205. Letter From President Nixon to Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev 1

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I appreciated receiving your letter of September 7.2 I have reflected carefully on it as well as the very full and, I believe, constructive talks we have had with Foreign Minister Gromyko.3 I want to stress again what I already told Mr. Gromyko: my belief that our two countries have a special responsibility for peace and progress. This attitude underlies our policies on specific issues. We are prepared to subordinate tactical advantages to global concerns and we understand from Mr. Gromyko that this is your attitude also.

Now that the meeting in Moscow has been announced, both sides have a concrete goal on which to concentrate. I have asked Dr. Kissinger to begin to work with Ambassador Dobrynin in this special channel on the agenda of the forthcoming conference. Our attitude will be to reach the widest area of understanding before you and I meet so that the Moscow Summit can indeed mark a new departure in U.S.-Soviet relations. With this in mind, let me touch upon some of the issues which are of mutual concern.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to SALT.]

In my conversation with Mr. Gromyko, I outlined in some detail my view of the present status of our negotiations on the limitation of strategic armaments. We, and, I am sure, you too, are now preparing for the next round of the formal negotiations in Vienna. If, as in the past, there is opportunity for additional progress through private exchanges here in Washington I am, of course, prepared to undertake them. Much detailed work has been done on an ABM agreement and I think we should now also intensify the parallel work on measures [Page 626] limiting offensive weapons. I believe it is important to view this first major strategic arms agreement for which we are both striving as one whole, even if we are dealing with it in separate parts. Because it will be the first agreement—the foundation upon which further agreements and, indeed, our overall relations in the years ahead will be built—it is important that it command wide support and confidence. Realistically, it is probably not feasible in this first stage to eliminate certain disparities in the numbers, types and dispositions of the strategic forces which our two countries have come to maintain. What we should strive to do, in proceeding on the basis of the principle of equality, is to reach agreements which as a whole prevent the further growth of our respective arsenals and safeguard our relative security positions. We should, in other words, work for a “freeze” in both the major areas under negotiation. I am convinced that if we can make the political decisions required to give concrete definition to such a “freeze,” the agreements themselves can be completed quite rapidly.4

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to SALT.]


Richard Nixon
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 492, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 8. No classification marking. According to a handwritten notation at the top of the first page, the letter was “hand carried” to Dobrynin on October 19. The full text of the letter is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 6.
  2. See Document 185.
  3. See Document 201.
  4. On January 17, 1972, Brezhnev responded: “I already wrote to you about the seriousness of our intentions both with respect to the whole of the problem of strategic armaments limitation and to the realization of the agreement of May 20, 1971. Taking due account of your wishes we instructed the Soviet delegation at the Vienna negotiations to conduct a parallel discussion of the questions of an ABM agreement and of certain temporary measures in the field of offensive strategic weapons. You are aware, of course of those proposals which the Soviet delegation put forward in Vienna. And, as we understand, those proposals are now being studied in Washington. On our part, we, too, continue to analyze the U.S. position, taking into account also those considerations that have been transmitted to us through the confidential channel. Given the mutual regard for the interests of both sides we shall be able, one can hope, to achieve progress at the negotiations.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 497, President’s Trip Files, Exchange of Notes Between Dobrynin and Kissinger, Vol. 2) The full text is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 39.