161. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) and the Soviet Ambassador (Dobrynin)1

K: You and I are going steady. We should exchange telephone numbers.

D: That is right. I will give you my Moscow number. 290–2520.

K: I will not ask you what the area code is.

D: It is in Moscow.

K: I have talked to the President about it2 and do not completely understand it.3 Is this in response to our letter?4

D: You do not? It is in connection with our last talk5 and your draft.

K: I will tell you how we are prepared to work it. We are prepared to agree in principle to separate ABM agreement. Then negotiators would begin discussion of what it would be like—Moscow versus Washington, Washington versus—

D: Only involved the place? How many [omission in transcript] etc?

K: At that point they would begin discussing what sort of agreement. Then when they know what sort of agreement would discuss radars and so forth. Simultaneously would discuss freeze. If that is possible agreement would be immediate.

D: I have to check but—

[Page 466]

K: When they begin drafting agreement they should talk about freeze.

D: They would discuss how many, etc. I don’t know. It seems to be a little bit on the later stage. They will argue about [how many radars and all the little things.]6

K: Not crucial to us. After you say agreement on ABM—agreement has been reached.

D: What is your position?

K: Certain start on ABM but also discuss on freeze.7

D: Simultaneously concluded on separate agreement and freezing at the same time.

K: Exactly.

D: I will pass this along to Moscow. I will be there myself on Monday.8 No, I cannot check it tomorrow because it is Saturday and no one will be there. You know it is the first week of the Congress to begin. For me it will be difficult to force members of the government to look at this. I will try to do my best and get an answer for you. I am meeting on Tuesday with Gromyko. Even he is involved with the Congress and lots of guests. You can understand the difficulty that this problem exists.

K: Yes. We are prepared to give instructions to start discussions on ABM—the nature of agreement and how many radars, etc. but we must simultaneously discuss the freeze issue.

D: What to discuss. Yes. Freezing I am just putting some thoughts down. [omission in transcript] What kind of freezing. I will send a telegram to my government.

K: Let me ask you as long as we have this conversation. Next part of it. Not many people know about this in our government and we must think of how to get them started. It can be done in two ways. By an exchange of letters. The other is that the President at a press conference could respond to a question along the lines of “Do you [Page 467] still believe in the link between offensive and defensive weapons?” Then he says something like “I am willing to make an agreement as long as freezing is in it.” You could say through TASS that is a good idea.

D: I don’t know. Yes I know you are giving an example.

K: This way we could get it into a formal channel.

D: Agreement on basis which you propose. It was our thinking I gave you on discussion after an agreement except for freezing. Do you have my note to you?

K: The one you gave me this afternoon. Yes. I have it.

D: [omission in transcript] details that the summit (?) will discuss simultaneously with the conclusion of the agreement.

K: With the conclusion—no that is a little late for the discussion. With the beginning of the drafting of the agreement.

D: It is very difficult to put in drafting [that we discuss freeze]9 from very beginning.

K: Will be discussed prior to ABM agreement?

D: Discussion of the details will be discussed simultaneously with the conclusion of the agreement.

K: That would be fine. See how easy I am to get along with. The discussion of the details will be discussed simultaneously with the conclusion of an agreement on ABM systems. Yes. Something like that would go.

D: I will transmit this to Moscow.

K: We are prepared to listen to any reasonable proposition. We should make the proposal and that will make it easiest within our bureaucracy. The President could make the statement in a press conference—similar to the letter.

D: I understand. You could reply with what you just have given me.

K: [omission in transcript] notification [omission in transcript] immediately instruct my delegation to—

D: I could not give yes or no now on this. Just get it clearly to present your point of view to Moscow. The point of view of the President.

K: We will receive any counter proposals. That is no problem.

D: Major point is how to formulate this.

K: That formulation. The one you gave me.

[Page 468]

D: You mean the one you gave me.

K: You are a good draftsman. You win every one of our discussions.

D: Everyone called you doctor. I could not get a doctors degree in 10 years. I would have to write a book and—

K: The trouble you have is that if you write a book everyone will be able to understand it.

D: You must give me degree of doctor.

K: When I am back in academic life I will see what I can do for you.

D: I will tell my government but you must understand it might take time.

K: You know we have that one problem in the 2nd half of April.

D: [omission in transcript] this place. No problem. Discuss with them, I will try to do my best and give you answer before I come back.

K: I have great confidence in your influence in Moscow. You remember I got you an answer within 24 hours on Berlin.

D: But in this there are more countries involved in this Congress. It is difficult for me to go and say wait one week to the others and I will take up my business.

K: I understand. On Berlin. It is best thing we get Ambassadors started as soon as—

D: I think on 16th of April?

K: We proceed as we discussed yesterday.

D: They will begin and when they have difficulty then our channel will be again taken up. You will not forget to send instructions.

K: Yes I will. But you tell Abrasimov to be somewhat cautious at first until we see how the communications work out.

D: As you proposed they will proceed.

K: I will be in touch with our Ambassador. If we have any questions on the technical things we can get in touch with Vorontsov. Is that the way you want it done?

D: Vorontsov. In some cases that is not good but in this case it is OK to go through him.

K: I have had no answer from Rush.

D: They will discuss and then they will talk—it is difficult for me to say for them. I think 2 grown up men can work out and agree on these administrative details don’t you?

K: I think so. However, I have heard that Abrasimov is more difficult to discuss things with than you.

D: He could not be worse than me. I am easiest fellow to discuss everything with.

[Page 469]

K: I will now see what influence you have in Moscow. Have a good trip.10

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 27, Dobrynin File. No classification marking. Kissinger was in San Clemente; Dobrynin was in Washington.
  2. Nixon and Kissinger discussed the Soviet note aboard Air Force One (see Document 164). The Presidential party left the White House at 5:07 p.m. (EST) and arrived in San Clemente at 8:15 p.m. (PST). (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) According to Haldeman, Nixon told Kissinger shortly their arrival “that he wanted him and me to come over to talk with him at the house.” (Haldeman, Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition) Haldeman noted that discussion concerned “Dob[rynin]SALT—sched[ule].” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, Staff Member and Office Files, H. R. Haldeman, Box 43, H Notes) During the meeting, Kissinger briefly left to call Dobrynin.
  3. Reference is to the Soviet note on SALT. See footnote 2, Document 160.
  4. See Document 142.
  5. See Document 160.
  6. Brackets are in the original.
  7. According to an undated note from David Young, Kissinger instructed his staff to revise this sentence to read: “They can start on ABM discussion the number of sites and so on but also they must discuss the freeze practically concurrently.” An unidentified staff member noted that this and other such revisions were “not sanitizations & should be made in all relevant files.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 78, Country Files, Europe, USSR, SALT)
  8. March 29.
  9. Brackets are in the original.
  10. After his conversation with Dobrynin, Kissinger returned to his meeting with Nixon and Haldeman. As Haldeman wrote in his diary entry for March 26: “That, of course in turn leads to going ahead with the fall Summit meeting and may also help in getting Berlin settled. In addition to that, the P now agrees with Henry’s long-held view that there is a remote possibility of a settlement on Vietnam with Hanoi, probably partly as a result of Laos.” “The mood he [Nixon] has is a very mystic one,” Haldeman remarked, “and he’s not highly optimistic, but certainly not down in the dumps, and has the feeling that something is happening or is about to happen. I think he’s right, in the sense that I think we’ve bottomed out now on most of our bad stuff, and that we’ll have a pretty good balance of the year ahead of us as we get at least some of these foreign policy developments, and as the economy makes some positive progress, which it almost inevitably is going to do between now and the end of the year.” (Haldeman, Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition)