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Nixon Tapes Reveal Cold War Brezhnev Chat
President Richard Nixon and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev chatted warmly in the White House before a historic summit in June 1973, newly released tapes have revealed.
The lengthy discussion between the supposed Cold War enemies is among 3,700 hours of secretly recorded conversations from between February 1971 and July 1973.
Captured by a hidden recording system used by Mr Nixon, it was part of the final chronological instalment of those tapes - 340 hours - made public on Wednesday by the National Archives and Records Administration, along with more than 140,000 pages of text documents.
Hundreds of hours remain sealed for national security and privacy reasons.
Mr Nixon and Mr Brezhnev, who met one-on-one with only an interpreter present, talked for an hour on June 18, 1973, and chatted about personal topics, including their families.
The conversation happened before the start of a historic seven-day summit that was part of Mr Nixon's larger strategy of detente with the Soviet Union.
"We must recognise, the two of us, that ... we head the two most powerful nations and, while we will naturally in negotiations have some differences, it is essential that those two nations, where possible, work together," Mr Nixon told Mr Brezhnev.
"If we decide to work together, we can change the world. That's what - that's my attitude as we enter these talks."
Luke Nichter of Texas A&M University-Central Texas in Killeen, who runs a website cataloging Mr Nixon's secret recordings, said the conversation was remarkable because of the camaraderie that is evident.
Both men discuss their children and Brezhnev even talks about his grandson's attempts to pass college entrance exams.
"These are Cold War archenemies who are talking like old friends," he said.
"This is very unusual."
The newly released recordings also revealed that in the hours after Mr Nixon's first major national address about the Watergate scandal that would eventually drive him from office, two future presidents called him to express their private support: Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush.
Mr Reagan, governor of California at the time, told Mr Nixon: "I just want you to know, we watched and my heart was with you. I know what this must have been and what this must have been in all these days and what you've been through.
"You can count on us, we're still behind you out here and I wanted you to know that you're in our prayers."
That same evening, Mr Bush, who had recently been appointed chairman of the Republican National Committee, called to say he had watched the speech with "great pride."
This time, however, an angry and exhausted-sounding Mr Nixon complained to Mr Bush about the reaction from TV commentators.
"The folks may understand," Mr Nixon said, before adding later: "To hell with the commentators."
The following year, Mr Bush would privately write Mr Nixon a letter urging him to resign.