YORBA LINDA, Calif. -- In the final months of his life, Richard Nixon quietly advised President Bill Clinton on navigating the post-Cold War world, even offering to serve as a conduit for messages to Russian President Boris Yeltsin and other government officials, newly declassified documents show.
Memos and other records show Nixon's behind-the-scenes relations with the Clinton White House. The documents are part of an exhibit opening Friday at the Nixon Presidential Library, marking the centennial of his birth.
Clinton has talked often of his gratitude to Nixon for his advice on foreign affairs, particularly Russia. In a video from the exhibit, Clinton recalls receiving a letter from the 37th president shortly before his death on April 22, 1994, at a time when Clinton was assessing U.S. relations "in a world growing ever more interdependent and yet ungovernable."
"I sought guidance in the example of President Nixon, who came to the presidency at a time in our history when Americans were tempted to say, 'We've had enough of the world,' " Clinton says. "But President Nixon knew we had to continue to reach out to old friends and to old enemies alike. He knew America could not quit the world."
The documents from late February and early March 1994 show Nixon, then 81, in his role of elder statesman. It was two decades after he left the White House in disgrace during the Watergate scandal.
A National Security Council memo from a senior Clinton aide, R. Nicholas Burns, wrote that Nixon was generally supportive of White House policy on Russia but urged a tougher stand on Russia's dealings with its neighbors.
Nixon also advised that U.S. aid to Russia should be linked to U.S. security aims, such as nuclear balance and a reduced threat from the Russian military, rather than emphasizing domestic reforms there.
Clinton in his younger days was no fan of Nixon -- as a college student in the 1960s, he opposed escalation of the Vietnam War. And his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, was a young lawyer advising a House committee when she helped draw up impeachment papers against Nixon.
But Clinton's views changed. At Nixon's funeral, he declared, "May the day of judging President Nixon on anything less than his entire life and career come to a close."