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The President who “got” Russia.

President Nixon in the Green Room of the Grand Kremlin Palace readies to speak on Russian National TV at 8:30 PM Moscow time, May 28, 1972.

President Nixon in the Green Room of the Grand Kremlin Palace readies to speak on Russian National TV

By M.G. Crisci and Richard M. Nixon

On May 28, 1972, Richard M. Nixon became the only President of the United States to directly address the citizens of the Soviet Union on Russian national television. Not one word of the speech as envisioned by President Nixon, and, co-written by his brilliant Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger, was editied, changed or even reviewed beforehand by the Soviet Government.

President Breshnev, over the protests of his political associates, trusted Nixon to offer the right message at a most difficult time. Much time has passed, and much rancor has returned, thanks to the lack of visionary leadership from both countries. Ironically, President Nixon’s words, their intent and their raw emotion, are as relevant today as they were then. What follows is that speech, unedited by the media, and untarnished by the years of politically-correct anti-Nixon rhetoric. I thought it might do the world well to reread “the truth well told.” The only thing I have added are a few pictures and artifacts most likely never-before-seen by most Americans, and, perhaps, most of the world.

As for myself, I have visited Russia four times during the past six years to co-create and co-produce a number of entertaining and informative cross-cultural projects that I dream might one day improve understanding, communication and trust between our great two countries. As one ranking Russian diplomat explained, “In our mind, we are very much alike.” I agree. (For more about trust in stormy times, go here ).

My cross-cultural activities have made me privy to much, and given me open access to anyone I so chose, as unlikely as that may seem for an American with no Russian ancestry. In the process, I’ve made many new Russian friends; friends I hope and trust feel likewise.

The Nixon Person-to-Person Address

(May 28, 1972)

Dobryy vecher [Good evening]:
I deeply appreciate this opportunity your Government has given me to speak directly with the people of the Soviet Union, to bring you a message of friendship from all the people of the United States, and to share with you some of my thoughts about the relations between our two countries, and about the way to peace and progress in the world.

This is my fourth visit to the Soviet Union. On these visits, I have gained a great respect for the peoples of the Soviet Union, for your strength, your generosity, your determination, for the diversity and richness of your cultural heritage, for your many achievements.

In the 3 years I have been in office, one of my principal aims has been to establish a better relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union. Our two countries have much in common. Most important of all, we have never fought one another in war. On the contrary, the memory of your soldiers and ours embracing at the Elbe, as allies, in 1945, remains strong in millions of hearts in both of our countries. It is my hope that that memory can serve as an inspiration for the renewal of Soviet-American cooperation in the 1970’s.

Elbe, 1945.  Russian and America Soldiers Celebrate Their Victory over Hitler.

Elbe, 1945. Russian and America Soldiers Celebrate Their Victory over Hitler.

As great powers, we shall sometimes be competitors, but we need never be enemies.
Thirteen years ago, when I visited your country as Vice President, I addressed the people of the Soviet Union on radio and television, as I am addressing you tonight. I said then, “Let us have peaceful competition not only in producing the best factories but in producing better lives for our people.

“Let us cooperate in our exploration of outer space …. Let our aim be not victory over other peoples but the victory of all mankind over hunger, want, misery, and disease, wherever it exists in the world.”

In our meetings this week, we have begun to bring some of those hopes to fruition. Shortly after we arrived here on Monday afternoon, a brief rain fell on Moscow, of a kind that I am told is called a mushroom rain, a warm rain, with sunshine breaking through, that makes the mushrooms grow, and is therefore considered a good omen. The month of May is early for mushrooms, but as our talks progressed this week, what did grow was even better: a far-reaching set of agreements that can lead to a better life for both of our peoples, to a better chance for peace in the world.

We have agreed on joint ventures in space. We have agreed on ways of working together to protect the environment, to advance health, to cooperate in science and technology. We have agreed on means of preventing incidents at sea. We have established a commission to expand trade between our two nations.

Most important, we have taken an historic first step in the limitation of nuclear strategic arms. This arms control agreement is not for the purpose of giving either side an advantage over the other. Both of our nations are strong, each respects the strength of the other; each will maintain the strength necessary to defend its independence.

But in an unchecked arms race between two great nations, there would be no winners, only losers. By setting this limitation together, the people of both of our nations, and of all nations, can be winners. If we continue in the spirit of serious purpose that has marked our discussions this week, these agreements can start us on a new road of cooperation for the benefit of our people, for the benefit of all peoples.

There is an old proverb that says, “Make peace with man and quarrel with your sins.” The hardships and evils that beset all men and all nations, these and these alone are what we should make war upon.

As we look at the prospects for peace, we see that we have made significant progress at reducing the possible sources of direct conflict between us. But history tells us that great nations have often been dragged into war without intending it, by conflicts between smaller nations. As great powers, we can and should use our influence to prevent this from happening. Our goal should be to discourage aggression in other parts of the world and particularly among those smaller nations that look to us for leadership and example.

With great power goes great responsibility. When a man walks with a giant tread, he must be careful where he sets his feet. There can be true peace only when the weak are as safe as the strong. The wealthier and more powerful our own nations become, the more we have to lose from war and the threat of war, anywhere in the world.

Speaking for the United States, I can say this: We covet no one else’s territory, we seek no dominion over any other people, we seek the right to live in peace, not only for ourselves but for all the peoples of this earth. Our power will only be used to keep the peace, never to break it, only to defend freedom, never to destroy it. No nation that does not threaten its neighbors has anything to fear from the United States.

(left) 1944. Motherland is Calling. (r) 1944. Uncle Same Needs

(l) 1944. Motherland is Calling. (r) 1944. Uncle Same Needs

Soviet citizens have often asked me, “Does America truly want peace?”
I believe that our actions answer that question far better than any words could do. If we did not want peace, we would not have reduced the size of our armed forces by a million men, by almost one-third, during the past 3 years. If we did not want peace, we would not have worked so hard at reaching an agreement on the limitation of nuclear arms, at achieving a settlement of Berlin, at maintaining peace in the Middle East, at establishing better relations with the Soviet Union, with the People’s Republic of China, with other nations of the world.

Mrs. Nixon and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit the Soviet Union, to get to know the people of the Soviet Union, friendly and hospitable, courageous and strong. Most Americans will never have a chance to visit the Soviet Union, and most Soviet citizens will never have a chance to visit America. Most of you know our country only through what you read in your newspapers and what you hear and see on radio and television and motion pictures. This is only a part of the real America.

I would like to take this opportunity to try to convey to you something of what America is really like, not in terms of its scenic beauties, its great cities, its factories, its farms, or its highways, but in terms of its people.

In many ways, the people of our two countries are very much alike. Like the Soviet Union, ours is a large and diverse nation. Our people, like yours, are hard working. Like you, we Americans have a strong spirit of competition, but we also have a great love of music and poetry, of sports, and of humor. Above all, we, like you, are an open, natural, and friendly people. We love our country. We love our children. And we want for you and for your children the same peace and abundance that we want for ourselves and for our children.


The Preamble to the Constitution of the new Russian Federation, ratified 21 years after Nixon’s speech.

We Americans are idealists. We believe deeply in our system of government. We cherish our personal liberty. We would fight to defend it, if necessary, as we have done before. But, we also believe deeply in the right of each nation to choose its own system. Therefore, however much we like our own system for ourselves; we have no desire to impose it on anyone else.

As we conclude this week of talks, there are certain fundamental premises of the American point of view, which I believe deserve emphasis. In conducting these talks, it has not been our aim to divide the world into spheres of influence, to establish a condominium, or in any way to conspire together against the interests of any other nation. Rather we have sought to construct a better framework of understanding between our two nations, to make progress in our bilateral relationships, to find ways of insuring that future frictions between us would never embroil our two nations, and therefore the world, in war.

While ours are both great and powerful nations, the world is no longer dominated by two super powers. The world is a better and safer place because its power and resources are more widely distributed.

Beyond this, since World War II, more than 70 new nations have come into being. We cannot have true peace unless they, and all nations, can feel that they share it. America seeks better relations, not only with the Soviet Union but with all nations. The only sound basis for a peaceful and progressive international order is sovereign equality and mutual respect. We believe in the right of each nation to chart its own course, to choose its own system, to go its own way, without interference from other nations.

As we look to the longer term, peace depends also on continued progress in the developing nations. Together with other advanced industrial countries, the United States and the Soviet Union share a twofold responsibility in this regard: on the one hand, to practice restraint in those activities, such as the supply of arms, that might endanger the peace of developing nations; and second, to assist them in their orderly economic and social development, without political interference.

Some of you may have heard an old story told in Russia of a traveler who was walking to another village. He knew the way, but not the distance. Finally, he came upon a woodsman chopping wood by the side of the road and he asked the woodsman, “How long will it take to reach the village?” The woodsman replied, “I don’t know.” The traveler was angry because he was sure the woodsman was from the village and therefore knew how far it was. And so, he started off down the road again. After he had gone a few steps, the woodsman called out, “Stop. It will take you about 15 minutes.”

The traveler turned and demanded, “Why didn’t you tell me that in the first place?”

The woodsman replied, “Because then I didn’t know the length of your stride.”

In our talks this week with the leaders of the Soviet Union, both sides have had a chance to measure the length of our strides toward peace and security. I believe that those strides have been substantial and that now we have well begun the long journey, which will lead us to a new age in the relations between our two countries. It is important to both of our peoples that we continue those strides.

As our two countries learn to work together, our people will be able to get to know one another better. Greater cooperation can also mean a great deal in our daily lives. As we learn to cooperate in space, in health and the environment, in science and technology, our cooperation can help sick people get well. It can help industries produce more consumer goods. It can help all of us enjoy cleaner air and water. It can increase our knowledge of the world around us.
As we expand our trade, each of our countries can buy more of the other’s goods and market more of our own. As we gain experience with arms control, we can bring closer the day when further agreements can lessen the arms burden of our two nations and lessen the threat of war in the world.

Through all the pages of history, through all the centuries, the world’s people have struggled to be free from fear, whether fear of the elements or fear of hunger or fear of their own rulers or fear of their neighbors in other countries. And yet, time and again, people have vanquished the source of one fear only to fall prey to another.

Let our goal now be a world free of fear–a world in which nation will no longer prey upon nation, in which human energies will be turned away from production for war and toward more production for peace, away from conquest and toward invention, development, creation; a world in which together we can establish that peace which is more than the absence of war, which enables man to pursue those higher goals that the spirit yearns for.

Yesterday, I laid a wreath at the cemetery which commemorates the brave people who died during the siege of Leningrad in World War II. At the cemetery, I saw the picture of a 12-year-old girl. She was a beautiful child. Her name was Tanya. The pages of her diary tell the terrible story of war. In the simple words of a child, she wrote of the deaths of the members of her family: Zhenya in December. Grannie in January. Leka then next. Then Uncle Vasya. Then Uncle Lyosha. Then Mama. And then the Savichevs. And then finally, these words, the last words in her diary: “All are dead. Only Tanya is left.”


Tanya, age 12, 1944. Leningrad Cemetery, Russia.

As we work toward a more peaceful world, let us think of Tanya and of the other Tanyas and their brothers and sisters everywhere. Let us do all that we can to insure that no other children will have to endure what Tanya did and that your children and ours, all the children of the world can live their full lives together in friendship and in peace.

Spasibo y do svidaniye. [Thank you and goodbye.]

A final thought from Author M.G. Crisci

Thank you for spending the time with President Nixon. As a final, and very personal indulgence, I offer my thoughts in the form of a poem I wrote as the dedication to my forthcoming book, Project Zebra, about a virtually unknown top secret Russian-American mission that took place in Elizabeth City, North Carolina during 1944-45.

For one moment in time
Moment Redux
We were all the world thought we could be.
Two great nations, one common cause.
Side-by-side we vanquished tyranny.
No attribution sought, no attribution given.
Just me for you, you for me.
Trust borne of mutual respect.
Core values, cultural differences,
Recognized and celebrated.
At this difficult time,
In this precarious place,
Does history speak?
Is anybody listening?

© 2015

DATE: Aug.11.2015 | CATEGORY: Archived