181. Conversation Between President Nixon and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

[Omitted here is discussion of Kissinger’s meeting with Henry Hubbard of Newsweek.]

Nixon: Henry, you know, we don’t realize—I think China, more than Moscow, is a goddamned nerve thing for these people. What do you think? I don’t know.

Kissinger: Because it’s so new.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: And, of course, there’s—

Nixon: And, of course, let’s face it, in the long run, it’s so historic. You know, when you stop to think of 800 million people, and where they’re going to be. Jesus, this is a hell of a move.

Kissinger: Of course, I don’t want to get our hopes up too much, but one of the things that has occurred to me, that I did not tell to this fellow [Hubbard]—

Nixon: Yeah?

Kissinger: —is that it is conceivable—indeed, it is very possible—that they know Hanoi’s going to make a peace move and they don’t want to be left out.

Nixon: Hm-hmm. Yeah. Well, that’ll take care of itself. Getting back to the Russian thing, I was concerned about the TASS thing.2 I don’t know how—how are you—are you concerned that much? Are we—let’s—or do we—can you call Vorontsov again and—or that would be too much?

Kissinger: No, I think that would make us look too eager, Mr. President.

Nixon: Well, I don’t want them to think, though, that—you know what I mean? Maybe you should call Dobrynin.

[Page 523]

Kissinger: No, Mr. President—

Nixon: Yeah?

Kissinger: I’ve called Dobrynin once.3

Nixon: All right.

Kissinger: I’ve had Vorontsov in.4

Nixon: All right.

Kissinger: I’ve called Vorontsov this morning.5

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Kissinger: And I’ve had Ziegler put out a statement.6

Nixon: Right, that’s enough. Okay.

Kissinger: And I think any more would really be over-eager—

Nixon: Yeah. And now, at this point, they’re basically, TASS is simply—but TASS, that shows that they must be hysterical about this damn thing.

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: Huh?

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: [laughs] Because they said, “This removed the mask of U.S-China”7—[laughs] shit, we don’t have any relations with the Chinese.

Kissinger: Well, they’re also—

Nixon: They must think we’re doing something.

Kissinger: Well, they’re also using it against the Chinese.

Nixon: Oh, how’s that?

Kissinger: Well, because one of the things in which the Chinese have been driving them crazy, is by claiming they were revolutionary purists while the Russians were opportunists—

[Page 524]

Nixon: Yeah, I see.

Kissinger: So this is part of their internal problem.

Nixon: I see. So they’re saying that we are the—they are, the Chinese, colluding with the capitalists.

Kissinger: That’s right. I think this was more directed at them.

Nixon: You know, I would say this: The columnists and the rest, they should have enough to write about for at least two weeks. I don’t say it’s a month—

Kissinger: Oh, yes—

Nixon: —but two weeks—

Kissinger: —but, of course, at the end of those two weeks, we may have something else to tell them.

Nixon: Yeah.

[Omitted here is discussion of Vietnam and China, including the following brief exchange: Kissinger: “I will send a message to them [North Vietnamese] by the end of next week no matter what we hear from Dobrynin.” Nixon: “Oh, hell yes. Look, whatever Dobrynin does, you’ve got to move on this front.”]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation 1–101. No classification marking. The editors transcribed the portion of the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon called Kissinger at 7:33 p.m.; the two men then talked for 10 minutes. (Ibid., White House Central Files) A transcript of the conversation is ibid., Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 9, Chronological File.
  2. TASS accurately reported “reciprocal gestures” between the United States and the People’s Republic of China on April 15. For the complete text of the report, published by Pravda and Izvestia on April 16, see Current Digest of the Soviet Press, Vol. XXIII, No. 15 (May 11, 1971), p. 11.
  3. See footnote 5, Document 176.
  4. See Document 175.
  5. See Document 180.
  6. During a telephone conversation at 10:46 a.m. on April 15, Kissinger gave Ziegler the following press guidance: “Make sure you take an occasion in a low key way to deny any anti-Russian intent. Say our basic policy is one to be a friend of the U.S. without being an enemy of the Soviet Union. The President has said this. We have no interest in exacerbating relations between Communist China and Soviet Union and we recognize the Soviet Union will not succumb to petty pressures and [omission in transcript] with anything to the Soviet Union. We hope for continuing improvement in relations with the Soviet Union.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 9, Chronological File) Ziegler adopted this line during his briefing at the White House that afternoon. (Terence Smith, “Soviet Assured by U.S. on China,” New York Times, April 16, 1971, pp. 1, 11)
  7. This phrase is not in the TASS report cited in footnote 2 above.