President Nixon greets an enthusiastic Russian crowd in Moscow’s Red Square.
40 years ago this week, President Nixon landed at Vnukovo II Airport in Moscow, U.S.S.R., opening an official visit to the Soviet Union. He came prepared to continue detente talks and to build upon the hard work of the previous two years. It was yet another historical trip for the President, one that signified a continued path in fostering peaceful competitiveness between the world’s two great adversaries.
President Nixon was treated to a grand welcoming by the Kremlin, having been accorded a red carpet ceremony with the Soviet Union’s highest officials awaiting to greet him: General Secretary Brezhnev, President Podgorny, Premier Kosygin, Foreign Minister Gromyko, and Ambassador Dobrynin. Following welcoming remarks, President Nixon took a motorcade to the Kremlin, where he was shown his quarters. Soon after, he motored to the office of General Secretary Brezhnev, where the two spoke privately:
He told me about his recent meeting with Teddy Kennedy and Averell Harriman and said that they both supported detente. I told him it was fine for him to meet with leaders of both parties between now and 1976 because we wanted them all to be in support of detente. -RN, The Memoirs of Richard Nixon
President Nixon and Brezhnev speak candidly with one another: “This is where I’m from, Mr. Brezhnev–a small town called Yorba Linda.”
The President and First Lady were welcomed to a State dinner thrown in honor of their visit. In his toast, President Nixon reflected on the great accomplishments that had already been made in the period of detente with the Soviet Union.
To see the extent of the progress that has been made, we can point to the fact that over the past 2 years, more agreements have been negotiated and signed between our two countries in those 2 years than in the entire history of the relations of our two countries up to that period.
The agreements confirmed the common interest of the two nations–to avoid war and to limit the weapons capable of ending humanity–nuclear arms. However, peace would not be an end in itself. Out of peace between the Soviet Union and the United States came the prospect of greater progress:
We both seek peace, but we seek peace that is more than simply the absence of war. We seek peace because of the positive progress it can bring to both of our peoples.
The President, of course, conceded that more work needed to be done to be sure that people of both nations would have a tangible stake in peace, so “that two peoples with different systems of government can establish relationships that will not be broken in the future.”