11. Memorandum From the Ambassador to the Soviet Union (Thompson) to Secretary of State Rogers 1
I had lunch with Henry Kissinger today. While there the President sent for both of us and chatted with us while having his lunch at his desk. The following are the highlights:
I urged that we proceed as rapidly as possible to set up arrangements for strategic missile talks with the Soviets although obviously not until he returned from his European trip.2 I argued briefly with the President and at greater length earlier with Henry that we not attempt to tie the start of talks with political concessions from the Soviets. I thought that to so do might have the opposite effect than the one we intended. I got the impression that the President was inclined to agree. I also suggested that we drop the idea of agreeing to a set of principles before starting the talks.
I told the President I thought we should be careful not to feed Soviet suspicions about the possibility of our ganging up with Communist [Page 29]China against them. In reply to his question I said I was not referring to his public statements on this matter as the Soviets would understand that we would pursue our national interests. Rather I was thinking of any hints or actions that indicated something was going on under the table. As a specific example I mentioned the possible shifting of our talks with the Chinese in Prague from the present location which the Soviets have doubtless bugged to our respective Embassies. (I understand the Chinese have turned this down.)
The President referred to the importance of close understanding between you and Kissinger. I gathered that both he and Henry were disturbed by press reports of [friction] between the Department and the NSC staff.
The President said he was not fanatical about the idea of summit talks. Nevertheless he thought that summit talks with the Soviets would eventually take place and asked for my thoughts on timing. I said I thought it was important to proceed first with one or two important problems. Ratification of the Non-Proliferation Treaty would be useful but I thought it would also be wise at least to have started the Missile talks. If they succeeded, this would create a favorable atmosphere—if they got stuck perhaps the President could resolve the difficulty on his level.
In this connection I said I thought some changes in the Soviet leadership were quite possible before the year was out.
The President asked if I would help in the planning of any eventual summit meeting with the Soviets and I said I would be happy to do so.
In my earlier talk with Henry I said that if Missile talks with the Soviets were set, I thought this would diminish the likelihood of the Soviets stirring up trouble in Berlin over the meeting there of the Bundesversammlung.3
The President said he had not met Ambassador Dobrynin. I said I thought the top Soviet leaders had confidence in his judgment and that he had never deceived me, unless he in fact knew about the missiles in Cuba, which I did not think was the case. The President asked if there was any reason why he should not see Dobrynin after the forthcoming European trip. I said I thought it was quite proper. He said he might ask him to an informal lunch.
The President referred to a talk we had in Moscow in 1967 when I told him the Soviets were prejudiced against him. He asked what their present attitude was. I said that they had been relatively correct in their attitude during the election campaign and since. They had [Page 30]been impressed by his conduct of the campaign and had referred favorably to his remarks about negotiations. They were, however, always suspicious and would be examining carefully his first moves in the field of foreign affairs.