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

[Omitted here is discussion of the President’s schedule.]

Kissinger: I think we’re going to get that SALT thing, Mr. President.

Nixon: How’d you get along with Dobrynin?2

Kissinger: Well, I decided to follow—I mean, I did exactly what you told me.3

[Omitted here is a brief exchange on scheduling.]

Kissinger: Well, to sum it up. I said [unclear]—I said to him, “What about the summit? We’ve been to—you must be suffering from a mis—” I said, “You must suffer from a misapprehension. The summit must reflect mutual interests, or it isn’t worth doing. So, we’ve talked to you about it for a year. There’s no sense—your Foreign Minister said, ‘Let’s not have fencing matches.’4 We seem to be having a fencing match, so the President has said he’s got to make—he’s making his plans. When you are ready to have a summit, you let us know, but don’t come to me unless you are ready to set a date and announce it quickly.” He said, “Oh, no, no, we’re planning on it. September, of course, we’re planning on it.” I said, “Well, it’s all right. You, you come to us when you are ready.” He said: “Oh, we are not insistent on protocol.” Well, so we left it at that, then.

Nixon: [unclear]

Kissinger: Then I, I have worked out a—

Nixon: Your feeling there is that they want the summit [unclear] but that they don’t want to announce it for a couple months—

Kissinger: Well, they don’t want to announce it for two reasons. One, they want to show that Brezhnev negotiated the thing—

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: —and he just took over. Second, they’re thugs and they always try to pick up some loose change along the way.

[Page 563]

Nixon: Oh, yeah.

Kissinger: And they just ran up against the wrong guy.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: You just didn’t give them any loose change. Secondly, I have worked out with Bahr, who was up at Woodstock—

Nixon: Good.

Kissinger: —and with Rush, a very intricate way of handling the Berlin problem,5 which I don’t want to bore you with, but which I really think now has a chance, and which has the other advantage of putting the control in our hands. It’s to take out all the legal phrases—

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Kissinger: —and just talk about the facts, who will do what, but not on what basis.

Nixon: Good.

Kissinger: And this has the great advantage that if they don’t play ball, we just tell Rush not to come to any meetings.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: So I’ll put that to him. And thirdly, I mentioned SALT.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: I said, “Frankly the President wonders whether, if we can’t work this out, whether there is any sense of having any further talks.”

Nixon: Good.

Kissinger: And—

Nixon: Absolutely.

Kissinger: —I said, “Here is the fact: you are asking us to tear down what we built as the first step of a negotiation. How can the President go to the Congress, leaving aside his convictions, and say the Russians are dealing with us in good faith? We’re doing this.” So I said, “Either you take out that sentence or we’ll put in a sentence in the President’s reply saying we disagree with it, in which case it’s pointless. Also, we must have another sentence in that, your letter, that says—” They had said they will discuss simultaneously the freezing. I said, “You can’t just discuss it, you have to agree to it, the limit-freezing of offensive weapons.” Now, that second sentence, he agreed to immediately. He said, “We’re willing to conclude that.” On taking out the Moscow one, he said he had to refer to Moscow, but he thinks he has an answer by the end of this week. And—

Nixon: Do you want to stay [unclear] to work on it?

[Page 564]

Kissinger: No, I said, “Also the President wants to announce it, if we exchange these letters.” So we could announce that, probably—I—I—he was really chastened. I didn’t joke with him this time. I said, “Mr. Ambassador,” this, this, and this. And I think we’re going to get it.

[Omitted here is further discussion of SALT (see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXII, SALT I, 1969–1972, Document 151).]

Nixon: My guess is that Dobrynin will take a little time.

Kissinger: Well, I think it’s so close. They are either going to do it now or not.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: There’s no more in it.

Nixon: Yeah, yeah. Except, the really—the key point is whether or not they are willing to take out the sentence with regard to Washington only.

Kissinger: Right. They will be.

Nixon: They will be?

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: But, he wasn’t—he didn’t have any authority to concede that, though?

Kissinger: No. But I just cannot conceive them challenging you directly, particularly—even though I didn’t say so to him, since they know we can screw up the Berlin negotiations to a fare-thee-well.

Nixon: That’s right. We will.

[Omitted here is discussion on Vietnam.]

Nixon: Well, this meeting you had with Dobrynin will get back to them [the North Vietnamese] too.

Kissinger: Oh, yeah.

Nixon: I think—don’t you think that the tone of that will get back to them?

Kissinger: Oh, I was really tough.

Nixon: You have to be.

Kissinger: That was the toughest since Cuba—

Nixon: Cuba.

Kissinger: —and his reaction was exactly the same.

Nixon: Since the time I had him in here?

Kissinger: No, since the time on the Cuban missile—

Nixon: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kissinger: Of course, they’ve had their tender out of there now for three months.

Nixon: Well, put it right—put it right to him now. I mean, “As far as the summit is concerned, you let us know.”

[Page 565]

Kissinger: I—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: I think that’s can’t miss.

Nixon: Pursue the Chinese thing as hard as you can.

Kissinger: Yeah, I—

Nixon: It has to be pursued.

[Omitted here is discussion on China, Vietnam, and the President’s schedule.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation 489–17. 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 3:56 to 4:12 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files).
  2. See Document 192.
  3. See Document 191.
  4. See Document 167.
  5. See footnotes 5 and 6, Document 192.