107. Memorandum of Conversation1

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

I had asked Dobrynin to come in order to tell him of my conversation with Rush.2 The main purpose of it was to show some interest in continued Soviet-American dialogue during the Laotian episode.

Dobrynin said he had already received a reply to our last conversation3 from the Kremlin. The Kremlin had told him to express to me the pleasure of Moscow at the seriousness with which we approached the subject, that they considered it a very positive contribution to the Summit that we were planning. He had also been authorized by the Politburo to tell me that the Soviet Union agreed to our proposal to talk about both offensive and defensive limitations, with the defensive limitations being part of a formal agreement and the offensive limitations being part of a tacit freeze. He also repeated that he hoped that we could start talking about the Middle East. I said that it would be somewhat more difficult on the Middle East because as he knew from the newspapers I did not have the same detailed bureaucratic control there as in other areas.4 Dobrynin said that he found that hard to believe. I said perhaps if we made some progress in the other areas, I could assert more control on the Middle East. He replied that I was trying to establish linkage again. I told him I would have to check with the President on how I could proceed on Middle East questions.

Dobrynin pulled out of his pocket a verbal note from the Soviet Government warning against consequences of a Laotian move. The [Page 319] note is attached. I consider it very mild. I told Dobrynin that I did not think our interests in Southeast Asia were so different since we both had an interest in preventing Chinese hegemony. Dobrynin said it was all a question of timing. I told Dobrynin that I would give the note to the President who, I was sure, would answer relatively quickly. Dobrynin said there was no hurry, no answer was expected.


Note From the Soviet Leadership to President Nixon 5

The Soviet leadership already attracted the attention of President Nixon to dangerous consequences inherent in a departure of the U.S. Government from the course it earlier proclaimed, for a settlement of the Vietnam problem by political means, and in its turning toward a new expansion of the military actions in Indochina. Addressing President Nixon with these warnings, the Soviet leadership took account of the intention expressed by the President himself, to adhere to the same line of action in the affairs of Indochina so that the relations between our two countries would not be clouded.

However, the continued expansion of the U.S. military actions in Vietnam, their spreading onto the territory of Cambodia and now also of Laos cannot but cause a legitimate question as to where, in reality, the United States Government intends to lead the whole matter in Indochina.

No matter under what pretexts the United States and the Saigon regime are taking those military actions, these actions, in the conviction of the Soviet leadership, not only cannot bring a peaceful settlement a day closer, but, on the contrary, they inevitably complicate the situation in that area even more with all the ensuing consequences for the international situation as a whole.

The American side cannot but recognize that this course of actions by the United States of America, as a result of which the situation develops toward an expansion of the war instead of progress in achieving a peaceful settlement of existing conflicts, is far from contributing to the creation of favorable conditions also for the undertakings aimed at improving the Soviet-American relations. We would like this to be perfectly clear to the President.

  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. Kissinger forwarded the memorandum of conversation and a memorandum summarizing it (as well as the memorandum of his conversation with Dobrynin on February 2) to Nixon on February 8. A note on the covering memorandum indicates that the President saw it. The meeting was held in the Map Room at the White House. According to Kissinger’s Record of Schedule, the meeting lasted until 12:34 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76)
  2. Kissinger met Rush on the evening of February 3 at John Mitchell’s apartment in the Watergate complex. (Ibid., Record of Schedule) Although no record of the conversation has been found, see their respective recollections in Kissinger, White House Years, pp. 807, 809–810; and Thompson, ed., The Nixon Presidency, “An Ambassador’s Perspective: Kenneth Rush,” p. 338.
  3. See Document 106.
  4. See Document 95.
  5. No classification marking. Two handwritten notes read: “Rec’d 2/26/71” and “Note handed to HAK by Dobrynin 4 Feb 71.”