Russell E. Hershey,
INT: Do you think the Soviets were working to the same agenda as the Americans on SALT, or were there other agendas that they were trying to get througat the same time?
HS: Well, I think to some extent the Soviets were working to he same agenda. We were talking about many of the same subjects, not only SAL, but on some other issues that were... whatever it was, the Middle East, trying to wind up the Vietnam War and some other issues that came along, because the Soviets were active in Africa and other places, so the topics, Cuba and so on. Topics were on the agenda. But of course the Soviets had a different agenda from the United States. They were a different political system, they had a different way of dealing with the succession problems, Brezhnev was gradually declining in physical power, so the succession maneuvering went on. They knew better than we understood a very deficient economy. A lot of the things that had, I think, Brezhnev was trying to do in the early seventies in its détente, was to find some way of calming relations with the United States and the industrialized West, sufficiently that he could entice Western investment in the Soviet Union, particularly in the energy sector but in other sectors as well, because I think Brezhnev actually realized that for all the power of the Soviet Union, the Soviets didn't have it in their system to develop their own country and maybe he thought it was a great historical joke to get the capitalist enemy to develop the Soviet Union, the natural resources of the Soviet Union, make them big hard currency earners, so that all the more would they be able to challenge the pre-eminence of the West in the international arena. So I think they had an agenda that, despite all the appearances at the time, was in fact an agenda of weakness, and despite the fact that we, here, were sometimes tearing ourselves apart over our own short-comings, whether it was losing the space race or whatever. In fact I think perhaps some people in the Soviet Union recognized the inherent weakness, that became much more obvious later as the technological revolution began to really take hold and the Soviets were just not keeping pace at all. And I think that agenda, that effort to find some way of calming the relationship without giving up the challenge to the West, there was a different source to that aspect of the Soviet effort to deal with the West and with the United States and I have to say, of course, it was obscured, they weren't exactly coming to us hat in hand and trying to on the contrary. Perhaps the weaker they felt, the more tough they wanted to appear and so I wouldn't say the agendas were identical.
INT: Excellent answer, fascinating. Final few questions, then sir. In the history of the Cold War, how important would you say the SALT talks were?
HS: Well, I think that the SALT talks and other things that happened in the seventies, the quadri-partheid agreement on Berlin, for example, a form of co-operation to contain the Yom Kippur War in 1973, which had the potential for getting pretty messy, the American opening to China, which made the Soviets realize that the United States was developing some options that it had precluded earlier in the dealings with the Soviet Union and some other things that could be adduced, I think started a process of opening up the Soviet Union, of opening the Soviet Union to more dialogue with the West and of eventually exposing the weaknesses of the Soviet Union, which it took two or three more American administrations to really be willing and able to exploit. So, I think that I don't myself share in the argument about the end of the Cold War, whether it was more the opening up or more the tough aspects of American policy, particularly under Reagan, that brought down the Soviet Union. In fact, I think these two processes interacted with each other. I think a détente policy without a tough diplomatic posture and an effort to dam in the Soviet impulse to expand, despite their inherent weaknesses, I don't think would have worked. I think a policy of unrelenting pressure might have worked, but it would have had some very dangerous passages, because the Soviets were not weak in military power. So that I think, to attenuate a policy of toughness, of pressure, with dialogue, I think was a wise idea. Now, I'll just say one other thing and that is, this détente period of which SALT was in some ways the most glamorous part, even if it wasn't the... perhaps in the end the most significant one, came at a time of great American uncertainty, perhaps unwarranted uncertainty, but we were going through the Vietnam trauma, we were going through a constitutional crisis over Watergate, so the American sense of strength wasn't as great as it had been at other times and of course the Nixon-Ford administration, Kissinger, personally were frequently attacked for Spenglarian views of the collapse of the decline of American civilization. I don't think it was that as much as it was a sense that we were vulnerable, because of what had been happening for a period of time in our own society, the break-up of the consensus in the American elite on foreign policy and so on. So to some extent, well, the détente policies, including SALT, were in truth a defense mechanism by the Russians, by the Soviets, because of their own inherent weaknesses. They were, to some extent, a defense mechanism by the Americans at a time of at least momentary uncertainty and weakness, and the fact that SALT was part of this congeries of issues that... came out of the various summit efforts and the various diplomatic efforts with the Soviets, I think tided us over what might have otherwise been a pretty dangerous time because of the mutual sense of weakness felt on both sides, which might have led to some rash action.
INT: Final question, sir. Was the Cold War necessary?
HS: Well, I don't know whether the Cold War was necessary. I think that what developed into a pretty hostile and antagonistic relationship after World War Two, and especially in the late forties, probably could not have been prevented. It might have started in a different way, but with the division of Germany, with various other things that happened the forties, the satellization of Eastern Europe,... inevitable American reaction to that, the sense of weakness and danger in Western Europe and the need for... felt in Western Europe as well as in the United States to put a kind of a protectivebrella over Western Europe, while it could gather its resources and recover from the Second World War and the way this led the Soviets to see themselves confirmed in their view of the inevitable hostility of the West, although I think the West would not have been that hostile, they were really quite sympathetic toward the Soviets and all their suffering and... in World War Two. So I must say I don't think the Cold War was an act of volition. I mean, there were some people who thought their interests would be served by a big, huge confrontation with the Soviets, but I don't think that was really a big aspect of it. I think the Cold War, not precisely in which it evolved, but some kind of antagonism and confrontation with the Soviet Union and the Soviet system, was unavoidable.
INT: Thank you very much.
INT: Could I ask you what Dr Kissinger was like to deal with and what his role was, do you think, in the whole period of setting up and negotiating SALT?
HS: Well, I was in a somewhat special position, because I had known Kissinger since World War Two [clears throat] and in fact we had been somewhat friendly, although not particularly close. We had a somewhat peculiar relationship in the sense that we had known each other and by and large found ourselves in agreement on many issues, on most issues, but our personalities were rather different and so we had some occasionally scrapes, but they did not have to do with what some other people found very difficult about Kissinger, which was that they never quite could figure out what it is he wanted from them and they had difficulty coping with his periodic temper tantrums, with his rather random ways of doing business, the mess on his desk and so on and so forth. And also I think many people found him opaque, found him devious, didn't fully understand the complexityof his relationship with Nixon, both of these characters, Nixon and Kissinger, were themselves extremely complex individuals who had a tendency to distrust others,including each other. And that made for some difficulties. On the other hand, Kissinger's intellectual qualities are remarkable. His grasp of foreign policy issues, international issues was great and quite penetrating. He came to his jobs with certain theories of international relationships, certain abiding criteria for international relationships. He'd studied deeply the eighteenth century, the nineteenth century, written about it as a scholar and author and so on, so he brought in some ways a not very American background, although he obviously had become very well attuned to the American style, the American way of doing things in his relationships with Nelson Rockefeller and participation in the American political process and so on. and it was many ways unusual to have such a figure at the pinnacle of American foreign policy and American diplomacy. That usually we had lawyers, we had people that didn't really have that much... weren't that much steeped in, not only American foreign policy, but in the whole study of international relationships, going back over a long period of time and I think many people found that extremely challenging, extremely stimulating and which it made for complications when he threw papers back at people and, you know, basically said, this doesn't pass the muster, go back and do better, he actually managed to extract very good work and thoughtful work from a lot of people. So it was a very stimulating, never dull experience to work with him and he got into practically everything sooner or later. He started out... Nixon didn't want him to deal with the Middle East, but eventually he got into that as well, so there wasn't an issue of foreign policy that he didn't play a role in and didn't play a creative role in.
INT: Final question. How important was Dr Kissinger and the back channel communications in the role of SALT and continuing on into the détente period?
HS; Well, I think it's fair to say that in the back channel, the use of the back channel helped move things along in the SALT negotiations in 1971, when things were pretty much hung up, and the use of the first use in SALT of the back channel in a more explicit and specific negotiating role, got the SALT negotiations over a hump. What came out of it, having to do with the how to structure a SALT agreement which didn't want weapons to include sea-based, land-based and how to deal with the question of the anti-ballistic missile... potential anti-ballistic missile treaty, I think that put SALT back on the map. It didn't make the front channel negotiators too happy, because they disagreed with some of the ways the compromise was reached, but they were then required to use as their model in order to draft actual agreements and in pretty short order, because shortly thereafter, it was agreed to have a summit meeting in 1972 with Brezhnev. But I think it was quite important there and I think as that negotiation went to its... conclusion, the back channel played a very substantial role. In fact SALT 1 was not complete by the time Nixon arrived in Moscow. Kissinger and some of us had made a trip which was secret at the time, although revealed subsequently, to Moscow to try and iron out remaining SALT problems a month before the summit meeting in May of 1972, but there were still loose ends which had to be resolved by the back channel at that point, in place in Moscow, rather than through telegraphic communication back and forth. So I think really the conclusion of the SALT agreement depended pretty heavily on the back channel. And then the back channel was used in the follow-up to SALT, which didn't get very far in the end, SALT 2. And it was used in 1971 more or less simultaneously with SALT on the Berlin negotiations, through a more circuitous route and that was a four-power negotiation, so it was a complicated back channel, but it was used. and it was available when things became critical in the Yom Kippur War in 1973, some front channel, some back channel, the two sort of got inter-twined, but one of the critical periods involved a quick Kissinger trip to Moscow in 1973, during the... in October of 1973, which resulted in UN Resolution 338 and probably couldn't have been done if there weren't that sort of that, in that case, personal back channels. So I think it played a pretty important role in many ways and there were some lesser negotiations where the front channel essentially got deadlocked, partly because it was very public, whatever the reason was, and the back channel greased the way and so. I think it became part of the style.
INT: Sir, thank you very much indeed.
END OF INTERVIEW