154. Memorandum of Conversation1

    • Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin
    • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger


The meeting lasted an hour and a half.2 At the beginning I handed Dobrynin the formulas on access, on inter-Berlin arrangements, and on Federal presence that Rush had submitted to me.3 Dobrynin took them and he said that he noted that even in this channel we rather stubbornly clung to our position. I said so far we had made the major concessions in this channel, but in any event all the channel guaranteed was greater speed, not greater concessions.

Dobrynin then went through the partial comments I had given him and asked for clarification. He said he wanted to know first of all whether, except for the comments I had made, all other points would be acceptable. Specifically he wanted to know whether with respect to the Soviet presence the only thing that was objectionable was the Consulate and everything else was acceptable. I told him that anything that had a diplomatic status was probably not acceptable. Dobrynin said that this presented major problems for the Soviet Union because obviously every enterprise was a State enterprise and their representatives abroad were State officials.

Dobrynin also wondered whether I could assure him that there would be non-discriminatory treatment of Soviet concerns in West [Page 450] Berlin. I said I would have to check this since this was a technical point. He asked if I were implying that we wanted to write into an agreement discriminatory treatment of Soviet interests. I replied that I was not implying anything; I just had to check it in order to make sure that I knew what I was talking about. I would let him know as soon as possible.

Dobrynin said it was important for him to be able to show some movement on our side, since we had asked for some major commitment from them on access and other issues. He then asked a number of specific questions about every part, the gist in each case being whether, except for the comments, we were accepting all the other points. I replied that he had to understand that I was not conducting any negotiation; I was just giving him the general sense. For example, I said, I had not pointed out, because it seemed to me premature, the fact that we objected to the demilitarization clause in their draft. It was not that we were quite prepared to say that Federal military activities would not be permitted in Berlin. We could not accept a blanket demilitarization clause, considering their remilitarization of East Berlin. I also pointed out that we could not accept the term “West Berlin,” we needed the phrases I had submitted to him in my Partial Comments.

Dobrynin then raised the question of Federal presence and asked again whether, except for the formulations which we were submitting, the other Soviet formulations were acceptable. I said I doubted whether complete prohibitions of committee meetings and party meetings were acceptable, but that we might look for some formula that moved toward the Soviet position. He said, “may I report to Moscow that you will move far enough towards the Soviet position?” I said I don’t know what “far enough” means. I said I thought the best thing to say was that if the Soviet position on access becomes more flexible we will move towards theirs on the Federal presence issue.

Dobrynin next asked why we asked for an additional Soviet commitment on access when the introductory paragraph is verbatim what we had handed them in the draft of the annex on access procedures. He said that he could understand that we wanted different access regulations, so he thought it was an abstruse point which depended entirely on the inter-German negotiations, not on anything that we would settle in the abstract. He added he could understand why we would hold out on the technical issues, but what about the commitment issue? I told him I would check and let him know.

Finally, Dobrynin asked how the ambassadors could proceed with their work. I suggested the following procedure.

I said that on the occasion of the next meeting of the four ambassadors, whenever that would be, Abrasimov could request a private meeting with Rush. That private meeting would be perfectly logical [Page 451] since it would follow on the aborted meeting of the 25th.4 Then Abrasimov should discuss with Rush the text of the Soviet submission of March 26. Rush would follow essentially the same points that I had already submitted as partial comments. At the end of the meeting Abrasimov and Rush should talk with only the Soviet interpreter present, to work out any procedures they might wish for additional meetings. However, it was imperative that Abrasimov make no reference to our channel while there are other Americans in the room with Rush. Rush was the only American who to my knowledge knew everything about the procedures and about the negotiations. Dobrynin said he would see to it and that this procedure would be followed.

We then turned to other matters.

U.S.-Soviet Relations

I told Dobrynin that we were at a key point in our relationship. He could make his usual skillful debating points with me and stress the fact that the Soviet Union was trying to make progress. The fact of the matter is that at least for a year we had told the Soviet leaders that we were ready to move towards more fundamental negotiations and for one reason or another they had never happened. I could only say that placing the submarine tender in Cuba does not improve our relationship. I also pointed out that there still was no answer to the SALT note. We had been talking about a summit and nothing had happened. I could only repeat that we would be making fundamental decisions after the middle of April. We would not tread water. We would go one way or the other, and I would hate to think that the channel between Dobrynin and me was a channel of lost opportunities.

Dobrynin said that as for the tender, he couldn’t understand our concerns since the tender wasn’t doing anything. As for SALT, he had explained to me why it had been difficult to get an answer. He could tell me confidentially that after our last conversation he had sent another communication to Moscow inviting a response. Finally, concerning the summit meeting—as far as he understood his government had taken a formal decision to have a summit meeting and had extended a formal invitation. It was still on. He expected, and as far as he knew, his government expected it to take place. He asked if the first week of August were still acceptable to us? I replied either the first week of August or the first week of September; this was a matter I had to check with the President. I said if there were a summit there would have to be some progress on SALT, since obviously there would have to be something to be concluded at the summit. Also there would have to [Page 452] be an announcement reasonably soon. Dobrynin replied that the announcement was no problem. Finally, Dobrynin said that he would see if he could get things moving, but he thought that a summit was firmly in the plans of the Soviet leadership.


Dobrynin then asked me whether I had any communication to make to him for Hanoi. He said he was doing this entirely on his own because he knew he would meet the top Hanoi leaders. I replied I had nothing to add to what I had already told him. Dobrynin said, “are you sure you have nothing to say?” I replied, “I have told you once before that if Hanoi wants to talk seriously, I’m ready.” Dobrynin said, “but is that really all you want me to tell them?” I said, “yes, there’s nothing to add to what I have already told you.” Dobrynin continued, “do you recognize this is a unique chance to talk to the top leadership?” I responded, “I have given you some of my private ideas early in January. We have always been ready to talk to Hanoi, but Hanoi’s representatives have never said anything in their conversations with me that differed in the slightest from what they had already said in Paris publicly. Under those conditions, unless I know there’s something really to talk about I cannot go beyond what I told you on January 8.”5 Dobrynin said he would communicate this but that he thought the Soviet government was prepared to carry messages if we wanted it to. I told him I would keep that in mind.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 491, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 5 [part 1]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Map Room at the White House. According to Kissinger’s Record of Schedule, the meeting lasted until 6:50 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76)
  2. During a telephone conversation at 4:30 p.m., Nixon and Kissinger briefly discussed this meeting with Dobrynin: “P: I think tonight you should play a firmer game with this fellow. Your fellow from Russia. I want a firmer game played. Very positive and successful and not try to find out what they are doing. Hit it hard. I want you to leave the threat I will have to make a public statement on arms control if we don’t work out the letter thing. K: I will lay it on the line. P: Horsed around about that and the summit. We will not play around. K: We will not tread water. We will not play around. P: Say we value the channel but that’s that.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 9, Chronological File)
  3. See Document 151.
  4. See Document 151.
  5. Reference should be to the meeting between Kissinger and Dobrynin on January 9. See Document 90.