Richard Nixon photo

Toasts of the President and Nikolai V. Podgorny, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., at a Dinner in Moscow.

May 22, 1972

Mr. President, Mr. General Secretary, Mr. Prime Minister, and all of the distinguished guests from the Soviet Union and from the United States:

I would like first to express our very grateful appreciation for the hospitality which has been extended to Mrs. Nixon and myself, and all the members of our party, on this, the first visit of an American President to Moscow.

The courage of the Russian people, who generation after generation have heroically defended this city from invaders, makes this vivid point: The only way to enter Moscow is to enter in peace.

All of us in this great room can feel the history that is here. Here, as comrades in arms, Russians and Americans met together to work out some of the key decisions of World War II, setting an example of selfless cooperation and of wartime cooperation that has taken us too long to follow in peacetime. And now here this week, 25 years later, we meet within these walls to make decisions that could help pave the way to peace for all the world.

The Soviet Union and the United States are both great powers. Ours are both great peoples. In the long history of both of our nations, we have never fought one another in war. Let us make decisions now which will help insure that we shall never do so in the future.

The American people want peace. I know, from my travels through the Soviet Union, the people of the Soviet Union want peace. My fervent hope is that we, we who are the leaders of the people, that we can work together to insure that all the people of the earth can enjoy the blessings of peace.

We meet at what is called a summit meeting. Summit meetings of the past have been remembered for their "spirit," but we must strive to make this Moscow summit memorable for its substance.

Over 2 years of careful preparation have proven our common seriousness of purpose and brought us to this meeting prepared to make concrete agreements.

Not so long ago, our attention centered on our relative positions of strength. But in a nuclear age, when there is no such thing as security in a preponderance of strength, great powers have learned this fact of life: Agreements based on exploiting the presumed weaknesses of one party only cause it to redouble its efforts to catch up, but agreements based on mutual respect and reciprocity have a far greater chance of enduring.

Because we are both prepared to proceed on the basis of equality and mutual respect, we meet at a moment when we can make peaceful cooperation between our two countries a reality.

To make the most of this opportunity, we should recognize that while many of our differences are fundamental and profound, we have a powerful common interest in peace and security.

We should recognize that great nuclear powers have a solemn responsibility to exercise restraint in any crisis, to take positive action to avert direct confrontation.

With great power goes great responsibility. It is precisely when power is not accompanied by responsibility that the peace is threatened. Let our power--the power of our two countries--always be used to keep the peace, never to break it.

We should recognize further that it is the responsibility of great powers to influence other nations in conflict or crisis to moderate their behavior.

Let me outline briefly what I believe we both want to see take place this week. First, we want to complete work on the matters that years of patient negotiations have brought to the decision point. These bilateral matters will serve as 'the point of departure: Our two nations can work together in the exploration of space, the conquest of disease, the improvement of our environment.

Progress in economic cooperation will benefit both our nations. The Soviet Union and the United States are the two largest economies in the world, and yet they live presently in relative isolation. The opportunity for a new commercial relationship opens up a strong potential for progress for both of our peoples.

The attention of the world is primarily directed to the possibility of an initial limitation of strategic arms. Here in Moscow, for the first time, major nations--the two most powerful nations in the world-would put restrictions on a range of their most significant weapons systems. An agreement in this area could begin to turn our two countries away from a wasteful and dangerous arms race and toward more production for peace.

With a positive attitude shown on these bilateral matters, fresh impetus will be given to the resolution of other issues in other areas of the world.

A few minutes after I took the oath of office as President of the United States, I told my countrymen that the time had come for us to move from a period of confrontation to an era of negotiation. This week in Moscow can prove that the era of negotiation between the two most powerful nations in the world has begun. There is hard bargaining ahead, and statesmen dealing with real differences will have their share of obstacles.

We will have our different interests, our different approaches; neither of us will be reluctant to point them out. But the foundation of healthy competition must be a willingness to cooperate and reciprocate on matters of overriding importance.

Therefore, we do not just meet in an atmosphere of good will, which I know we shall have as we have it tonight; we do not just meet to conclude agreements, which I hope we shall conclude; we meet to begin a new age in the relationship between our two great and powerful nations.

Looking toward that future, let me reaffirm to all of you the American commitment: The United States is ready to work closely with all nations in the establishment of a peaceful world in which each nation determines its own destiny.

Our two peoples, the Soviet people and the American people, learned to admire each other when we joined together to defeat a common enemy in a time of war. We learned to respect each other as adversaries in a time of tension after that war. Let us now learn to work with each other in a time of peace.

Let us remember that if we begin to lift the burden of armed confrontation from both our peoples, we shall lift the hopes for peace of all the peoples of the world.

Never have two peoples had a greater challenge or a greater goal. Let us, the leaders of our peoples, be worthy of the hopes of the Soviet people, the hopes of the American people, the hopes of all the people on this earth as we work together toward the goal of a peaceful world.

Note: The President spoke at 9 p.m. in Granovit Hall at the Grand Kremlin Palace. He spoke from a prepared text.

Chairman Podgorny spoke in Russian. A translation of the advance text of his toast was made available by the TASS news service as follows:

Esteemed Mr. President, esteemed Mrs. Nixon, ladies and gentlemen, comrades:

Let me, on behalf of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R. and the Soviet Government, greet you, Mr. President, your wife, and all those who accompany you, on your visit to the Soviet Union. This is the first official visit by a President of the United States of America in the history of relations between our countries. This alone makes your visit and meetings between you and the Soviet leaders a momentous event. The results of the talks will predetermine in many ways prospects of relations between the Soviet Union and the United States. Their results will, apparently, have an effect on the further development of the international situation either toward a lasting peace and stronger universal security or toward greater tension.

We proceed from the fact that personal contacts and frank exchange of opinions between the leaders of states help search for mutually acceptable decisions in line with the interests of the peoples and of preserving peace, and overcome difficulties caused by factors of different origin and character.

Therefore great importance is attached in the Soviet Union to Soviet-American talks which should cover a wide range of questions. We approach these talks from realistic positions and will make every effort in accordance with the principles of our policy to achieve positive results and try to justify the hopes placed in our countries and beyond them in the Soviet-American summit meeting in Moscow.

We expect a similar approach from the American side.

Mr. President, you already had today a meeting with L. I. Brezhmev, General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, during which an exchange of opinions was started on the problems of Soviet-American relations and the present international situation.

The principles of our policy in international affairs and in relations with other states, the United States of America included, are well known. They were recently set forth again most definitely and clearly in the decisions of the 24th Congress of our Party and the just closed plenary meeting of the CPSU Central Committee. We have been guided and intend to be guided unswervingly by these principles in our practical activities. The Soviet Union, together with the countries of the Socialist community and all other peace forces, comes out consistently in defence of peace, for the deliverance of the present and future generations from the threat of war, from the disasters of a nuclear conflict and for the elimination of hotbeds of war.

We stand for a radical turn toward relaxation of the existing tensions in all continents of the world, for freeing the peoples from the heavy arms burden, for a peaceful political settlement of problems through negotiation and with due account taken of the aspirations and will of the peoples and their inalienable right to decide their destinies themselves without interference and pressure from outside.

As far back as in the early years of the young Soviet state, its founder V. I. Lenin substantiated the objective need for and possibility of peaceful coexistence of countries with different social systems. Today, as before, the Soviet Union is prepared to develop and deepen relations of business cooperation and mutually beneficial ties with states of a different social system.

This fully applies to the relations with the United States also in the sense that peaceful coexistence must not be limited to absence of war. When we say that there is no exception for the United States in our policy of peaceful coexistence, these words are backed by our actual striving for the improvement and development of Soviet-American relations. The Soviet Union deems it possible and desirable to establish not merely good but friendly relations between the U.S.S.R. and the United States, certainly, not at the expense of any third countries or peoples.

It stands to reason that the differences of social systems, the divergence of the positions of our states on a number of very important aspects of the world politics create serious complications in Soviet-American relations and we do not underestimate them, by any means.

But even though there exist principled differences, there are objective factors that determine similarity of interests and require that the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. should act in such a way as to ward off the danger of a global war, to remove the vestiges of cold war from Soviet-American relations and as far as possible to rid their relations of all that complicated them in the past and burdens them even now.

The Soviet Union and the United States are the powers that are most advanced in science and technology, have vast economic potentials and rich natural resources. Our peoples made a weighty contribution to the treasury of world culture. All this serves as a solid foundation which, given mutual agreement, makes it possible to establish Soviet-American cooperation in the most varied fields, to implement large-scale projects worthy of the level which the Soviet Union and the United States have reached in the world of today.

The peoples of our countries have traditions of mutual respect and friendship. Our joint struggle in the years of the Second World War against Hitler Germany and militarist Japan lives in the memory of the Soviet people. The fact that our countries were allies in the two World Wars is very important in itself.

Under the United Nations Charter, the Soviet Union and the United States as permanent members of the Security Council are called upon to play an important role in maintaining international peace together with other members of the Security Council. Experience confirms that whenever our countries succeeded in ensuring by joint efforts the sane balance of interests both of our two countries and other states concerned, opportunities opened for solving acute conflicts and situations and concluding important international agreements and treaties.

In other words, cooperation between the U.S.S.R. and the United States in the spirit of good will, the improvement of Soviet-American relations was always favorable for the cause of peace. We proceed from the view that Soviet-American talks will promote the solution of the urgent international problems to the benefit of the Soviet and American peoples, the peoples of all the countries, in the interests of world peace.

We believe, Mr. President, that your visit will enable you and Mrs. Nixon to see more of our country, to become aware of the scope of the great plans of Communist construction which the Soviet people are bringing into life, to feel the rhythm of their constructive work, to get convinced once more in the Soviet people's adherence to peace.

! would like to propose a toast to the success of the talks, to their serving the interests of the peoples of our countries, the interests of peace and international security.

To the health of Mr. President and Mrs. Nixon.

Richard Nixon, Toasts of the President and Nikolai V. Podgorny, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., at a Dinner in Moscow. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/254853

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