260. Message From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) in Moscow1

Tohak 97. Note: Do not retain file copies of this message. Deliver all copies and residue to addressee.

I just completed a forty five minute discussion with the President in which I reviewed the problem between Thieu and ourselves on the description of the composition of the electoral commission. I drew precisely upon each of the talking points that you had furnished2 and, in addition, prepared and provided a very detailed memorandum outlining the issues for the President.3 He was extremely reluctant about accepting our proposal. He based this reluctance on the fact that he had just received a poll which confirms the fact that the American [Page 954] people are two to one against any kind of coalition with the Communists. I reiterated over and over again the fact that this was not a coalition in any sense but rather a fig leaf for an election commission without which our proposal would have absolutely nothing new in either a public or private sense. The President is totally unimpressed by the need to have anything new in a public sense. I finally turned him on the importance of maintaining credibility with Peking and Moscow. He stated that the NSC does not seem to understand that the American people are no longer interested in a solution based on compromise, favor continued bombing and want to see the United States prevail after all these years. I pointed out that this very attitude was fragile and had been accomplished simply because we had been able to carefully blend a series of strong and forthcoming measures in a way that reestablished Presidential credibility. I said the important thing now is to be able to keep Moscow and Peking in a position where they cannot claim that we deceived them or are proceeding in our efforts to solve Vietnam in a way which is unacceptably damaging to their interests. The President finally agreed but insisted that in conveying his approval to you that I emphasize to you his wish that the record you establish tomorrow in your discussions be a tough one which in a public sense would appeal to the hawk and not to the dove. I again told the President that the record thus far of these meetings was unassailable and that I was confident that it would remain that way following tomorrow’s meeting.

Concerning your press conference the President agreed that you can proceed on Saturday.4 He insisted, however, that you could only do so after you brief Rogers and at first insisted that you see Rogers before you see him to keep him out of a tense meeting with the two of you. I insisted that he see you first and he finally agreed. He told me to call Rogers this morning and tell him that you were arriving late on Friday and would see Rogers the first thing Saturday morning to brief him on the outcome of your Moscow talks. I explaned to the President how you had finessed the European Security Conference issue through the vehicle of a Soviet note. He was very relieved and pleased. In the interest of time, I have kept this exchange very brief. There was much more to the discussion which I will give you in a subsequent message.

Warm regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Henry A. Kissinger Office Files, Box 24, HAK Trip Files, HAK’s Germany, Moscow, London, Paris Trip, September 9–15, 1972. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusive; Eyes Only. Sent via Lord.
  2. In Hakto 24, September 13; see Document 258.
  3. Document 259.
  4. The press conference was scheduled to be held in Washington on Saturday, September 16, about Kissinger’s recent trip to Moscow and the September 15 negotiating session in Paris. For a report, see “Kissinger Hints Little Progress at Paris Session,” The New York Times, September 17, 1972, p. 1.