50. Editorial Note

Henry Kissinger telephoned President Nixon on January 14, 1970, to report on negotiations with the North Vietnamese in Paris. Kissinger called the President in Camp David, Maryland, from his office in the [Page 164] White House. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, Staff Members and Office Files, Office of Presidential Papers and Archives, Daily Diary) During the course of the conversation, Nixon and Kissinger concluded that the experience of history highlighted the serious risks involved in negotiating with the Soviet Union. Nixon apparently applied the lesson to negotiations with North Vietnam. His opening and concluding comments relate to negotiations with North Vietnam:

“P: I suppose they will want to take the line they will say what have you got to say. I was reading a couple of nights ago the whole record of Churchill’s account on Teheran, Malta and his negotiations with Harriman and what happened in terms of Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, etc. And really it is a shameful record. It is an outrage. I thought Eisenhower was taking the orders from the top but the whole emphasis was on getting along with the Russians whereas Churchill was concerned with re-drawing the map of Europe.

“K: He was thinking of what would happen after the war.

“P: Right. And the whole thing was the absolute hardness of Stalin during the whole thing. The Russians did not give anything on anything.

“K: The Russians got us so focused on victory they never talked about peace.

“P: You know that in the days of McCarthy and Jenner they really overstated it but basically they happened to be right. We did screw up the peace.

“K: For example, the invasion of Southern France. If those units had been put into the Balkans the whole thing would have been different.

“P: I think you should scan through it and see just what happened. He would send a message over and obviously the American President was responding and was responding in an almost unbelievably naive way.

“K: And these Kremlinologists were saying just what Thompson told you. ‘You have to be in good faith.’

“P: Right and Truman turned down a meeting with Churchill first and then came back with the proposition that Truman ought to meet with Stalin first. Well that would have been the most terrible thing. It is well to read this stuff in order to know what we are dealing with now.

“K: Hopkins wanted Truman and Roosevelt to be the intermediary between England and Russia, grossly overestimating the British strength and grossly underestimating the Russian intentions.

“P: What I am getting at is that I don’t know what these clowns want to talk about but the line we take is either they talk or we are going [Page 165] to sit it out. I don’t feel this is any time for concession. And mainly because I feel that the only way we are going to get anywhere is by talking this way.”

Later in the conversation, Nixon outlined those elements of his administration’s foreign policy he wanted to emphasize in his forthcoming State of the Union address:

“P: We have to say a little about Vietnam—maybe pick up what we said Nov 3rd and say it a little differently. We are for a just peace. We have seen progress in Asia, in Japan. We have seen progress here. There are other areas in the world where there are still problems. The Mid-East is still difficult. I will cover it all. We are not going to retreat from our world commitments. We are going to keep them. I would use it to make another whack at the Nixon Doctrine. The Nixon Doctrine is not a retreat from our world responsibilities. It is a method—a new way. Whether it is Latin America or any other area in the world. If you don’t mention everybody they will feel hurt. My point is that we feel that it is time for the industrial nations of the world—all the nations of the world. You might give it a historical slant. As we enter the ’70’s more than 25 years have passed since WW II—we made a new policy to deal with the new situation. For 25 years the US had to assume the major responsibility. We are for negotiation rather than for confrontation.” (Memorandum of telephone conversation; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 361, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File, 3-14 Jan 1970)

For the reference to Thompson, see footnote 3, Document 43.