Richard Nixon was not a very nice man. Liberals hated him like poison, and for good reason. But … he was not a stupid man either, and understood how powerful nations needed to deal with each other.
Here is his speech to the Soviet people, delivered when he visited the Soviet Union in 1972. It has exactly the right tone. (We can argue about detente, about whether the Soviets kept their side of the bargain, about Reagan’s successful strategy to bankrupt them through military spending. There are things that are done, and not said. There are things that are said, and not done. But this is how America needs to talk to all nations, and especially to our adversaries.)
Nixon could do this, because no one in the US, and especially not the Republican base, doubted that he was a hard-line anti-Communist, not some naive liberal chowder-head who would be suckered by the deceitful Commies. No Democrat could have done what he did.
Anyway, here’s Tricky Dick talking to the Russians:
"Dobry 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 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 three 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 nineteen‐seventies.
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, the 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 progress 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.
‘No Winners, Only Losers’
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 dgreements 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 sin.” 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. … "
Full transcript here: [there are some uncorrected typos in the transcript]:https://www.nytimes.com/1972/05/29/archives/transcript-of-nixons-television-address-to-the-soviet-people-from.html