President Nixon’s Address to the Soviet People – 7.2.1974

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    Muscovites watch President Nixon’s address to the Russian people on a set in a state television store.

    40 years ago today, President Nixon made his second television and radio address to the people of the Soviet Union. It was the second such time RN was given the opportunity to address the Soviet people directly, and a continuation of a short tradition that he and Leonid Brezhnev of the U.S.S.R. began two years ago in 1972.

    “In these past 2 years, there has been a dramatic change in the nature of the relationship between our two countries,” President Nixon opened in his address. “After a long period of confrontation, we moved to an era of negotiation, and now we are learning cooperation. We are learning to cooperate, not only in lessening the danger of war but in advancing the work of peace.”

    In his yellowpad notes, RN points out a particularly intriguing aspect cooperation of both country’s new relationship: the space program. Just as cooperation in space requires the utmost skill and intricacy, so does the overarching cooperation for peace:
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    Finally, and perhaps more important, this joint mission–for which our astronauts are now here in the Soviet Union training alongside your cosmonauts–is being made possible by careful planning, by precise engineering, by a process of working and building together, step by step, to reach a goal that we share, in pursuit of a purpose we share. This is the way that together we can build a peace that will last–a peace in which our children can live together as brothers and sisters, joining hands across the ocean in fellowship, and…

    President Nixon uses this note almost word for word in his address. Watch his address below to see where he mentions it:

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    Television crews prepare for President Nixon’s address to the Soviet people.

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    Mrs. Nixon watches her husband deliver the address.

      A Conversation With the President About Foreign Policy

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        From left to right: Howard K. Smith of ABC, Eric Sevareid of  CBS, John Chancellor of NBC, and President Richard Nixon.

        It was television day, as H.R. Haldeman, President Nixon’s chief of staff wrote in his diaries. A day when President Nixon would lock himself in a room to prepare for an appearance on national television. The goal for this day: get through to the ordinary guy on details of foreign policy.

        On July 1, 1970 at 7:00 pm, President Nixon sat down with news network anchors Howard Smith of ABC, John Chancellor of NBC, and Eric Sevareid of CBS to discuss live the challenging topic of foreign policy. It was the first time a President participated in a live interview; Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson participated in similar television programs, but their videos were edited in advance of their airings. He offered his reasoning for such an endeavor, particularly as it coincided with the urgency of America’s foreign policy situation. It would give him ample time to explain to the American people, in the most candid way, why certain decisions were made and why certain decisions would, in the President’s opinion, be most conducive to a successful foreign policy.

        By taking the subject of foreign policy, by picking the anchormen of the three networks, by having a chance for a little bit longer answer and a chance to follow up, I thought we could give our television audience a chance really to get to the depths of our foreign policy thinking which you can’t do when you are up there trying to, in 28 minutes, answer 24 times.

        Watch the entire conversation below:

        President Nixon performed admirably, handling the commentators well and delivering on point thorough and effective points. He answered questions related to the Senate’s recent rescinding of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, his administration’s policy towards achieving a just peace despite such a decision, how Vietnamization would be achieved, and the status of the Cambodian incursion.

        RN reaffirmed the American public on the success of the Cambodian campaign, and assured his administration’s adamant position on measured withdrawal of U.S. troops while simultaneously strengthening the South Vietnamese position. It would only be through this strategy that the United States could establish negotiating grounds with the North Vietnamese.

        If the enemy feels that we are going to stay there long enough for the South Vietnamese to be strong enough to handle their own defense, then I think they have a real incentive to negotiate, because if they have to negotiate with a strong, vigorous South Vietnamese Government, the deal they can make with them isn’t going to be as good as the deal they might make now.

        The conversation, though dominated by discussion regarding Vietnam, turned finally to the Middle East. Asked about approaching peace negotiations in the Middle East, President Nixon had this to say:

        The Mideast is important. We all know that 80 percent of Europe’s oil and 90 percent of Japan’s oil comes from the Mideast. We know that the Mideast, this area, this is the gateway to Africa; it’s the gateway to the Mediterranean; it’s the hinge of NATO; and it is also the gateway through the Suez Canal down into the Indian Ocean.

        Such a critical territory in the world–volatile and on the verge of full-fledged war–would require the tactful cooperation of the United States and the Soviet Union. If the Soviet Union showed interest in the Mediterranean, the United States would have a responsibility to monitor the balance of power in the Middle East.  

        once the balance of power shifts where Israel is weaker than its neighbors, there will be a war. Therefore, it is in U.S. interests to maintain the balance of power, and we will maintain that balance of power. That is why as the Soviet Union moves in to support the U.A.R., it makes it necessary for the United States to evaluate what the Soviet Union does, and once that balance of power is upset, we will do what is necessary to maintain Israel’s strength vis-a-vis its neighbors, not because we want Israel to be in a position to wage war–that is not it but because that is what will deter its neighbors from attacking it.

        On the mutual understanding that the fruits of peace bear infinitely more than the malaise of war, two adversaries with the greatest military might the world has seen would be tasked with the responsibility of stabilizing tension in the world. President Nixon believed this, and he hoped, through his candid, that the American people would also believe it.

          “Old Enough to Fight, Old Enough to Vote”

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            President Nixon signs the 26th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

            On April 27, 1970 President Nixon sent a letter to Congress supporting a constitutional amendment to lower the voting age. At the time, the Senate had attached to the bill modifying and extending the Voting Rights Act of 1965 a rider that implied Americans aged 18 to 21 would be able to vote in federal, state, and local elections.

            The President pointed out the unconstitutionality of such a rider, citing improper use of Congressional authority in an area reserved for States’ consideration.

            I strongly favor the 18-year-old vote. I strongly favor enactment of the Voting Rights Bill. But these are entirely separate issues, each of which deserves consideration on its own merits. More important, each needs to be dealt with in a way that is constitutionally permissible–and therefore, in a way that will work.

            Though the bill was eventually approved by Congress and signed by the President, RN wanted to be sure of the constitutionality of the rider attached to the bill. Upon further review, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress had in fact overstepped its legislative bounds. Fearing a disoriented voting public in the 1972 elections, Congress quickly moved forward with a proposed constitutional amendment guaranteeing the 18 year-old vote. The Senate passed the proposal with a 94-0 vote. Soon after, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the proposal, sending the amendment to the states to decide.

            On this day 43 years ago, in a period of just over two months, 38 states ratified the amendment which prohibited state and federal governments from denying the right of U.S. citizens, eighteen years of age or older, the right to vote on account of age. The new constitutional provision, the 26th Amendment, garnered two-thirds of the states’ approval and was ratified in the shortest time of any amendment in the history of the United States.

            Learning of the states’ rapid ratification of the 26th Amendment, President Nixon affirmed the immense value of the Amendment’s inauguration:

            The ratification of this Amendment has been accomplished in the shortest time of any amendment in American history. This fact affirms our Nation’s confidence in its youth and its trust in their responsibility. It also reinforces our young people’s dedication to a system of government whose Constitution permits ordered change.

            The amendment assured that the young men and women who fully contribute to American society have a say in the country’s electoral process.

            Some 11 million young men and women who have participated in the life of our Nation through their work, their studies, and their sacrifices for its defense, are now to be fully included in the electoral process of our country.

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            Student’s march in support of the 18 year-old vote.

              Summit III

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                President Nixon greets an enthusiastic Russian crowd in Moscow’s Red Square.

                40 years ago this week, President Nixon landed at Vnukovo II Airport in Moscow, U.S.S.R., opening an official visit to the Soviet Union. He came prepared to continue detente talks and to build upon the hard work of the previous two years. It was yet another historical trip for the President, one that signified a continued path in fostering peaceful competitiveness between the world’s two great adversaries.

                President Nixon was treated to a grand welcoming by the Kremlin, having been accorded a red carpet ceremony with the Soviet Union’s highest officials awaiting to greet him: General Secretary Brezhnev, President Podgorny, Premier Kosygin, Foreign Minister Gromyko, and Ambassador Dobrynin. Following welcoming remarks, President Nixon took a motorcade to the Kremlin, where he was shown his quarters. Soon after, he motored to the office of General Secretary Brezhnev, where the two spoke privately:

                He told me about his recent meeting with Teddy Kennedy and Averell Harriman and said that they both supported detente. I told him it was fine for him to meet with leaders of both parties between now and 1976 because we wanted them all to be in support of detente. -RN, The Memoirs of Richard Nixon

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                President Nixon and Brezhnev speak candidly with one another: “This is where I’m from, Mr. Brezhnev–a small town called Yorba Linda.”

                The President and First Lady were welcomed to a State dinner thrown in honor of their visit. In his toast, President Nixon reflected on the great accomplishments that had already been made in the period of detente with the Soviet Union.

                To see the extent of the progress that has been made, we can point to the fact that over the past 2 years, more agreements have been negotiated and signed between our two countries in those 2 years than in the entire history of the relations of our two countries up to that period.

                The agreements confirmed the common interest of the two nations–to avoid war and to limit the weapons capable of ending humanity–nuclear arms. However, peace would not be an end in itself. Out of peace between the Soviet Union and the United States came the prospect of greater progress:

                We both seek peace, but we seek peace that is more than simply the absence of war. We seek peace because of the positive progress it can bring to both of our peoples.

                The President, of course, conceded that more work needed to be done to be sure that people of both nations would have a tangible stake in peace, so “that two peoples with different systems of government can establish relationships that will not be broken in the future.”

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                  RN and Jackie Robinson

                    RN and Jackie

                    Jackie Robinson supported Vice President Richard Nixon during the 1960 presidential election and in 1962 wrote: “if the election was tomorrow, I would still vote for you.”

                    Featured at our “Play Ball! President’s and Baseball” exhibit is a letter written by Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson to RN at his campaign headquarters in Los Angeles, California.

                    “Your letters always reaffirm the high regard I hold for you,” Robinson, then Vice President and Director of Personnel at Chock Full o’Nuts, wrote. “I say this because of my sincere belief that you would have lived up to all the things I believed about you, and I am firmly convinced that the best thing that can happen to us as American Negroes is a big Negro vote for you in California and for Governor Rockefeller in New York.”

                    Jackie Robinson became an avid admirer of RN because of his civil rights record in the 1950s during his vice presidency. Amid the 1960 campaign, Robinson supported and campaigned for the Nixon-Lodge ticket on grounds that Vice President Nixon had a stronger record on civil rights than Senator John F. Kennedy. On many occasions, the baseball great and RN exchanged correspondence and praise for one another.

                    The letter for which Robinson demonstrated his continued support of RN is on display at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library:

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