179. Letter From McGeorge Bundy to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Dear Henry:

I had a meeting with Kocharyan and Harris this afternoon, and I enclose the memcon.2 I had to leave after about forty-five minutes and Kocharyan stayed on. He managed to convey to Harris an impression which both of us think you should know about—namely, that his masters may be looking for some public as well as private signal that Brezhnev’s statements were affirmatively noted in Washington. Kocharyan did not quite say this himself, but Harris nevertheless has the impression, which sounds plausible to me, that in Moscow as in Washington both public and private signals are often important—perhaps partly for bargaining with one’s colleagues.

In any event, my own feeling is that you and the President may wish to consider whether at a convenient moment either the President or the Secretary might wish to speak once more of the importance of SALT, and say a word or so welcoming and sharing Brezhnev’s view that progress in this field is important and possible. You will know better than I whether this is practicable. Obviously too warm a public statement might rouse hopes beyond what makes sense, but even a fairly calm comment could be pointed to privately, if you wanted.

Alternatively, if no such comment is likely in the next little while, I think I could help in reinforcing what I said today if I could have a suggestion from you as to the right way of telling Kocharyan that it [Page 520] would be wrong to take the absence of comment in Washington as a negative sign.3

As ever,

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Office Files, Box 66, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Harris, Lou (Soviet Conversations). No classification marking. In a memorandum to Kissinger on April 20, David Halperin forwarded a draft reply to Bundy’s letter. Kissinger, however, wrote in the margin: “No reply. Have handled by phone.” (Ibid.)
  2. The meeting was held in Harris’s office in New York. According to the attached memorandum of conversation, Bundy told Kocharyan that the Nixon administration “fully shared” the view that Brezhnev’s Party Congress speech was “highly significant” and that “the immediate future was a time in which there could be a prospect of real and serious action.” Bundy emphasized that, while “an informal process of communication” could be valuable, the “main line of serious negotiation must be from government to government.” He also added that “there was every reason to have confidence in the strength and effectiveness of communication between Ambassador Dobrynin and Mr. Kissinger.”
  3. Bundy called Kissinger at 4:17 p.m. on May 14 to report that Kocharyan wanted to deliver an “important message” to the White House. “I thought I’d call his attention to the President’s press conference about relations with the Soviet Union,” Bundy told Kissinger, “say that it was as constructive as anything Brezhnev said which everyone has been quoting.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 10, Chronological File) For Nixon’s press conference on April 29; see Document 199. After he met Kocharyan, Bundy called Kissinger at 5:25 pm. on May 18 and commented that this contact was “more his initiative than a push from Moscow. I told him [Kocharyan] that the formal lines were very important now. He said yes.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 10, Chronological File) Bundy provided further details on his meeting with Kocharyan in a May 20 letter to Kissinger. (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 809, Name Files, Bundy, McGeorge)