Watergate's final secret... how Brezhnev backed comrade Tricky Dicky
Watergate's final secret... how Brezhnev backed
comrade Tricky Dicky
A MAN in crisis may find some unlikely friends, but
few would expect comforting words from their
However, as the Watergate scandal enveloped Richard
Nixon, the then United States president, in the 1970s,
he received a secret message of support from Leonid
Brezhnev, the Soviet leader at the time, it emerged
The message, delivered by then Soviet ambassador
Anatoly Dobrynin, stated: "No doubt, there are some
people - not only in the US - who anticipate Richard
Nixon won't be able to take it and will crack under
the pressure. But, we are pleased to note, you have no
intention of giving them that satisfaction."
In response, Mr Nixon said he wished to thank Mr
Brezhnev "for the fact that he, perhaps alone among
the leaders of other nations, including the allies,
had found simple human words to lift his spirits", Mr
Dobrynin wrote in documents which have now been
released by the US State Department.
At first, Moscow paid little attention to Watergate,
but as the scandal of the 1972 break-in at the
Democratic Party offices focused on Mr Nixon, concern
grew in the Politburo that it could hamper any
improvement in US-Soviet relations.
"One began to sense [Mr Nixon's] growing bewilderment,
lack of confidence and withdrawal from other matters,"
Mr Dobrynin wrote.
The ambassador was instructed to secretly meet Mr
Nixon to deliver the message of support.
Mr Brezhnev clearly thought Mr Nixon was someone he
could do business with. The then US president was
opposed to brinkmanship in dealing with the Soviet
Union, Mr Dobrynin reported to Moscow in 1969.
The State Department documents portray Mr Nixon as not
counting on the use of force in dealings with the
According to a telegram Mr Dobrynin sent to Moscow,
sizing up the president, differences were too deep to
bridge completely. But, Mr Dobrynin told the Soviet
Foreign Ministry, "the president is opposed to
brinkmanship in relations with the USSR, since he
believes both our countries have sufficient nuclear
missiles to annihilate each other many times over."
By all indications, Mr Dobrynin told Moscow, Mr Nixon
"will pursue a pragmatic course that envisages
negotiations with the Soviet Union in cases where it
serves US interests and it is possible to compromise".
Agreements to ban biological weapons and to limit the
arsenals of long-range missiles are among the
understandings that emerged from the complicated
Also, an agreement was forged in 1971 between the two
superpowers, Britain and France to reduce tensions
over then-divided Berlin.
However, Mr Nixon also sent a carrier fleet into the
Indian Ocean in December 1971 to warn the Soviets to
restrain their ally, India, in the war with Pakistan
which created Bangladesh from East Pakistan.
Historian David Geyer, the principal US compiler of
the documents, said yesterday that they reflected "an
unprecedented partnership between the two governments
to document an exchange of views at a high level,
particularly at an important period of the Cold War".
He added: "The documents also give readers and
scholars a different view on foreign policy from the
perspective of the other superpower."
BREAK-IN THAT FORCED PRESIDENT FROM OFFICE
ON 17 June, 1972, five men were arrested after
breaking into the Democratic National Committee
headquarters situated in the office and hotel complex
called the Watergate. It was the start of one of the
biggest political scandals in American history and led
to the resignation of US president Richard Nixon.
Investigations into the break-in revealed it was just
one instance in a long line of illegal activities
conducted on behalf of Mr Nixon and his staff.
The investigative coverage by the press was
spearheaded by two reporters on the Washington Post,
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who received tip-offs
from an anonymous source known as ''Deep Throat''. He
suggested knowledge of the break-in and attempts to
cover it up could be linked to the White House.
After two years of investigation, it emerged the
president had recorded conversations which showed he
obstructed justice and attempted to cover up the
break-in. The US Supreme Court ruled the tapes be
handed over. With the certainty of impeachment and
conviction in the Senate, Mr Nixon became the only US
president to resign on 9 August, 1974.