13. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin’s Call on You

Dobrynin has just returned from Moscow after an absence of several weeks; he will presumably have a message from the Soviet leaders. If it is a written message of any substance—he may provide a translation—I recommend that you not react on the spot, but tell him it will be studied and answered in due course.

Whether written or oral, Dobrynin’s line will probably be

to assure you of Soviet desires to do business, especially on strategic weapons,
to express concern that we are not sufficiently responsive to the conciliatory stance displayed by the Soviets since January 20,
to leave an implication that we should not pass up the present opportunity, and
to establish a direct channel between you and the Russian leaders.

I recommend that your approach should be

to be polite, but aloof;
to show willingness to be responsive when they have concrete propositions to make, but not to let the Soviets force the pace merely by offers to talk without indications of substance;
to convey concern that a Berlin crisis could throw a shadow over our relations;2
to make clear that we believe progress depends on specific settlements, not personal diplomacy. Summits should come at the end of careful preparation.3

You should be aware that Dobrynin is a friendly and outgoing individual who has long enjoyed close personal contact with leading American officials.

While he is a member of the Soviet Central Committee and has some access to the top Moscow leaders, he is not part of the in-group that makes decisions.

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His reports probably do carry weight in Moscow, but his bosses also seem to run a check on his reporting through the sizeable KGB establishment in their Embassy here.

Dobrynin speaks English quite well, but his comprehension is imperfect; consequently, important points must be made in simple words and relatively slowly.

I attach:

  • —recommended talking points (Tab A)
  • —Secretary Rogers’ account of his own conversation last Thursday (Tab B)

Tab A

Talking Points Prepared by the National Security Council Staff4


I. Strategic Weapons Talks

We are reviewing the subject as part of our priority examination of all our major security problems.
We have noted Soviet expressions of readiness to begin talks.
We believe that negotiations that go to the very heart of our (and their) interests should bear a proper relationship to the crucial issues that endanger peace. Our reading of history indicates that almost all crises have been caused by political conditions, not by the arms race as such. We have no preconditions, but believe one cannot engage in mutually beneficial arms talks while major crises fester in which we and they might be pitted against each other.5 You are thinking especially of the Middle East and Vietnam. We think it would be dangerous if arms talks dulled our efforts to cope with threats to the peace.
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II. Berlin

Any crisis there now would be artificial; we see no justification for it and have no interest in confrontation.
We do have a vital interest in the integrity and viability of the city.6
We know of no infringement on Soviet interests by any actions in the Western sectors of the city on the part of any of our allies.
You are going to Berlin to affirm our interests and our responsibilities.7
(Optional if Conversation Warrants) A crisis8 now would place a heavy burden on our9 relations.

III. Middle East

We recognize that the Soviet Union has interests in the region. So have we. The legitimate interests of all deserve to be safeguarded. Efforts to promote one’s own interests and ambitions at someone else’s expense will lead to confrontation not settlement.
We have no desire to get drawn into the wars and conflicts of the area; we assume the Soviet Union has no such desire either.10
We are prepared to participate constructively in talks that give promise of leading somewhere.11 Talks for talks’ sake may simply embolden those who favor recourse to force.
We are convinced that there can be no progress, nor faith in the process of negotiation unless it is understood by all that all the parties in the Middle East acquire tangible guarantees of their security.

IV. Vietnam

We seek an honorable peace for all concerned; we have no wish to humiliate Hanoi and do not intend to see Saigon or ourselves humiliated.12
You will not be the first President to lose a war; therefore you intend to end the war one way or the other.13 (This is deliberately ambiguous.)
Vital interests of the United States and the Soviet Union are not in conflict in Vietnam. We do, between us, have a responsibility to keep it that way. Which is another way of saying we both have an interest in getting the war ended.14
We would like to see the Soviet Union exert its influence on its friends in Hanoi, who depend heavily on Soviet support, though we recognize, of course, the delicacy of its position. But if that fails, we do not exclude that others who have an interest could be enlisted to bring about progress toward a settlement.15

Tab B

Department of State Submission for the President’s Evening Reading16


  • Call by Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin

In response to his request, I received Ambassador Dobrynin this afternoon.17 He came specifically to inform me that he was under instructions from his government to seek an appointment with you, at your convenience, but hopefully within the next day or two. He gave no indication that he was carrying a message but merely stated that he had been asked by his government to convey to you its current views on the most important international issues. He planned to tell you how the Soviet Government presently views U.S.-Soviet relations and how these relations might develop in the future. Your views on the questions raised, he said, would be appreciated. I said I would be in touch with him as soon as I had any information to pass on.

I took advantage of his call to express our concern over the possibility of another Tet offensive18 as well as our concern over developments involving Berlin. Ambassador Dobrynin seemed unaware of [Page 36] any danger signals in Viet-Nam. He simply repeated his government’s position that the Soviet Union would continue to be helpful with respect to the negotiations on Viet-Nam, assuming that the U.S. accepted the equality of all participants in those negotiations.

On Berlin, he was at pains to underline that the U.S. should not misread developments there. The Soviet Union did not wish to do anything to jeopardize relations with the U.S. What was happening with respect to Berlin was merely a reaction to the FRG decision to convene the Bundesversammlung there. He added that the Soviet Union did not want Berlin and that it was not asking that the East Germans should get it. At the same time, the Soviet Union is not prepared to give West Berlin to the FRG. Ambassador Dobrynin also underlined that actions taken by East Germany were not in any way related to your planned visit to Berlin.

With respect to the Middle East, he indicated that the Soviet Government evidently does not intend to reply formally to the previous Administration’s last communication on that subject. He said that the Soviets were prepared to discuss this matter in detail both bilaterally and in a Four-Power context. Discussions could take place in New York, Moscow and here.

Ambassador Dobrynin also said that the Soviet Union remained ready to initiate discussions on the limitation of offensive and defensive missile systems. He thought it unfortunate, however, if this matter were to be linked with progress on other issues.

I emphasized during the course of the conversation that we hoped the Soviet Union would be helpful with respect to Viet-Nam and that the Soviet Government should advise East Germany to play Berlin in a low key.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 340, Subject Files, USSR Memcons Dobrynin/President 2/17/69. Confidential; Nodis. Sent for action.
  2. See Document 3.
  3. Nixon underlined most of this paragraph.
  4. On February 15, Rogers also sent Nixon a memorandum of talking points for his meeting with Dobrynin, which were similar but more detailed than those printed as Tab A. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 709, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. I)
  5. Nixon underlined these sentences and also highlighted and checked this paragraph.
  6. Nixon underlined this sentence.
  7. Nixon visited West Berlin on February 27 as part of his 8-day trip to Europe. For his remarks on arrival at Tempelhof Airport in West Berlin, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 153–155.
  8. Nixon underlined this word.
  9. Nixon underlined this word.
  10. Nixon underlined most of this sentence.
  11. Nixon underlined this sentence.
  12. Nixon underlined the second part of this sentence.
  13. Nixon underlined the second half of this sentence and highlighted and checked this paragraph.
  14. Nixon underlined most of this paragraph.
  15. Nixon underlined most of this sentence.
  16. Confidential. Drafted by Adolph Dubs (EUR/SOV) on February 13.
  17. February 13.
  18. Reference is to the possibility of a 1969 North Vietnamese and Vietcong offensive in South Vietnam during the Tet lunar holidays in February 1968. Nixon underlined “Tet offensive” and “developments involving Berlin” in this sentence.