6. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between the Governor of New York (Rockefeller) and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

R: I understand that they gave away the secrets of your talks.

K: No; that there were secret meetings.

R: That’s what I mean. Why is this being done?

K: They are launching a big offensive in February.

R: Military or political?

K: Military.

R: I will be damned. After you have offered them everything.

K: I tried to call you before the speech.

R: I was at a testimonial dinner for Vic [omission in the original]. Pete Brennan gave it you see. People were there from all over the country so I couldn’t listen to the President.

K: We had to do it. The other side wouldn’t negotiate.

R: What will be the result?

K: Dobrynin already called babbling like an idiot. He’s afraid we are going to hit them.2

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R: He is not so dumb.

K: We have to do something dramatic.

R: Do you think they will change?

K: They will scream. But if we have to hit them, this gives us a better posture to hit them.

R: Have we got the strength?

K: We have got the strength but it is the courage we are lacking.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Vietnam.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Box 13, Chronological File, January 25–31, 1972. No classification marking. Rockefeller was in New York; Kissinger was in Washington.
  2. A tape recording of Kissinger’s telephone conversation with Dobrynin after the President’s speech is ibid., White House Tapes, White House Telephone, Conversation 19–65. Kissinger had called on Dobrynin on the evening of January 21. According to his memorandum of conversation, Kissinger’s central point about Vietnam was: “If a Communist offensive occurred, I emphasized that we would take the strongest possible action, which in turn would have effects on our relationship.” Dobrynin replied: “First, the Soviet Union had recommended our plan to Hanoi early in October and had been under the impression that Hanoi would negotiate. Secondly, the Soviet Union had no interest in an offensive by Hanoi, because if the offensive took place now prior to the Peking summit it could be repeated prior to the Moscow summit. The last thing the Soviet Union wanted was a confrontation with the United States in the months before the Moscow summit. Thirdly, the Soviet Union believed that the war should come to an end now. But it was not prepared to bring pressure to this end. I said that, in that case the objective tendency of Soviet policy was to exacerbate the tensions and to encourage Hanoi.” The memorandum of conversation is printed in full in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 39.