The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Digital Library

The Vladivostok Summit Meeting on Arms Control

Section 1: Arrival in Vladivostok and Okeanskaya

Ford and Brezhnev at the airport in Vladivostok
Brezhnev greets Ford at the airport

From President Gerald R. Ford's memoir A Time to Heal (New York: Harper & Row, 1979), pages 213-214:

The third stop on my Far Eastern tour was the Siberian port city of Vladivostok. [Soviet General Secretary Leonid] Brezhnev, accompanied by Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, had come by train from Moscow-four thousand miles across seven time zones to meet me at the airport on the morning of November 23, and from the moment we met, we got along well.  "I understand you are quite an expert on soccer," I said as we shook hands for the first time.

"Yes, I play the left side," Brezhnev replied, "but I haven't played in a long time."

"I haven't played football for a long time, either," I told him.  "I wasn't very fast, but I could hold the line."

Traveling by train from the airport to the site of the summit
On the train to Okeanskaya

The bantering continued as we boarded a train that would take us to the site of our conference, the small resort town of Okeanskaya.  Looking out the dining car window at the snow-covered terrain, I mentioned the difficulty we had clearing snow from the streets of Washington and how snarled the traffic became when the weather turned sour.  Brezhnev's bushy eyebrows arched, and he leaned forward across the table that separated us.  "Well, that will be our first deal," he said. "We'll send you Soviet snowplows."

Gromyko, normally a dour man, joined in. "Yes, snowplows," he said, "at a good low price."

Discussions on the train to Okeanskaya
Discussions on the train (treats near Kissinger)

The train ride took an hour and a half, and as our talks continued, I had a fine opportunity not only to size up Brezhnev as a world leader but also to observe a special penchant of Henry Kissinger's.  Soviet stewards had piled cookies, pastries and mints on the table in the dining car, and Henry simply couldn't resist them.  At first he would check to see if anyone was looking before he reached out to pluck a morsel from the plate.  Then, aware that everyone knew what he was doing - the Soviets thought his antics were hilarious - he no longer tried to conceal his addiction.  In that ninety-minute period he must have finished off three plates.

President Ford and Henry Kissinger walking to the building where the summit would be held
Ford and Kissinger walking to a Sanatorium building

The site of the talks was the Okeanskaya Sanatorium, a health spa used by vacationing personnel from local military bases.  Although the Soviets had labored for ten days to spruce up the place and apply a fresh coat of paint to the main building, it still looked like an abandoned YMCA camp in the Catskills.  The spartan surroundings didn't bother Brezhnev at all.  He was still in an ebullient mood as he escorted us to our dacha.  "Why did you have to bring Henry Kissinger here?" he asked with mock solemnity.

"Well, it's just very hard to go anywhere without him," I answered.

Brezhnev pretended a scowl. "Kissinger is such a scoundrel," he said.

But Henry was ready for that.  "It takes one to know one," he replied.

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