228. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Dr. Henry A. Kissinger and Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin
The meeting was initialed at my request and began with my handing Dobrynin a copy of an oral note2 dealing with the installations in Cuba. The purpose of the note was to tie down our understanding of the Soviet base. Rather than putting the issues in the form of questions they were phrased in the form of an understanding of what we considered a base.
Ambassador Dobrynin then read over the note (Tab A) and said that the only point that seemed bothersome was the point about “communica-facilities,” but he would have to await further instructions from Moscow.
Ambassador Dobrynin added that Tass would soon publish a statement repeating in effect the content of the oral note of October 63 denying any Soviet intent to establish a base in Cuba. I said that we would judge it by the criteria of our oral note. Later in the evening Dobrynin called to inquire whether the point about repair facilities [Page 682] applied to all Soviet ships or only those capable of offensive action. I replied that it applied to the ships described in the note.
We then discussed the possibility of a meeting between Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko and the President. Ambassador Dobrynin asked whether it should take place before or after the Foreign Ministers meetings with Secretary of State Rogers. I replied that my instincts suggested that the meeting should take place afterwards. Ambassador Dobrynin then asked what date was convenient and I suggested the afternoon of October 23rd following the President’s speech at the UN. Ambassador Dobrynin said that this was in general acceptable. I then told the Ambassador to make sure that during these conversations no mention would be made of the US–USSR Summit meeting or, in any event, to be sure that I received advance word in order to provide me with an opportunity to put the issue into formal channels. Ambassador Dobrynin agreed and further agreed to come to Washington before the meeting of the President and Foreign Minister Gromyko so that we could coordinate on and agree to the agenda.
Ambassador Dobrynin then turned to a general discussion of US-Soviet relations. He said it was hard to exaggerate the concern of his leadership in Moscow. Their feeling was that the United States had already decided to adopt a hard line and it was whipping up a propaganda campaign in order to get larger defense budgets and perhaps affect the election. He said that the campaign on the Mideast was out of all proportion to the provocation. He called my attention to the fact that the Soviet Union had never been part of the cease-fire. He said that when Secretary Rogers first told him about the cease-fire standstill in conjunction with the US proposal for Middle East Peace negotiations, that he had asked Secretary Rogers whether these items were linked together. Secretary Rogers had replied that it was desirable “but not” indispensable that the cease-fire and the negotiations be linked together. The Ambassador stated that, therefore, the Soviet Government did not understand why the U.S. suddenly decided to effect a linkage. Ambassador Dobrynin then said that Assistant Secretary Sisco, in the presence of Secretary Rogers, had told him there was no linkage between these elements and that, in any event, the Soviet Union had only been informed of our understanding of the cease-fire for informational purposes. The Ambassador added that the Soviet Government was seriously debating whether to start a press campaign against us along similar lines.
Ambassador Dobrynin said that he hoped that the U.S. Government did not draw the conclusion from the Middle East crisis that the Soviet Union could be intimidated by a show of United States force. He asked whether we really thought that one additional U.S. carrier in the Eastern Mediterranean would make the Soviet Union back down. [Page 683] Further, Ambassador Dobrynin stated he could understand that the United States might claim for propaganda purposes that the Soviet Union controlled the Syrians but that if we really believed that to be the case then we were in bad shape. He continued that if the Soviet Union acted when its national interest was involved then it would act with great force and it would be hard to dissuade them. I replied that we were not children, that we looked at the situation with great care. Having observed Soviet military actions in the last decade and a half we knew that when the Soviet Union used its forces it did so massively. But that was not the point. The point was that we were asking the same questions about the Soviet leaders that he allegedly was asking about our leaders. I reminded him that we had offered a Summit meeting on two occasions during the summer without ever receiving a formal reply. In response there was the massive move forward of Egyptian and Soviet missiles along the canal and the massive deception in Cuba. Ambassador Dobrynin began to explain that the Cuban situation was “not clear.” I interrupted saying if there is to be any sense in our meetings we must not kid one another. I added, “you know what is there and I know what is there even though we may not say it, so let us not discuss it any further.”
With respect to the Egyptian missiles, Ambassador Dobrynin called my attention to the phrase that there were no Soviet personnel with the missiles in Egypt. I said that perhaps he meant “military” personnel and that they had put them into civilian clothes. He replied that the phrase was intended to mean that there were no Soviet personnel.
Ambassador Dobrynin then appeared to bluster stating that the Soviet Union had a lot of experience in dealing with Americans and they thought their system was more permanent than ours and therefore if things came to that point they would wait for 6 years until President Nixon was out of office. I replied that perhaps the inference that the press campaign came from us was started by people who did not know anything about American affairs. Ambassador Dobrynin said “no” it was the consensus of all their senior officials that relations with the United States had never been worse since the Cuban missile crisis. I said that I could only repeat what I had said to him previously. We were at a turning point. We recognized very well that neither side could gain anything in an arms race but if present trends continued they would force us into an enlarged military budget. He might well tell me that his leaders could wait six years and this might be true; however, President Nixon did not become President by not being persistent. Nevertheless, it did not seem sensible to exchange protestations on the issue of greater endurance. The problem was how to turn this present impasse into a more fruitful direction and, therefore, to turn our attention to that.[Page 684]
Ambassador Dobrynin said that it was important to discuss the Middle East and related issues. I replied again that this was not the time to do it. But that if they were ever willing to take up our offer for serious bilateral talks between Ambassador Dobrynin and me we would make every effort to proceed. The Ambassador told me that the memorandum he had handed to me, which is attached at Tab B, was written only for the President and would receive no publicity and be referred to nowhere else.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 490, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1970, Vol. II. Top Secret; Sensitive. The conversation was held in the Map Room at the White House.↩
- Printed at Tab A.↩
- See Document 224.↩
- No classification marking.↩
- No classification marking.↩