94. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1
- My Trip to Moscow
I spent thirteen hours with Brezhnev and Gromyko and five more hours with Gromyko only. Dobrynin was present at all sessions and other Soviet officials attended the Brezhnev sessions. The central results and conclusions are as follows.
- —The Soviets endorse and are transmitting to Hanoi our procedural proposal on resuming the private and plenary talks on Vietnam. This has already resulted in their acceptance of the May 2 date for a private meeting.
- —The Soviets are also forwarding our substantive proposal to Hanoi, despite an undoubtedly negative reaction.
- —Katusev, the Central Committee member in charge of relations with other Communist parties, left for Hanoi at 5:25 a.m. 23 April while I was in Moscow.
- —Brezhnev countered with a proposal for a standstill ceasefire which I made clear was unacceptable with the presence of invading North Vietnamese divisions. It is nevertheless noteworthy that he put forward any proposal; and a ceasefire-in-place would not be very attractive to Hanoi either, when its forces have failed to capture a single major town and would have to see their major psychological and military efforts frozen short of major objectives.
- —The Soviets, on the other hand, gave no actual promise that they would lean on their friends, either for deescalation or a final settlement. They disavowed any responsibility for the North Vietnamese offensive. They hinted that they had not answered new requests but they also had the gall to maintain that they hadn’t provided all that much offensive equipment in the first place.2
- —I made very clear that we held Moscow to account for the escalation just prior to the summit and that we would prevent an allied defeat no matter what the risk to our other policies, including U.S.-Soviet relations and the summit. I emphasized that there had to be a private meeting by May 2 and that if there were not significant progress at that session, we would resolutely pursue our unilateral course.
- —Furthermore, you would have to turn to the right domestically and gain the support of precisely those elements who were not in favor of better U.S.-Soviet relations in any event. This would clearly inhibit your flexibility at a summit meeting, assuming there still was such a meeting.
- —This all took place against the background of our bombing of Haiphong (and damage to Soviet ships) and Hanoi, continued bombing up to the 20th parallel during this period, and the clear option of bombing wherever we like after May 2 if there is no movement at the conference table.
- —In short, we did not achieve a breakthrough on Vietnam. On the other hand, we got our message across; involved the Russians directly in transmitting our proposals to Hanoi; have certainly annoyed the North Vietnamese by just being in Moscow; will issue a joint announcement that, together with Le Duc Tho’s return for a private session, will assuredly help us domestically by suggesting something is up; and have effectively positioned ourselves for whatever military actions we wish to pursue after first having once again demonstrated our reasonableness.
[Omitted here is material unrelated to Vietnam.]
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 998, Alexander M. Haig Chronological Files, Haig Memcons, January–December 1972 [3 of 3]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Printed in full in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 169.↩
- According to the minutes of the April 18 WSAG meeting, Kissinger and Helms discussed the question of both Soviet military assistance to and possible Soviet diplomatic pressure on Hanoi. Kissinger concluded that: “The Soviets would like to pay no price in Vietnam and they would also like the offensive to succeed. The question is how far are they willing to go?” (Ibid., Document 122)↩