196. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Chargé Vorontsov
  • Henry A. Kissinger

The meeting lasted about a half hour. I asked Vorontsov to see me on the basis of a report by a New York photographic manufacturer called Mr. Hament,2 who alleged that he had been asked to visit the Soviet Embassy and had been told there of the Soviet interest that President Nixon visit the Soviet Union before the end of October. (Attached is a memorandum3 for the President by Bill Casey, a business associate of Hament’s.)

I opened the meeting by telling Vorontsov that we had had a rather strange communication from a New York photographic manufacturer and wondered whether he knew him. I mentioned Mr. Hament’s name and Mr. Vorontsov said yes he had met him at some social function at the Soviet Embassy. I then told him the substance of Casey’s memorandum and said that it was difficult to know how to respond. If it was a serious communication, we would of course want to make our comments. On the other hand, if it was a general communication which Hament overplayed then we could drop it. The major point was that if it was a serious communication there was some time problem and we could therefore not play it the usual way.

I said that I understood that Vorontsov himself had attended the meetings. Vorontsov said this could not be true since on July 28 he was not in the Embassy. He said that he had only come back from the Soviet Union on July 29 and had only seen Dobrynin at the airport for [Page 598] a farewell exchange of views. He said that it sounded to him as if this was not a serious communication but that Hament had played up a general expression of interest into a very specific proposal. However, he would check it and let me know.

I then told Vorontsov that regardless of whether this particular thing was a serious communication, I wanted to use this occasion to discuss the general subject of a higher level meeting. Vorontsov said that he was, of course, familiar with the subject having read the record of my previous conversations with Dobrynin. (Note: Dobrynin had told me that Vorontsov was the only person in the Embassy who was informed of them. This was done in order to prevent a situation from developing while Dobrynin was out of town and no one present at the Soviet Embassy would have any information.)

Vorontsov said he knew for a fact that the subject was under very active discussion in Moscow at the moment. Indeed, one of the reasons for Dobrynin’s return to the Soviet Union was so that he could participate in these high level meetings with the top leadership. They were probably now at the Crimea for a leisurely discussion and we would no doubt receive an official reply.

I said the difficulty was that we had to make our plans for the fall and winter and that we had kept a number of them in abeyance in order to be able to respond to the possibilities. For example, we had been told that Kosygin would come to the United Nations General Assembly but we had never had any official word. Vorontsov said that he did not have any word on this either, and he doubted that Kosygin knew.

I said, of course, that we had discussed various levels for meetings and various possible occasions but that the matter was in abeyance until we got some further word. I told Vorontsov that it would be highly desirable for us to have some preliminary indication fairly soon. Vorontsov said he would get word to us. He said he certainly felt that his leadership believed now that there were many advantages in high level meetings as was proved by the recent high level visitors to Moscow, particularly Brandt.

After an exchange of pleasantries the meeting ended.

Henry A. Kissinger
  1. 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. The memorandum was sent under an August 22 covering memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon that summarized this meeting with Vorontsov.
  2. Harvey Hament was a New York distributor of films and photographic items who was trying to conclude a contract with the Soviets that would provide him exclusive rights for the marketing of Soviet cultural films and television shows within the United States. For several years, the KGB had been cultivating him unsuccessfully as a channel to the White House. Memoranda from Helms to Haig, November 19 and December 10, suggesting that the Soviets were attempting to use Hament as an “important unofficial channel to the White House” are in the Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Registry Files, Job 80–R01580R, Box 10, S–17.3, Soviet, 1/1/70–12/31/70 and ibid., Box 12, Soviet, respectively.
  3. Attached but not printed.