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Frank Gannon's interview with Richard Nixon, May 12, 1983, part 1.

Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection

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0:51 - Trusting the Soviet Union

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Partial Transcript: Today we're talking with President Nixon about the subject of the Soviet Union and the West.

Segment Synopsis: Nixon discusses the difficulties that the differences in the goals of the United States and the Soviet Union can cause while working with them.

Keywords: Charles E. Bohlen; communism; foreign relations; Manlio Brosio; Nikita Khrushchev; North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); Russia; Soviet Union; Yuri Andropov

Subjects: Andropov, I͡U. V. (I͡Uriĭ Vladimirovich), 1914-1984; Bohlen, Charles E. (Charles Eustis), 1904-1974; Brosio, Manlio, 1897-1980; Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, 1894-1971

4:48 - Cause of the Cold War

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Partial Transcript: What do you think about the fairly widespread theory that one of the reasons for the Cold War is because we acted--in the p--post-Second World War period when we had the power of the atomic bomb uniquely ourselves--that we acted suspiciously and vindictively towards the Russians, and--or towards the Soviets, and that--that turned them into what they became--that, in effect, we created the Cold War by our paranoia and our anti-Communist f--Red Scare fears?

Segment Synopsis: Nixon explains his disagreement with the theory that the United States' fear of communism led to the Cold War. He discusses the Soviet Union's part in the Cold War and creating peace.

Keywords: Afghanistan; atomic bomb; Baruch Plan; Britain; Cambodia; Cold War; communism; Dwight D. Eisenhower; France; Geneva; Germany; Jimmy Carter; Leonid Brezhnev; Marshall Plan; nuclear power; nuclear weapons; Russia; Soviet Union; World War II

Subjects: Brezhnev, Leonid Ilʹich, 1906-1982; Carter, Jimmy 1924-; Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969

14:26 - Yalta Conference

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Partial Transcript: Yalta is one of the most controversial events of the modern history.

Segment Synopsis: Nixon addresses what went wrong during the Yalta Conference.

Keywords: Alger Hiss; Charles E. Bohlen; communism; foreign relations; Franklin D. Roosevelt; Russia: Soviet Union; Winston Churchill; Yalta Conference

Subjects: Bohlen, Charles E. (Charles Eustis), 1904-1974; Churchill, Winston, 1874-1965; Hiss, Alger; Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945

17:51 - Maintaining Détente with the Soviet Union

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Partial Transcript: President Carter talked about the golden rule in dealing with the Russians.

Segment Synopsis: Nixon describes the beginning of negotiations with the Russian government and how to continue to work with the Soviet Union.

Keywords: Afghanistan; Anatoly Dobrynin; Andrei Gromyko; arms control; Berlin Agreement; Cienfuegos; Cuba; foreign relations; Golda Meir; Golden Rule; Henry Kissinger; Jimmy Carter; Jordan; nuclear weapons; Pakistan; Russia; Solidarity; Soviet Union; Syria

Subjects: Brezhnev, Leonid Ilʹich, 1906-1982; Carter, Jimmy 1924-; Dobrynin, Anatoly, 1919-2010; Gromyko, Andreĭ Andreevich, 1909-1989; Kissinger, Henry, 1923-; Meir, Golda, 1898-1978

24:54 - Weaponry

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Partial Transcript: Do you think that the Soviets are developing biological and chemical weapons now?

Segment Synopsis: Nixon discusses the response to rumors of chemical and biological weapon production by the Soviet Union and how to ensure that the Soviet Union does not go against SALT agreements.

Keywords: biological weapons; chemical weapons; nuclear weapons; Soviet Union; Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT)

28:12 - Yuri Andropov

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Partial Transcript: What's your assessment of Andropov?

Segment Synopsis: Nixon provides his assessment of General Secretary of the Communist Party Yuri Andropov.

Keywords: Alger Hiss; communism; Joseph Stalin; KGB; Kim Philby; Leonid Brezhnev; media; Nikita Khrushchev; nuclear weapons; Soviet Union; Yuri Andropov

Subjects: Andropov, I͡U. V. (I͡Uriĭ Vladimirovich), 1914-1984; Brezhnev, Leonid Ilʹich, 1906-1982; Hiss, Alger; Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, 1894-1971; Philby, Kim, 1912-1988; Stalin, Joseph, 1879-1953

31:59 - First Trip to Russia

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Partial Transcript: Now that Soviet summit meetings between presidents of the United States and leaders of the Soviet Union have become almost commonplace, people have become fairly blasé about them, but when you first went there in 1959 to meet Khrushchev, when you were vice president, that was a very dramatic event that riveted the world's attention.

Segment Synopsis: Nixon recounts going to Russia for the first time and meeting with Nikita Khrushchev, who welcomed Nixon to the country but had issues with the Captive Nation Resolutions recently passed by Congress.

Keywords: Alexsei Kosygin; Crimea; Foster Dulles; Franklin D. Roosevelt; Joseph Stalin; Kremlin; Leonid Brezhnev; Moscow; Nikita Khrushchev; secret service; Soviet Union; Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union (TASS); Tommy Thompson; World War II: Captive Nation Resolutions; Yalta

Subjects: Brezhnev, Leonid Ilʹich, 1906-1982; Dulles, John Foster, 1888-1959; Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, 1894-1971; Kosygin, Aleksey Nikolayevich, 1904-1980; Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945; Stalin, Joseph, 1879-1953; Thompson, Llewellyn, 1904-1972

42:19 - Kitchen Debate

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Partial Transcript: The--your relationship only went--only went downhill from that high point, I guess.

Segment Synopsis: Nixon recalls going to the American exhibition with Khrushchev and the subsequent conversation that became known as the Kitchen Debate.

Keywords: grocery store; Kitchen Debate; missiles; Nikita Khrushchev; Russia; Soviet Union

Subjects: Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, 1894-1971

50:12 - Visiting Khrushchev's Dacha / Boat Cruise

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Partial Transcript: After this, he wanted to take you out to see his country house, his dacha.

Segment Synopsis: Nixon describes visiting Khrushchev's summer home and taking a boat ride where he met some of the Russian people.

Keywords: Captive Nations Resolutions; communism; dacha; Kitchen Debate; Leonid Brezhnev; Moscow; Nikita Khrushchev; Russia; Secret Service; Soviet Union; Tommy Thompson

Subjects: Brezhnev, Leonid Ilʹich, 1906-1982; Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, 1894-1971; Thompson, Llewellyn, 1904-1972


NIXON: [unintelligible]

NIXON: --speech in 1976, people said that he had--had done it several times and had watched it and then did it. That, of course, is the assholes that--who were producing it wanted to take credit.

GANNON: Wanted to get the credit for it.

NIXON: And they should--

GANNON: [unintelligible] They had written and rehearsed it.

NIXON: --never have put it out.


NIXON: Yeah. They rehearsed him.


NIXON: Right?

GANNON: Yeah. That was Panayi and--

NIXON: Wasn't that awful?


NIXON: [Clears throat.] I don't mind their doing it. I mean, I--e--everybody's got to do it his own way.

GANNON: Today we're talking with President Nixon about the subject of the 1:00Soviet Union and the West. Mr. President, can we trust the Russians?

NIXON: Well, I recall talking to Manuel Brosio, the former Secretary-General of NATO, a great Italian diplomat who served six years in Moscow before he came to the United States. And he told me in the late sixties, before I became president, very, very vigorously, when many Europeans were clamoring for détente--he said, "I know the Russians. They are liars. They are great actors. They are cheaters. And they lie and they act because they consider it's their duty to do so." He says, "You cannot trust them." Now, having said that, however, he did not go on to say that you should not deal with them. And my answer to this whole proposal or question as to whether or not the Russians can be trusted is, very simply, only if we make agreements which are in their interest to keep, self-enforcing agreements, and only if everything we do with 2:00them positively is linked to something else which will cost them if they break the agreement. But you can't trust them on the basis that, well, we're sincere and they’re sincere. That is totally irrelevant where the Russians are concerned.

GANNON: Why do they lie and cheat? Why--why are they insincere?

NIXON: The reason is that their goal is very different from ours. To simplify it, our goal is peace as an end in itself, and their goal is victory, and whether it's peace or war, it's a means to the end, the end of victory--the Soviet or Russian or Communist domination of the world. And under Marxist-Leninist teachings, you use any means to achieve that great goal. And if it requires that you lie and you cheat, you lie and you cheat. Now, under the circumstances, we simply do not follow that particular type of quote, "morality," unquote, and under the circumstances, however, in dealing with them, it doesn't mean that we have to lie and cheat, but we must be aware of the fact 3:00that they will when they can get away with it. But, on the other hand, you can deal with them, and they will keep a deal if you make it on the basis that will serve their interests and ours.

GANNON: Are they sincere as people? As Andropov sits in the Kremlin, does he think of--does he look at a question and say, "Now, I've got to lie and cheat in order to achieve our Leninist--our good Leninist ends here," or do they sincerely believe that what they’re doing is right? Do they have a different definition of morality?

NIXON: I do not think that morality is really relevant as far as they're concerned. They are thinking in terms of the total Communist world, a Communist society for everybody, equality and everything else that Communism in its ideal state is supposed to produce. And they believe, therefore, that anything they do to achieve that is therefore justifiable. I recall, for example, a conversation with regard to the whole idea of whether or not they were sincere that I had 4:00with Ambassador Bohlen, our former ambassador to Russia and a great Russian expert, and he was concerned--this was in the early sixties, after he had become ambassador to Paris--by statements out of Washington in the early sixties that some Washington people in the government were convinced that Khrushchev was sincere in his desire for peace. And he said, "That is so stupid, and it is so wrong." He said, "He is a Communist. He can no more be sincere than this table"--there was a coffee table between us--"can be sincere. He is a materialist, and he will therefore be what--for whatever is necessary to achieve his ends. Sincerity has nothing to do with it."

GANNON: What do you think about the fairly widespread theory that one of the reasons for the Cold War is because we acted--in the p--post-Second World War 5:00period when we had the power of the atomic bomb uniquely ourselves--that we acted suspiciously and vindictively towards the Russians, and--or towards the Soviets, and that--that turned them into what they became--that, in effect, we created the Cold War by our paranoia and our anti-Communist f--Red Scare fears?

NIXON: Well, that is a theory that just doesn't stand up when you examine what happened. We have to remember that the Baruch Plan, for example, offered the Soviet Union the opportunity to join with the United States in the developing of nuclear energy. They turned it down. We have to understand that the Marshall Plan, for example, was offered to the Communist countries as well as to the European countries, and the Soviet not only wouldn't take it themselves, but they wouldn't let some of their Eastern European satellites take it because they were not interested in that kind of agreement or cooperation with the West. President Eisenhower's famous "open skies" proposal, which he made, as you may recall, at the time of Geneva in 1955--that proposal, in which the--the two 6:00would join together in opening up their countries in terms of inspection so that we could not cheat each other and so forth--they turned that down. What we have to bear in mind is that when what was called the "containment policy" was developed, first under President Truman and continued under President Eisenhower and Secretary Dulles, it made a great deal of sense. Then the United States has unquestioned superiority. and it was that superiority which avoided World War II, or World War III, I should say, it--because at the time, after World War II, when the policy of containment and the policy of massive retaliation was adopted, we have to remember that Europe was very weak. There was always the possibility that forces of revolution which were inspired and controlled and 7:00subsidized by the Russians would take over. It was necessary, in effect, to give them time--the European countries, the French and the British and the Germans, to develop--and the Italians as well--their own defense. We bought that time through the policy of containment. It made sense. I would just also comment on this whole idea that, as far as the Russians are concerned, that we caused them to become as aggressive and as adventurist as they are. They didn't need any help from us. That's the way they are. They say it. They said it even in the period of so-called "détente," when I was talking with Brezhnev. There's no mistaking about that at all. I think we have to have in mind that, as far as they're concerned, they have certain goals, and they're out to cheat them. No--they have certain goals, and they're out to achieve them. I can recall very well people asking me on occasion, "What is the situation with regard to the 8:00Russians? Is there a chance that we can get them to accept our views, our ideals, and so forth?" And then they go on to say, "Perhaps if we could only convince them that we are sincerely for peace, then they would not be as warlike as they are." Let me tell you--I know the Russians. We don't have to convince them that we're for peace. They know that. We have to convince them they cannot win a war. And once we do that, the basis is set for negotiation that will be responsible on both sides.

GANNON: Did they take advantage of--

OFF SCREEN VOICE: Excuse me one second, gentlemen. I have to cut in. I'm sorry. Keep rolling.

NIXON: [Clears throat.]

OFF SCREEN VOICE: [unintelligible]



OFF SCREEN VOICE: Frank, you want to lead in on that--


OFF SCREEN VOICE: --aggressiveness of the Russians. [unintelligible]

GANNON: [Clears throat.]

OFF SCREEN VOICE: --Frank, and then go to the president.


GANNON: How do you feel about the widespread argument that the Cold War was, at 10:00least in part, if not entirely, a product of American post-Second World War paranoia, Red Scare fear and suspicion, and at a time when we uniquely had atomic power, we forced them into a defensive Cold War posture?

NIXON: Well, I don't agree with that particular theory. It's somewhat similar, incidentally, to the theory that the holocaust in Cambodia was caused because the United States, which was trying to prevent a Communist takeover, brutalized the peaceful Cambodian peasants. Let me say that, as far as the Soviets were concerned, they didn’t have to be forced to or educated to be aggressive. That is what they believe in, and that is what they have been trying to achieve ever since World War II. Under the circumstances, I think what really happened here is that many people have overlooked, who have this particular theory, how the West really has bent over backwards in terms of reassuring the Soviet Union and trying to get their cooperation. The Baruch Plan, which of course was presented 11:00during the---Truman's presidency, with regard to the sharing of atomic energy and so forth, Eisenhower's "open skies" proposals, the Marshall Plan itself, which the Russians and the Eastern European Communist countries turned down--they turned it down because the Russians insisted that they do. What really happened here is that the United States in effect held the ring with its superiority in nuclear power, behind which the European countries--the British, the French, the Germans and the Italians, the major ones as well as others--could restore their economies and their strength and thereby not be, in effect, vulnerable to Soviet subversion. I would just say that, finally, as far as all this theory to the effect that what we really have to do is to convince the Russians that we're for peace and that they will be for peace--is--that's 12:00just nonsense. I know the Russians. We don't have to convince them we're for peace. They know that. We have to convince them that they cannot win a war, we've got to convince them that they cannot win without war, and once we have done that, then we can build a peace that will last, but only then.

GANNON: Do they take advantage of their knowledge that we're for peace?

NIXON: Oh, whenever they possibly can. They, for example, took advantage of President Carter. Now, President Carter is no silly, sappy dove. He has a good service background in the Navy. He's a good, strong person in my view, but he felt that if he could only convince the Russians by unilaterally cutting back on our arms programs that we were for peace, as he put it in his famous Notre Dame speech, that they would do likewise--in other words, follow the Golden Rule with them. Well, he cut back on the B-1, and he cut back on the Minuteman III 13:00production line, and he--he delayed the cruise missile and the MX missile, and so forth. And what did the Russians do? As we cut back, they built up. That was the unilateral approach. It didn't work. Fortunately, at least as far as our defense program was concerned, Afghanistan opened his eyes, and he turned around. But let us clearly understand--we have tried that way, the way of trying to convince the Russians by our restraint that we are for peace, that we are for disarmament. And all they do is take advantage of it.

GANNON: How could a man who isn't a silly, sappy dove say that he had learned more about the Russians in the week after the--involving the invasion of Afghanistan than he had in all of his life to that point?

NIXON: That has nothing to do with some--whether somebody is silly or sappy. What it has to do is the way, unfortunately, that many educated Americans look at the world today. Let's face it--the Americans generally a--are a people who 14:00have good intentions. Oh, we make our mistakes and the rest, but we would like the rest of the world to share our values, and we believe that our values are so good that they are ones that should be shared and that others may agree to. But in the real world, it doesn't work that way, and sometimes it takes time to find that out.

GANNON: Yalta is one of the most controversial events of the modern history. What do you think happened at Yalta? How would you describe the Yalta Conference?

NIXON: Well, those who were there--and here again, I--I would go back to Ambassador Bohlen, who knew something about Soviet-American relations then and later--those were there believe that what went wrong at Yalta was not what was agreed to, but the fact that the Russians did not carry out the 15:00agreement--agreement with regard to, for example, elections in Poland and that sort of thing. Once it was agreed to, they didn't even follow it out whatever. Now, whatever the case may be, what we have to understand is that making an agreement which was not self-enforcing was the mistake--trusting the Russians, if I may--may use that term. That if they--we signed an agreement with them, that they would follow it in spirit and letter just as we would--that was the mistake at Yalta. That mistake having been made, it must not make again--we must not make it again.

GANNON: You don’t think, then, that Franklin Roosevelt was operating either under diminished physical capacity or that he was suffering from pro-Communist or, indeed, Communist, advisors?

NIXON: Well, there isn't any question about his own anti-Communist ideas, there's--as far as Franklin Roosevelt is concerned. There, however, is some question with regard to advisors, advisors who were not pro-Communist, but 16:00advisors, I would put it, who were naïve about the Communists. Maybe there were some who were pro-Communist, but I think the latter, what--what Lenin has referred to as the--the "useful idiots," those who don't know better and should know better. That was the real problem.

GANNON: Do you discount Alger Hiss's role at a--as a Roosevelt advisor at Yalta, then?

NIXON: I do not know what his role was, but the fact he was there is not reassuring, because there's no question but that he was a Communist at that time, and certainly that could have had some effect. I would say further that with regard to Roosevelt at Yalta, I talked to Winston Churchill about it, and he tried to be diplomatic about it. But he said there was no question, and he has written this as well, but he said it very emphatically to me--that President Roosevelt was not at his best at Yalta. And what happened was that Roosevelt, in 17:00effect, joined with Stalin and supported Stalin's views against Churchill, and Churchill fought a valiant but losing battle in attempting to deal with the Russians on a realistic, tough-minded basis, and that was the tragedy.

GANNON: President--

NIXON: But I--let us--let us make it clear--I am not going to judge those who were advising Roosevelt on the basis of whether they were pro- or anti-Communist. That has nothing to do with it. What--it has something to do with it, but the real problem is something very different, and that is--and much more serious, looking at today's problems--and that is they were naïve about the Russians and what they might do. And that is going to be our greatest danger in the future.

GANNON: President Carter talked about the Golden Rule in dealing with the Russians. Didn't you have a Nixon version of the Golden Rule for dealing with the Russians?


NIXON: Oh, yes. I had a very interesting conversation in the first state dinner that we had for Golda Meir. She was very concerned a--about what she thought was the soft-headed views of some Europeans who were "slobbering over it," as she put it--the idea of détente. And she just wanted to be sure that we weren't taken in by the Russians, because she grew up in Russia, and she remembered that the Russian drunken policemen used to come by every Saturday night and beat her father up because he happened to be a Jew. And so she had strong emotional feelings against them, but also she didn't trust them generally. And then, in order to reassure her a bit, I said, "Well, let me give you a definition of détente that is a little different." I said, "There is the Golden Rule of the Bible, 'Do unto others as they do unto you.'" I said, "That isn't the way you deal with the Russians. The International Golden Rule--and particularly one 19:00which must apply whenever you're dealing with an adversary like the Russians--is, 'Do unto others as they do unto you.'" She started to nod, and Henry Kissinger said, "Plus ten percent."

GANNON: With the invasion of Afghanistan and the suppression of Solidarity in Poland and other activities throughout the world, hasn't détente been discredited in the last several years--certainly since you've left the White House?

NIXON: Discredited in the sense of how it was managed, but when you look at it historically, not in the sense of how it worked when it was properly managed. And what I am suggesting here is that the period of what is called "détente" really began in 1969. That was when I, in my inaugural, said that we were going to enter a period of negotiation rather than confrontation with the Russians, and we began then negotiations at the ambassadorial level, at the foreign minister level with Dobrynin, the ambassador here, and with Gromyko, the Foreign 20:00Minister, with Kissinger on our side, and I participating on occasion, and also by letters, an exchange of letters with Brezhnev. Now, in that period of time, détente produced the Berlin Agreement, which was very much in our interest, and, we believe, in theirs as well, but particularly in ours because we got away from those over-and-over-again incidents of crises on the Berlin Autobahn. It also had a very significant effect in deterring Russian adventurism. They tried to put submarines into Cienfuegos in 1970 in Cuba. We objected, and we said, "If you don't knock that off, then we're not going to continue to negotiate on arms control and trade," and other things that they wanted. They knocked it off. They, uh--w--it was effective, certainly, in restraining them in Jordan in 1970, 21:00when the Syrians and the Jordanians were having a go at it, and we were supporting the Jordanians since the Syrians were the invaders, and the Russians were supporting the invaders. They stepped out of that, or kept out of it, I think, because--I'm sure--because of their desire to have a summit meeting, which was to occur almost two years later. The same is true of Indo-Pakistan. When--the--there is no question in my mind but the fact that we had our summit meeting scheduled by that time, that they restrained the Indians, or at least did not egg them on at a time that India would have gobbled up West Pakistan if the s--Russians had stood by and allowed them to do so. But we made it very cl--clear that, unless they were--would cooperate with us in bringing about a ceasefire--that there would be no summit, and that had a--its necessary effect. 22:00What I am suggesting is this: détente will only work if it's combined with deterrence, and by "deterrence"--that means you must have the military strength to make it clear that whoever engages in aggression will find that the costs are far greater than anything he's going to gain. And détente will only work provided, too, I--you have everything linked. Arms control must be linked with conduct. That's the way we practiced it, and it worked. Now, when it is practiced in a way that it's two for them and one for us, like, for example, we will cut back on our military expenditures, we'll cut back on our programs, without any reciprocal action on their part, then, of course, it is a disaster. But properly managed, détente with deterrence is the only acceptable option for the West and for the world today.


GANNON: If they--isn't--isn't that ultimately ill-fated, though? Because if they sit back and are prudent and disciplined and just wait and depend on the cyclical nature of American politics, so that a conservative, strong, hard-headed détente president will be followed inevitably, sooner or later, by a softer, more accomodating president--if they just sit back and wait, they'll eventually get what they want. Indeed, now, it's arguable that they have a strong conservative president who can't even get his strong defense / hard-headed détente program through Congress.

NIXON: Well, it's easy to make that kind of judgment or appraisal, and to say, "Well, détente won't work." And my question is--what's the option? The option is--to détente--the alternative is simply unacceptable. The Russians are there. It is true, as many have said, that they will lie, they will cheat, they're out to do us in--but they are there. They are a superpower, and it is irresponsible, 24:00with our--our being in a position of superpower as well, that we not do everything that we possibly can to avert a confrontation that would escalate into nuclear war that would destroy each other and most of the rest of the world. And until you find some option to détente, détente, hard-headed détente, as I have suggested, then it seems to me that that is the path to pursue. It is not easy, and I'm not going to suggest that there--there are times when they may not gain more than we do, but I believe that what has to develop here is a bipartisan, within the parties and between the parties, approach to this so that we will have continuity, so that we don't have hard-headed de--détente followed by a soft-headed, woolly-headed détente. That is the worst of both worlds.

GANNON: Do you think that the Soviets are developing biological and chemical weapons now?


NIXON: Well, the evidence is mixed, but I think we have to assume that they are.

GANNON: What should we do, then?

NIXON: And that is something that has to be taken up at the very highest level. When a summit meeting does occur, as I am convinced it should, and will, then that has to be very high on the agenda, and it's got to be made very clear that that will not be tolerated, but you don't go in there and say, "Please won't you quit using biolog--biological and chemical warfare--weapons?" Rather than approaching it that way, you say, "If you're going to use them, we're going to," and we have to have a program ready to go, and then we should initiate it.

GANNON: Can we--since it's very hard to prove or to verify whether or not they're being manufactured, and since, as you would have us operate from the premise that they do lie and they cheat in order to further their goals, could we depend on any assurances they gave at a summit that they weren't doing it? Don't we have to have a program of our own now as--in--in terms of preventive medicine?


NIXON: Well, we should develop a program if we don't get some assurances. But I think that, on the other hand, we have enough in place that a program could get going very, very fast. And I think what we have to bear in mind is that this is an area which could and should very properly be a subject for negotiation. Unfortunately, it isn't possible to have verification in many of these areas. But, again, it seems to me that the only alternative to not proceeding in this way is simply a runaway race in biological and chemical and environmental warfare, and that could be, believe it or not, even more devastating than nuclear war.

GANNON: Do you think the Soviets cheat on SALT?

NIXON: There again, the evidence is mixed, and I know that many people believe that they have in the military, and some claim that they have not. But that misses the point. It isn't a question of whether they cheat. What they have done 27:00in SALT, without any question, is doing everything they could allowed by the agreements. And what the United States unfortunately has done is not doing what we could under the agreements--for example, canceling the B-1 bomber. It was permitted under SALT. Stopping the Minuteman III production line--that was permitted under SALT. Not going forward with the MX missile or the cruise missile as fast as we could--both of which were permitted under SALT. If those actions had not been taken, the United States would not be in a position of inf--inferiority, particularly in land-based missiles, which, first, destroyed Senate--Senate support for approval of SALT II, and, second, makes it necessary for us to catch up at the present time. So, as far as the Soviet cheating in this area and that area, we have to be concerned about that, but what we also 28:00have to be concerned about is our own failure, when we knew that they were moving forward, to go forward with our own programs.

GANNON: What's your assessment of Andropov?

NIXON: Well, he is a very intelligent man. He--very--certainly tough, strong, ruthless. Let us understand right at the beginning that one of tho--one of--s--s--I heard someone--someone talking back there. What we have to understand right at the beginning is that all of this really sappy kind of writing that was done after he came into power is a terrible reflection on our media, on some of our so-called "Soviet experts," and on ourselves. The fact that [makes popping sound] great deal was made out of--out of the knowledge, 29:00apparently, that he spoke English, that he was well-mannered, that he was quite civilized, that he liked Western music, that he might even like Scotch whisky and the rest--as if that had anything to do with the kind of leader he was going to be. It had as little to do with the kind of leader that he was going to be as the kind of observations that were made about Khrushchev when he came into power. I remember very well some of the news magazines were pointing out that he spoke poor Russian, that he wore ill-fitting clothes, that he drank too much, and, therefore, that he was going to be a very ineffective and poor leader, not in the league with Stalin. What we have to understand is that the clothes they wear and their personal habits and whether they are elegant or not has nothing to do with whether or not they are going to be formidable leaders. I--it's--it's sort of the same attitude Americans have toward the--the Communists generally--so many Americans. They have the feeling that they're all 30:00supposed--the--the--supposed to be like Bolsheviks with--bearded and dirty working-class types. That isn't the type that they are--not here and not abroad. That is why it was so hard for many to--Americans to understand an Alger Hiss or, for that matter, a Philby, or any of the other--those who came from the intellectual classes, with fine manners and the rest. We come back to Andropov--intelligent, tough, ruthless, more formidable because he is younger, and also because, I think, of a better sense of public relations than Brezhnev. On the other hand, a pragmatist, a--a pragmatist who was head of the KGB knows better, perhaps, than any other Russian leader--leader--better than Stalin, better than Khrushchev, better than Brezhnev--the weaknesses that the Soviet Union has. And he, knowing those weaknesses, the economic weaknesses, the ideological weaknesses, the fact that the system isn't working--I think that 31:00that means that, as a pragmatist, he will recognize the necessity to have some kind of accommodation with the West--not a surrender, but an accommodation.

GANNON: There are rumors, although he is younger than most of the other Soviet leaders, that he is not in good health. Do you have any opinions or information about that?

NIXON: No. There are rumors, and I would assume that that was the case, because he has missed some meetings. On the other hand, let's not allow that to mislead us as to how effective he can be. That may only mean that he's going to be in a hurry to accomplish the goals that he has to accomplish, and if he is in a hurry, then let's give him the opportunity to turn in a different direction than that of simply building on the past, building their strength and--and not doing anything to reduce the dangers of nuclear conflict that's going to destroy his country as well as others.


GANNON: Now that Soviet summit meetings between presidents of the United States and leaders of the Soviet Union have become almost commonplace, people have become fairly blasé about them, but when you first went there in 1959 to meet Khrushchev, when you were vice-president, that was a very dramatic event that riveted the world's attention. Through a very unique stroke of luck, we have some film that I don’t think has ever been seen before--I don't think you've seen it before--that was taken by one of your Secret Service men who was with you on the trip. One of the films he took, which we have, was seated in the front seat of your limousine as you drove into the Kremlin for the first time. So, through his film, we can see today what you saw that first time going into the--the citadel--of the--into the enemy's--into the heart of the enemy's citadel. As we see that, do you recall any of your thoughts?

NIXON: Are they going to put it on?

GANNON: Mm-hmm. [Nods.]



GANNON: You can even see the flags flying on the car.

NIXON: Mm-hmm.

NIXON: Well, this was my first visit to Moscow. And I've made five since then. I remember that I was extremely well-prepared, because this was the first visit to Moscow of anybody of my rank. President Roosevelt went to Russia, but that was in Yalta in the Crimea, not to the Russian capital. I had heard about 34:00Khrushchev. I knew that he was a very, very capable, tough, unpredictable leader who would test my mettle and who would be taking advantage of any lack of knowledge that I might have. And so, f--consequently, I was looking forward to seeing him, to see what made him tick.

GANNON: What were--what were your goals? What did you want to accomplish by the trip?

NIXON: Well, I was there, actually, to open an American exhibition, which was the first one that was being held in the Soviet Union, and one that had had a very, very great impact. The tickets were being scalped--that is done there as well as it is here--and the Russian people were very, very impressed by the exhibits they saw, so impressed that T.A.S.S. had several articles before we got there indicating that this exhibit was really not indicative of what life was 35:00really like in the United States, but only of how the millionaires lived and that sort of thing. So I knew that I had to lay a little of that to rest, so I was prepared to make a speech, and I just assumed that, as far as Khrushchev was concerned--that I--I would listen to his views. I was not president. I could not negotiate with him, but I would listen to his views, and, to the extent possible, reassure him as to our own motives, where he may have had a--misinterpreted them or misunderstood them. Well, as it turned out, it wasn't quite as peaceful as it was predicted it might be. I must say, however, that I had done a great deal of homework, and I was prepared to talk on any number of issues that he might r--raise. And I found, finally, that he rose--he--he raised every issue there was.

GANNON: Again thanks to your Secret Service man, we have some film of your first meeting with Khrushchev in the Kremlin.


GANNON: How well had your briefings prepared you for what he turned out to be like?

NIXON: Quite well. I think they may have underestimated his quickness, his unpredictability. They did indicate that he was going to be very tough and that he'd take advantage wherever he possibly could, that he could put on quite an act if necessary. But I think that they underestimated his intelligence, underestimated, probably, again, for a reason it's always hard for me to understand--he didn't happen to have a college education, he grew up as a pig tender, he didn’t speak very good Russian, and consequently we think, well, such a man 37:00therefore can't be all that capable. That has nothing to do with capability. I th--I remember very well Foster Dulles commenting on that, when news magazine articles came out to the effect that Khrushchev was one who spoke poor Russian and drank too much, and wasn't going to last long--not in Stalin's league, and he says, "Look. Don't believe this. Anybody that gets to the top in that Soviet hierarchy, fighting and murdering and conniving his way to the top, is a very strong person and one who is formidable, and you have to learn to deal with him on that basis." And he was dead right. That's true of Khrushchev. It's true of Kosygin. It's true of Brezhnev, and I know it's true of Andropov. The weak do not get to the top in Communist countries.

GANNON: Khrushchev seemed amiable enough in these films of your first meeting.

NIXON: He was very amiable whenever people were around. He was a great actor, 38:00as are most of the Russians, and whenever people were around, when the cameras were on, he was gracious. He wanted to prove that he was a good host.

GANNON: What was the first meeting like?

NIXON: Well, it changed from night into day, or day into night, I should say. All the sunshine smile and the rest--we sat down opposite each other at a table there in his relatively modest Kremlin office--the same office, incidentally, that I was later to sit down with--many years later--with Brezhnev, on two occasions, in 1972 and 1974. And he began to berate me, to my great surprise, about a resolution that had been passed in the Congress just before I left, a resolution called the Captive Nation Resolutions. It wasn't anything new. It's been passed every year since World War II, and it simply indicated the support of the American Congress and the American people, the moral support, of those 39:00peoples living in Eastern Europe and referred to it as "the captive nations."

GANNON: Wasn't that an undiplomatic thing to do, though, just before this trip?

NIXON: Had nothing to do with diplomacy. The Congress always passed it, and always at that time of year. It had nothing to do with my trip, but Khrushchev thought that it was deliberate. He said, "Why would you have done this? Why would you have had your Congress do this before this trip? It's created the wrong atmosphere." And I tried to point out, "Look. We didn't do it. The Congress did it," which was absolutely true. We didn't have control over it, and, incidentally, let me point out this was not a resolution that required the signature of the president. This was a resolution that was passed by the Congress. It was a state of the Congress--they pass them all the time down there, and usually nobody pays much attention to them. It's simply for the folks back home. But no matter how much I tried to explain it to him, and--pointing out that we did have many people in our country of Polish background, and Rumanian ["Romanian"] background, and Hungarian background, and so forth and so 40:00on, who were concerned about those living under Communist governments in Eastern Europe--that--that under the circumstances, while they felt strongly about it, we would not, of course, have a--have a--had a resolution passed for the purpose of embarrassing him or raising a provocative issue before I arrived there on a so-called goodwill trip. But it didn't get across to him, and, finally, after I had explained, however, how the resolutions were passed, and after--he just held up his hands. "I can't believe that, that that's happened in that way," he said. "Well, after hearing all this conversation, I can only say that, as far as the resolution substance is concerned, it simply has no basis in fact whatever." Let me think a minute. I've got it. I'm trying to shorten this down. He said, "After 41:00hearing all this conversation about the con--about the resolution, about the captive peoples, and about how it was done, I have only one reaction." And I said, "What it is--what is it?" He said, "This resolution stinks. It stinks like horse shit, and there's nothing that stinks worse than pure horse shit." Well, the translation was made, and--by Trianosky, the translator--he blushed as he did it, because at first he wasn't going to do it, but our ambassador, Tommy Thompson, was sitting there, and he smiled when he heard it in Russian, and Trianosky had to translate it exactly as he said it. And so I remembered that, when he mentioned horse shit, when I had grown up in California, grew up in an agricultural area--that a neighbor one time had a load of pig manure brought in, and it--the stench was overpowering, much worse than horse manure. And so I 42:00said, "Well, I'm very interested to hear what you say, but I have to disagree on one point," and his ears perked up a bit. He said, "There's one thing that smells worse than horse shit, and that's pig shit." He said, "Well, you may be right on that, but you're not right on anything else."

GANNON: The--your relationship only went--only went downhill from that high point, I guess.

NIXON: Well, it went down for a while. We went ther--then from the Kremlin after this meeting, which was just hammer and tongs--that was only the prelude of what was to come later. And although the rhetoric wasn't quite as, shall we say, "earthy," later, as it was on this occasion, it was really tougher, because we began to talk about things that were a lot tougher than manure. We went over to the American exhibition, and it was there that the first time that he had ever appeared on American television and worldwide television with a leading 43:00American figure took place.

GANNON: We have some film. This was--this opening of the American exhibition, or your confrontation with him, became one of the most famous events of modern political history, the--the famous Kitchen Debate. We have some film of you and Khrushchev in that Kitchen Debate.


GANNON: At what point did you figure out that you had a tiger that you had better get by the tail?

NIXON: Well, I could see that he felt that he was really playing to his audience, and he di--was not thinking, however, that he was playing to an American audience then, because this film that you just saw, or that we just showed, was there as an exhibit. It was in color film, as a matter of fact, and one of the things we talked about prior to this particular interchange that you've just seen was with regard to the fact that in color television that we 45:00had made advances which they had n--of course had not yet reached in the Soviet Union. And that was what led him to make the s--statement to the effect that--"Look. We've existed only forty-two years, and you've existed a hundred and eighty years, and this is the level of where you are now," as he looked around at the exhibit--you saw his gestures there--he said, "but in seven years we're going to catch you, and we're going to pass you, and then wave goodbye." You could see what a great actor he was. He's always playing to the audience, but he was playing to his Russian audience. But I knew that there were Americans watching that, too--the American press. I had no idea this was going to be shown later in the United States. And so I thought it was time that--we had to right the balance just a bit, but I still had to be the host. He was at a higher level than I. I was still vice-president, and he was, of course, at the General Secretary level. So how could I be a good host and yet take him on in an 46:00effective way? And that's why when--as we walked on, I tried to think of how I could set the record straight with regard to his charges to the effect that the United States was ahead now, but that they were going to catch up, and they were going to pass us, and that we would follow and do likewise.

GANNON: How a--


GANNON: Sorry. Mm-hmm?

NIXON: So, the next time, as we went along, it got a little worse, however. I thought he had probably given his best shot here, but we next went by a model American grocery store. It was nothing compared to the supermarkets we have here, but it was a pretty good store and have--have--had been one of the most successful exhibits in the whole American exhibition. The Soviet people looked at all these marvelous products, the diversity--not everything the same as it is there, the diversity of freedom is what--is its hallmark. And as we went by the 47:00grocery store, I just casually mentioned to him that I had grown up in a family where my father had a small grocery store and that my brothers and I had worked in it, as we worked before and after school in order to help work our way through school. And after the translation weez [sic]--it was made, he said, "All shopkeepers are thieves." I said, "Well," I said, "that's apparently true in the Soviet state as well." I said, "I was down at the market here"--I had gone there very early in the morning just to see what it was like. And I said, "I noticed that--as--here were the bureaucrats who run--who worked for the state were--had a pair of scales, a set of scales, on which products were weighed, and then the customers--there was another s--set of scales, and they would weigh the--they--the products on their set of scales as well. So maybe the state can't be trusted either." Well, that at least got one little jab back in.


GANNON: How acrimonious was the Kitchen Debate, in fact?

NIXON: Well, the part that we saw earlier was not acrimonious, and that was widely presented in the United States as being the Kitchen Debate. It was really very low-key on my part, because it did not involve, incidentally, the strength of America--military. Military, as you'll note--this was a--this was a discussion of economic progress. And then we got to the kitchen--that was something else again. This was a house--it was a whole house, not just a kitchen, but we happened to be in the kitchen area, and we began to discuss washing machines, and when we discussed washing machines, I happened to make the point, casually again, that in--under our system--that there were many different kinds of washing machines and that people could have a choice. He says, "That's not a good idea. In the Soviet Union we make only one kind. Everybody has the same kind. That's much more efficient." Then I just casually mentioned, "Well, it's really very much better to be talking about washing machines than it is 49:00about the--the relative strength of our missiles," because I knew that he had been making some very provocative comments about Soviet progress in missiles and how they had--were ahead of the United States. And then he practically blew up, and he said, "But your generals are trying to threaten us. They're threatening us by their talk about their power," and so forth. And then we went at it hammer and talks--hammer and tongs--with regard to the relative strength of the United States and the Soviet Union. But the key point that I made, and what was the real Kitchen Debate, was that it missed the point as to which was the stronger of the two. I said the important thing for us to bear in mind is that both of us are strong, because I wanted at least to give him a position, which I knew he'd desperately need, where I weres [sic] recognizing, and the United States was 50:00recognizing, his equality. I said, "We are both strong. What we have to do is to diplomatically work out methods whereby that strength will not u--be used in a destructive way."

GANNON: After this, he wanted to take you out to see his country house, his dacha. We have some film of that country house.

GANNON: Do you want…to describe…your--

NIXON: Well--

GANNON: --first impressions?

NIXON: That film, incidentally, brings back many memories. It does not really capture the beauty of the house, its location, and its size. It's actually bigger than the White House. I--it was a magnificent former residence of either a czarist noble or perhaps one of the czars themselves had lived there. But the 51:00new czars--they lived as --as well as the old. As a matter of fact, I--I think there was a--a story, probably apocryphal, to the effect that Brezhnev was showing one of these beautiful dachas to his mother, and she was remarking about how nice it was, and she says, "But what if the Communists come back?" But, in any event, the situation with regard to this particular dacha--was concerned was that we got there after the--we'd had this acrimonious confrontation at the so-called Kitchen Debate, when Khrushchev recognized that he perhaps had been a little too belligerent, and he tried to compensate for it. And so, after we'd had a--a 52:00luncheon, in which we threw our glasses into the fireplace and shattered them after sh--after drinking champagne, he--he was simply as hospitable as he possibly could be. He said, "You really have got to go to the dacha." We had been scheduled to meet for lunch there the following day. He said, "You've got to s--go there and spend the night. It's much cooler, much more pleasant than in Moscow." So he insists that we go, and that's why we arrived in the evening, and then he arrived the next day.

GANNON: But when he arrived, he took you on a boat ride, and, again thanks to the--your Secret Service man's film, we can see some of that boat ride, which looks more like a--in some aspects looks more like a campaign trip than a pleasure trip.


GANNON: This must have been all planned. Didn't they tell you that it was--that these things were spontaneous?

NIXON: Well, as I look at that film, I recall vividly what happened. I knew that it had been planned. I--nob--I could tell pretty well it wasn't spontaneous, and I knew that, as far as millions of average Russians are concerned, they didn't have the opportunity to be out there swimming in that river. And later Tommy Thompson, our ambassador, said, "Well, those are all party types." Those were the elite of the party that were allowed to swim there in that area and so forth. But I must say that Khrushchev made the best of it. You can see him waving his hand. He's doing that for purposes of our photographers, the American photographers, to show that he was a man of the people, and he used to look down at these people, and he would nudge me, and he 54:00said, "Look. Do they look like captives?"--referring to the Captive Nations Resolutions. "You see, the captives"--"the slaves," he called them--"they're very, very happy." And I said, "Well, you always make political propaganda." He says, "Oh, no. I don't make political propaganda. I just tell the truth."

GANNON: Do you think it was planned right down to the baby that was handed you?

NIXON: Oh, I think--

GANNON: Are they that--are they that calculating and detailed?

NIXON: No, I do not think that, as far as the handing of the baby to me--that that was done. I think that was just something spontaneous that happened, a--and that does show that, when we talk about the Russians lying and cheating and so forth and so on, we've got to be a little more precise. What we understand and what we must understand, very simply, is this: the United States and the Soviet Union can never be friends. However, that does not mean that Russians and Americans cannot be friends. Russians are basically a strong--as they proved in 55:00World War II--courageous people. They're very emotional. They can be very hospitable, and most of them, I found, when I got out of Moscow on my various trips there, into--into Asian Russia and Novosibirsk in Siberia and Sverdslosk in the Urals and Alma-Ata way down in--near the Chinese border--and Samarkand near the Persian border, and Kiev in Minks [may mean "Minsk."]--you would find an outpouring of real warmth from people. What we have to understand is that, as far as the leaders are concerned, they can be Communist one moment and Russian the next, and sometimes it's an act, but sometimes it isn't. So, with all these things in mind, that doesn't--that means that it is very possible for them to be very human when they're acting as Russians. On the other hand, when they're 56:00acting as Communists, you must be sure that--you c--may be sure that they can be very ruthless.

GANNON: I think we're at the end of our first hour.

OFF SCREEN VOICE: [unintelligible] We have to stop and change the tapes. We'll take five minutes. Gentlemen, you want to--