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

P: How did your meeting go?2

K: It went very well. I gave him that note on Cuba saying first that

I didn’t want to discuss it but that it certainly affects things if we can’t rely on one another. I gave him your letter on SALT and he was right with it, started editing it and making suggestions. Some of his suggestions were most constructive. There was a list of what would be permitted but he said whatever is not prohibited is permitted, this isn’t the treaty, this is just something that gets the negotiations started and I will get the answer soon, that he realized that it would have to be before March 15.

P: Um-hum.

K: And so he was—he fell all over himself. He offered again to talk about the Middle East and I ducked that question. On Berlin, I gave him some of the stuff I had from Rush and Bahr. I think we are going to make progress on that too, but when you see that fool of a foreign minister3

[Page 358]

P: I know.

K:… But then I had an interesting thing—when I saw him on January 9, we were talking about Vietnam. He said at the time something to the effect, what if they separate political and military issues and I said we can’t/won’t discuss [omission in transcript]. He said, what if we talk about withdrawal separately from that. We had originally just talked about military issues on Berlin. Said he had a message from Hanoi, the Soviets had transmitted to them what we had said about talking out loud … (interrupted) … that secondly, recent events in Indochina make them doubt that we are serious about military [omission in transcript]. Thirdly, any time we want to resume negotiations, they are ready. It shows that they are not at all, they are willing to transmit messages more than they have ever wanted to do before. In this case these guys seem to me to be [ready to?] talk.

P: Um-hum. Yeah, they seem to be willing to talk.

K: That in itself—they have never talked while they were under pressure.

P: Not yet at least.

K: It is getting a little late.

P: Well, I think I would just let that rest for a little while.

K: They seem to have subsided in their northern flank.

P: Of course, it is night over there.

K: No, it is day but they haven’t launched any attacks within the last 24 hours.

P: The South Vietnamese launched some attacks.

K: They seem to be moving up one of those roads.

P: At least the dialogue is open.

K: Yes, the dialogue is open and I think we have a chance.

P: The fact that they are not jumping up and down means something.

K: They are for some reason pinning (?) after a [omission in transcript].

P: When is their Party meeting?

K: March 24th and I think they want things settled before then.

P: You mean this SALT thing?

K: Yes, Mr. President.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 8, Chronological File. No classification marking.
  2. See Document 121.
  3. West German Foreign Minister Walter Scheel. Nixon met Scheel in the Oval Office on February 17 from 4:54 to 5:19 p.m. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) A tape recording of the conversation is ibid., White House Tapes, Conversation 450–21.