182. Message From Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev to President Nixon 1

L.I. Brezhnev would like to frankly express to the President certain considerations on one of the major international questions which is constantly within his attention.

In our contacts with the President the essential positive changes, that ocurred in the last years in European affairs, were noted more than [Page 538] once. And that is really so; the détente and cooperation in Europe are beneficial to all. They correspond to the interests both of the US and of the Soviet Union, helping in many respects to establish new relations between our countries while each of them continues to maintain their traditional ties with European states. And, vice versa, if anything happens in Europe, which would threaten to violate the stability, to hamper the process of détente, that would, as is clear, have a negative impact on the Soviet-American relations as well.

It would be advisable, from this point of view, to look attentively at what is the present situation at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Unfortunately, it has to be said, that the course of the second stage of the Conference is unjustifiably being delayed.

The question arises as to what is behind all this. Is it simply an intention to protract as much as possible the work of the Conference or is it generally an unwillingness to achieve constructive results? Or, maybe, it is done with the aim of bargaining out some unilateral benefits at the expense of other participants of the Conference, of the Soviet Union in particular? Whatever is the reason, the important business, on which people both within and outside Europe place their not small expectations and hopes, will only lose from all this. The all-European conference was thoroughly prepared during many years. How then can be solved other major international problems which have not been so thoroughly worked at? The President will, probably, agree that it would not be an easy task since there would be no certainty as to the results of the initiatives planned for the future. If the all-European conference did not come through then unwittingly one would look with no optimism at other important international questions.

As the President knows, one of the key questions which is to be precisely and clearly reflected in the final documents of the conference is the principle of inviolability of borders in Europe. We note with satisfaction that the US Government in general adheres to a consistent line in this question and we appreciate the position taken by the United States in connection with the treaties between the FRG and the Socialist countries.

Yet now some of the participants of the all-European conference are trying to water down the principle of inviolability of the borders by stressing the possibility of their peaceful change. The meaning of these innocent looking suggestions is quite transparent. Obviously some people would like to weaken—in a round-about way—the basic principle of the European security and to leave a loophole for the revanchist forces. And such forces do exist. True, they are weaker than before, but they did not lay down their arms and under the banner of “peaceful change” of the borders would like to return to the previous [Page 539] dangerous policy. Of course, this cannot be allowed. It is not difficult to visualize where it could lead to.

It is necessary to untie in the spirit of realism also a knot artificially created in connection with the third item of agenda of the all-European conference—on the exchanges in the field of culture and education, contacts and information. Sometimes this item is called the “third basket.” The impression is gained that people of certain type like to be endlessly busying themselves in that basket, throwing into it more and more questions. All this is done to the detriment of the solution of the basic tasks of the all-European conference. But statesmen, understandably, adhere to a wider and more responsible approach.

We proceed from the premise—and we have repeatedly stated this—that we believe it natural under the conditions of détente to expand cultural ties between states, contacts between people, exchange of information. We are for the widest possible ties in those areas under the present conditions. But if someone wants to use cultural and other exchanges for unfriendly purposes, for interference into internal affairs, then we have but one reply: no. If there is a wish for real and serious development of ties and contacts in all those areas, then the way out is in strict observance of the principle of non-interference into internal affairs, in respect for the sovereignty, laws and customs of each country. Time has come to proceed at the Conference from the vocal recognition of those principles to writing them clearly and plainly down into the final document on the third item of the agenda of the Conference.

Outlining all these considerations, L.I. Brezhnev expresses hope that the President will review with due attention the situation at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in order to bring it by joint efforts to the successful outcome within reasonably short period of time.

We hope that the President is also for crowning the all-European conference with tangible results, which would be of historic significance for the present and for the future of Europe and would be countersigned by the state leaders at the highest level.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 72, USUSSR Presidential Exchanges, 1974. No classification marking. A handwritten note at the top of the letter reads: “Delivered by hand from Soviet Embassy, 6:15 p.m., Thurs., 1/9/74.”