Tapes Reveal Inside Look at Détente
August 24, 2013 By Joe Lopez
Newly released White House materials from the National Archives reveal a private conversation between President Richard Nixon and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev in a one-on-one meeting at the White House on June 18, 1973.
The meeting was the only recorded conversation between the two leaders and was held before the start of a weeklong summit that would take them to Camp David and San Clemente.
It shows the cordial friendship the two shared, despite their initial rapport of mistrust in the depths of the Cold War.
“I have certainly come to this country with very good feelings, with good intentions, and with high hopes for these forthcoming negotiations,” Brezhnev states early in the talk.
President Nixon invited Brezhnev to meet with him at his home in San Clemente, California. Though Brezhnev is hesitant at first, he looks forward to the exchange after realizing the importance of the invitation.
“Let me say that I am now really happy that I have revised my initial decision,” Brezhnev said. “Especially when I know that you—the symbolism that you put into the name of that house in San Clemente.”
“House of Peace,” Nixon replied.
“House of Peace,” Brezhnev said. “I’m happy that I am going there, and I do believe that that symbolism will turn into reality.”
The two leaders knew the summit would be a turning-point for the future of U.S.-Soviet relations.
“We will naturally in negotiations have some differences, it is essential that those two nations, where possible, work together,” Nixon said.
“Mr. Brezhnev and I have the key, and I think that our personal relationship will unlock the door for the continuing relationship between our two countries, which will contribute to peace in the world.”
Within hours of their first meeting, Brezhnev announced that he had already invited the President back to Moscow for another summit.
“It is certainly my very earnest desire that you should pay another visit to the Soviet Union some time next year,” Brezhnev said. “I’m sure, that this series of meetings of this sort will give new and continuous impulses to the development of a real, lasting relationship between our two countries.”
The Los Angeles Times writes:
Their private exchanges had the casual, meandering comity of old friends. The final tapes show a different side of Nixon: An outspoken cold warrior who was trying to reduce tensions between the U.S. and the Communist world.
Brezhnev’s visit was a resounding success. The two men got along extraordinarily well, and the trip inaugurated a new era of détente between the two nations, laying the framework for the SALT II Treaty and other diplomatic breakthroughs.
The Wall Street Journal writes:
On the diplomatic front, the tapes reveal an extraordinary Oval Office conversation between Messrs. Nixon and Brezhnev at the start of their weeklong summit.
The Atlantic writes:
Cold War summits between leaders of the U.S. and the Soviet Union could seem stiff and formal affairs. But a tape released on August 21 shows a different side of relations between then-U.S. President Richard Nixon and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev.
339 Hours of Tapes Released; 3,000 Hours Released to Date
First Pass Began in 1997; Review of Final 700 Hours Remains
Nixon on China: “The ablest people in the world in my opinion—potentially. We’ve got to get along with them. It’s no problem for the next 5 years, the next 20 years, but it’s the critical problem of our age.”
Nixon to Brezhnev: “We head the two most powerful nations…it is essential that those two nations, where possible, work together…If we decide to work together, we can change the world.”
* * *
by Luke A. Nichter, coauthor of upcoming book The Nixon Tapes (with Douglas Brinkley)
On August 21, 2013, the Nixon Presidential Library released approximately 339 hours of Nixon tapes originally recorded between April and July 1973, when taping was discontinued. With this release, approximately 3,000 hours of tapes have been declassified and released to the public out of a total of approximately 3,700 hours recorded by the Nixon White House taping system. This release was a final sequel to the tape releases that occurred on July 11, 2007, December 2, 2008, June 23, 2009, and December 9, 2010.
With this release, the first pass through the Nixon tapes is now complete. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) began preparing the 3,700 hours of Nixon tapes for chronological release in the mid-1990s, following the death of President Nixon in 1994. NARA will next begin a review of the final 700 hours, in the hopes that recordings restricted in one of the earlier releases are now releasable under a more liberal deed negotiated when the Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda came under federal control during 2007. Tapes once restricted for reasons such as national security or privacy of a living person may no longer need to remain restricted. NARA has not set a timetable for this second release.
The period in the Nixon administration covered by these “Chron 5.5” tapes was tulmultuous, to say the least:
- April 30: President Nixon accepted the resignations of his two closest aides, H.R. “Bob” Haldeman and John D. Ehrlichman. Counsel to the President John W. Dean, III and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst also left the adminstration that day. Alexander M. Haig, Jr. became White House Chief of Staff, and Elliot Richardson was nominated to be Attorney General. The resignations forced Nixon to make a public statement in which he took the blame for Watergate.
- May 1: The U.S. Senate passed a resolution establishing a Watergate Special Prosecutor.
- May 14: John W. Dean, III turned over highly sensitive records to U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Chief Judge John J. Sirica, including the Huston Plan, a blueprint for domestic surveillance.
- May 17: The Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, aka Ervin Committee or simply the Senate Watergate Committee, sat for the first time. Its chair was Senator Sam J. Ervin (D-NC), accompanied by Chief Counsel Sam Dash. Senator. The Ranking Member was Senator Howard H. Baker, Jr. (R-TN), accompanied by Counsel Fred Thompson.
- May 19: Former Kennedy administration Solicitor General Archibald Cox was appointed Watergate Special Prosecutor.
- May 22: President Nixon issued a statement regarding the Watergate break-in and subsequent “cover-up.”
- June 25: Former White House Counsel John W. Dean, III began testimony before the Ervin Committee that was the first to directly implicate White House officials, including former Attorney General John Mitchell and President Nixon.
- July 7: President Nixon issued a letter in response to an Ervin Committee request for testimony and records of White House officials.
- July 12: White House Chief of Staff Alexander M. Haig turned off the Nixon taping system.
- July 13: Former Deputy Assistant to the President Alexander P. Butterfield testified in executive session before the Ervin Committee and revealed the existence of the secret Nixon taping system. Butterfield was one of only a handful of people who knew taping took place from February 1971 to July 1973. The Ervin Committee immediately began the process of requesting tapes as evidence.
The period coverered by this “Chron 5.5” tapes release also included a number of non-Watergate related historic events:
- May 1-2: West German Chancellor Willy Brandt made an official visit to Washington.
- May 24: President Nixon hosted a reception and dinner for returned Prisoners of War, which remains the largest event ever held at the White House. The dinner was recently commemorated at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library by POWs who attended the original dinner 40 years ago.
- May 29-31: President Nixon and French President Georges Pompidou held a summit at Reykjavik, Iceland.
- June 18-25: Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev made an official visit to the United States, following Nixon’s visit to Moscow during May 1972.
- July 1: The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) began operation, beginning America’s “War on Drugs.”
- July 9: Clarence Kelley was sworn in as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
nixontapes.org has obtained a copy of this new tape release, and will be soon adding the complete audio, finding aids, and analysis. The following are some excerpts from the newly released tapes from April to July 1973.
Also of interest may be the President’s Daily Diary, for:
April 1-30, 1973 (pdf, 6.3m)
May 1-31, 1973 (pdf, 7.7m)
June 1-30, 1973 (pdf, 7.0m)
July 1-31, 1973 (pdf, 4.7m)
Sample Excerpt #1: June 4, 1973, White House Telephone 039-087, 11:16 – 11:22 pm
Kissinger conveyed the message that President Nixon had been invited to visit China again, following his first visit during February 1972. Nixon also extended an invitation to Chinese Premier Chou En-lai to visit either Washington or New York, the site of the UN. Nixon was concerned about whether he should visit China again before a Chinese visit to the U.S. (The first high level visit from the PRC did not come until 1979, with the visit of Deng Xiaoping.)
To listen to an audio excerpt, click here (mp3, 11.4m, 5:56).
Nixon: With regard to Mao, you know, that is quite significant,don’t you think?
Kissinger: Oh,I think that’s of enormous significant, Mr. President.
Nixon: The other thing I was going to say, though, that—
Kissinger: Because it means that they think that they are going to deal with you for the foreseeable future.
Nixon: Right. The other thing is do you think that we should get in—well we can’t do it before you leave—but if you could get a message to the Ambassador here that we think it’s very important for Chou En-lai to come to the UN. Or do you want to wait till August to do that?
Kissinger: I’ve already done that, Mr. President.
Nixon: You have?
Kissinger: I did that—
Nixon: You see—
Kissinger: I took the liberty of doing that in response—
Nixon: You see, it’s going to look rather strange if I go runningto China if he doesn’t come here.
Kissinger: No, I’ve already done that.
Nixon: How’d you do it?
Kissinger: I had already extended an invitation at your suggestion a few months ago.
Nixon: Yeah, I know, but recently?
Kissinger: I repeated it and I said we can do it in one of two ways: either to go to the UN, or better yet just come to Washington on a personal visit.
Nixon: No, what he should do is come to the UN and then drop down here and we’ll give him a nice dinner, you know, without the head of state thing, but it will be everything except the drill.
Kissinger: Right. Well, I told him we could handle it either way. And—
Nixon: And he’s going to forward that to them, huh?
Kissinger: And he said—well, he didn’t turn it down. You know, in the past they could never do it as long as the ROC was—
Nixon: Yeah, I know. I know. Yeah.
Kissinger: He said, well he’s very busy and he’ll look at his calendar.
Nixon: Well in view of the Mao thing, you see, the Mao thing has to be significant, because if it came from Chou En-lai that would be one thing, but coming from Mao—
Kissinger: It came from both. It was a joint invitation.
Kissinger: And I don’t know whether you noticed, Mr. President, when he came that he said to you, “Mr. and Mrs. Mao.”
Nixon: Yeah! Yeah, I know.
Kissinger: Well, that was very significant considering her role in the Cultural Revolution.
Nixon: Yeah, and as a member of the Central Committee.
Kissinger: Yes, and of the Politburo.
Nixon: Politburo, I meant. Yeah. Yeah.
Kissinger: So I thought it was an extremely significant event.
Kissinger: And also that they answered you within three days. I mean, you only saw him last Wednesday.
Nixon: Right. Right.
Kissinger: And they also gave us a rather good message on Cambodia.
Nixon: Oh, did they?
Kissinger: Yes, but we musn’t refer to it in any sense.
Nixon: Oh, no, no, no. Because they can’t get caught at it, I know.
Sample Excerpt #2: May 8, 1973, Oval Office 912-015, 12:34 – 12:56 pm
In a twist on ping-ping diplomacy, Brazilian soccer great Pele visited President Nixon for an exchange of greetings and gifts. Pele discussed the sport’s rising popularity in the United States, and Nixon responded that the greatest American players were at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Pele discussed his interest in forming cultural exchanges between Latin America and the United States.
To listen to an audio excerpt, click here (mp3, 10.3m, 5:23).
Nixon: You are the greatest in the world.
Pele: [HandedNixon a clipping from Sao Paolo while photographers takephotos.]
Nixon: Do you speak any Spanish?
Pele: No, Portuguese. It is all the same.
Nixon: He always wins.
Mrs. do Nacimento: Yes.
Nixon: The national champions of soccer in the United States are here in Washington, at Howard University. Here is a clipping of my visit with Pele to Sao Paolo in 1967.
Pele: Soccer is very different from American football.
Nixon: Do I know that! The main thing is to use your head.
Pele: Here is a film of soccer which I would like to present. I know you are busy.
Nixon: Sports films I watch.
Pele: It shows the world-wide soccer and the training that is required.
Nixon: You have no sons, but maybe your grandsons will want to learn from it. [Nixon handed out pens.]
Pele: Soccer is played more and more around the world and in the United States. My aim is to send soccer technicians to the U.S. and have your basketball technicians come to Latin America.
Nixon: That is a great enterprise and I wish you well.
Sample Excerpt #3: May 3, 1973, Oval Office 911-009, 9:48 – 10:12 am
President Nixon met with Ambassador David K.E. Bruce, the Chief-Designate of the U.S. Liaison Office in Peking (the precursor to the American Embassy, which came into operation in 1979). Nixon asked Bruce to be active in Peking socially so that he could observe the next generation of political leaders likely to assume power from aging leaders Mao and Chou. Bruce, one of the 20th century’s most experienced American diplomats, assured Nixon that he had experience with secret negotiations and is willing to keep his work secret from the State Department, which they both agreed had “non-existent” security.
To listen to an audio excerpt, click here (mp3, 45.1m, 24:36).
Nixon: Well, the great thing for you, as you know, substantively, probably not a great deal will happen for a while.
Nixon: But the most important thing about this is the symbolism. I mean, symbolism sometimes is not important, but now it is enormously important.
Bruce: The fact that—
Nixon: The fact that you are there. Let me tell you one thing I particularly would like to see. I know that the social world is a total pain in the [neck], but to the extent that you can, if you could get around, and have your colleagues get around and give us an evaluation of the people on the way up who are there now.
Bruce: Yes. Yes.
Nixon: You’ve got to understand, Mao will soon be leaving; Chou En-Lai is in his 70s but he’s as vigorous as can be—terrific. You’re really going to like him, you’ll like them both. Chou En-lai is an amazing man. But on the other hand, except for some men in their 30s—late 30s and 40s—I don’t see much coming up. And I think, you know, you can do that. Look around, see who the power is. That’s the one thing that would be very important for us to know. Isn’t it?
Bruce: Well, I think it is, yes. Because if they have sort of a collegial [unclear]—
Nixon: The Russians have quite a few in their shop that you know mightcome along.
Nixon: And you know, an interesting thing, the Russians too [unclear], so pretty soon we know in four or five years there’s going to be change there. But there will be a change in China. And the world changes. Well, there’s that. Then, of course, the just, you know, your sense of the country, its people. I mean, I’m really, really more interested in that than I am in the routine cables, “Well, today we did this, or that, or the other thing. We signed an agreement.” You know, this is how we grow figs.
Nixon: Don’t you agree?
Bruce: I do agree.
Nixon: We’re trying to see what this great—I mean, we’ve got to get along with this one-fourth of all people in the world. The ablest people in the world in my opinion—potentially. We’ve got to get along with them. It’s no problem for the next 5 years, the next 20 years, but it’s the critical problem of our age.
Bruce: Yes, I think it is.
Nixon: The other thing is, if you could, constantly of course, whenever you’re talking, they’re very subtle—and they’re not like the Russians, who, of course slobber at flattery and all that sort of thing. But you should let them know how—two things: one, from a personal standpoint how much I appreciated the welcome while we were there. Second, we look forward to, some time, returning. Third, I would very much hope that Chou En-lai will see his way clear to come here to the UN.
Nixon: Or something. I’d like to take him here, and it can be worked out in proper way. And fourth, and I think this is the most important, that I look upon the Chinese-American relationship as really the key to peace in the world. Always have in the back of your mind without playing it too obviously, the fact that the only thing that makes the Russian game go is the Chinese game. Always have in the back of your mind that if you say anything pro-Russian, [unclear]. Always have in the back of your mind that the Russians are their deadly enemies. And they know it, and we know it. And that we will stand by them.
Nixon: And that’s the commitment that I have made. I have.
Nixon: How we do it, I don’t know. But that’s what keeps. Because David, what is probably in our time maybe that big collision could occur, and collisions even between enemies these days will involve all nations of the world, they’re that big. So we want to avoid that, too. But my point is the Chinese must be assured they have one heck of a friend here. They hate the Indians, as you know.
Nixon: Well, they don’t hate them as much as they have contempt for them. They think that India is becoming a, you know, a sort of satellite of Russia. And of course the Japanese, they have a fear and respect for them as well. So with the Japanese, sort of say the right thing in terms of we want to get along with Japan and the rest. And it’s very important that we have our, that we maintain our, in other words the shield there, because otherwise Japan goes into business for itself and that’s not in our interest. And the other point that they’re fairly interested in, looking at the world scene, another point, apart from the fact they’ll go through the usual jazz [unclear] keeping revolutions in mind. That’s fine. What they do in Africa I don’t care anymore. But Europe. They don’t want us to get out of Europe. Because they realize as long as the Russians have a tie down in Europe, that—you see what I mean?
Bruce: Oh, I do.
Nixon: So some of our well-intentioned Congressmen go over there and reassure them, “Oh, look, we’re going to get out of Asia. We’re going to get out of Japan, we’re trying to reduce our forces in Europe.” Well, that for the Chinese scares them to death.
Bruce: Well, I was struck by the conversations that you’ve had, and how they came back to the necessity about preserving forces in Europe. They were very pro-NATO for their own reasons. It was interesting.
Bruce: Well, I’ve got all those points in mind. Those conversations that you had there I’ve read. I must say they really are quite [unclear] fascinating to read.
Nixon: Yeah. You’re one of the few in the country who’s read them.
Bruce: I’d forgotten—but I do think they’re absolutely fascinating.
Nixon: Yeah. A lot of history was made there.
Bruce: It was indeed. I think probably the most significant history, diplomatic history, of our time. No question about it. And I don’t see anything, which could really ruin it in the time being. Without any hesitation I can tell you I always thought the preservation of good relations should have sort of ordinary courtesies and what not in the beginning, it’ll probably be all business, but you try and get to know as many people as possible. [unclear]
Nixon: Let them think that we are strong, respected, and we’re not going to be pushed around by the Russians or anybody else. Middle East—we have no answer there, as you know.
Bruce: I know.
Nixon: They haven’t either. But I think the great irony is that today the United States of all nations is China’s most important friend. [laughter] Romania? Tanzania? Albania? [unclear]
Bruce: That’s pretty good stuff.
Nixon: My point is, with that in mind—would you like a little coffee?
Bruce: No, I wouldn’t like some. I just had some.
Nixon: Oh, fine. I’ll have a little, just a cup.
Bruce: But this is the most fascinating development, I think.
Nixon: It sure is.
Bruce: We must replace the policies that have become so embedded almost in the American consciousness that nobody in particular complained about it, and nobody intended [unclear].
Nixon: Look, for 20 years, do you know, we were sort of—now look, I’m supposed to be the number one Red-baiter in the country. I have earned that reputation for what you know very well. Had we just continued the policy of just a silent confrontation and almost non-communication with the PRC—
Nixon: In the end we would reap a nuclear war. No question.
Bruce: Yes. Yes.
Nixon: We just had to breakthrough.
Nixon: Also, as I said, it was so important to the Russian game.
Bruce: Terribly important.
Bruce: Terribly important.
Bruce: It must have [unclear]. How about does one explain to the Chinese that we want to preserve a relationship that has great importance to us, a meaningful relationship with Russia? The Chinese are undoubtedly our favorites between the two. But—
Nixon: The Russians are saying: Now look, this is very important. That Nixon is having another meeting with Brezhnev. There’s going to be a lot of reasons for having that meeting. The important thing there to remember is that Russia and the United States are superpowers. That our interests do rub together in the Mideast and in Europe, particularly. That their rubbing together is a danger that is almost unbelievably great, and that under these circumstances we feel what we have to do is try to limit that danger as much as we can through communication. But, on the other hand, we do not consider putting it quite bluntly as between the two. We consider the Soviet, because of its power and of its longer history of expansionism, we consider it more of a danger that we have to deal with than we do China, which has a longer history of, frankly, defense. Now, I think a little of that is well worth saying. In other words—and also I’d be very blunt about it. Just say you’ve had a long talk with the President and there’s no illusions—our systems are different. They’re better Communists than the Russians are today. But we want to get back to our national interest. And the President considers—he’s a man of the Pacific. He considers that China and America have a hell of a lot more in common than Russia and America, and that is the God’s truth.
Bruce: Yes, that’s true.
Nixon: And that therefore, looking at the historical process, I want to work toward that direction. And I think that’s what we have to do. But the Chinese-American relationship can be the great lynchpin of peace in the world.
Bruce: Well, I’ll tell you that after you’ve talked to Brezhnev, the Chinese will be filled in rather completely.
Nixon: Totally. I’ve instructed, I’ll have, of course we’ll be in touch with you, but we’ll probably have Kissinger go over again. Incidentally, I want to tell you one thing. Normally on these visits when he goes, this is very important, he has sometimes met alone. So far. But in this instance, I want you to feel, David, that you are basically, not the State Department’s ambassador, you are the President’s, and I want you to be in on everything. You see what I mean? You’ve got to remember that we cannot—there’s parts of these games that we don’t want to go to the bureacracy. It’s no lack of confidence in Bill or any of the others. But you know how it is. So will you have this in mind, please?
Bruce: I will, Mr. President. I certainly will. Because the security of the State Department is, in my mind, non-existent.
Nixon: It’s non-existent.
Nixon: That’s right.
Bruce: No, I think that I understand that part of the [unclear]. And I think the back channel can be used [unclear].
Nixon: Well, I want to use the backchannel. And also, when Henry gets over there to do the briefings. I think it’s very important that you be with him.
Bruce: Well, I would like that.
Nixon: So that you can, you know, get the feel of the thing, too.
Bruce: Yes, I think it would be on that occasion, good. They offered when they came to Paris in connection with the Vietnam peace talks taking me to secret meetings. And I was very indisposed to do it. I think it would have been a great mistake. I never would have been able to—
Nixon: Oh, yes. When you were there.
Bruce: Yes. But I think with China it’s probably a different thing.
Nixon: Well, in China [unclear]. I’ll see that it’s done.
Bruce: All right, sir. I’ve only got one other thing, which I have not [unclear]—because they are behind the times with what’s going on. This Cambodia thing, I wonder if it’s possible to settle.
Nixon: I wish it were. We’re willing to settle. China can have it. Whether they can still get that [unclear] Sihanouk back in I don’t know. We don’t care. The Cambodians don’t want it at the moment. What ideas did you have? I mean, anything we can do—God, Cambodia is a terrible, terrible place.
Sample Excerpt #4: June 18, 1973, Oval Office 943-008, Unknown between 11:31 am – 3:12 pm
In the only record of this conversation, President Nixon and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev met in the Oval Office. The only other person present was an interpreter, Viktor Sukhodrev. At times, the conversation is surprisingly personal, including a discussion of Brezhnev’s family and initial hesitation to visit Nixon’s home in California, the Casa Pacifica. Nixon and Brezhnev agree on a future schedule of summits,to be rotated between the USSR and the United States. They also discuss Brezhnev’s schedule for the rest of the week, including a visit to Camp David.
To listen to an audio excerpt, click here (mp3, 44.0m, 22:53).
Brezhnev: Butwe have an omen in Russia that when it rains as you are leavingon a trip it’s a good sign. And it was raining by chance at theairport. It happened. But that, too—but that, too, is accordingto the Russian folk tradition a good omen. And especially sinceit was raining both in Moscow and in Washington, that makes it adouble, extra good omen.Oh,I think that’s of enormous significant, Mr. President.
Brezhnev: Mr. President, because of the ceremonies and all the protocol, I didn’t get a chance to say, and I want to do this right from the start, to extend to you the very good, the best wishes, greetings, and
good feelings of all my comrades, all my associates who saw me off at Moscow airport. It’s ok if I may talk?
Nixon: Oh, absolutely.
Sukhodrev: [unclear] Is that ok? I’ll try it.
Nixon: Try it. Ok.
Brezhnev: You see, I have a cigarette box there. It has a special timing mechanism and I can’t—I won’t be able to open it for an hour.
Nixon: Oh, how’s it open?
Brezhnev: See, the mechanism, the timing mechanism is now working and I won’t be able to open that for another hour. In one hour it will unlock itself.
Nixon: [laughs] That’s a way to discipline yourself.
Brezhnev: That’s right. Mr. President, on a personal level [unclear] I need to just say that as I was being seen off at the airport in Moscow, and all my colleagues and my comrades were there, and I had a few words with them, and, well, I just said, “I thank you all for your trust that you vested in me for this visit for my talks with President Nixon, and I only hope that you will support me in all that we do together with the President of the United States.” And all of my colleagues who were there at the airport said they were absolutely confident that these new talks, at summit-level, between the Soviet Union and the United States, would yield new and truly historic results. And with those words, with that send-off, I climbed the steps up to the plane and flew off to Washington.
That was really a word-for-word—that was a word-for-word description of what went on at the airport, and how the world may be changed. And, also, last Thursday, when we had our regular meeting of our leadership, the Politburo of the Party, where we had a free discussion, a long discussion about Soviet-American relations, about all that has been achieved already, and all that we want to achieve in the future, and the prospects that we are aiming at, there was complete unanimity of views as regards the basic principles of the development of our relations and of the main questions on which we have achieved already a preliminary agreement and on those that we still have to discuss. Of course, there are certain matters that I have not raised in that forum before having had a chance to ask for your advice, consult with you on.
With all this hope, purely, personally, and at this meeting permit me to say that I have certainly come to this country with very good feelings, with good intentions, and with high hopes for these forthcoming negotiations.
Although doubtless certain problems are complex, and they may be difficult of solution for both yourself and myself, but I always believe that there are no—there are no situations out of which a way cannot be found, and there are no problems for which a solution cannot be found.
And if I might just make two personal points before we go over to official discussions—
Brezhnev: When you called it—the first thought I had [unclear] certain doubts about the San Clemente visit—.
Brezhnev: —and that’s why I came to you, to contact you through the Ambassador, but then when I learned that, Mr. Nixon, that you were very anxious for me to be there and go there. I am now—And I immediately responded. And I am—let me say that I am now really happy that I have revised my initial decision and I—and it was a personal decision on my part, and I do believe now, especially when I know that you—the symbolic—the symbolism that you put into the name of that house in San Clemente—.
Nixon: House of Peace.
Brezhnev: House of Peace [unclear]. Exactly, and I do believe—I’m, as I say, I’m happy that I am going there, and I do believe that thatsymbolism will turn into reality. And that is something that I [unclear]—
Brezhnev: And the second point is a family—is a family one. Everything seemed to be going very well and I had hoped to come here with some of the members of my family, but, well, you see, my wife was not well anyway. She got a little worse and she was put to bed. And for a short time I hoped, but, anyway, that’s the way it happened. And then, I also wanted to bring my son along, but then he has his own kid. Now, the trouble is that his—my grandson, his son that is, is finishing his high school this year.
Brezhnev: And so he’s got his examinations, his graduation examination, and then his entrance examination to Moscow University. And so you know how parents are. I mean in our country, especially, they insist on going, [unclear] to the school [unclear] or to the university, and they insist on pacing the corridors, waiting for the results of the examinations. I keep saying that you can’t help them, anyway, but that’s what they do. So, well, those are the circumstances that prevented me from bringing any of the members of my family along.
Nixon: That’s ok.
Brezhnev: So, there was really nothing I could do about it. But I—but I will say that Tricia [unclear] and made a very big impression on my children, and they still remember every minute of their meeting and the way they went along together. Well, I assured them that I will let them come to Washington to be able to spend some time with Tricia, the other of your—younger—and your other children. I will come. My son, my daughter, and my daughter-in-law wrote a collective letter and asked that it be given to Tricia, so I don’t want to give it to anybody else. I want you, as a father, to give it to Tricia.
Nixon: Well, I would like, Mr. Brezhnev, to extend from me, and from Tricia and Julie, an invitation for the members of his family to come here as our special guests. [That] we would like, and we appreciate the very warm welcome that was given to Tricia and her husband when she was in Moscow. We look forward to having them here as our personal guests. Thank you. And at any time. Any time.
Brezhnev: Thank you. Maybe some time in the fall.
Brezhnev: It is advised—
Nixon: Tell him the weather is good. It’s good anytime.
Brezhnev: They’ll be happy to hear that.
Nixon: Right. Also, I want to say before the others come in is that I very much appreciated the personal remarks that Mr. Brezhnev has made. [unclear exchange] We, we both—we must recognize, the two of us, that I for 3½ more years in this office and the General Secretary, I hope, for that long or longer, we head the two most powerful nations and, while we will naturally in negotiations have some differences, it is essential that those two nations, where possible, work together. And the key really is in the relationship between Mr. Brezhnev and myself. If we decide to work together, we can change the world. That’s what—that’s my attitude as we enter these talks. Thank you. [unclear; laughter] I know it’s all right.
Brezhnev: Well, thank you very much. And, in fact, I did indeed have two opportunities fairly recently to speak of you, Mr. President. Once was during my meeting with a group of American Senators, and I was speaking really from my heart—And, incidentally, let me proceed here to say that when I did meet the Senators, I was struck by the fact that they all, all of them regardless of party affiliation, evinced sincere—what I felt to be a sincere respect for you, Mr. President. And there was no attempt in any way to kind of, to sort of needle you through—in their—in the way they talked about you or in their general attitude.
And in fact, after the—After the meeting, Senator Hartke, who led the delegation, he came up to me separately, and he said that he had never had, just at the beginning of that conversation, and he had never before had such hopes for a better atmosphere in relations between our two countries as he now has after the foundation made jointly by the President and by myself. Now, he spoke really so highly, I was moved,I was deeply touched. Say, is he a Republican or a Democrat?
Nixon: Democrat. Very partisan. [laughter; unclear exchange]
Brezhnev: But, you know, Mr. President, if he spoke that highly of you always, well I’d live for nothing better. [unclear] And I was just recalling that I was asked once, during my meeting with President Pompidou at Zaslavl, one of the correspondents there, and I met some of them at the airport, they were asking me about my forthcoming trip to the United States and whether that was still on. I said—at that time I said, “Of course it is, certainly.” And then in Bonn, out walking with Chancellor Brandt, there was also—we came across a group of correspondents and one of them asked me, “Is your trip to the United States still on?” I said, “Well,” I said, “what are you expecting? A great big earthquake in the United States that will prevent me from going and meet with the President?” [unclear] And of course I would go, and, well, that made a big hit with them.
Brezhnev: So, and—well, for the first time, as I say, that I spoke to a group of Americans about my paying my respect for you was with this group of Senators, and I really spoke from my heart. And the second time was during my interview with the biggest group of American correspondents that I’ve ever received. There were eleven of them.
Brezhnev: And I—in fact, I can—I spent a lot of time with them. Ican send you a full transcript of my discussion and my interview with them. And in that conversation I—twice in different sorts of settings and different circumstances I mentioned and emphasized what I see as the role and the significance of President Nixon and his policies in the—in changing relationships and improving relationships between the Soviet Union and the United States. But you know, come to think of it, 12 or so years ago one former very—formerly very prominent Soviet diplomat and statesman told me that, “Now you”—and I was then—“you are just a sort of a newly-initiated statesman. You’re an up-and-coming statesman,” he said to me—
Brezhnev: —at that time, and—
Brezhnev: —and he said, “Now, and I want to give you some advice.” He told me, “Now, you’re new in politics but believe me that personal, good relationships, even in grand politics, are at times the most important thing for progress at any time.” And, you know, I remember those words and I, personally, I agree with them. And I do believe that personal confidence and loyalty to even a gentleman’s agreement without setting down anything on paper are the best thing for any relationships at any time. And it’s with that hope that I come here, and in that spirit I want to shake you hand.
Brezhnev: Now, I believe that our personal relationships and the respect which I certainly harbor, very sincerest regard for you and I know it’s reciprocal, can be confirmed by two events and that is: your arrival to Moscow last year, and mine in Washington this year. This is not in any way to remember the bad past or to emphasize anything out of the present, but, simply, I’m giving an answer in substance and what is, I think, is realistic.
Yesterday, I had a very pleasant conversation with Dr. Kissinger and I guess he must have told you at least about it in general terms, but I want to say now—I said this to him yesterday, and I do want to say it now—that it is certainly my very earnest desire that you should pay another visit to the Soviet Union some time next year, in 1974. I think that would be very good—
Nixon: For the election?
Sukhodrev: Yeah, pretty much.
Nixon: You’ll come back in ’75 here.
Sukhodrev: That’s what he’s talking about now—
Nixon: Oh, go ahead. Please go on—
Brezhnev: Let me say here that this is not something I just say in a personal—only in a personal capacity. At the last meeting of the Politburo, I suggested—made the suggestion that I should make an official visit to—I should extend an official invitation to you to come to the Soviet Union in 1974. That suggestion received unanimous support by the entire Politburo, so it’s both a personal and a unanimously-supported decision, and a considered decision by our leadership. And then, you see, I think that new meeting between us would a give new impulse to what has already been done and it would be fully in accord with the arrangement—the agreement, actually, that we entered into last year that these meetings should be a regular, annual event. So, today, I’m here with you in the United States, and I shall be hoping that you will accept our invitation to visit us in 1974, and then, if we get an invitation, we can come back to the United States in ‘75.
Nixon: Thank you. That’s right.
Brezhnev: And then, in 1976, you come and pay us another visit. And that will, I’m sure, that this series of meetings of this sort will give continued—will give new and continuous impulses to the development of a real, lasting relationship between our two countries. Now, of course, I don’t have with me any brief or any official or formal proposals as to the problems we could take up for discussion next year or the agreements that we could sign next year, but this is something that we could some day at a point have a general discussion about, exchange views, consult one another, but I believe that our experience, the experience of preparing for last year’s meeting, and of preparing for this one, shows that we can do some very fruitful work, preparatory work together, and then, if we do that prior to the visit, there is—there can be more, time can be spent on seeing, traveling more through the country. You could go down south, see something in the Caucasus, for instance, some other part of the country. And, in short, we can prepare all of the business part of the trip so well, in advance, as to leave the minimal time for formal discussions and the settlement of various problems. So—but we certainly seek to insure that the next visit is at least as important as—each next visit is at least as important as each preceding one. But we can talk about that a little later.
Nixon: Well, I want to say before the others come in that I have the same feeling of respect for and a very personal basis, for the General Secretary, and of friendship on a personal basis. He’s a very—as I have told people in this office, I’ve indicated this: he is a strong man, and he represents a very strong country. And my greatest desire is to have this personal relationship, so that our two very strong countries can be a force that’s working together, rather than like that. If they work together, then the whole world benefits. If they work like that, the whole world is greatly endangered. And Mr. Brezhnev and I have the key, and I think that our personal relationship will unlock the door for the continuing relationship between our two countries, which will contribute to peace in the world.
Brezhnev: Oh, thank you. And I should like in that connection to say that I, for one, take pride in the fact that my country is a very big and powerful one, that it’s got, has many millions—250 million-strong population. It’s got the vast mineral resources, and agricultural and industrial potential. And all this is something that heartens us. It cannot fail to do so. But, on the other hand, I have never said that I regret the fact that the United States is also a big, important, a very powerful and a very strong, economically strong, country. And as, in fact, I told the last plenary meeting of our Central Committee, the ruling body of the—for our party and of the country, that the United States is w orthy of the greatest respect as a major, as a big world power. And I spoke of the role that our two countries can play in strengthening world peace and in working together on a basis of cooperation. Now, there are some people who keep throwing in this idea of there being two superpowers in the world who are out to dictate their, as they say, dictate their will, to foist their will upon others, and so forth. Now, but, are we to blame for being big? Are we to blame for being strong? What can we do about it? That is the way it is. I mean, what do these people want us to do, become countries—?
I am praising those who have made their nations strong. What are we to be? What are we to do? To turn ourselves into some kind of Guinea, or a country like that? And, surely, the main thing is the factthat we have—we are strong, but we don’t intend to use that strength against either one another or against any other third parties. Now—and there are—and people—except there are some people who keep reproachingus that we—that that is exactly what we allegedly want to do. But those—I think that is a deliberate attempt to spoil relations thrown in by certain people on the side. Now—but, and doubtless, neither the United States nor the Soviet Union can turn themselves into a Luxembourg where the entire army is made up of 78 policemen.
Well, so far I’m taking a kind of tolerant, patient attitude towards those who propagate that theory, the superpower theory, but I think that some time later I will make a big, serious speech and deal with that theory, I mean the so-called superpower theory, and really strike out against it, so as to crush that theory. And in that speech I’d certainly emphasize the constructive role that our two countries can make.
And, finally, that we should take up for discussion and endeavor to solve not only various current problems, but, also, we should endeavor to look far ahead, because if we can look ahead we can really create a basis of stable relationships and peace. And, as they say, if you don’t look ahead, you will inevitably lag behind and fall back, and I want us both to look forward together to a peaceful—a more peaceful, and a stronger future.[unclear exchange]
Nixon: Well, I think the key is personal friendship plus respect for each other’s peoples. Those two added together mean a constructive and positive relationship. And we have that.
Brezhnev: Now, as regards the schedule and the general protocol of our meetings, I’m happy to go along with any suggestions that you might make, with all those that you have made already, and any that you might make—wish to make in the future with regard to any minor changes or adaptations, or alterations, or anything—
Nixon: I realize that—
Brezhnev: Anything you suggest, I’m happy to go along with. I like the gaiety of Camp David.
Nixon: We’ll have a good meeting up there.
Brezhnev: It’s quiet, peaceful.
Nixon: And he’ll like San Clemente, too. That’s very quiet. All you hear there is the ocean waves. You’ll like that.
Brezhnev: The same goes for me. I like them—I like hearing the sound of the sea.
Nixon: Well, should we invite—would you like to invite Gromyko? [unclear]
Brezhnev: As—as you wish, Mr. President—
Brezhnev: —as protocol dictates [unclear] protocol [unclear].
Nixon: Right. I think the—I think that we should have Gromyko, Rogers and Kissinger, and [unclear] Soviet Union, sort of—we can have a sort of, as we did in Moscow, a plenary session.
Brezhnev: Well, yeah, for this sort of plenary meeting I’d like to have Gromyko in, certainly, and it’s natural if our two other Ministers, Patolichev and Bugayev,6 just for the first one.
Nixon: Would you like them, too, today? We were going to have—I thought that tomorrow we’d have an economic meeting. [unclear] today—
Brezhnev: And then—I fully agree—and then, the—our—we have most of our other meeting times, I guess, could be held in [unclear].
Nixon: That’s right. That’s right.
Brezhnev: If you will take Gromyko on our side, and—
Brezhnev: —or—and some of them might be just personal.
Nixon: Yeah, that’s right. I’d like to have that, too. We can talk on the plane, we can talk at Camp David. That’s all right.
Brezhnev: Now, I wanted to consult you on this—
Brezhnev: On the question of the prevention of nuclear war, this plenary session we say that, “well, so”—we call it the first question, so we have—we say something like, “Well, we have reached an understanding on this first question of ours,” and then [unclear]. Things like that now.
Nixon: Going into it?
Brezhnev: So as to prevent any leaks to the press in advance. [unclear] Right from the start.
Nixon: We don’t want anything said about that, no.
Brezhnev: And—well, Mr. President, what’s your—do you have any ideas as to how we should conduct this first—
Nixon: I think we—[unclear exchange]
Brezhnev: —[unclear] session, how do we start out—?
Nixon: What I would suggest is that I will ask—that Mr. Brezhnev being the guest—I will ask him to talk first, and he can talk generally about our relations. [unclear] And I will respond. By that time it’ll probably be about—we’ll run a little over, but [unclear]—
Brezhnev: That’ll be fine. I’ll use the lunch break to have a little nap—
Brezhnev: —because I’m still a little weak.
Nixon: That’s good that [unclear].
Brezhnev: [unclear] our time difference.
Nixon: That’s very important.
Brezhnev: Because if we take Moscow time, tonight’s dinner will end at something like 5 a.m. [laughs]
Nixon: Well, we’ll break him of that. I would suggest—
Brezhnev: I’m now happy to go on with any of you—
Nixon: —we meet now for maybe 45 minutes.
READ THE NIXON-BREZHNEV TRANSCRIPT HERE