121. Editorial Note

On December 18, 1972, President Nixon suggested in a letter to Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev that Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin’s return to Moscow was an opportunity for a “full and frank exchange of views in the private channel.” Nixon wrote: “In European affairs, as you have pointed out, there are now new prospects for dealing with matters of security and cooperation and the reduction of armed forces. The initial contacts in Helsinki suggest that we can accelerate the preparations and define an agenda that will allow a full conference to be convened in June. We are also preparing for the initial talks on mutual reductions of armed forces. While the talks in January, as we have agreed, will be preliminary, we hope that some discussions can take place that will point up the issues that will be negotiated next autumn. Our Allies, as well as countries allied to the Soviet Union are deeply [Page 370] involved in both of these negotiations, and I am not suggesting that the United States and the Soviet Union can or should arrange the outcome without their participation or against their interests. Nevertheless, our two countries can facilitate the course of these talks and help ensure their success, and to this end we are prepared to remain in contact through this channel.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 495, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 14) The full text of the letter is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XV, Soviet Union, June 1972–August 1974.

On December 21, Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council staff wrote in a memorandum to President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger: “While the Helsinki CSCE preparatory talks are in recess (until January 15), the Soviets are badgering our representative about their concern that we will not honor our commitment to convene the Conference in June and restrict the preparatory talks to procedure.” Sonnenfeldt assured Kissinger that “the President’s letter to Brezhnev will take care of this. It mentioned June as the date and stated we could accelerate preparations for defining an agenda. The Soviets are going too far, however, in claiming that we agreed to discuss procedures only. And we should not abandon the effort to define more precisely what each committee will take up under main agenda headings when the talks resume. If this matter of our commitment to a date arises in normal channels, we will have to stick with our official line in our note of reply to the note given you last September, i.e., that June is a ‘reasonable target’ for convening the conference, if preparations justify it. If we don’t, we will have a major problem with the Allies.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 247, Agency Files, MBFR and CSCE, 1972)