192. Memorandum of Conversation1

Meeting with Dobrynin, Noon, April 26, The Map Room, The White House

The meeting took place at my request. It was conducted in a deliberately businesslike and aloof manner. It covered the following topics.

Summit Meeting

I began the conversation by telling Dobrynin that the President had over the weekend reviewed the discussions on the Summit. He had come to the conclusion that we had been proposing a Summit for a year now and, for one reason or another, it had never been seriously taken up. Last August, an invitation to Kosygin had not had a response for two months.2 Then when Gromyko renewed the discussions, and we accepted them in principle, there had been another hiatus of three months. The Soviet Government then renewed the invitation.3 Now, there was another hiatus.

We therefore wanted to make the following points clear. (1) The linkage of the Summit to any preconditions was totally unacceptable to us. The Summit would take place when it was in the mutual interest of both parties, and could not be used as a lever on other negotiations. (2) The President believed that he had made his views clear, and he was not prepared to discuss it any further. The next move was up to the Soviet Government. We made our plans several months ahead, and if they could not be realized on that basis, we would have to make some other arrangements. The next time the Soviet Government approached us, however, on the Summit, it had to be prepared to announce it. We were not prepared to engage in what Gromyko, himself, had called fencing.4 Dobrynin said I must have misunderstood him. The Soviet Government did not insist on protocol—the invitation, of course, still stood, but he would convey this to the Soviet Government.

[Page 560]


I then turned the conversation to Berlin and mentioned to Dobrynin my conversation with Bahr over the weekend.5 I said that the only way we could see of breaking the deadlock would be to redraft both documents and to remove the juridical claims from both versions. The documents would then retain the existing form, but would simply state the obligations and responsibilities of both sides but not the legal justification for it.

If this approach was acceptable to the Soviet Union, we would introduce it at the Western Consultative Meeting on May 17th and, after that, draft a document accordingly. Falin and Rush could meet secretly to work out the details and possible compromises of the drafts, and Bahr would be prepared to join these meetings. This seemed to me the best way of making progress.6

Dobrynin said it seemed to him a reasonable procedure but, of course, he could not tell until he had seen some formulations. I said that Bahr would be prepared to give him the formulations on May 4th after consultation with Rush and Brandt. Bahr would give the formulations to Falin.

Dobrynin asked whether Falin should take the initiative for a meeting or whether Bahr would. I said Bahr would take the initiative. Dobrynin, nevertheless, wondered whether I could give him on an informal basis some ideas of what we had in mind. I said I would try on a thinking-out-loud basis.


I told Dobrynin that the President had carefully studied the draft reply of the Soviet Government.7 I said from our point of view there [Page 561] were two major problems with it. Point one was it only offered to discuss the idea of a freeze, not to conclude it. This I did not consider a concession since they were already obligated to discuss offensive limitations under the SALT agreement. Secondly, we could not accept any exchange that we would confine the ABM deployments to Washington and Moscow. This had to be settled during the negotiations.

I said the Soviet Government had an important decision to make. If this exchange foundered, they could, of course, see whether in the direct negotiations they could do better. My own view was that whatever the ultimate outcome, it would take a lot longer to resolve the issue than at present, and I therefore felt that if the Soviet Government wanted progress, it should agree to this exchange of letters.

I also showed Dobrynin the draft reply from the President,8 and I read him the verbal note.9 Dobrynin said it would complicate matters too much if we let their letter stand and it would be easier if we included the sentence about the requirement of an agreement on a freeze, as well as delete the Washington/Moscow reference. However, he would have to refer to Moscow in order to be able to get an answer. We then drafted a sentence which read as follows:

“The agreement on limiting ABM systems and the understanding on freezing offensive deployments would be concluded simultaneously.”

I told Dobrynin that we would like to release these letters in order to give the proper impetus and that we would call Smith back from Vienna for that purpose. Dobrynin said that he would have an answer in a week. He also said that if the Soviet Union deleted the reference to Washington/Moscow, it would like to be able to count on the fact that we would eventually yield on it. I said this was obviously absurd. He asked whether we were absolutely locked into our position. I said we were prepared to negotiate, but I cannot be hopeful that we are going to change our view. However, after an interval of serious negotiations, both governments should look at the positions and see where they are. We could hardly want an exchange if we were determined to produce a deadlock, but we believe that the Soviet proposal is inequitable since it asks us to tear down what we have built while they keep what they have built. We believed that the Soviet Government, once it considers the matter, will see that we are essentially right. Dobrynin said he would have to refer the matter to Moscow and again promised an answer within a week.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 491, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 5 [part 1]. Top Secret; Sensitive. Drafted on April 27. Kissinger forwarded the memorandum of conversation and an undated memorandum summarizing its “highlights” to the President. A note on the covering memorandum indicates that the President saw it on April 28. According to Kissinger’s Record of Schedule, the meeting began at 12:14 and lasted until 1:05 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76)
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XII, Soviet Union, January 1969–October 1970, Document 198.
  3. See Documents 24 and 103.
  4. See Document 167.
  5. While Nixon spent the weekend at Camp David, Kissinger attended a meeting of the Bilderberg Group in Woodstock, Vermont, where he discussed the Berlin negotiations there with Bahr, including a German draft agreement. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XL, Germany and Berlin, 1969–1972, Document 230.
  6. According to a handwritten note, Kissinger went to the meeting with an excerpt from Rush’s April 25 message on his aborted meeting with Abrasimov, presumably intending to show the text to Dobrynin. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 491, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 5 [part 1]) In an April 28 message, Kissinger assured Rush that he had given “Dobrynin hell about Abrasimov.” Kissinger also reported on the process for secret talks on Berlin: “I agreed with Bahr that he go over with you the draft of the approach which meets the juridical formulations. If you agree, Bahr would then take up the neutral formulations with Falin as an illustrative approach. If the Soviets indicate to us that this is a possible approach, we then introduce it in the Western Four. Falin and you can then meet privately with the occasional assistance of Bahr. You would conduct most of the negotiations with Falin, while Dobrynin and I backstop on big issues.” (Ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 59, Country Files, Ambassador Rush, Berlin, Vol. 1 [1 of 2]) Rush replied on April 29 that this procedure was “excellent and will enable us to operate effectively.” (Ibid.)
  7. Printed as an attachment to Document 189.
  8. Attached but not printed. See footnote 4, Document 189.
  9. Attached but not printed.