106. Memorandum of Conversation1

    • Anatoliy Dobrynin, Russian Ambassador
    • Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

I saw Dobrynin at his request on what he called rather urgent business. I fully expected it to concern the reports of an American invasion of Laos.2 Instead, Dobrynin began the conversation by saying that he had been requested by his Government to make the following points: (1) the Middle East situation was getting extremely alarming; he wanted to reiterate the Soviet Government was anxious for a settlement on the basis of the Security Council Resolution 242. He also wanted to stress that the United States and the Soviet Union should work together in achieving the settlement. Finally, he said that the Kremlin was hoping that the channel established between Dobrynin and me could lead to a solution of the Middle East problem and he hoped that I would engage myself in these negotiations.

Dobrynin then said that his superiors in the Politburo were very receptive to the approach on Berlin that I had outlined. I told him of my conversation with Bahr3 and I said I would have to have a conversation with Rush before I could get the procedure firmly established. However, I proposed the following approach: Bahr would tell me what the German Government might be willing to consider; I would discuss [Page 317] this with Rush. If they both agreed, I would discuss it with Dobrynin; if the three of us agreed, we would introduce it first in the Four Power Western group and subsequently in the Four Power talks on Berlin. Dobrynin said he would transmit this procedure to Moscow. Dobrynin asked me when I might have an answer from Bahr and Rush and I said that I thought that I would be ready to discuss it in the following week.

Dobrynin then said that he was prepared to talk about SALT in connection with an ABM agreement but he had not yet received instructions on how to handle the offensive weapons. I told him that it would not be very fruitful to talk to him about an ABM agreement alone. Dobrynin said he was quite optimistic though about proceeding on that basis.

Dobrynin asked me to have dinner with him on the 11th of February. I told him I would probably be leaving with the President for Florida, and we settled for the 10th instead.

As Dobrynin was putting his coat on, he said that he had no instructions but he was wondering what we were doing in Laos. He hoped we were not doing anything that would aggravate the situation or interrupt the progress we seemed to be making. I said that we would do everything we could to prevent an expansion of the Indochinese situation so that it would not affect Soviet-U.S. relations; however, in fairness he had to remember that the President told his Foreign Minister that we might have to take measures in Vietnam but that they would not be directed against the Soviet Union. He said, well, they might objectively affect the Soviet Union even if we didn’t intend them to. I said we would keep it very much in mind. Dobrynin ended the meeting by saying, let’s continue to work on the good course on which we are.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 490, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 4 [part 2]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting was held in the Map Room at the White House. According to Kissinger’s Record of Schedule, the meeting lasted until 3:53 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) Kissinger forwarded the memorandum of conversation and a memorandum summarizing it (as well as a memorandum of his conversation with Dobrynin on February 4) to Nixon on February 8. A note on the covering memorandum indicates that the President saw it.
  2. In spite of publicity beforehand, the President gave final approval for Lam Son 719 on February 3; the invasion began on February 8. During a telephone conversation with Haldeman at 10:40 a.m. on February 4, Kissinger mentioned another motive for the operation: “It’s going to break it one way or the other. A very salutary effect on the Russians even if it shoots the summit for a few months.” Haldeman replied: “That’s not important.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 8, Chronological File)
  3. Kissinger met Bahr on the flight from Cape Kennedy to New York on January 30. For a memorandum of conversation, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XL, Germany and Berlin, 1969–1972, Document 172. See also Kissinger, White House Years, pp. 807–809.