40. Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig)1

Haig: Hello?

Nixon: Hello.

Haig: Mr. President?

Nixon: Yeah? I had one thought that in view of Hanoi as having, you know, totally broken their word with regard to publicity and so forth—2

Haig: Right, sir.

Nixon: —don’t you think Henry ought to—I mean insist on [unclear] that said we—he’d meet them in Vientiane. You know that the Hanoi ploy I’d—I think they really [unclear] so much that—I know how passionately he wants to go there, but, you know, they’ve really handled this in a very shameful way.

Haig: Well, let me tell you what I’ve done, sir. Dobrynin was in here this afternoon with a strong message from Brezhnev.3 He called me at about 10.

Nixon: Yeah?

Haig: I just called him and laced it to him. I said, “You tell your goddamned people in Hanoi that they have broken our agreement, [Page 236] which we considered sacred, that if you want to be helpful in getting this thing settled, you insist to them that there’ll be no more of this, and that we expect them to be flexible, or we cannot have a repeat of the ’68 situation, and that we may have some additional requirements that they have to understand and meet because we have a very difficult problem.”

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Haig: Now that they have breaked—broken—

Nixon: Because they—because they broke it? And did he—

Haig: That’s right.

Nixon: What’d he say?

Haig: For the first time he was very much on the defensive. He was shocked. He said, “This is inexcusable.” And I told him who did it—it was the Prime Minister—and who they gave the leak to, and it’s all over the press. And I said, “It’s given us an incredible problem, which could sink, delay this thing and require additional negotiating.”

Nixon: Right. Good.

Haig: I’ve done that to safe-side it.

Nixon: Yeah.

Haig: And I think we ought to wait on—on the Hanoi—

Nixon: Yeah. Well—

Haig: —thing, until we get Henry’s—Bunker’s assessment—

Nixon: Is he going to go from Phnom Penh to Hanoi?

Haig: No, no. No, he’ll come back to Saigon.

Nixon: Oh.

Haig: And then we have, in effect—

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Haig: —all day tomorrow.

Nixon: Oh, good—

Haig: He’ll be in Saigon.

Nixon: Debating with Thieu some more?

Haig: That’s right.

Nixon: Oh, good.

Haig: And then he would leave Monday our time.

Nixon: Well, when he says he thinks he has braked for them he’s still got a day’s work.

Haig: I think so.

Nixon: Yeah. Yeah—

Haig: And I wouldn’t add this burden to him now, until he gets to—

[Page 237]

Nixon: I get your point.

Haig: —[unclear]—

Nixon: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. That’s good. Well, since you’ve taken that, but you see what our thinking is that—?

Haig: Oh, absolutely.

Nixon: —that we can’t get sucked into this now, Al, on any—and then have it broken off on something.

Haig: No, if this is a locked agreement, with Thieu on board—

Nixon: Yeah?

Haig: —I don’t think the Hanoi thing’s bad at all for us. I think it’s damned—

Nixon: No.

Haig: —good.

Nixon: No.

Haig: It’s positive.

Nixon: No.

Haig: And end on a high, a very high note.

Nixon: I agree. I agree.

Haig: Now, I’ve called Bill Rogers and told him that it looks much better.

Nixon: [chuckles]

Haig: Just to keep him abreast of anything all day, too.

Nixon: But you told him for—did you tell him where we’ve laced Dobrynin? Or you didn’t?

Haig: No, I didn’t—

Nixon: Well, you didn’t need to. But you just told him it looks better and that’s that, huh?

Haig: That’s right.

Nixon: But told him to keep shut? I mean—

Haig: Absolutely. That’s why I—

Nixon: Let’s don’t sound better because, Al, this thing may still blow. You know?

Haig: Oh, it could still blow.

Nixon: Yeah.

Haig: He—you see, we’ve had them working full bore on getting this equipment out there, getting aircraft back from the Koreans—

Nixon: Yeah?

Haig: —in with the Thais—

Nixon: Right.

Haig: —and then there’s the ChiNats—

[Page 238]

Nixon: Right.

Haig: —and the Iranians. And they’ve been working like hell over there.

Nixon: At State?4

Haig: Yes, sir.

Nixon: Well, they must be pleased. Oh, I know we had to tell them, but I just wanted the—I just want them, they ought to know that we don’t want to—

Haig: Well, he doesn’t have any of the details.

Nixon: We don’t want to leak anything to the—to Time or the—or the Washington Post or something. Then, well—

Haig: Oh, no.

Nixon: You know the whole settlement thing is just—if they leak it, that’s one thing, but when we do it, it’s inexcusable.

Haig: Well, we’ve held the line very strongly since this—

Nixon: You understand the reason that I don’t want this leaked is not because of the goddamned enemy. The reason I don’t want it leaked is because it might hurt us.

Haig: Very much so. That’s right.

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Haig: But there’s going to be a lot of stories tomorrow on this Hanoi story.

Nixon: I understand—

Haig: They all have it. They spread it all over town this afternoon.

Nixon: Sure. Sure.

Haig: But it’s really turned out to be a damned good help to us because we can really bludgeon Hanoi for whatever additional nickels we need.

Nixon: Yeah. But doesn’t it say “coalition government”?

Haig: Uh, not really. It says the—

Nixon: What is the story hit at? Yeah?

Haig: It, essentially, it has the outlines of the political settlement. It’s heavy on that Thieu will stay in power, there’ll be two governments, and they’ll negotiate what will ultimately be a coalition, which is true. We wouldn’t put it that way ourselves.

[Page 239]

Nixon: Yeah. But now Henry understands now, Al, that that word, as I said, cannot be used.

Haig: Oh, no.

Nixon: In fact, or, you know—

Haig: We’ll never use it—

Nixon: —or appearance.

Haig: —in our briefings or—

Nixon: Right.

Haig: —or discussion of it.

Nixon: Right. Right. Okay.

Haig: Fine, sir.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation 151–7. No classification marking. Nixon was at Camp David; Haig was in Washington. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon and Haig talked from 12:22 to 12:27 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) The editors transcribed the portions of the conversation printed here specifically for this volume.
  2. See footnote 8, Document 36.
  3. In backchannel message Tohak 77/WHS 2274, October 21, 2120Z, Haig informed Kissinger of his meeting with Dobrynin. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 25, HAK Trip Files, HAK Paris/Saigon Trip Tohak, October 16–23, 1972)
  4. The Department of State negotiated and handled the paperwork involved in the attempt to obtain some of the equipment, mostly military jet aircraft, previously sent to allied nations (among them South Korea, Thailand, Republic of China, and Iran) that the United States wished to send to South Vietnam as part of Operation Enhance Plus.