21. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1

    • Secretary Rogers’ Exchange With Gromyko on Vietnam

The following summary of the exchange between Secretary Rogers and Foreign Minister Gromyko on Vietnam underlines the need for you to take a direct and tough line with Gromyko in your meeting.

Gromyko’s Statements:

  • Gromyko did not seem anxious to talk about Vietnam. When the Secretary first raised the subject, Gromyko said he had nothing to add to the DRV/PRG position. He urged us to present new proposals in Paris, where we were in direct contact. Halfway through the conversation he stated that he had exhausted what he was going to say.
  • —Once he warmed to his subject, however, Gromyko was very forceful. He pushed particularly hard on coalition government. He first asked if we were holding coalition government in reserve, and he explained that if we wanted Soviet help he had to have room to be helpful. He then asked if we ruled out coalition government. When the Secretary said we did not like this formulation, Gromyko said he would tell the PRG we “ruled out” a coalition government. Then, when the Secretary said that we did not rule out anything approved by the South Vietnamese and the PRG, Gromyko said he would tell the PRG that the U.S. was agreeable to a coalition.
  • —It seems clear that Gromyko did not want to get involved in a Vietnam discussion, since he already had enough serious topics to discuss with us. But he backed the Hanoi line quite hard once he got into the topic, trying to drive the Secretary into ambivalence or compromise.

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The Secretary’s Points:

  • —The Secretary emphasized our readiness to negotiate and our readiness to accept any political arrangement worked out among the South Vietnamese.
  • —The Secretary began by citing your five points2 and saying that Vietnamization would continue if Hanoi did not negotiate. He said Hanoi could get a settlement proportionate to Viet Cong strength.
  • —The Secretary said we supported selection of the South Vietnamese government by the South Vietnamese people, and that the only way we were familiar with was elections. If there is some other way, it is up to the South Vietnamese.
  • —When Gromyko asked if we ruled out coalition government, the Secretary asked him what he meant by this. Did they mean something like the German coalition? He said Hanoi just wanted us to get rid of the present government. He also said that we would not use the words “coalition government,” but that a solution worked out by the PRG and Saigon would be acceptable. He stressed that we did not accept the term itself, but would accept a solution worked out among the South Vietnamese.
  • —When Gromyko then said he would tell the PRG that we might agree to a coalition, the Secretary said that he could inform the PRG that the U.S. would accept any solution they could work out with the South Vietnamese government.


I think that Secretary Rogers did well in leaving open the two ways to a political solution, by direct negotiations between Saigon and the PRG or alternatively, by elections. There is, however, the danger that the Secretary’s purposely vague explanations might be misunderstood as opening the way for ultimately accepting Hanoi’s views.

I therefore think that it is absolutely imperative that you lay out, in the clearest possible terms, our position on a coalition government and making no further concessions. Gromyko can probably be counted on to report your views accurately. For us to leave any doubt on these issues would only serve to prolong the war.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 490, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1970, Vol. 2. Secret; Sensitive; Nodis. Sent for information. In a note forwarding the memorandum to Nixon at 9:30 a.m. on October 22, Butterfield reported that this memorandum supplemented Kissinger’s October 20 memorandum, Document 19. Butterfield further stated: “You will want to read it before this morning’s meetings. One additional item: Henry Kissinger believes it essential that he meet with you alone for some 20 minutes prior to your 10:30 meeting with both him and Secretary Rogers.” According to his Daily Diary, Nixon met Kissinger alone in the Oval Office for over 20 minutes prior to Rogers’s arrival at 10:29. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files) Kissinger then called Dobrynin at 10:35 to review the agenda, including the President’s instructions on the summit. (Ibid., Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 7, Chronological File)
  2. See footnote 10, Document 2.