16. Memorandum From the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Toon) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
You have asked for my personal assessment of the meeting today with Dobrynin.2 The following views represent precisely that—my personal assessment—and I have not discussed them with any of my principals here.
- What Dobrynin told the President privately is extremely important. What he had to say to the President was clearly the considered view of the collective leadership—not just Kosygin but Brezhnev and Podgorny as well.
- His remarks indicated clearly that the leadership is anxious to press on with the missile talks. This may be because they are under considerable pressure to assign more resources to the military if in fact we go ahead with our ABM program. They may hope by an early start of the missile talks to delay decisions here and thus to cope with the pressures on them from their own military.
- It is obvious that the leadership was intrigued with the President’s reference to “negotiations, not confrontation” but is uneasy as to the real meaning of linkage between arms control talks and political issues. The Soviets may have suspected that the President, by his reference to linkage, was reverting to the posture of the early Eisenhower years when we attempted to condition progress in arms control on the German issue. I think as a result of the conversation today the Soviets now have a clearer understanding as to the President’s view—i.e., that progress on Viet Nam and on the Middle East or lack of progress in these areas must inevitably influence what is possible in the arms control field.
- On Viet Nam, it seems to me that Dobrynin was trying to make clear that we must deal with the NLF if there is to be any progress at Paris.
- On Berlin, I think the President’s remarks were useful in that they conveyed to Dobrynin our concern lest tough action by the East Germans result in a nasty situation and a confrontation with us. I am [Page 49]not sure, however, that Dobrynin understands clearly that a blow-up in Berlin would seriously affect the outcome of NPT as well as our own decision to proceed with missile talks. Perhaps we should follow this up with a further meeting in the Department, probably toward the end of the President’s tour when we may have a clear understanding as to the action contemplated by the other side. My own view is that there will not be serious problems around Berlin until the President departs that city but that we can probably expect unpleasantness immediately after his departure.
Since it is widely known that Dobrynin called on the President and because of the traditional suspicion on the part of our Allies as to what goes on between us, I think it important for us to get the President’s permission to summarize the talk in the NAC or at least convey a summary to the more important of our Allies on a more restricted basis.3
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 1 US–USSR. Secret; Nodis. In a covering memorandum for the record, Toon wrote, “After consultation with Mr. Kissinger and Mr. Ziegler, I called Dobrynin to inform him that the White House would make a brief statement on his call on the President, identifying the participants in the meeting, and indicating that the meeting was a constructive one. I told Dobrynin that there would be no reference to the fact that Ambassador had met privately with the President.”↩
- The meeting was on February 17; see Document 14.↩
- On February 22, the Department sent telegram 28290 to Harlan Cleveland, U.S. Permanent Representative on the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, authorizing Cleveland “to convey to NAC at earliest opportunity following highlights of conversation between President and Dobrynin.” A summary of the meeting followed. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL US–USSR)↩