183. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin
  • Mr. Henry A. Kissinger

The meeting was requested by Ambassador Dobrynin. He was extremely jovial and friendly, and opened the conversation by asking me whether I could recommend any good movies. I said no, I very rarely went. He said he had read reports that “Patton” was very popular in [Page 565] the White House. I replied that I had seen these reports also. He asked how I compared “Patton” with the “Battle of Kursk” which he had shown at the Motion Picture Association. I told him they were not easy to compare. “Patton” was about a romantic hero and stressed the role of the individual while the “Battle of Kursk” stressed the role of matériel, not of the individual.

Dobrynin said the only individual who really counted in World War II in the Soviet Union was Stalin, and his great attribute was that he had absolutely iron nerves. He was the one senior leader who refused to leave Moscow even though the Germans were only 10 miles away and, by this act of defiance, he rallied a lot of doubters. Also, Stalin had unbelievable powers of concentration. He, Dobrynin, was a young aide in the Foreign Office and he remembers that on the way to the Tehran conference, Stalin gave orders to be left alone in his compartment. He was not shown any documents and he sat there for three days, as far as anyone knew just staring out of the window, thinking and concentrating. Then, from the Soviet point of view, he gave an absolutely masterly performance at Tehran.

Dobrynin also told me that Stalin personally picked the Soviet Chief of Protocol in 1943 at the Tehran Conference because there was a young Soviet diplomat who knew a Churchillian idiosyncrasy which was always to ask for three Scottish tunes from visiting bands that no one had ever heard of in order to embarrass them. The young diplomat found out and when Churchill requested these tunes, the Soviet honor guard was ready to play it. Stalin asked who had thought this up and immediately appointed him Chief of Protocol in the Foreign Office even though he was only 30 years old at the time. Dobrynin said that he turned out to be the best Chief of Protocol the Soviet Foreign Office had ever had. He added that being Chief of Protocol in the Soviet Union was even more difficult than here because we had only one man in charge, while after Stalin, placing the Soviet leaders in their proper order was an act of political significance.

European Security

Dobrynin then turned to the subject at hand. He read me a Note Verbale which his government had asked him to transmit to us. The text is as follows:

“In continuation of our exchange of views on the questions touched upon at our meeting of June 102 I would like to say the following to be transmitted to President Nixon.

[Page 566]

“The affirmations made in the course of the above meeting by President Nixon and, on his instructions, by you, Dr. Kissinger, concerning the interest of the US in maintaining the territorial status quo in Europe and the absence of intentions on the part of the US to act counter to this or in general to take any steps in the direction of aggravation of the situation in Europe, have been noted in Moscow. Likewise noted in Moscow was President Nixon’s statement to the effect that the US Government recognizes special interests of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe and has no intention to ignore or undermine them due to the unrealistic nature of such a course. Those are, without doubt, realistic judgments.

“Likewise, the Soviet Union is convinced that recognition of the realities that have come into being in Europe, constitute that necessary foundation upon which a stable peace on the continent as well as in the world at large can and must be built.

“An important step on the way to strengthening peace in Europe would be speedy preparation and convocation of an all-European conference on problems of security and cooperation in Europe as proposed by the Soviet Union and other European Socialist countries.

“It should be emphasized that the Memorandum adopted by the Governments of European Socialist countries in Budapest on June 223 takes into account also the wishes of other possible participants in such a conference expressed in the course of bilateral and multilateral consultations. Taken into account, too, are the wishes expressed by the American side both with regard to participation of the US in the all-European conference and regarding questions to be discussed at the conference or in connection with it.

“Taking into consideration, in particular, the wishes of the US Government the Soviet Government together with the other Governments which adopted the said Memorandum, have come to the conclusion that consideration of the question of reducing foreign armed forces on the territory of European states would serve the interests of détente and security in Europe.

“In our view, this question could be discussed in a body on questions of security and cooperation in Europe which is proposed to be established at the all-European conference. At the same time we are prepared to discuss this question also in another manner acceptable to interested states, outside of the framework of the conference. Such an approach opens wide possibilities in selecting appropriate methods of [Page 567] discussing this question and takes into account the experience that has already been accumulated in considering outstanding problems of such kind, in particular between the USSR and the US.

“The questions of man’s environment, which the American side is interested in, could be, in our opinion, discussed within item 2 of the proposed agenda for the all-European conference.

“We proceed from the assumption that in view of these clarifications the United States should have no reason for delaying further convocation of the all-European conference by way of presenting various preconditions. We hope that the US Government will adopt a more constructive position and will thereby contribute to making the preparation of the all-European conference a more practical business.”

I asked what the phrase meant that in connection with a mutual balanced force reduction, an approach “opens wide possibilities in selecting appropriate methods of discussing this question” on a bilateral basis. He responded that the choice of appropriate forums could be determined after we had agreed in principle. He said he recognized that he owed me some answers to other questions, and they would be forthcoming within the next few weeks. I told him, of course, that I had to check my answer with the President, and I wanted to remind him that I had listed European Security as one of the three topics at our last conversation. I thought the tone of his note was constructive, and we would try to handle our reply in a constructive manner. I would let him know what the response would be.


Dobrynin then turned the conversation to SALT. He said that we had not yet presented our formal proposals and he wondered when they could expect them. I replied that they would have them certainly the next day, but they would be along the lines foreshadowed in my recent conversation. He said he recognized that we would not split off ABMs as a separate agreement and asked about the accidental war question. I told him that Smith was under instructions not to split off anything, but that I would be willing to explore with him separating out of the accidental war question those issues which concerned only our two countries, such as unauthorized launches of missiles or mass flights of bombers, from issues that affected third countries, such as the note Semyonov had handed to Smith at a concert. I stated that there might be a possibility of a limited technical agreement along these lines, but that Smith was not authorized to negotiate it. This would have to be done between Dobrynin and me. Dobrynin said he would come back to me on that.

Southeast Asia

Dobrynin then raised the question of Laos. He said he had read press reports that we were planning a Cambodian-type operation there. [Page 568] What was there to such reports? I replied, “Anatoliy, you wouldn’t believe me if you suspect us of planning a military operation. Nothing I say will convince you. If we are not planning one, it would be stupid for me to say anything, so I will not talk about military operations.”

He said he didn’t think we would launch one, but that there was a chance that the South Vietnamese would launch one. I asked him why he raised the question. He replied that he wanted me to understand that the Soviet Government attached the greatest importance to the neutrality of Laos. He thought we could work cooperatively for a solution of that problem and he wanted us to know that this was the spirit of the Soviet Government. I stated we were in favor of both Laos and Cambodia being neutral. Dobrynin said Cambodia was a much tougher problem and perhaps the way to get at it was first to assure the neutrality of Laos. I said I’d always be willing to listen to specific proposals.

He then asked about Thieu’s readiness to have a coalition government. I replied our position on that subject was well known, but that I would hardly have talked to Le Duc Tho if we were not prepared to have serious discussions. It was up to Hanoi to meet us with equal seriousness.

German-Soviet Talks

Dobrynin then asked about the conversation with Scheel.4 I replied that we had done nothing to discourage Scheel and we were in general in favor of a relaxation of tensions. He asked me for my personal views of the document. I said that I thought that Gromyko was a very good negotiator, but I repeated that we would do nothing to discourage the Germans and that we in general favored a relaxation of tensions.

Dobrynin said that he would be in touch with me when he had other things to communicate and he hoped I would do the same.

The meeting concluded after about an hour.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 489, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1970, Part 1, Vol. 1. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. The conversation was held in the Map Room at the White House. Under cover of a July 21 memorandum, Kissinger sent Nixon this memorandum of conversation and a summary of his conversation with Dobrynin. (Ibid.)
  2. See Document 168.
  3. The Foreign Ministers of the Warsaw Pact nations met in Budapest June 21–22 and approved a memorandum on the holding of an all-European conference to deal with security and cooperation.
  4. Foreign Minister Walter Scheel of the Federal Republic of Germany visited Washington July 17–18. During his visit, Scheel discussed the talks that would begin at the end of July between the FRG and the Soviet Union on the mutual renunciation of force.