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Timerbaev, Roland M., Deputy Chief, International Organizations Department, Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Deputy Chairman of the Soviet Delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks from March 1971

Tito, Josip Broz, President of Yugoslavia

Ulbricht, Walter, First Secretary, Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party of (East) Germany until May 3, 1971

Volpe, John A., Secretary of Transportation

Vorontsov, Yuli M., Soviet Minister Counselor to the United States

Walters, Vernon A., Major General, USA, Military Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Paris Warner, John, Under Secretary of the Navy

Welles, Benjamin, foreign correspondent in the Washington bureau of the New York Times Wexler, William A., President of B'nai B'rith International and Chairman of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations

Woods, Rosemary, President Nixon's personal secretary

Xuan Thuy, Chief of the North Vietnamese Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks

Yahya Khan, Agha Mohammad, General, President of Pakistan

Yost, Charles, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations until February 25, 1971

Young, David R., member, National Security Council Staff

Zamyatin, Leonid M., Director General, Telegram Agency of the Soviet Union (TASS) Zhou Enlai (Chou En-lai), Premier, People's Republic of China

Ziegler, Ronald L., White House Press Secretary

Zimyanin, Mikhail V., editor-in-chief of Pravda; full member, Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

Zorin, Valerian A., Soviet Ambassador to France

Soviet Union, October 1970-October 1971

"A Moment of Unusual Uncertainty": Meeting Between Nixon and Gromyko, October 12-December 31, 1970

1. Background Press Briefing by President Nixon'

Hartford, Connecticut, October 12, 1970, 1:30-2:08 p.m.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I know that you have already had a briefing by Dr. Kissinger and Assistant Secretary Sisco on some of our current problems and also some of our long-range goals.2

I thought that in closing this session before I had the opportunity to meet all of you personally-as a matter of fact, not to meet you for the first time. As I looked over the list, I think I met two-thirds of the people in the room on other occasions—but that I might try to put the foreign policy of this Administration in perspective and to talk not simply about our immediate problems, the problems in Vietnam, the problems in the Mideast, the problems of east-west relations in Europe, but how it looks in the long haul, perhaps looking ahead 25 years.

[Omitted here is discussion of Vietnam, the Middle East, and the United Nations.]

1 Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 426, Subject File, Background Briefings. No classification marking. The briefing the last of four such regional briefings before the mid-term elections—was held in the Hartford Hilton Hotel for selected "Northeastern editors and broadcasters." In a memorandum to the President on October 8, Herbert Klein, White House Director of Communications, explained: "Emphasis in the selection of editors and broadcasters has been placed on the states in which there are key Senate races although other states are included that the list not look overly political." (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President's Daily Diary) The President's remarks, delivered on "deep background, not attributable in any way," and "strictly embargoed" until 6 p.m. on October 13, were apparently transcribed by the Office of the White House Press Secretary.

2 According to Kissinger's Record of Schedule, he and Sisco briefed the editors at 10 a.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968-76) The text of their briefing is ibid., Box CL 426, Subject File, Background Briefings.


At this time, the future of peace in the world as far as a major conflict is concerned depends upon whether the United States and the Soviet Union will be able to resolve their difficulties in a peaceful way. Let me give you my philosophy quite directly and quite candidly.3


I know I have the reputation for being a very strong antiCommunist. I am. I don't like the Communist system. I prefer ours. When I visit Communist countries and see the grayness that that imposes upon the people of those countries, I prefer free societies of whatever degree.

On the other hand, let us look at their side of it. They do not like our system. As far as their view of the world is concerned, what we both have to realize is that the differences between the United States and the Soviet Union are so deep and so profound that they are not going to be resolved by the two top leaders of the countries sitting down and getting to know each other better, not by smiles, not by handshakes, not by summit conferences.

I do not mean that summit conferences may not serve useful purposes under certain circumstances. But the idea that getting down to it, the real divisions between us have been exaggerated and that it is a question of our not understanding them or their not understanding us, that is not true.

They understand us. Perhaps we have not understood them as well as we might. But perhaps we do now. And if we start with that fundamental proposition where we do understand that we are different, that we are competitors, that we are going to continue to be competitors as long as this generation lives, then we can have a sound basis for a meaningful settlement of major differences.

Let us look at a few areas in that respect. The Soviet Union differs with us with regard to settlement in Vietnam. They differ because they would prefer to see the Communists prevail there in South Vietnam. That does not mean, however, that the Soviet Union and the United States, because we differ as to how it should be settled, will allow that difference to drag us into a major power confrontation.

3 Nixon also prepared a set of handwritten notes for the briefing. According to these notes, he planned to state that, in spite of differences in the Middle East, Latin America, and Europe, the United States and Soviet Union shared a “vital” interest in communication to "avoid war," to "reduce armaments," and to "have trade." The President was neither "naive" nor "sentimental." The United States and the Soviet Union, allies in the Second World War, had become competitors in the Cold War. This competition would continue, even if the two countries agreed to hold a summit meeting. Rather than seek "quick victories," "sensational speeches," and "spectacular formulas," Nixon was determined to take the "long view" as he sought to build a "structure of peace." (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, President's Personal Files, Box 61, President's Speech File, October 12, 1970, Connecticut [Media Briefing and Dedication of Italian Community Center])

The Soviet Union, getting to a more important area of difference, the Mideast—a vitally important difference-very strongly differs with the United States about the Mideast. They want the opening to Africa, they want to turn the Southern hinge of NATO, they want the opening to the Mediterranean and they have made tremendous gains over the past ten years in all of these areas; we want peace in the area, we want to deny to any expansionist power domination of that critical area of the world.

So here are our differences, in conflict. That does not mean that as the Jordan crisis indicated that when the chips are really down the Soviet Union or the United States will allow themselves to be dragged, even in this important area, into a major confrontation leading to war.

Now we come to the blue chip. We have a very great difference of opinion about Europe. NATO was set up for a number of reasons: because Europe was too weak to defend itself, because of the threat of the danger from the East, but it was set up, a third reason, because of the need to find a home for the Germans.

Germany is still the heart of the problem of Europe. The German settlement, future of NATO, is all wrapped up in there. The Soviet Union's ideas about the future of Germany, the future of NATO, the future of Europe are diametrically opposed to ours.

But there again the question is do we allow those differences to reach the point where we are drawn into a major confrontation?

I have talked up to this point, I suppose, like a Cold-War rhetoric man. I do so only because I am trying to point out what all of you know, as sophisticated observers. Let us see what the facts really are and not obscure them, not say the differences in South Vietnam are only a matter of semantics and getting to know each other, or in the Mideast that we can work all of those things out because in the end people will sit down and live together.

That is not true. So be it with Europe as well. The sooner we recognize that the Soviet Union and the United States have a very different view about their role in the world and particularly in certain areas in the world—I haven't mentioned the Soviet Union's different attitude toward places like Cuba and Chile or Africa or the rest of Asia—as soon as we recognize that, then we can build a sound basis for an enduring settlement.

What are the great elements that I believe, and I think all of us in our official family believe, are working against a confrontation in any of these areas, no matter how vitally important they are, a confrontation that would lead to a nuclear explosion. They are perhaps in this order, three:

First, neither major power, knowing as it does that whoever pushes the button may kill 70 million approximately, and the other side will

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