145. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger

Dobrynin opened the conversation by asking whether there had been some response to his démarche of 10 days ago.2 I said, “Yes, as a matter of fact that is why I asked you to come to see me.” I said we had taken the communication from the Soviet Government with extreme seriousness, as we do every other communication from Moscow. We had, in fact, begun discussions with the Israelis about a ceasefire and had obtained Israeli approval. But within 24 hours of calling them in to make it final and to establish definite time limits, we learned about the introduction of Soviet SA–3 missiles and Soviet combat personnel. I had warned Dobrynin about the serious consequences of such a step. The move was reminiscent of some tactics employed several years previously on the occasion of the Cuban crisis. The Soviet Government had to learn that the President could not be dealt with on this basis.

As a result, the President had canceled his request to the Israelis for a ceasefire, and the matter was now off. If the Soviet Union wanted to make a more equitable proposal some other time, we would be willing to consider it.

Dobrynin made some half-hearted comments to the effect that he didn’t know anything about these missiles. But if they were defensive, why did we object? I said, “Because it might be that the ceasefire was just being used to improve the Egyptian military position—to improve Egypt’s defenses. Once they were fully installed, Egypt could break the ceasefire and Israel would be at a great disadvantage.” If the Soviet Union wanted to make a more equitable proposal, we would be willing to consider it.

Dobrynin said he would have to go to his government and come back with new instructions. He underlined Moscow’s great eagerness to dampen down the Middle East situation, and he said he hoped that Secretary Rogers would reply soon to his overture of some weeks ago to restart the bilateral negotiations.

[Page 448]

I then made a general comment. I said that we were at an important turning point. We were prepared to deal with the Soviet Union precisely, correctly, unemotionally, and thoroughly in the direction of détente, if the Soviet Union would forgo its policy of attempting to squeeze us at every opportunity. For example, when we recommended the ceasefire to Israel, we did so even though we knew the military situation favored our friends. The introduction of Soviet military personnel could only lead to a Vietnam for the Soviet Union, since all we had to do was send in equipment which they could only match by personnel. Nevertheless, we were not trying to take advantage of the situation.3

I could not say the same for the Soviet behavior in Laos, I continued. We were very disappointed by the Prime Minister’s reply. Dobrynin said we completely misunderstood their role in Laos; they were only being kept informed. They were not making any suggestions and they thought, in any event, that the figures we gave for North Vietnamese troops in Laos were much too high.

Dobrynin then said that he had had a report from Paris that my conversations there were leading towards a positive direction. I said he had to check with his friends—that I would not give him any comment.4

Dobrynin then said the Soviet Union was eager to get the bilateral talks on the Middle East5 started. I mentioned that we were prepared to talk seriously on all issues and that we were ready to move to higher levels of conversations if there were progress, but that the Soviet Union could not continue to press in other areas without the most serious consequences.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 36, Geopolitical File, 1964–1977, Soviet Union, Chronological File, 3/69–6/70. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. The conversation was held in the library of the White House residence. Kissinger forwarded this memorandum to President Nixon on March 26.
  2. See Document 140.
  3. Nixon highlighted this paragraph.
  4. Nixon highlighted this paragraph.
  5. Nixon underlined “Middle East.”