211. Memorandum of Conversation1

    • Ambassador Dobrynin
    • Henry A. Kissinger

The meeting was at Dobrynin’s request. Dobrynin opened the meeting by making a general observation. He said that the negotiations on SALT with me had been the most difficult in which he had engaged in Washington. They had produced both hope and irritation in Moscow—hope because there was some desire for progress, but irritation because it was the first time in his experience that the whole government was actually involved in drafting documents. This was partly due to the fact that more than one department was involved. [Page 632] The result was that he hoped very much that the texts he was going to give me would be the final texts and that I would not be difficult about them now. I said, of course, I would have to see the texts.2

Dobrynin handed me the texts and we first discussed the paragraph on ABM’s in the letter—they had dropped the NCA deployment stipulation to which we had objected. I then asked about the problem of simultaneity in concluding the agreements. Dobrynin said that he had been instructed by his government to say that the issue was covered in the body of the paragraph, and that his government saw no need for it. And, in any case, the announcement took care of it. I said, in that case, why not just change the word “discussed” to “elaborated” or “worked on.” Dobrynin said he could assure me that the text was strong and clear and left no question about the intent.

Dobrynin then handed me the Russian text of the letter and suggested I try a translation of it because it would leave no question about its meaning. He said, of course, he would go back to Moscow if I insisted and they would probably agree, but it would take another two weeks and he wondered whether the irritation was worth the benefit. I said that I would take the two texts (letter and announcement), get them translated into an English that was more acceptable than his and see where we stood.

We then discussed the issue of whether there should be two separate letters or a single one. He said that, in Moscow, the strong preference was for a single document, though I could have the introductory two paragraphs from the President’s letter3 if I wanted to, which then the Soviet Union would not repeat, in order to have some distinction between the two letters. I told him that I would have to check that with the President—that we would have preferred to have two separate exchanges. Dobrynin said, frankly, this would raise the issue of who had taken the initiative and the Soviet Government would like to have it a joint effort. Dobrynin also said that it was quite important that the existence of the letters not be divulged, and that strict security be kept on our discussions except for the general fact that confidential discussions had been taking place.

We then discussed Berlin. I told Dobrynin that Rush was under the impression that matters were progressing satisfactorily and asked [Page 633] him what his reports were. Dobrynin said that his impression was that this was the case and that he, therefore, was hoping that we would make some progress.

I told Dobrynin I would call him later to let him know the President’s reaction.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 491, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 6 [part 2]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. David Young and Winston Lord prepared the memorandum of conversation from Kissinger’s “somewhat cryptic” dictated notes; they also drafted a memorandum to the President summarizing the “highlights” of the meetings between Kissinger and Dobrynin on May 12 and 13. Kissinger, however, decided on May 20 not to forward the memorandum to the President. (Memorandum from Young to Kissinger, May 18; ibid.) The meeting was held in the Map Room at the White House. According to Kissinger’s Record of Schedule, the meeting began at 4:35 and lasted until 6:10 pm. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76)
  2. Attached but not printed is a draft letter from Nixon to Kosygin. Dobrynin also gave Kissinger three other documents: a draft Soviet letter, a draft public statement, and a draft oral note. The Russian originals and English translations are in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 491, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 6 [part 2].
  3. Reference is to the letter that Kissinger gave to Dobrynin at their April 26 meeting; see Document 192.
  4. During a telephone conversation at 6:14 p.m., Nixon and Kissinger discussed their backchannel diplomacy: “P: Have you finished your meeting? K: Yes, I just got out. They have, in effect, accepted everything. P: You think so? K: I know so.” “K: In the meantime, they are thinking of making an announcement next Thursday. We got practically everything we asked for. P: Conciliatory? K: Oh yes. I really shook him yesterday. P: Good.” (Ibid., Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 10, Chronological File)