99. Memorandum From the Presidentʼs Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Your Meeting with Finnish President Kekkonen

You are scheduled to hold one session with President Kekkonen at 11:00 a.m. Thursday, July 23, for approximately one hour following the official arrival ceremony. You will also be with him at your black tie dinner that evening.

Points for your arrival statement and dinner toast will be sent to you separately.

Background and Setting

This will be your first meeting with President Kekkonen, and his second official visit to the US since becoming President in 1956.2 Only three days separate his arrival in Washington and the conclusion of his state visit to the USSR.

Kekkonenʼs visit reflects his desire to establish with you a personal relationship not unlike the one he has with the leaders of the Soviet Union (although he has seen and will continue to see them much more often). The Finns will also wish to use this visit to demonstrate that Finnish neutrality is accepted by the US, that its delicate situation is understood, and that Finland may have powerful friends of choice as well as of necessity.

A 788 mile border separates 4.7 million Finns from 239 million Russians; during the course of their history, the Finns have been defeated in 42 wars with Russia, though not without displaying enormous courage in the process, as in 1939–40. These facts have a tremendous impact on virtually every facet of Finnish domestic and foreign relations. However, they in no way diminish and indeed enhance the genuine and particularly warm feeling the Finns have for the US and Americans. This sense of affinity may be largely a product of family and cultural connections, but it must also reflect the Finnsʼ awareness that the strength and vigor of the US are ultimately vital to Finlandʼs [Page 242] survival as long as there is no real détente in Europe and Soviet Russia does not change its character.

In foreign relations, Finland is committed to a special brand of neutrality, codified in the 1948 Peace Treaty with the USSR—which was just formally renewed and extended for 20 years at the conclusion of Kekkonenʼs visit on July 20. By the Treaty, Finland is to “remain outside the conflicting interests of the Great Powers.”3 The Finns interpret this to include political as well as military conflicts. As a result, the Finns have not become emotional partisans as have the “neutral” Swedes, and have developed a general policy of non-recognition where states are divided such as Germany, Korea and Vietnam.

Clever as the Finns have been in developing and maintaining their neutrality, there is no doubt that their freedom of movement is tightly circumscribed. They know that to preserve Finnish independence, the Soviets must feel assured that Finnish actions will never constitute a threat to Soviet security. Keeping the Soviets convinced is an unending task for the Finns. There is a relatively large Communist Party in Finland,4 and the Soviets are prone to rather heavy-handed interference in Finnish domestic affairs.

One recent example of this type of Soviet impact relates to the abortive NORDEC arrangement. Lengthy negotiations had been held among Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden for the creation of a Nordic economic union, and a draft treaty was even approved by foreign ministers. One month later, in April, Kekkonen announced that Finland was rejecting the proposed treaty since it would have undermined the preservation of Finnish neutrality. Soviet displeasure caused Kekkonen to scuttle the NORDEC project.5

The domestic political scene offers a second example of Soviet pressure on the Finns. In the mid-March parliamentary elections the conservative parties won dramatically and the local Communist-front party declined. This caused a political crisis, as efforts persisted to restore the former center-left coalition. The Soviets made it quite plain to Kekkonen that they wanted to see the formation of a coalition (like the pre-election one) before Kekkonen came to Moscow. Largely as a result of this pressure, a new Finnish Government—a center-left coalition—was installed on July 15, just two days before Kekkonenʼs departure for his visit to the USSR.

To balance this pressure from the East, the Finns have associated themselves as much as possible with other Scandinavian countries, and [Page 243] with Western and world organizations. For years, Finland has provided troops for UN peacekeeping missions, notably in Cyprus and along the Suez. The Finns believe that by such efforts on the world stage, the world will find it has a stake in Finlandʼs independence.6

President Kekkonen, for more than 15 years, has dominated Finnish domestic politics and foreign relations. He sees himself as the only Finn who possesses the necessary rapport with Soviet leaders to maintain their confidence. He has kept pace with all the twists and turns of Kremlin politics; he was a frequent companion of Khrushchev, and has maintained good relations with Brezhnev, Kosygin and Podgorny. With his basic motive of preserving Finnish neutrality and independence, Kekkonen has visited the USSR no less than 16 times since he became President in 1956.7

Your Objectives8

In your discussions with Kekkonen, your goals will be to

  • —assure him that we accept and value Finnish neutrality, that we understand their need for friendly relations with the Soviets, and that we would be concerned only if Finlandʼs independence, neutrality and free institutions were endangered;
  • —allow him time and a feeling of confidence to talk about the USSR, and particularly his assessment of the Soviet leaders, their problems and motives;
  • —cultivate and establish a personal rapport with Kekkonen, and impress on him your seriousness in pursuing all serious efforts to achieve peace and stability.

(To the Soviets you want to demonstrate that you do not regard Finland as exclusively in their sphere.)

Particular Points to Emphasize


The Soviet Union.9 Particularly in the light of Kekkonenʼs visit to the USSR, it will be useful to seek his assessment of Soviet developments [Page 244] and to take this opportunity to explain your views of US-Soviet relations in relation to the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

You may wish to

  • —seek his assessment of the state of Soviet society and leadership, ask about postponement of the 24th CPSU Congress, and inquire whether he anticipates any changes in the near future (he may have some astute observations on Soviet leadership personalities);
  • —stress that the Soviets have not adequately reciprocated our efforts to bridge the conflicts that hobble our bilateral relations, except perhaps for the SALT talks;
  • —explain the considerable US restraint in the Middle East, as contrasted with the growing Soviet military involvement there which contains the seeds of grave and broad confrontation;
  • —refer to the lack of Soviet willingness to take effective steps to encourage its clients to make progress in the Paris peace talks; stress your desire for a negotiated settlement of the conflict in Southeast Asia and your hope that Ambassador Bruceʼs mission will be successful; ask about the role of China.


SALT. The Finns were extremely pleased that the first session of the SALT talks was held in Helsinki for it dramatically underscored Finnish neutrality and assisted its independence. Kekkonen will be interested in your evaluation of these talks.

You may wish to

  • —stress your appreciation for the Finnish reception at the Helsinki phase, where you consider a good foundation was laid for the talks in Vienna;
  • —indicate the general trend in the talks, and point out that you hope there will be some definite and clear understanding reached before the conclusion of the Vienna phase, so that, as agreed, the talks can again return to Helsinki.


European Security Conference.10 In May 1969 the Finns proposed a Conference on European Security, and offered Helsinki as the site—when conditions are propitious. Several months ago, the Finns appointed one of their senior diplomats, Ralph Enckell, as a Roving Ambassador to solicit views of interested governments. Their approach on the Conference is generally similar to ours; indeed, it is closer than the position of some of our NATO allies.

You may wish to

  • —express your appreciation for Finnish efforts, and for the soundings made by Ambassador Enckell;
  • —stress your view that a Conference could be useful only if there were reasonable assurances it would achieve positive results, and if there had been some success in current negotiations, particularly the Four Power talks in Berlin, and the series of German negotiations with the East;
  • —explain that nevertheless we shall continue to pursue bilateral contacts in an effort to clarify the recent statements from the Warsaw Pact, especially on the issue of mutual and balanced force reductions.


Trade and European Communities. A principal concern of Finland is that its economy not be undermined by a European economic integration in which it has no part. Though Finland is an associate member of the European Free Trade Area, it recognizes the trade implications of the European Communities—60% of its total trade is with the Community and the four candidates for admission (plus Sweden). The Finns have asked for a trade agreement with the Community. If President Kekkonen raises this matter, you may wish to

  • —explain that we have no objection to arrangements between the neutral states and the European Community, though we would not wish to see any development which forecloses the further political development of the Community;
  • —while these issues have yet to emerge, you doubt whether any arrangement the Finns work out with the European Community could affect US support for those institutions;
  • —though the issue is one for the Europeans to decide among themselves, the US will review any Finnish arrangement in the light of its impact on our trade and compatibility with GATT, and with due respect for Finlandʼs special neutrality.

If time permits, you may wish to express confidence in Ambassador Peterson, our envoy in Helsinki; and appreciation for the efforts of the Finnish Ambassador in Washington, Ambassador Munkki.11

Secretary Rogers will be meeting concurrently in the Cabinet Room with Foreign Minister Leskinen and other members of Kekkonenʼs party.12 Kekkonen will have his own interpreter; Navy Captain Minkkinen will serve as your interpreter.

More detailed talking points, a memorandum from Secretary Rogers and biographic information are included in a separate book if you wish to review them. Your schedule for the visit is at Tab A, and a biographic sketch of President Kekkonen is at Tab B.13

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 915, VIP Visits, Finland, Pres of Finland, July 1970. Secret. Sent for information. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it on July 24.
  2. Kekkonen visited the United States in October 1961; see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, volume XVI, Eastern Europe; Cyprus; Greece; Turkey, Document 189.
  3. The President underlined most of this sentence.
  4. The President underlined: “relatively large Communist Party in Finland.”
  5. In this paragraph the President underlined: “Nordic economic union” and “rejecting the proposed treaty.”
  6. In this paragraph the President underlined: “associated” and “as much as possible with other Scandinavian countries” and “UN peacekeeping missions, notably Cyprus and along Suez.”
  7. In this paragraph the President underlined “was a frequent companion of Khrushchev” and “Kekkonen has visited the USSR no less than 16 times since he became President in 1956.”
  8. In the objectives the President underlined “we accept and value Finnish neutrality,” “understand their need for friendly relations with the Soviets,” “confidence to talk about the USSR, and particularly his assessment,” and “rapport with Kekkonen.”
  9. In particular points to emphasize, Soviet Union, the President underlined: “assessment of Soviet developments,” “state of Soviet society and leadership,” and “Soviets have not adequately reciprocated our efforts to bridge the conflicts that hobble our bilateral relations.”
  10. In particular points to emphasize, European Security Conference, the President underlined: “express your appreciation for Finnish efforts,” “only if,” and “it would achieve positive results.”
  11. In this paragraph the President underlined: “express confidence in Ambassador Peterson, our envoy in Helsinki.”
  12. Parts 1, 3, and 4 of the memorandum of conversation are in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 FIN. Part 2 is Document 101.
  13. Attached but not printed.