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.