158. Telegram From the Department of State to the White House 1

51570. For the President from the Secretary. Following is Evening Report for the President for March 26, 1971:

[Omitted here is discussion of the withdrawal of Australian forces from Vietnam.]

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2. Dobrynin’s Call2Dobrynin called on me for a tour d’horizon prior to his departure on Saturday3 to attend the 24th Party Congress.

I asked him to deliver a personal letter to Gromyko,4 noting that it does not cover any new ground but that it was designed to maintain a good working relationship with the Foreign Minister and to avoid misunderstanding.

Middle East. A good portion of our hour’s discussion centered on the Middle East. I referred to my briefing of Senators yesterday5 and noted that there was general agreement with the administration’s position on the Middle East following my presentation. Alluding to questions I had been asked there, I queried Dobrynin on an informal basis whether the Soviet Union might reduce its military presence in the UAR if we got to the point where a complete agreement appeared to be in the offing. Dobrynin replied by asking: “If a solution is achieved, what need would there be for personnel to stay?” He added that the initiative for stationing advisors had always been taken by the Egyptians and not the USSR.

Dobrynin asked for our views about an interim agreement which would lead to the opening of the Suez Canal. I noted that we felt that such an agreement had advantages so long as it did not slow down negotiations under Jarring’s auspices. Dobrynin said that this was the way the Egyptians felt. He emphasized that the Arabs had been responsive to U.S. overtures and requests and that they had now laid all of their cards on the table and they could offer nothing more. He hoped that the U.S. Government would use friendly persuasion to bring about movement by the Israelis.

Dobrynin suggested that the four powers discuss the question of guarantees for a Middle East settlement simultaneously with the Jarring discussions. I noted we did not feel that we should move too fast on this but are nevertheless prepared to discuss this question a bit more than in the past.

Finally, Dobrynin gave me the signed text of Kosygin’s letter to you on the Middle East of February 26 and asked when a response could be expected. (You will recall that this letter was handed to me on March 1 and merely repeated observations on the Middle East which [Page 460] had appeared in a public Soviet Government statement released on February 27.)6

SALT. Dobrynin merely expressed the hope that we could get somewhere on SALT, and I said that we maintain such hopes too.

Conference on European Security (CES). Dobrynin asked whether U.S. views had changed any on a CES, namely, whether we were prepared to accept the Finnish proposals advocating multilateral contacts. I stressed that problems involving Berlin and Germany as a whole lay at the heart of European security. These issues were inextricably linked and a fact of life.

Berlin. Dobrynin noted that the Soviet side would today be presenting some new formulations which would represent movement toward the Allied positions.7 He hoped we would study these with care. He also asked about our current views with respect to elevating the level of the discussion. I noted that this had been mentioned as a possibility and that we could consider this matter if we got to a point where we thought it would be helpful.

Vietnam.8 In response to a query by Dobrynin, I noted that we still strongly favored a negotiated settlement. However, it appeared that the responsibility for political negotiations will rest increasingly with the two Vietnams. Our presence was being reduced and the U.S. was becoming less and less involved. I noted, too, that we saw no real prospect of Chinese intervention at the moment. Dobrynin said this would probably only take place if North Vietnam were invaded.

China.9 Dobrynin expressed interest in our position on the PRC’s entry into the UN. I said I might talk to him about this after his return to the States. He was rather evasive when I asked him about the Soviet position, but ended up saying that while the Soviets may not be sympathetic to Mao’s regime there was no change in the Soviet view of the representation issue. In answer to my question, he said that the Soviet Union’s relationship with China on the ideological front remained as before, implying that it was poor. On the governmental level, however, he said that relations had improved a bit. To his knowledge, there had been no clashes since last year and no increase in the level of Soviet troops on the borders.

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Indian Ocean.10 Referring to a recent international conference on the Indian Ocean at Georgetown University, Dobrynin asked informally whether the U.S. Government might be interested in the idea of a pronouncement to the effect that this area should be kept outside of major-power competition. He was rather imprecise but went on to wonder whether the U.S. would have any strong opposition to declaring that the Indian Ocean should remain free of military bases and “fleet concentrations.” He emphasized that he was making these queries informally, although I would not be surprised if he were doing so under instructions. I was noncommittal in my reply.

24th Party Congress.11 Dobrynin was not very forthcoming or illuminating when I asked him about the Party Congress. He did say, however, that no changes in foreign policy would result. He hinted that Gromyko might move up in the hierarchy, perhaps into the Politburo, but that he would still very much be in charge of foreign policy.

Peaceful Nuclear Explosions. Finally, Dobrynin said that the Soviets were prepared to undertake a third round of bilateral discussions related to the utilization of nuclear explosions for peaceful purposes. He said they are prepared to meet in the first half of 1971 and were looking forward to our response. Signed TLE for William P. Rogers.12

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, S/S Files: Lot 74 D 164, President’s Evening Reading Reports, 1964–1974, Box 3, Memorandum for the President (Master File). Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Rich (S/S) and approved by Rogers.
  2. According to his Appointment Book, Rogers, accompanied by Adolph Dubs, met Dobrynin on March 26 at 12:10 p.m. (Personal Papers of William P. Rogers)
  3. March 27.
  4. Document 157.
  5. According to his Appointment Book, Rogers, accompanied by Abshire and Atherton, briefed the “full Senate” on the Middle East at 2:45 p.m. on March 25. (Personal Papers of William P. Rogers)
  6. See Document 130.
  7. Abrasimov formally tabled the Soviet draft for a quadripartite agreement during the Ambassadorial meeting in Berlin on March 26.
  8. In telegram 51639 to Moscow, March 27, the Department reported the discussion on Vietnam in more detail. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27–14 VIET S)
  9. In telegram 51641 to Moscow, March 27, the Department reported the discussion on China in more detail. (Ibid., UN 6 CHICOM)
  10. In telegram 51640 to Moscow, March 27, the Department reported the discussion on the Indian Ocean in more detail. (Ibid., DEF 15 IND–US)
  11. In telegram 51643 to Moscow, March 27, the Department reported the discussion on miscellaneous issues, including the upcoming Party Congress. (Ibid., POL USUSSR)
  12. The telegram is otherwise unsigned.