this difficult to accept. The Soviet Union was first in space. U.S. was first on the moon. There are changes in other fields.

Nixon: First today, second tomorrow.

Ceausescu: If other leaders understand that peace of earth can be done only if all countries are left to evolve and develop. Not through the use of force—things canʼt be changed by sheer force.

Nixon: I agree, others do not understand.

Kissinger: Yes. History indicates all things are not permanent. The post-war period shows many forces in action. A position of predominance is difficult to adjust to. President Nixonʼs theme on this trip was to develop new relationships.

Nixon: I have two subjects. First, policy in Asia—China and the Soviet Union. Second, where Vietnam negotiations stand. I want to get Prime Minister Maurerʼs view of this problem.

Maurer: On the question you put and the discussion which followed: I was reflecting that everything that has importance can give rise to apprehension, perhaps because of misunderstanding. No one takes stand against relations between states. The Russians were forced by world opinion to give up the limited sovereignty doctrine.

Ceausescu: I disagree with him. It is hard to accept the theory that they have abandoned limited sovereignty.

Nixon: The U.S. is a Pacific power and will continue to play a role in area. We have no interest in creating a bloc or other arrangements in Asia which can be interpreted as fencing off Communist China. We do not recognize Communist China and oppose its entry into the UN, not because of Chinaʼs internal policy but because of its policies toward its neighbors.

[Page 444]

Regarding the relations of the Soviet Union with Asian countries: Mr. Brezhnev said in a speech that the time is here for a collective security pact in Asia and that they will participate.5 My answer to them—and it will be made public—is that what the Soviet Union does is its business. What we do is our business. It is wrong for the Soviet Union to arrange a cabal in Asia against China. In 25 years, China will have a billion people. If fenced off by others, it makes for a terribly explosive force that may destroy the peace of that time.

We know of the Soviet Unionʼs quarrel with China. That is one we will stay out of. Our policy is to have good relations with Soviet Union and eventually, when China changes its approach to other nations, we want to open communications channels with them to establish relations. One billion Chinese fenced in is a bomb about to explode.

Ceausescu: Iʼd like to express my view about what you said about good relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. We know that these relations have to be good to develop the cause of peace. From the point of view of Romania, good relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union can be welcomed only if they are not to the detriment of other states. We are lucky, we have no atomic bomb and are not an Asian country. We have no interest in Asia, it is far geographically. But I understand the interest of the U.S. and the Soviet Union. I know that the world is so small that if Asia does not have peace, this will affect Europe and the world at large.

One must understand that Asia cannot have peace or solve its problems without recognition of Chinaʼs existence and drawing China into negotiations. The sooner this is understood, the better for all. The U.S. must give up its attitude toward China, both with regard to admission into the UN and to recognition. In fact, you recognize it. Its population is 800 million, and in the 1980s it will be one billion. Asia also includes India, Japan and Pakistan. All these countries must cooperate if there is to be peace. You declared no reservation about the domestic system in China. Your doubts spring from international affairs.

Nixon: Chinaʼs attitude toward its neighbors.

Ceausescu: With India, the problem can easily be solved. For many generations, China has had no wars with its neighbors. Look only at the last 25 years.

Kissinger: I disagree on a historical point.

[Page 445]

Ceausescu: Go ahead.

Kissinger: If you look at Chinese history, independent of communism, it never had relations with others. It has no experience in dealing with others on an equal basis. This has nothing to do with its present internal policy.

Nixon: I canʼt change our China policy now but in the long view, as President Ceausescu said, China is a reality and no real peace is possible without Chinaʼs playing a role. We wonʼt join in a bloc to fence off China.

Ceausescu: I have no argument on history. China after the second World War has not threatened anyone.

Nixon: Korea?

Ceausescu: You know what happened there and I wonʼt go into it. Anyway, China has withdrawn its troops—proof of its respect for the sovereignty of North Korea. I can tell you how leaders are thinking in China.

Nixon: That would be helpful and Iʼll keep it confidential.

Ceausescu: Prime Minister Maurer knows about this from his 1967 trip there. They have no intention of threatening the sovereignty of other countries. They have enough key internal problems. A rational policy toward China is to recognize her as an equal and give her a place in international affairs.

We concede Taiwan presents an obstacle to relations between China and the U.S.

My views of relations between China and most other countries are as follows: I think a revision of thinking and looking at developments in these countries is needed. They are all backward—their systems are feudal—they contain strong remnants of the feudal type. There is internal turmoil not because of foreign interference but of their own making. You know that internal forces have in the past sought external support to maintain themselves. France came to the help of the U.S. on the War of Independence. Why do I stress this? Because we should not support or assist backward forces. This can bring no good to the U.S. or the cause of peace. What is old must go—nothing can stop this progress. No doctor can save a man who in the end dies. The doctor may prolong his life—and this is good for the man. But for a country it is bad for the people.

In Vietnam, all your spending and support did not help to preserve the existing system. You spent about 25–30 billion dollars on the war. If you spend 2 billion dollars in Vietnam peacefully, you will have more development and will have made a friend. Why be afraid of socialism? Itʼs an old concept. You must understand that each people will take that which helps them to better themselves.

[Page 446]

Nixon: I agree there are many ways to get progress—many different approaches. There must be real economic progress. We have economic plans for Vietnam.

I would like to ask a question on the Soviet-China problem. We know they support Hanoi. Our intelligence tells us that there are two groups in Hanoi, one pro-Soviet and the other pro-Peking. We do not know this for we are not there. My question is, what is the reason for dispute? Is it ideological? National? Is there a chance of its ending? I ask because after Vietnam the U.S. may normalize relations with China; but we must ask whether the China-USSR problem is explosive enough to get us in a war.

Ceausescu: First, I would like for comments from Prime Minister Maurer on the preceding discussion.

Maurer: Very little is known about China, so much can be said. I believe that men who were there longer than I would still have difficulty in talking about it. I must mention one point, China is now developing; it has strong, powerful forces to raise mass living conditions. Chinese statistics on industrial development do not show much of course; in fact, no statutes are published. China should be helped. Our impression is that there are opportunities to do so. Courage is required. Ideas and actions concerning China should be revised. Maybe they were once justified, but changes in the situation make it necessary to reconsider, to find ways to draw China in. This is the most important problem today.

I would also like to say something about Chinaʼs aggressiveness. President Ceausescu clarified this. Asia has the greatest need for change economically and socially. Two continents, Africa and Asia, most need economic and social aid—they are very backwards. It is difficult for people today to go through all the stages we passed through. We must contain the problem of change and not let it develop into an international question.

The question of USSR-China relations is difficult to answer. They are clouded by violent polemics, differences in ideology. Both progress in different ways. There are a number of conflicts—problems which instead of cooling down were blown up. The U.S. policy of not getting involved is correct; interference can be justified only to stop conflict. The most serious danger to the world is USSR-China conflict.

Our impression is that as certain objectives have been attained, China is thinking of action to develop negotiations with other countries.

Nixon: When I became President I asked the Chinese to meet us in Warsaw, and they refused.6

[Page 447]

Maurer: Americans should know the Chinese better than that; they have a peculiar mentality. Chinaʼs orientation toward developing relations should be taken advantage of.

Ceausescu: China is a serious problem, but donʼt forget that other than Japan, China alone has solved its problem of food for its people. One hundred dollars annually per capita are earmarked for development—this makes 17 billion dollars. A major problem has been to assure more rapid development and progress of the economy and industry. You saw India, even that government passed nationalization of banks. So these policies should not be an obstacle for you in developing relations with countries with different systems than yours.

The problem of ideology is not crucial in the USSR-China dispute. My observation is that the real issue is national—the Soviet reluctance to concede China its proper place in international affairs. Chinese will not play a second class role. We believe that Soviet Unionʼs thinking will come to understand reality. We think that there will not be a war. Of course, the unexpected can happen. We are in agreement with what you have stated. We should do nothing to sharpen the conflict. The U.S. would have nothing to gain from this development.

Nixon: I agree. I think you have played a proper role in this area by having relations with both; in the long run this is also our aim. With respect to our short run problems with China, we have taken actions like removing travel restrictions and allowing tourist purchases; we will take more in these areas. Frankly, if it serves your interest and the interest of your government, we would welcome your playing a mediating role between us and China.

Ceausescu: It is not only our impression; we are certain of the reality of Chinaʼs willingness to resume relations with other states. They have told us they will take actions to develop relations with other states. We must not look at public articles in the press but should take practical action. As to our willingness to mediate between the U.S. and China—the U.S. has every possibility to talk directly with the Chinese without mediation—I will say we shall tell our opinion to the Chinese, and of your opinion of this problem. We shall act to establish relations on the basis of mutual understanding.

Nixon: It is getting late. If you wish we can meet again tomorrow for an hour. I want to tell you first about our Vietnam position. Iʼll put it in perspective by saying if the war in Vietnam is ended on the right basis it will open many doors for better relations for trade with Romania and relations with China as we discussed earlier. We look at Vietnam through different eyes but our aim is the same: to gain peace and end the war. The next three months will be critical; they will determine whether the war can be ended by peaceful negotiations.

[Page 448]

Tomorrow I want to tell you confidentially what is going on, where we are, etc.

Ceausescu: This is an important problem; we have not discussed how we look at it. You and I talked about it in 1967 and our points seem the same. Our basic interest is a peaceful solution by negotiation. We will discuss this tomorrow.

Nixon: We can talk at dinner. My time is at your disposal. Tomorrow we can make it for an hour and a half.

Ceausescu: I agree and will make good use of dinner tonight.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1023, Presidential/HAK MemCons, The President and President Ceausescu. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Nixon visited Romania August 1–3, following a trip to the Far East. There is no indication as to where the conversation took place.
  2. See Document 186.
  3. It amended the operations authorization of the Export-Import Bank to block certain loans to Communist states. For the text of P.L.–90–267, approved January 2, 1968, see 81 Stat. 943.
  4. Congress had blocked an Export-Import Bank loan guarantee that would have supported the building of a Fiat automobile factory in Togliattigrad.
  5. Apparent reference to Brezhnevʼs June 4 speech to the International Communist Party Conference in Moscow. For text, see Current Digest of the Soviet Press, July 2, 1969, pp. 3–17.
  6. Documentation regarding U.S. initiatives toward the Peopleʼs Republic of China is published in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XVII, China, 1969–1972.