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169. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

K: I just wanted to run thru some information items to you. Walters saw Xuan Thuy today in Paris and gave him a message.2 They were the friendliest they have ever been. Walters said I wouldn't be available before Feb 8 and they said why so late, why not faster. The reason we said Feb 8 was so we could do it while Bill [Rogers] was out of the country.

Pres: I still think it is a good idea.

K: I just made Walters read something to them. It was to be a framework beyond what was said at the Majestic—if you are willing to talk in the same spirit we suggest you propose a time and place. We suggested Feb 8 and we did not leave a piece of paper with them.

P: But I think the upshot of it is that they want a meeting.

K: That was Walters' impression. They said they would let us know. Whatever they do we will be in good shape. We offered them twice a meeting and whatever they do we are in good shape. If we do go to a meeting they will have to admit they are willing to talk beyond the framework of the Majestic.

[Page 534]

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 your 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 it 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 to sit it out. I don't feel this is any time for concession. And mainly because I feel that's the only way we are going to get anywhere is by talking this way.

K: Mr. President I presented these proposals to the meeting of the Special Studies Group today3 and Elliot Richardson has changed his [Page 535]mind. He says it would be a grave mistake. So we have some support in State. He said if they are willing I think you should take a shot at it on the 8th. I will give to you what I am going to say—it will be a hard time.

P: First, say we have got to talk about a coalition government. Just close the book and walk out. They will say we have got to talk on basically more points than those.

K: If this analysis we have made is correct they are in trouble. That doesn't mean they are not going to hit us this year. They may hit us this year in the Delta and in I Corps. But that will be their last shot.

P: I agree, they may hit us but they haven't got a lot to hit us with, but it isn't like the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge. They don't have the forces to mount any kind of sustained thing.

K: If we had forces in the Delta I won't worry about it all. They may overrun the VN units, but I don't believe it.

P: Well I have been hearing some good reports about the South Vietnamese forces. Don't you agree?

K: I am going to suspend judgment until Haig comes back. But the smart thing for them to do would be to wait until we draw down more forces and wait until next year. If they hit us this year it will mean our analysis is correct and they are losing. One thing I can do is warn them and tell them if there is an offensive there will be no telling what we will do.

P: Yes, they will have to take note of what the President has said and you cannot be [omission in the source text] as to any commitment on that point. And if that is the way they want it that is the way it will be.

[Omitted here is discussion of the Middle East, Nigeria, and the State of the Union Address.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 106, Kissinger Office Files, Country Files, Far East, Vietnam, “S” Mister, Vol. 2. No classification marking.
  2. See Document 166.
  3. Reference is to the January 14 meeting of the Vietnam Special Studies Group; see footnote 4, Document 171.