Today’s post was written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.
Last week’s post discussed President Nixon’s resignation and foreign policy. Among the countries potentially most affected by the transfer of the Presidency was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.). President Nixon had developed and pushed the policy of détente with the Soviet Union to ease Cold War tensions. Despite assurances that basic American foreign policies would continue under President Ford, Soviet leaders had to be concerned about the transition.
Two of the more interesting Department of State telegrams in the immediate post-transition period emanated, respectively, from the U.S. embassy in Moscow and from the U.S. consulate in Leningrad (present-day St. Petersburg).
In the first, Ambassador Walter Stoessel presents his analysis of the impact the presidential transition will have on U.S.-Soviet relations.
I have little doubt that the Soviets believe President Ford will continue our policy of seeking a closer and more stable relationship with the USSR and I expect no major shifts in Soviet foreign policy either toward the US or in the international arena as a result of President Nixon’s resignation…
…Fourtunately, two factors in the US situation should encourage the Soviets in a continuing overall belief that the US remains committed to bilateral detente. First is the fact that Secretary Kissinger will remain in office. In his person he exemplifies the continuity of US foreign policy and – on a psychological level – he is known and respected by the Soviet leadership…
In the second, the consulate reports on a lecture given by a local analyst/propagandist about the transfer of the Presidency. As the telegram notes, the presentation likely represented the official party line in the U.S.S.R.
…Gubko termed Nixon’s resignation and President Ford’s accesstion to office “unusual, extraordinary” events. He mentioned Watergate affair very briefly, generally implying that leadership change part of general malaise and instability seen in many countries of capitalist world thus far this year…
Reports to President Ford on international reaction to the transfer of the Presidency are found in the “Presidential Transition File” among the records of the National Security Adviser held by the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library. An introduction with links to images of the documents is here.
Source: All documents included here come for the Electronic Telegrams file of the Department of State’s Central Foreign Policy File (NAID 654098), part of RG 59: General Records of the Department of State. Those records can be found online as part of the National Archives’ Access to Archival Databases under “Diplomatic Records.”