55. Editorial Note

During a conversation in the Oval Office of the White House on January 27, 1970, President Nixon and British Prime Minister Harold Wilson discussed arms control negotiations in the context of the rift between China and the Soviet Union. The President said: “We are taking the line that we cannot have one billion Chinese sitting outside the international community. Dobrynin says this is a dirty trick, but we will move at our pace and in our direction. Some of the Kremlinologists believe we should stonewall the Chinese lest we irritate the Russians, but the SALT talks prove we can talk to the Russians and to the Chinese simultaneously.

“The President then turned to a discussion of ABM and MIRV. He said we won’t pay any advance price to get a SALT settlement, but we were very flexible in the SALT discussions. ‘You know and I know’, he said, ‘that it is essential that we don’t have a nuclear blowup. You recognize that better than any other world leader.’ The Prime Minister said that the Soviet military leaders have more power than the military in our own countries. The President said our line at the talks is this: First, we want agreement; we want to be forthcoming. Second, we won’t give up any cards in advance. On Vietnam, he said, our best position is to [Page 185] accept Russian help, but not to ask for it. They won’t help us because we ask them; they will help us because they will face the necessity.

“Returning to SALT, the President said that before talks began he had had very little optimism. Now he thinks there’s a chance they may need a control on arms because of their problem with the Chinese. A situation may be arising where self-interest requires give and take.

“He then asked Wilson to comment on the possibilities for a détente. Wilson said he agreed with everything the President had said, and added that anything that makes the Soviet Union swallow their words on Germany is harder than either on ABM or Vietnam. We have told Kosygin, Wilson continued, that the Common Market may be a good way to contain Germany.

Wilson said he had the impression that the President, through his very subtle China policy, was trying to use China to ruffle the back hair of the Soviets. The President said we just don’t want them to take us for granted.” (Memorandum of conversation; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1024, Presidential/HAK Memcons, Memcon: Nixon-Prime Minister Wilson Jan 27, 1970)