133. Memorandum of Conversation1

    • Ambassador Dobrynin
    • Henry A. Kissinger

I had sought the meeting in order to have a pretext to introduce the SALT issue. I began the conversation by saying that what the President had said the night before2 on the South Vietnamese invasion of North Vietnam constituted the answer to his note of February 26th.3 The answer had been framed with the greatest regard for Soviet sensibilities.

Dobrynin repeated what he had said on February 26th; namely, that attacks on a fellow Socialist country presented a particular difficulty. I told him that I understood this and we had framed the matter with this in mind. Dobrynin said, “Well, the first point about unilateral American action was clear enough. The second point about South Vietnamese action was clear enough, but how about U.S. support for the South Vietnamese; namely the third point. I told Dobrynin I would stand by what I had said on national television; namely, that it was the least probable outcome. Dobrynin said this was better than nothing but not fully satisfactory.

Dobrynin then asked me whether I had an answer for Hanoi about their willingness to meet with me. I said the answer was that Hanoi knew how to reach me and that I would be happy to see them if they were willing to talk. Dobrynin said we seemed to be passing the ball back and forth. I said no, but that if Hanoi had something specific to discuss, it might interest them to know that I would be available.

We then turned to Berlin and Dobrynin said again that it would make their lot much easier if we could couple Federal presence with Berlin access.

[Page 393]

Finally, I asked him about SALT. I said that the negotiations were starting on March 16th, and it would be highly desirable if we could have their answer before then in order to be able to formulate instructions. Dobrynin said that the Party leaders were all tied up with the Party Congress and that it always took them a while to organize for a reply. They were in a dacha outside of Moscow and were not doing the day-to-day business; however, he would send a cable that evening and he expected to have a reply by Tuesday or Wednesday.4

After some pleasantries about the Symington attack5 and what it might mean, the meeting ended.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 490, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 4 [part 1]. No classification marking. Kissinger forwarded this memorandum of conversation and a memorandum summarizing it (as well as the memorandum of his conversation with Dobrynin on February 26) to Nixon on March 16. A note on the summary 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 from 5:38 to 6:12 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76)
  2. See Document 132.
  3. See Document 128.
  4. March 9 or 10.
  5. See Document 132.