183. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between Secretary of Defense Laird and the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig)1

L: Is Henry aware I talked to the President about the Baltic Sea operation?2 He authorized me to go ahead with it—

H: Right.

L: I told Bill Rogers I had authorized it and it has created a flap at the State Department. They backed away from it.

H: Irwin raised it with Henry at lunch yesterday.3 Henry told Irwin just calm down, the President wants it done.

L: Just so Henry is aware. Before I go ahead and approve orders I always call and talk to Bill personally. He knows about this. Alex is raising hell with me today that this should have been discussed. I wanted you to know. If I am going to back down, let me back down gracefully.

H: Right, sir. Henry will be back here in an hour-and-a-half.

L: They have not decided to back away have they?

H: Oh, no. You know what it is and the situation is somewhat different, but I don’t think there is a decision to back off. If there is any change I will have Henry call you immediately.

L: It would help. You know, I was taking a hard line on the trucks to China … if I could back away once in a while from some of these things it kind of helps me. I always take the lumps. I always get it put to me. I kind of worked it out over a year in this goddamn building because if I take the hard line in Asia we are going to have air and naval power, everybody over here thinks …

H: Henry went over that with me this morning and the dates. He said he never intended to convey the impression he was going to pull out.

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L: Yes, I understand, but now this Baltic thing. I have to have at least 48 hours to back out of it.

H: Henry said to me State is upset about the Baltic thing, but I understood from the way he said it that nobody succumbed to that pressure.

L: I can back out but I have to have some cover—not always out here on the goddamn limb.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 9, Chronological File. No classification marking. A typed parenthetical note on the transcripts states: “Secy Laird had asked for HAK first.”
  2. No record of this conversation has been found.
  3. According to his Record of Schedule, Kissinger and Irwin met for breakfast on April 16—not lunch on April 15. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) No record of the conversation has been found.
  4. During a telephone conversation at 10 a.m. on April 18, Laird and Kissinger discussed the proposed operation: “L: That movement into the Baltic takes place in early May. K: Okay. L: But they will be operating in the North Sea on an ASW mission. Now what if it—the task force is made up of 4 destroyers and an ASW carrier. K: That’s great, that’s what we want. L: And they will be operating this month in the North Sea, ASW exercises and so forth, then they will move in the Baltic on the—early in May. K: That’s terrific. I wouldn’t worry about that, if there are any changes, I will be in touch with you. L: Yeah, let me know so I can back up from it if there are any. K: Right, but I am up to—just continue it as it is. L: Yeah, okay.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 29, Home File)