171. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin
  • Mr. Henry A. Kissinger

The conversation came about in the following way. First, there were indications that the Soviet delegation wanted to wind up the SALT talks in Vienna. Secondly, Gerry Smith was pressing for new instructions authorizing him to offer a more limited option. Third, the President did not want the settlement to be arrived at in Vienna but, if possible, at a summit meeting. He asked me to find out from Dobrynin what the Soviet real intentions were, especially with respect to the conversations we had had in April2 prior to Dobrynin’s departure for Moscow where it was agreed that, if possible, if there should be a deadlock in Vienna, we would break it at a summit.

I saw Dobrynin in the Map Room of the White House and said to him that we were at a point where some decisions had to be made with respect to instructions for the Vienna delegation and that it would help us to understand Soviet intentions properly. I said Semyonov’s suggestion of an early end of the Vienna phase could lead to three interpretations: (1) the Soviet Union did not want an agreement on SALT this year at all; (2) the Soviet Union wanted an agreement at Vienna and was using this device in order to elicit a different American proposal; and (3) the Soviet Union wanted an agreement but not at Vienna [Page 529] and was stalemating the talks there in order to permit the other leaders to settle the issue. I would appreciate Dobrynin’s guidance.

Dobrynin, who was noticeably more businesslike and less cordial than at previous meetings, said the first interpretation was clearly out of the question. The Soviet Union did want an agreement on SALT even though our two positions were not yet close enough to set a definite date. As for Vienna, it was the Soviet Union’s judgment that an agreement, including offensive and defensive weapons, could not be negotiated in the time available at Vienna. As for the third interpretation, he was without instructions and he would have to inquire in Moscow.

Dobrynin asked what I thought of an agreement confined to ABM. I said I saw no reason to change our position since the last time we met. I also mentioned to Dobrynin that I had been waiting for him to give me some answers to questions I had put to him on the Sequoia.3 Dobrynin said that I have so many questions that it was hard for him to know to which I was referring. I said that this was the first time that I had seen Dobrynin miss a point, and I was particularly concerned about the Middle East. Dobrynin did not take the bait about the suggestion of Soviet troop withdrawal in case of a settlement. Instead, he said, “We offered you bilateral talks. We made a major proposal. We considered it a significant concession. In return, we have had no reply for three weeks, and then you make a unilateral overture. It is your problem now, and we are out of it. We suspect that you may have to come back to us later, but whether our concessions will still be open then remains to be seen.”

I said that the American initiatives should be seen as a corollary to the two-power discussions, not as a substitute for them. Dobrynin replied that I well knew his attitude towards Sisco’s conduct of the negotiations and until we started getting serious, there wasn’t really too much hope for progress. At any rate, it was no longer the Soviet Union’s problem and was ours. Dobrynin promised me an answer by the time we returned from San Clemente.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 489, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1970, Part 2, Vol. I. Top Secret; Sensitive. The conversation was held in the Map Room at the White House.
  2. See Documents 150 and 152.
  3. See Document 168.
  4. Nixon and Kissinger were in San Clemente June 26–July 6. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary)