200. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) and the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig)1

H: It took a little bit to get our friend (Dobrynin) but I just talked to him and he said, I guess so.2 This is in response to what Dr. Kissinger mentioned to me but then he went on to say this is not any big deal. Just thought it would be to explore this channel, this way no preconditions and we shouldn’t read anything into it.

K: What the hell does he mean?

[Page 580]

H: It was my distinct impression that this is along the lines of what you mentioned to him.3

K: They only pay off on what people say.

H: That’s what he said.

K: Okay.

H: Now, I have got this message to Farland ready to go. I have offered him two options—(1) telling him where you will be until May 8 and if he could arrange a pretext to come to the Coast, you could meet him perhaps from some overt location such as Los Angeles but he has got to have a bona fide reason to be there. I have looked into using the Navy side but the problem with it is it is going to take some time—4 hours for transmission and decrypting and travel from [omission in transcript] to [omission in transcript]. [less than 1 line not declassified]

K: If he can come back before the 8th, make it the West Coast.

H: Second option, in Washington.

K: Can’t he have some personal business and pass through Washington for the day?

H: He can’t be here any more than 24 hours.

K: Or 48 hours. It would be ridiculous if the State Department wanted a [omission in transcript].

H: You said 24 hours, I have a note here.

K: I would say 48. What worries me is Dobrynin.

H: Yeah. Well, I think you could call him.

K: I won’t call him. What did he say? We shouldn’t read too much into it.

H: To the proposal that they have given us. It would be useful to explore.

K: Explore the forum, or in the context of your proposition?

H: In the context of your proposition.

K: The forum was established a long time ago.

H: This is in response to what you told him. This is the way my government has responded to the proposal made by Dr. Kissinger last week.

K: Yeah. Have you got a backchannel to the Ambassador? I am just worried that a God-awful mess will occur if everybody doesn’t read from the same sheet.

H: I couldn’t agree more.

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K: Basically, we are not sure what the goddamn thing means. Best thing to do is send it to Rush with explanation of how it came about.4

H: Right. He linked it directly to your proposal but that funny business about, I guess so threw me off the track. Maybe my question threw him off.

K: What was the question?

H: Is this proposal in the context outlined by you to him last week.

K: That’s correct, that’s exactly right.

H: And his first answer was I guess so and then he went on and talked very quickly and saying this not by [would not be] a substantive set of conditions and his government thought this would be a useful way to explore this.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 998, Alexander M. Haig Chronological File, Haig Telcons, 1971 [2 of 2]. No classification marking. Haig was in Washington; Kissinger was in Palm Springs.
  2. Haig called Dobrynin at 10 p.m. to discuss the Soviet note on Berlin, which had been delivered to the White House that afternoon. Dobrynin was reluctant to discuss the issue with Haig over the telephone and asked when Kissinger was scheduled to return. Haig replied that Kissinger would be back in Washington on Saturday, May 8. “By that time,” Dobrynin interjected, “we will have more clear picture, this is a major message.” (Ibid.) The text of the Soviet note is as follows: “The Soviet side is ready to conduct in Bonn confidential meetings of the USSR, US and FRG representatives for exchanging opinion on the West Berlin question in parallel with the continuation of the official negotiations of the Four Power Ambassadors.” (Ibid., Box 491, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 6 [part 2])
  3. See Document 192.
  4. In a special channel message to Rush on May 3—presumably drafted by Haig that evening—Kissinger forwarded the text of the Soviet note and provided some additional background on his talks with Dobrynin on Berlin. “I leave to you and Bahr,” Kissinger added, “the judgment on whether we should provide them with any additional material at this time.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 59, Country Files, Europe, Ambassador Rush, Berlin, Vol. 1 [1 of 2]) Rush replied on May 5 that Bahr would seek confirmation from Falin that the “neutral formulations” in the German draft were acceptable. “If this is confirmed,” Rush commented, “it would be a major breakthrough, for in essence it would mean that the Russians had taken a substantial step away from their position that the GDR, not the Russians, should be the primary contracting party on questions involving access and inner-city movement.” (Ibid.) The two messages are printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XL, Germany and Berlin, 1969–1972, Documents 231 and 234.