177. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin
- Henry A. Kissinger
The conversation came about because Dobrynin had sent me an Aide Mémoire2 while I was in San Clemente in reply to the conversation I had had with him on June 23, 1970.3 In this reply, the Soviet Government indicated that they would be prepared to make an agreement at Vienna on ABMs and on the issue of accidental and provocative attacks, but that they did not think it likely that an agreement could be reached on the limitations of offensive weapons at Vienna. I wanted to get clarification on that point.
I deliberately conducted the meeting in a somewhat cool and aloof manner. I asked Dobrynin how he explained the first section of his Aide Mémoire. Did it mean that agreement on offensive weapons was impossible or that agreement would be very difficult? Dobrynin said that in view of all the important obligations that they had raised, the offensive limitations would have to be dealt with in two stages—an agreement in principle to be followed by detailed negotiations. He did not believe that this could be accomplished in the three weeks that were remaining in Vienna. He did want me to know, however, that the Soviet leaders had shown their good faith by instructing Semyonov first, to stay in Vienna at least until August 1st, and secondly, to concentrate for a while on the provocative and accidental attack aspect in order to give us a chance to develop our position.
I said to Dobrynin that we were going to have a meeting the next day to consider various aspects of the matter, particularly whether we could agree to a separate ABM ban. I also told him that I noticed that the last two paragraphs of his Aide Mémoire explicitly established the concept of linkage which they had strenuously rejected the year before. Dobrynin replied that they had become convinced by the persuasiveness of my argument that this was a correct course. We left this part of [Page 545] the conversation with my saying that I would let Dobrynin know after the meeting of our advisers whether we would agree to a separate ABM ban. Dobrynin added that, if that were done, the agreement could be signed later on this summer by the Foreign Ministers, perhaps at the United Nations. I said that this was a matter we could discuss after there had been an agreement in principle.
Dobrynin then raised the subject of the Middle East in a much more conciliatory way than in the previous conversation where he said that the Soviets were practically out of it. He said he couldn’t understand why we made the statements we did in San Clemente.4 He thought that at such a delicate moment, it would have been best for us to keep quiet, but he wanted me to know that the Soviet Union sought no confrontation and that the Soviet leaders were eager to have a political settlement. I responded that somehow or other I had gained the impression from our last conversation that he thought that now that the US was negotiating with the Middle Eastern parties directly, the Soviet Union was absolved of any direct responsibility. Dobrynin replied that if he gave that impression, he regretted it. He wanted me to know that he was fully authorized to talk to me at any moment and to come to an agreement with me. I said that I did not have enough time to discuss the Middle East at this particular moment, but that when I gave him our answer on the ABM proposal, I would let him also know about our thinking on the Middle East. Dobrynin again effusively reiterated his desire to have an understanding with us, and we let the matter drop there.
It would be difficult to exaggerate the change in tone between the conversation on June 23rd and this conversation on July 7th. Dobrynin was conciliatory, effusive, and obviously taken aback by the various comments that had been made about the Middle East.[Page 546]
- Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Geopolitical File, Box TS 36, Soviet Union, Chronological File, 7/70–1/71. Top Secret; Sensitive. The conversation was held in the Map Room at the White House.↩
- Attached. Sent to Kissinger from Dobrynin, through Colonel Kennedy, while Kissinger was in San Clemente.↩
- See Document 171.↩
- On July 1, while in San Clemente, Nixon was interviewed by the American Broadcasting Company and talked about a variety of foreign policy issues, including the Middle East. A text of these comments is in Public Papers: Nixon, 1970, pp. 543–559.↩
- Top Secret; Eyes Only.↩