35. Talking Points1


I plan to utilize the following points in discussing efforts to resolve the Vietnam conflict:
The President has just completed a thorough going review of the Vietnam situation in its fullest world-wide context.
The President is convinced that it is in no one’s interest to have an outcome that would encourage Mainland China’s aggressive drive.
The President has therefore decided that he will make a major effort to achieve a reasonable settlement.
The President views this point in history with the utmost gravity, especially since he is eager to move into an era of conciliation with the Soviet Union on a broad front. He is willing to begin talks on strategic arms limitations. He has agreed not to threaten the status quo in Europe. He is willing to consider meetings at the highest levels.
However, the President believes that an acceptable settlement to the Vietnamese conflict is the key to everything. Therefore, concurrently, the President proposes to designate a high-level representative to meet with a North Vietnamese negotiator at any location, including Moscow, designated by the Soviet Union to seek agreement with a designated North Vietnamese negotiator on a military as well as a political settlement. The President visualizes that this negotiation would be conducted distinct from the existing Paris framework in order to avoid the sluggish and heretofore cumbersome mechanisms that have evolved in Paris.
The President will give this peace effort just six weeks to succeed. (Handwritten insert by RN: “perhaps 2 months is more realistic.”)
The President will ask nothing of the Soviet Union inconsistent with its position as a senior communist power. He expects that nothing will be asked of the U.S. inconsistent with its world-wide obligations.
If this negotiation is successful, the President will conclude that the major danger to war is being removed and he would expect progress in many areas.
The President is prepared to repeat this proposition to the Soviet Ambassador personally if there is any interest in the Kremlin.
Our proposal to Hanoi will be conciliatory embracing both political and military measures for ending hostilities.
The object of the Vietnam negotiations would be as follows:
Definition of Objective: To reach prompt agreement with the North Vietnamese on the general shape of a political-military settlement, specifically:
Military—Agreement that there will be mutual withdrawal of all external forces, and a ceasefire based on a mutual withdrawal.

Political—(a) Agreement that guarantees the NLF freedom from reprisals and the right to participate fully in the political and social life of the country in exchange for agreement by NLF and DRV to forego further attempts to achieve their political objectives by force and violence, and (b) agreement that there will be a separate and independent SVN for at least five years.

(Handwritten note by RN: “a date for new elections.”)

Mechanism for supervising and verifying the carrying out of the settlement. The agreement with the DRV should not attempt to spell out the manner in which the general principles agreed to will be implemented. That should be left for Paris.
If the special U.S. and North Vietnamese negotiators can achieve an agreement in principle, the negotiations would shift back to Paris for final implementation. The whole process should be completed before the end of August. If the special talks prove unsuccessful, it is difficult to visualize the progress which we both seek and the outlook for improved U.S.-Soviet relations would be seriously jeopardized.
The President realizes that this proposal represents a most complex and difficult choice for all parties concerned, but because we are at a most significant crossroad, he is convinced that extraordinary measures are called for. Because they are extraordinary, he would anticipate that Ambassador Dobrynin would wish to discuss them in detail with his government.2
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 489, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1969, Part 2, Vol. I. Top Secret; Sensitive. An April 12 covering memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon stated: “Attached are the talking points I propose to use in discussions with Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin Monday evening. These points lay out the main thrust of our proposal together with the conditions that we would attach to a settlement in principle of the conflict.” Nixon initialed his approval on the covering memorandum and added the following insertion: “Willing to discuss broad relaxation of trade restrictions.” An earlier draft prepared for Kissinger contained the following sentences not in the final version presented for Nixon’s approval: “He will not be the first American President to lose a war, and he is not prepared to give in to public pressures which would have that practical consequence.… These measures could not help but involve wider risks. U.S.-Soviet relations are therefore at a crossroad. The President views this point in history with the utmost gravity, especially since he is eager to move into an era of conciliation with the Soviet Union on a broad front.” (Ibid., Box 340, Subject Files, USSR Memcons Dobrynin/Kissinger) (Ellipsis in the source text)
  2. RN” appears on the approve line.