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

[Omitted here is discussion of the United Nations and Vietnam.]

Kissinger: I’m seeing Dobrynin at noon and I wanted to check with you before I did.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: I believe, Mr. President, that your instinct on Saturday2 is the right one, that I ought to be—

Nixon: Oh, yes.

Kissinger: —tough with him.

Nixon: Tough as hell. So what—you can’t do anything?

Kissinger: No, what I was—

[Omitted here is discussion of Vietnam, in particular, the politics of the POW issue. During this discussion—a portion of which is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume VII, Vietnam, July 1970–January 1972, Document 191—the subject of Kissinger’s upcoming meeting with Dobrynin was briefly mentioned three times.]

Kissinger: But on Dobrynin, what I thought I was going to tell him is that you’re developing serious doubts whether these talks—

Nixon: Yes.

Kissinger: —are ever going to get anywhere.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: That, as far as the summit is concerned, we’ve now talked about it for a year. We are not going to raise it again.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: When they are ready to have it, they should give us the day. And that it must be summer.

Nixon: But the President—we—the President’s now going to make other plans—

Kissinger: Yeah.

[Page 558]

Nixon: —on that period. We have to plan four months in advance and so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Kissinger: Right.

Nixon: You see what I mean?

Kissinger: That’s right. Now, on the other things, I think—

Nixon: SALT?

Kissinger: —on the SALT, we should stick to our position. We’ve gone very far by offering them a separate ABM agreement.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: And, there’s no—they may give—well, it’s just absurd for them to tell us that—

Nixon: What we—

Kissinger: —we have to tear down what we are building—

Nixon: No.

Kissinger: —but how they can keep what they’re building.

Nixon: Just say, “I’m sorry,” and strike it out. And don’t tell them we agree to [unclear]. You’ll say that’s—are you going to say it’s negotiable?

Kissinger: No, I’m going to say that they can raise it but our position will be—I was going to hand him a note saying our position will be, that for the United States it will be based on the system and the process of deployment.

Nixon: Hm-hmm. That’s right. That’s right. That’s right. Good. And then, if he turns you down, that’s it.3

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation 489–5. No classification marking. The editors transcribed the portions of the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon met Kissinger in the Oval Office from 11:52 a.m. to 12:07 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. April 24.
  3. Haldeman, who also attended the meeting, described the conversation in his diary as follows: “He did have Henry and me in at one point this morning, and Henry obviously was very much depressed because the general developments had not been what he had hoped. I didn’t get a full reading on what the problem was. I suspected at the time that his SALT plan had probably fallen through, and I don’t know whether that’s the case or not. In any event, the P made a very determined effort to try to cheer Henry up and didn’t really succeed.” (Haldeman, Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition)