13. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) and the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Sisco)1
S: Sorry to call so late, but we just finished up.2
K: That’s okay; I appreciate your calling.
S: Not at all. First, Henry, what was discussed was topics that are familiar—the Middle East, Indo-China, SALT, Berlin and the Seabeds was just touched upon very, very briefly.
S: On the Middle East, Gromyko dwelled primarily on the non-responsibility theme—that they weren’t responsible; they didn’t agree to any of all this.
K: That is, they never agreed to the ceasefire, so it isn’t their fault.
S: So none of it is their fault. I think you can summarize … All we got into … It got into the question of we made clear the notion of going into the General Assembly is no damn good. The Secretary said [Page 40] that rectification was required, and each stuck to his own line, in other words. Nobody changed anybody’s mind at this point, although we agreed that in the next meeting on Monday, we would pursue the discussion further.
On Berlin, the Secretary made clear that this last proposal of theirs at this last meeting we didn’t like the position they took, and again the talk was quite inconclusive, largely the Secretary reiterating the position in terms of how we see it. They, in turn, did the same. But nothing very concrete—no movement one way or the other.
On SALT, just a very, very minimal reference—merely looking towards the beginning of the renewal of the talks and a mutual expression that they would make progress.
On Vietnam, the Secretary started out by saying we had had good worldwide reaction to our proposals; very good unity at home; and took note of the rejection thus far.3 He didn’t ask the Russians to do anything specific, but the conversation turned—Gromyko turned the conversation into pressing the Secretary on whether we agreed to a coalition government or not. That if we agreed to a coalition government, why maybe the Russians would be willing to be helpful, in effect. The Secretary handled that, I thought, very well. He said, “Who knows what is meant by a coalition government? What do you mean by a coalition government? The other side, in effect, defines a coalition government to mean ‘kick out the present crowd in South Vietnam’,” and he concluded by saying that the President had made it clear that whatever propositions that the two parties really agreed to—you know, if they get together, why we could accept whatever they got together on.
So the whole summary of the evening is that there were no changes on either side.
K: What was the general mood?
S: The mood, I would say, not unfriendly; businesslike; frank, straightforward. Every now and then, Gromyko showed some sensitivity over the fact that we had accused them of cheating; said it had caused difficulties in their government. The Secretary responded that this had caused difficulties in our government—their cheating. We don’t understand it. On Vietnam, he pressed the Secretary, I thought, very hard on the usual Communist strategy. He said, “Do you include a coalition government?” The Secretary said, “We have said we don’t like the word coalition government; we don’t know what it means; the other side’s defined it in this way; but what we have said is we will go along with any proposal the two really can get along with.” “Then [Page 41] you do bar a coalition government”—you know that kind of Communist strategy of boring in. [End of tape]
[Beginning of new tape]
S: … after the meeting.
K: Did you discuss that with them?
S: You mean on the announcement?
S: Not in my presence that I recall but, in any event, what …
K: Were they alone part of the time?
S: They got off to a corner part of the time, but, Henry, the President’s plans are precisely what—I mean the Secretary’s plans are precisely those that were indicated by you and the President; namely, that the Secretary would announce that after Monday night’s meeting4 and not before.
K: Right, as long as the other …
S: There’s no misunderstanding on this.
K: No, no; I know you understand it. But do you think the Russians understand it?
S: I’m sure that if they don’t understand it at the moment, they will because the Secretary’s very clear about it.
K: Well, they wouldn’t announce it anyway.
S: No, they wouldn’t. That’ll work out all right.
K: Okay. Now, how about your doing a little personal memo for me after the second meeting, laying out what you think the President should say, at least in your area.
S: Well, I think we ought to do, if it’s agreeable, I think … and also I’ll get together with Martin.5 Frankly, we need to give you … What I’ll do … I will cough up and see that the Department as such sends forward a series of talking points on all the key subjects: Vietnam, the Middle East, and on Berlin, and on SALT—just those four.
K: And as much of a summary of what actually was said …
S: Although we’ll send you a cable on this and we’ll send you a cable on the Monday night meeting. That’ll be plenty of time to digest the two cables before Friday night’s meeting.6
S: All right, Henry.
K: Good, many thanks, Joe. You’ve been a good friend.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 7, Chronological File. No classification marking. All brackets are in the original. Kissinger was in Washington; Sisco was in New York.↩
- Reference is to the meeting between Rogers and Gromyko in New York. See also Document 16.↩
- See footnote 10, Document 2. North Vietnam formally rejected Nixon’s peace proposal on October 14.↩
- October 19.↩
- October 23.↩