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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-
youNixon: —we meet now for maybe 45 minutes.
[Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State William Rogers, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, Helmut Sonnenfeldt, and Soviet Ambassador Anatoli Dobrynin entered the Oval Office at 12:32 p.m. Omitted here is the larger group conversation; see Document 124.)
124. Memorandum of Conversation!
Washington, June 18, 1973, 12:35–3:15 p.m.
Agenda; U.S.-Soviet Relations
The private meeting between the President and the General Secretary ended at 12:30 p.m.? at which time the other participants entered the Oval Office. As the photographers were brought in Gromyko remarked that the President and Brezhnev must have settled everything in the previous hour.
Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 75, Country Files-Europe/USSR, Brezhnev Visit Memcons, June 18–25, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting was held in the Oval Office. Brackets are in the original.
2 See Document 123.
Brezhnev: In reply to what Gromyko just said a few minutes ago, that we must have settled everything, I just want to say that out of respect to all of you gentlemen we thought we better bring you all in.
President: Well, we had a very good talk. We were setting the tone. As the General Secretary said a year ago, personal relations are very important in relations between great powers. Together with careful preparations and good personal relations we should have a very good summit meeting. That doesn't mean that good personal relations solve hard problems. But we learned in Moscow last year that our two countries can make agreements and that is the goal this time. Brezhnev: That is very true. As I said a while ago, there are no situ
a ations that you can't find a way out of. You always can if you don't seek an advantage and if you are ready to make compromises. Now we have your State Department and our Foreign Ministry ... [At this point coffee was served and the interpretation of Brezhnev's remarks into English ended.]
President: I was going to suggest that we talk about the agenda. The General Secretary should make an opening statement and then I will follow with an opening statement. Tomorrow we will have a signing ceremony. Then we will have a plenary meeting on economic matters in the Cabinet Room. You can bring whomever you wish. One other point that may be helpful in making the schedule: the Communiqué language on the Middle East is not yet agreed; if the General Secretary agrees, Secretary Rogers and Foreign Minister Gromyko could settle this point and also the one on CSCE and maybe any others. Perhaps they can do this at Camp David while we talk about other things. I hadn't mentioned this yet to the General Secretary and I just want to make sure he agrees.
Brezhnev: We should instruct both of them that they have to come to an agreement. Otherwise it will be said that they tried and tried and tried, and couldn't get their work done.
The two points you mentioned are certainly important. Without going into details now, I am not too familiar with the exact differences between us but we can discuss them as we go along.
President: All right. You have the floor.
Brezhnev: It would not be expedient for us to return to the ancient history of our relations or to things we already covered in Moscow last year. This is not because it would not be worth having such a discussion but because we should reduce the time devoted to the past and
3 The communiqué was agreed on June 23 and released on June 25. See Document concentrate on the future. So I'll keep the general review as brief as possible and also try to be as accurate as possible as far as substance is concerned.
I must just say two words on past history and then I'll switch to the present and the future. In the past, relations between us developed very unevenly. There was much that was good, especially in our joint struggle against fascism. But then much happened that was uneven. All that was done in Moscow and that we have to do here therefore acquires unusual significance and importance. As you know, we Russians have an adage-life is always the best teacher. I believe that the life of our two great peoples and of our leaders had led us to the conclusion that we must build a new relationship between us now and in the future. Therefore, I am deeply gratified to emphasize that human reason led us both at the same time to recognize this and that is what led us to the successful meeting last year in Moscow. I very firmly be
I lieve, and will go on believing, that what was done in Moscow took place in the profound awareness of the importance of our joint ventures for the future and for peace. We met in Moscow last year not to compare our strength or to compete but to adopt important decisions. And I know that they won the unamimous support of our people and of yours.
I know our people and those of the U.S., and in fact of most of the countries, refer to last year's meeting as historic and that underlines the fact that indeed it was historic. Our people are very satisfied.
. That is the assessment made by people who live today. But for historians of the future the meeting will be a subject for study and I am sure it will be highly judged. This is not a matter of vanity because peace is not just between the two of us but with many others and that is what gives such great significance to last year's meeting and to this year's meeting as well. And this will lay the basis for the forthcoming visit of the President to the Soviet Union next year.
Let me just tell the others here that I already invited you and that the President already accepted. We will find a way to make the invitation official.
It is indeed important that not only the people of our two countries but others should welcome our meeting. We can say that the vast majority of people did welcome it and also the achievements since then. Maybe there were some exceptions, but that is not an overriding factor because the majority of people do.
In relations between any two nations confidence is a factor of no small importance. In that context, I must say that a major factor in relations between our two countries is the confidence factor. This can be manifested in various ways. But the important thing is that we have the trust of those we represent, whether it is the party or the whole people.
A year has passed since Moscow. It is very important that people in all walks of life have written to the Central Committee and to me personally to say how they view the summit. I do not recall the exact number but it would not be far wrong to say that I received over a hundred thousand letters wholeheartedly supporting the aims of the summit. I consider this most important because in this way I can be sure of the peoples' support. Some have even written their letters as poems. I'll show it to you at your house. One person had not even ever written poetry before. Anyway no poet could ever do it, or he would ask for six months vacation to write it. It really was a very curious letter. I was really amazed when I got it. In a brief letter he said lucidly and succinctly what it sometimes takes us to say in months.
We have now put an end to old history. And we have made a start to new history. That is why this meeting is so important. Maybe people will even call it epoch making. As I said alone to you, if we really can lead nations from war it will be seen as epoch making. We have all studied history. All it was was a history of war-this or that prince or king or queen; the Roman Empire, Austria-Hungary ... all there was was war. But today we want peace. And future historians will see it that way. My support rests on 15 millions of members of the party and the Konsomols* and on the whole people. So, when I sign documents with the United States I am not doing it alone but on behalf of all my people. During this visit we will be signing several agreements. Twelve years hence it will be regarded as truly epoch making.
We will be discussing such questions as European security, etc. But right now we are talking just about our two countries. As you said, we are very strong, economically, scientifically, technologically, militarily. And big and strong as we are we can't, as you said, help but influence the rest of the world. We can also see that last year's meeting was supported by European states--France, Germany, and so on.
[Brezhnev looked at his watch: I have two watches, one on Moscow time and one on Washington time. President: It is the only way you can tell when to go to the bathroom. Brezhnev: When I arrived I was trying to adjust. I was told the difference was 7 hours but my watch showed 6 hours. It turned out that I had turned the hands the wrong way.)
There are also many countries in Western Europe and all the socialist parties and labor parties and certainly the communist partiesthey all supported the Moscow summit. I am sure you agree that all
4 An acronym for the Russian name for the "Communist Union of Youth," the CPSU's official youth movement.
countries want to see a tranquil life in peace. So the Moscow meeting last year represented a new phase. But we did not stop at the documents that were signed then. We went forward to prepare for this meeting. We have travelled a great and important road. So this visit will be followed by the people of all the world, as you said in your welcoming speech.
Every epoch leaves an imprint on the nature of relations between nations. But you and I live in an epoch where questions of politics have special importance; but they cannot be divorced from economic and cultural questions, in short, from all the other aspects of life. And this is only natural because the world has achieved so much in the last century in those fields. This is true especially of the U.S., the Soviet Union and such countries as France and West Europe. And then there was the special imprint left by the last war, when the threat of fascism loomed over the world. The progress that has been made could not fail to have an effect on the settlements of the peoples concerning how relations should develop. All nations want to thrive on progressive ideas, not retrogressive ones. If that is taken into account, I want to emphasize once again that the meeting last year and the one this year will be judged by people of all professions as events of peace. The only exception are those who make a profession of war. But I am speaking of the hundreds of millions who support us. We have moved a long way forward politically, and economically too. Perhaps not everything has been accomplished yet and we can talk about that later. But we can say that we have moved substantially forward.
I will not speak of the basic principles of our policy. We talked about them last year and I also spoke of this subject earlier. But I felt recently that it was desirable to tell our people again of our general policy line. And so we had a Central Committee plenum where I delivered a detailed report on developments since last year. We changed the rules for the first half by not just having a brief statement of approval but putting out a statement, which for us was a long one, setting forth our policy since last May and the line we intend to follow. We have full grounds for saying that your line last year and since and our line are indeed correct. And this fully accords with your welcoming words today. I too feel that the present visit will enable us to take new steps in our relations and I agree that if the two great powers do this and pursue an agreed peaceful policy hardly anyone will dare to breach the peace of the world. We can talk in more detail later. We joked before about superpowers. True, there is Luxembourg with 85 policemen.
(Brezhnev interrupts interpretation and says to Secretary Rogers: Are you looking at your watch? Rogers: No, I was fascinated by your remarks. Brezhnev: Well then, Kissinger was looking at his watch. Kissinger: I was just sitting here minding my own business.)