15. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between Secretary of State Rogers and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
K: Bill, how are you?
R: Hi Henry, fine thank you. Met your brother2 last night …
K: Yes, he told me. He was very pleased.
R: I just want to check because I am going back to NY tonight about the plans for Thursday.3 Dobrynin said he talked to you last night about the planning but he didn’t have a chance …
K: Right, I was going to call you today. The only thing he called about was the length of time and I told him it was between an hour and an hour and a half on the President’s schedule. And then who was going to come. And I told him that you were going to make—the announcement was going to be made by you and that all the details, if there were any, other than the ones that he already knew but as I understand it, he is going to cover … he said that they may raise again what they had raised with you on the Middle East. And I said fine … you know I said that’s what I expected. I would suggest, Bill, that the thing to do is for you or Sisco to get the President a paper on what you think the President should respond. That’s the only thing.
R: Did he say anything more about the possible Summit?
K: Yes, he said that Gromyko might respond when they talk about general policy. He said what Gromyko would want to do probably … he said what they have done in the past is have a general discussion and then all the specific items that had already been discussed with [Page 47] the Secretary. Had always in the past followed as this time the Secretary’s meetings. He said it is conceivable that Gromyko at the end of that might indicate their willingness to have it and …
R: Would he put it in terms of willingness to have it or sort of liking to have it?
K: I think—My impression—I didn’t want to seem, as if we were eager to get it.
R: He raised the subject.
K: He will raise the subject. And my impression is—Oh yes, there is one other thing the President may want to do, is that he may want to talk for 5 minutes alone at the end of the meeting with Gromyko. But this I haven’t told Dobrynin yet. This is just something the President mentioned to me yesterday.
R: What’s it about, do you know?
K: Well, I think what it will be about if he does it is that if the Summit meeting comes—suggestion—comes in a forthcoming way he may want to raise with him whether there should be an announcement or not. And he may want to do it in a way so that if there is a turn down there won’t be too many interpreters around. It also would be an opportunity and that we want to talk to you about, if those ships haven’t left Cuba yet for him to say something about that.
R: In other words we are not sure whether they are going to leave or not yet? They are still there.
K: I don’t think we get another readout before Tuesday.4 If they—they would normally stop there on their way out.
R: Ya, I know. The only difficulty with it I see with a private meeting is that it will—if it is known and it probably will be known—is that it will raise a lot of questions as to what it was about.
K: We don’t have to do it. It hasn’t been mentioned to them yet.
R: Well, why don’t we just leave it open. If the President—I think as a matter of fact what he could do rather than having a private meeting would be to take him over to the side of the room and we could have coffee or something. In other words have a few minutes with him by himself, on that subject.
K: He could take him into his little private office for a few minutes.
R: Something like that or pretend he wants to show him something and then talk to him on the side. I have the feeling that the idea of a private meeting would be misconstrued. It will be known obviously.
K: I think that is a good idea. And this is not anything that they are now expecting so there is no problem about it. We can play that [Page 48] entirely by ear. But that’s the only—Dobrynin told me that in the past what had happened was that Gromyko would turn to the President and say how—what is your preference and then that the President will say we will discuss general topics first, and so forth. And that then Gromyko is prepared to open and …
R: That’s what he did with me the other night too. What should be talked about. What order? And I said that I would think these things but what are your views and he said that that coincides with my views except maybe we ought to talk about this. What about a European security conference? I said fine. We sort of agreed on how we would approach it. And you probably do the same thing. Did he say anything about what we would say after the meeting?
K: No. No and that’s something you might discuss with him tomorrow night.
R: The way I have been playing it at New York. What I have tried to do is start out—the New York Times headline was written before the meeting,5 I think—but I think that generally the tone that I wanted to create was sort of cool and a little bit stiff and then a little bit better, Monday. You know a little improvement. And when the President meets with him you know back to reasonably friendly relations and …
K: I think that is exactly right.
R: In other words, have some improvement. If we had pretended or tried to make it appear that there was a lot of progress made the first meeting at first—phoney and it would be the wrong way to do it.
K: And also you know they have done a number of things this summer that were pretty rough.
R: Interestingly enough, I don’t know whether the telegram6 shows this or not because I had a private meeting with him—about an hour. But on the—he got a little tough and I responded in kind and then he calmed down and I calmed down and he talked about the air corridor.7
K: That didn’t come across.
R: He said now what did we do, what did we do? And I said you know damn well what you did. You said that the corridors were [Page 49] going to be closed and you don’t have any right to close the corridors and we are not about to let you. Then he again sort of said what do we do and I said I just told you what you did. And he said well we didn’t intend it that way. I said put yourself in our position. How would you have construed it? I said we were about to have four-power talks. You have done this in the past and then he said I can tell you that we didn’t intend it that way. And I said are you saying that it was a subordinate’s decision, that it was accidental? And he said that is what I am telling you. And he said will you take my word for it? I said that if you say it in that way I’ll take your word for it. I said if you tell me that it was an accident and it was not intended, that’s all right with me, but you can well understand why we thought it had some significance because normally you don’t do things that carelessly.
K: Of course.
R: I said but I will take your word for it. Let’s go on to something else—so that’s the way that that damn thing ended. And I think that’s probably a pretty good way to put it.
K: I think that’s right. It gives them a face saving way out of it. What do you think we should do about … what do you think the President could say about the Middle East? I don’t think he ought to get into the details.
R: I don’t either. I’ll talk to you about that later. After the meeting Monday night.8 What they argue is that they were not a party to the agreement. And my answer to that was come on, you know, if you are talking about an agreement that the way you would make it with some shoe merchant and we didn’t have everything crossed and dotted. You knew damn well what the agreement was. The agreement was that we would have a standstill and that both sides agreed that neither would improve its military position.
K: They know that if Dobrynin had come in to you at the end of July and said now I hope you understand we are not bound by that agreement that we would have acted differently.
R: I said you go ahead and take that position, that you weren’t party to it. I don’t care. We know you were. We dealt with you. We obviously communicated directly with Egyptians too for obvious reasons but hell, you have 10,000 and more people in that zone. We know it and you can take that position if you want to. It doesn’t change our position.
R: I said I don’t see any reason to argue about it in public. If you want to argue about it in public, we’ll argue about it in public but what good does it do us?[Page 50]
K: I don’t think the President should go beyond whatever you say on Monday night.
R: No, I had pretty harsh words with him and then he changed his tune and the dinner was quite friendly. And he was quite friendly afterwards. I don’t think the President should get in that at all.
K: As I told you Dobrynin said they were going to raise the three points that he raised with you. From the cable I didn’t know what they were. I assume they were the Jarring talks, the ceasefire and four-power talks. But I don’t think the President should go beyond whatever you have said. Do you?
R: No, I don’t. And I don’t think it would be helpful for the President to get involved in the controversy. But I will have a better idea after tomorrow night. On the Cuban thing. I think that is all right. I don’t think we should say anything more about that at the moment.
K: I think we shouldn’t be so nervous that every time a ship shows up we call them on it. If it doesn’t leave in a week or so I think we can see …
R: What I said to him was this. I want you to know that our government was pleased that you responded about the Cuban situation, that you gave us your assurance privately and publicly that the ‘62 agreement was still in effect and that you would not violate it. We would as you know consider any activity in connection with a submarine base in Cuba as a very serious matter and we are pleased that you told us that that was not your intention. And he just didn’t respond.
R: I just let it go at that. I didn’t say anything more about it.
K: Well, we have put them on enough notice now without it.
R: I think that the two serious problems, of course the Middle East and the four-power talks, in some ways the four-power talks is tougher than the Middle East. They want to get out of that Middle East situation. They don’t want to have the ceasefire violated. And we are trying to figure out some device and we’ll talk about that a little tomorrow night. But they don’t want it any more than we do.
K: One thing that struck me. We had a review group meeting9 just in general about that which you probably heard about from your people. That I thought about afterwards that it mightn’t be a good idea to have a de facto ceasefire for a month or so before starting the talks [Page 51] again because then one would have decoupled the standstill and cease-fire problem and made it harder to reraise [erase?] it again.
R: I think that’s right. The difficulty is the Arabs may feel that they cannot accept a de facto ceasefire. That’s really. Of course if we could do that that would be ideal. What we are trying to figure out is some device of having a de facto ceasefire but not admitting it.
K: Well maybe the simplest thing would be just a very mild resolution—just reaffirming the ‘67 one10 and calling for a ceasefire might do it. Well, that’s up to you, the details.
R: But in any event—I don’t know if you have seen the intelligence on it—we got the jump on them and they are really on the defensive because they—everybody in the world thinks that they cheated. And they don’t know how to get out of that box.
K: Right. And they are very conscious of it.
R: Really, very defensive. That was the only part of the conversation where he was unhappiest and quite defensive and quite belligerent. And I just said what are you talking about? Your Ambassador told me that the standstill would stay in effect and that was part of the agreement and we wouldn’t have entered into it if you hadn’t given us that assurance. I don’t care what you tell me, your reports show. I don’t care. I was there and Mr. Sisco was there and Dobrynin told us this. Dobrynin wasn’t there, I didn’t want to embarrass him.
K: As soon as I learn something Bill I will inform you. You know if the President should decide to keep him for 5 minutes afterwards. But I …
R: I think he can do the same thing without having a private meeting. He can take him into the other room and …
K: I will strongly urge him that he should say why don’t you look at my little office where I use to …
R: Not appear that he is having a separate meeting but just take him aside and talk to him and keep us in there and we will all come out together so it doesn’t appear that there was a …
K: I think that is absolutely right.
R: … special meeting.
K: And you might raise with Gromyko what should be said afterwards. We haven’t—that hasn’t been discussed at all.
R: On what I say. I think I will say that Gromyko asked for the meeting sometime back and that the President considered it and had [Page 52] a heavy schedule because of Heads of State and other things but that he did work it out so we would have the meeting on Thursday morning. And I will suggest without saying so that it indicates that our relations really are not cool. I don’t want it to appear that it’s—we’ve been having unsuccessful meetings and this is an attempt to make them successful so I will make it clear that the request for the meeting was made sometime back.
K: Right. We also shouldn’t give the feeling that it is all—that we have kissed and made up. I …
R: Oh no. And also, did Gromyko ask for a meeting last year that we didn’t arrange?
K: Well, no. What he did last year was he wanted the President to ask for one and the President refused. It never really got to the point—they—he said if Gromyko asked for a meeting he would give it, but Gromyko never asked for one but it’s also clear he would have come if we had said please ask for a meeting.
R: Well I can say on that that last year it wasn’t possible to arrange a meeting and there was some preliminary discussion at a lower level about a meeting but it didn’t work out. And that therefore they thought it advisable … And there was no doubt about it that Gromyko asked for the meeting this year was there?
K: Exactly. No doubt about it.
K: When are you coming back to Washington? On Thursday morning?
R: I’ll probably come back Wednesday night or Thursday morning. Probably Wednesday night.
K: Right. I’ll be on the West Coast on Tuesday. I’m giving a talk for some of the President’s friends out there.
R: Jack Mulcahy?12
K: Oh Jesus no, but almost. Taft Shreiber.13 They pretend that it isn’t fundraising but I am not … but I have no illusions what they are [Page 53] really doing. It’s to brief them. I told them there could be no fundraising while I was there but I am sure that’s what they have in the back of their minds.
R: I don’t envy you. Those are miserable.
K: They are. Finch14 and the President arranged it and I told them I wouldn’t do it again.
R: My talks with the Arabs have been very interesting and I think quite successful. God, they are nice people and they are so helpless.
K: Ya. Do you think that Riad15 is doing a lot of this for public consumption?
R: Oh, sure. Either that or he is made to do it by the Russians. I do not think he is a free agent at all. In fact, in discussing it with him he said [tape ends]
[begin new tape] Secretary Rogers talking.
R: You uncomfortable. You know what the facts are. You know you cheated. We saw it happening. Their defense was that they shouldn’t have made the agreement in the first place. He wasn’t there, if he had been he wouldn’t have made the agreement. Secondly, they didn’t violate the agreement at all. And third, if they did violate the agreement they were entitled to because it was unfair to begin with. And fourth, even if they shouldn’t have made the agreement and even if it was unfair they were very minor violations.
K: Some agreement; that each side claims it ruined its position, isn’t it?
R: Ya. OK Henry.
K: Right Bill, all the best, bye.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 7, Chronological File. No classification marking. All brackets are in the original.↩
- Walter Kissinger.↩
- October 22, the date of the upcoming meeting between Nixon and Gromyko at the White House.↩
- October 20.↩
- On October 17, the New York Times published a front-page article by Hedrick Smith entitled “Gromyko Rebuffs Rogers on the Mideast and Berlin.”↩
- The discussion between Rogers and Gromyko on Berlin was reported in telegram 172337 to Bonn, October 16; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 28 GER B.↩
- On September 30, Soviet authorities in East Germany closed the airspace over the town of Rathenow to civilian traffic for two hours—effectively closing two of the three air corridors to West Berlin. The Western Allies responded not only by delivering a protest note to the Soviet Ambassador in East Berlin but also by probing the affected area with military aircraft.↩
- The meeting between Rogers and Gromyko in New York on October 19.↩
- The Senior Review Group met at 3:30 p.m. on October 15 to discuss the situation in the Middle East. A record of the meeting is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXIII, Arab-Israeli Dispute, 1969–1972.↩
- Reference is to United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, adopted on November 22, 1967, which addressed the Arab-Israeli conflict in the wake of the Six-Day War.↩
- After his meeting with Gromyko on October 19, Rogers announced that the President and Soviet Foreign Minister would meet three days later at the White House. According to Rogers, Gromyko had requested the meeting. (Chalmers Roberts, “Nixon To See Gromyko at White House,” Washington Post, October 20, 1970, p. 1) On October 20, the Soviet Mission in New York denied that Gromyko had taken the initiative, claiming instead that Nixon had clearly wanted to extend the invitation. (“Russians Dispute Genesis of Meeting,” Washington Post, October 22, 1970, p. A27)↩
- John A. Mulcahy, a businessman, was a personal friend and financial supporter of President Nixon.↩
- Taft Schreiber, an executive at Music Corporation of America in Los Angeles.↩
- Robert H. Finch, formerly Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, was Counselor to the President.↩
- Mahmoud Riad, Egyptian Foreign Minister.↩