108. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

[Omitted here is discussion of the military situation in Vietnam and of ambassadorial appointments.]

K: Well, our experience, Mr. President, has been that when you put your friends in the key spots we can work with them.

P: Right.

K: Without Watson2 and Rush3 in this little game—the Russians have been very mild.

P: And Annenberg.4

K: And Annenberg.

P: Oh, incidentally, how about Bruce5 for Moscow?

K: Oh, that would be a ten strike. Now that is really—that is superlative. Because there we could pull him back for Vietnam if we needed him briefly.

P: Also [omission in transcript]

K: Oh, that would be spectacular.

P: See my point.

K: Oh, yeah. And then we could do some of the other business through him, too, if we had to.

P: Bruce or Dewey6 could [omission in transcript]

K: Right, but Bruce would be better because he is subtle. Bruce would be a ten strike.

[Page 321]

P: I’ve got to get that other fellow out of Moscow.7

K: Oh, no, even without the Muskie fiasco he really proved that he can’t do that sort of thing. The Russians just don’t take him seriously enough.

P: It isn’t necessary to speak Russian they translate everything anyway.

K: Oh, it is totally unnecessary to speak Russian.

P: Wouldn’t Bruce be superb?

K: Bruce would be exactly the right man because as it is now Dobrynin is winding up in an absolutely key position because he does all the business and this way we could ship some of the negotiations to Bruce. For example in this…

P: [omission in transcript] like what he is doing [omission in transcript] being active—

K: Oh, he loves it.

P: Good.

K: Of course his wife8 loves the social life and she probably prefers Paris.

P: Oh, any wife would love to be in Moscow [omission in transcript]

K: Exactly. In any rate he’s a tough old bird, he’ll handle her. No, he’d love that. That I think would be really good and it would also be a signal to the Russians that you really mean to do serious business with them. I got the word to Harriman about Dobrynin and the way I did it.

P: How did you do it?

K: Well, I did it—we had that WSAG meeting today—Sullivan9 was there today—so I went over the reactions of various countries and checked again [omission in transcript] the Chinese going to come in and everybody thinks not—what’s the Russian reaction and everyone agreed it was very mild. Then Alex Johnson said the other evening the Secretary met Dobrynin at a dinner and Dobrynin couldn’t have been more affable and never mentioned the word Laos. I said, yes I was at that dinner and what was so amazing considering what’s in the papers about Laos he really lit into Harriman. As if I was just picking up Alex Johnson’s saying. I said he thought he was [omission in transcript]

P: [omission in transcript]

[Page 322]

K: Well, that’s what I figured. I figured that Sullivan would be running to a phone before he was out of the White House. Bunker told me that Harriman had been driving him crazy on the phone and he’s having lunch with him today.

P: Will Bunker know how to handle Harriman?10

K: Oh, yes.

[Omitted here is discussion of estimates on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 29, Home File. No classification marking. A handwritten note on the transcript indicates that it was “typed Feb. 7, 1971” and “may be the end of a previous tape.” Although the transcript is undated, references in the text to a WSAG meeting “today” and a meeting with Moorer “tomorrow” clearly indicate that it took place on the evening of February 4. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76, Record of Schedule) According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon talked to Kissinger by telephone on February 4 from 8:02 until 8:07 p.m. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files)
  2. Arthur K. Watson, Ambassador to France.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 107.
  4. Walter H. Annenberg, Ambassador to Great Britain.
  5. David K.E. Bruce, former Ambassador to France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, was at this time the Chief of the U.S. Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks.
  6. Thomas E. Dewey, former Governor of New York.
  7. Ambassador Jacob Beam.
  8. Evangeline Bruce.
  9. William H. Sullivan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, had served under Harriman during the initial round of the Paris Peace Talks on Vietnam, 1968–1969.
  10. According to his Record of Schedule, Kissinger met Bunker on February 4 from 5:28 to 5:33 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76)