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

P: Hello.

K: Mr. President.

P: Henry, you have something else you want to talk to me about2Bob [Haldeman] was saying you3

K: Oh, well, no. I had a long talk with Sisco 4 and I think we made some progress today.

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P: Good.

K: One. I got them to stop making …

P: I talked to Rogers 5 and he seemed to be—at least he said all the things that we were talking about so I just listened, so that’s that.

K: Right.

P: But that was right after I talked to you so what did Sisco say?

K: They were going to make a public statement tomorrow condemning the Israeli position.

P: Let’s not make any mistake—that’s the wrong thing to do.

K: That just doesn’t get us anything. Then I got them to soften their cable, I couldn’t get them to stop going to a Four-Power meeting even though I think they should have waited for an Egyptian reply. But, I also told him that you needed to see a package deal in which we would tell the Israelis what we do want and…

P: What we will do, that’s right.

K: And what we will do for them.

P: That’s what I told, that’s what I told Bill too and that at the right time I would talk to the Israelis.

K: Right, Well, now Sisco is working on that and he will have that by Tuesday or Wednesday.6

P: The thing is there, we don’t want to do until we have got something that is really worthwhile and then, of course, you can’t use the big gun very often but I’m prepared to do it. But they have got to get something together that is…

K: Well, the smart way to do it would be to get it from them and then to see whether we can broker it with Dobrynin and get something from the Russians for it too.

P: Yeah, that would be, wouldn’t it?

K: Because if we could get the Russians to withdraw their troops.

P: Yeah.

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K: Incidentally, that note I handed them on Monday on Cuba7 seems to have worked, the Russian ships left today.

P: They left again.

K: Yeah.

P: That’s sort of in and out, isn’t it?

K: Yeah.

P: What was the reason do you think that they were at the UN with it? From some report, I noticed they had such reaction to the World Report.8

K: I haven’t read that yet.

P: Well, it was in one of the news summaries, somebody had just saw it being blasted. Oh, what did the Russians say about it, are they …

K: I haven’t seen anything except one broadcast directed at Africa. P: Maybe that was it.

K: In which they tore it to pieces.

P: That was the one I guess, yeah.

K: But that I thought was more for the audience.

P: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, I just wondered, I didn’t—they didn’t take it out on—the main thing they didn’t it on—at least they didn’t take it on SALT or anything like that.

K: Oh, no. Oh, no.

P: Well, that’s all I care about.

K: What infuriates them is the China section.

P: Oh, that might have been it too. This was something that—I don’t know where I got the impression that something—where they had said something at the UN. I don’t know what it is.

K: Well, I’ll look it up, Mr. President.

P: It may not be in the new summary, it may have been something that maybe Bush was telling me or something—I don’t know what it was but it was just a fleeting thing that somebody up there at the United Nations was whining around about it. But nothing—maybe it wasn’t anything public. I don’t have the slightest idea. It didn’t come from State or anything but it was just something that stuck in my mind, I don’t know what it was. Well, it may have been the African thing, it didn’t—but I just wanted to see what the—but I guess the China thing would—why the hell—well, of course, it would.

K: Well, because of all it’s the first public document in which we called the Communist Chinese the People’s Republic of China.

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P: Yeah, which I didn’t particularly like that but we did it.

K: And where we say we will talk to anybody—well, you had done it already in your talks to Ceausescu.

P: I know, yeah, yeah, I know. But what I mean is I don’t like the idea but I know we have to do it.

K: Right.

P: That’s not much to give.

K: And where we said we are willing to talk with them anyplace.

P: Um-hum.

K: So, the whole tone of the China section undoubtedly annoyed them. And also, of course, they have to even if they do the things we are talking about, they are not going to give the impression that there is a great reconciliation here.

[Omitted here is discussion of Congress and Vietnam.]

P: Except that we do not want to leave it in any position where we can let a Cooper—not Cooper but more Church,9 you know he’s got money he’s passing around, to get some sort of a resolution to say that the United States will not support a South Vietnamese invasion of the North. You see that’s what we want to avoid. Now, in two months we will be over it, for the next two months we’ve got to keep it in a situation where we—you see a resolution could be very harmful to the South Vietnamese and to us, and very encouraging to the North. Apart from what we say, we just don’t want to do anything—I just don’t want to leave it in the position where the resolution is inevitable.

K: Well, I was thinking in any event given that note that Dobrynin handed me which wasn’t too aggressive on Friday,10 if you were to say something at your press conference that indicated that there is no American plan to do anything like this.

P: I’ve already said that, of course, if you will read what I said in the office press conference,11 I said we have no plans. I just said I won’t speculate on what they would do, you see.

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K: Well, if you were to repeat that, then I think I should tell it to Dobrynin the day before and pretend that it is a response to his suggestion, just to keep that dialogue going.

P: True. I’m not concerned really so much, Henry, about Dobrynin.

[Omitted here is further discussion of Congress and Vietnam.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 29, Home File. No classification marking. Although the transcript is undated, the context—after the President’s “world report” on February 25 but before his press conference on March 4, and on the same day as Kissinger’s talks with Sisco and Haldeman and Nixon’s talk with Rogers—clearly indicates that it took place on February 28. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76, Record of Schedule; and National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) According to his Daily Diary, Nixon called Kissinger on February 28 at 8:37 p.m.; the conversation lasted until 9:03. (Ibid.)
  2. Kissinger called Nixon at 11:30 a.m. on February 28 to report that the Department of State wanted to send a telegram to Tel Aviv criticizing the Israeli response to Jarring’s proposal for a Middle East settlement (see Document 119). “I am afraid that time will force us to let [the telegram] go,” Kissinger complained, “but if we had known it was developing this way earlier we could have perhaps worked bilaterally with the Soviets and gotten a great deal more for what we are going to have to do to Israel—perhaps even the Summit.” According to a transcript, the conversation included the following exchange: “P: Stay on top of this Henry. Determine where we are going and check with the Soviets. See what we can get from them. K: At this point I think we are bound to get a brutal public confrontation with Israel. If they cave, we will pay a price for nothing. I only wish we had moved with the Soviets and gotten something for it. P: Is this still possible? K: In my private discussions they have certainly offered.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 9, Chronological File) The full transcript is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXIII, Arab-Israeli Dispute, 1969–1972.
  3. During a telephone conversation with Haldeman at 3:05 p.m., Kissinger advocated wresting Middle East policy away from the Department of State. “Can’t do it with the present management,” he explained. “Dobrynin has been on his knees with me for things like this. We might have gotten something from them and this way will get nothing. This is a major concern and Al [Haig] is with me. I just don’t want the President to think the matter is solved. This week there will be a blow up [with the Israelis].” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 9, Chronological File)
  4. Kissinger called Sisco at noon on February 28 to discuss the situation: “K: My question is why shouldn’t we have done this with the Soviets and gotten something from the Soviets. S: I do not understand. K: Why couldn’t we say to the Soviets [to] get their bases the hell out of there? S: Our position is based on the October 1969 document. This has been our position for years. Why didn’t we tell this to the Soviets to get them out of there? K: Yes. S: This is wholly unrealistic. Totally unrealistic, Henry. Assuming we get a peace settlement, there will be a general disinvolvement by the Russians in the Middle East because the Arabs naively think they can get rid of them. But it will be the same as where we have military bases and there is no [action]—they generally want them to move out and the Russian influence will go down with the Arabs as they become disenchanted—this is assuming we get a settlement. K: You do not think this should be used in any way? S: No. God bless you, Henry, I wish it was.” (Ibid.)
  5. Nixon called Rogers at 3:41 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) No record of the conversation has been found.
  6. March 2 or March 3.
  7. February 22. See Document 121.
  8. See Document 126.
  9. Senator John Sherman Cooper (R–Kentucky) and Senator Frank Church (D–Idaho). The Senate approved the so-called Cooper-Church amendment prohibiting American military assistance and activity in Cambodia on June 30, 1970.
  10. February 26. See Document 128.
  11. During his press conference on February 17, the President acknowledged “several limits” on the use of military force in Southeast Asia: “For example, we are not going to use ground forces in Laos. We are not going to use advisers in Laos with the South Vietnamese forces. We are not going to use ground forces in Cambodia or advisers in Cambodia as we have previously indicated, and we have no intention, of course, of using ground forces in North Vietnam.” (Public Papers: Nixon, 1971, pp. 158–159)