64. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Ambassador of the USSR
- Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
I met with Dobrynin for breakfast in General Scowcroft’s office for a quick roundup on where we stood prior to my departure for Key Biscayne with the President.
I opened the meeting by pointing out to Dobrynin the inadmissibility of what was going on in Vietnam. I recalled a conversation in January in which I had indicated that we might have to take action to bring the war to a decisive conclusion.2 At that time Dobrynin had said that he could understand our taking action if there was an offensive, but that if the war just wound down he saw no reason why we should precipitate a showdown. I had been impressed with that argument, and as he knew we had shown enormous restraint.
I said now we were confronted with a situation in which there was an all-out attack on South Vietnam, putting in jeopardy the 69,000 Americans who were remaining. This was absolutely intolerable for us. Dobrynin said perhaps we took the situation too gravely, because after all the Soviets’ estimate was that the situation was far from being out of hand, and the South Vietnamese probably would have a chance to defend themselves. I said I hoped so for their [the Soviets’]3 sake.
Dobrynin asked whether I really thought that they had anything to do with planning it. I said there are only two possibilities, either they planned it or their negligence made it possible. In either event, it was an unpleasant eventuality.
[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Vietnam.]
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 493, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1972, Vol. 10. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting was held in the Military Aide’s Office at the White House. The memorandum of conversation is printed in full in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 84.↩
- See footnote 2, Document 6.↩
- Brackets are in the original.↩