214. Memorandum of Conversation1

    • Ambassador Dobrynin
    • Henry A. Kissinger

The meeting was at my request to give him the President’s answer. I told him that the President found acceptable the idea of a joint letter and that the announcement was, in general, acceptable also, but I wondered still whether we could not replace the word “discussed” with the word “elaborated” or “worked on.” Dobrynin said that he had no authority to make such a change and that, if I insisted on it, he would have to go back to Moscow. Then the question was whether Gromyko felt able to do it or whether Gromyko would have to go back to the Politburo. This was really the issue. If it went back to the Politburo, it would have to be put on the agenda of the government and that would take at least a week or two. Dobrynin continued that, in that case, I would get very irritated again, and he thought the Soviet Government would get very irritated, too. He wondered whether I could not just hand him an oral statement that left no doubt that he had explained to me that in the view of the Soviet Government there was no question about simultaneity of coming to a conclusion. I suggested a rough text and later confirmed it on the telephone (Tab D).2

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We then went over my English text and the Russian version and spent about 45 minutes trying to determine whether the translations were adequate.3

Dobrynin then turned to other issues. He said that he hoped this would mark the beginning of a better phase in our relationship. I said that once this was concluded, they would see some unilateral steps on our part for which we did not ask reciprocity but that showed our good faith.

Dobrynin replied that this would certainly be helpful, and he gave me an example of matters that caused irritation. He said that it would not be understood in Moscow why I had seen Arbatov4 while Peterson had refused to see the Deputy Minister of Trade Komarov. I said I frankly didn’t know about that, and I would look into it. Dobrynin went into a long explanation to say that it really didn’t make any difference to the Soviet Union, but their basic decisions about the placement of foreign orders had to be made within the next six months because they were at the beginning of their five-year plan, and they now had the funds available to spend abroad. I told Dobrynin that I would look into the matter.

After finding out that Peterson was seeing Komarov in New York, I called Dobrynin back later in the day to tell him that I had arranged it, which was not strictly true but gave us an opportunity to claim some credit.5

  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 10:08 and lasted until 11:45 am. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76)
  2. Dobrynin called Kissinger at 3:55 p.m. A transcript of the conversation is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 27, Dobrynin File. Tab D is attached but not printed.
  3. During a telephone call with Dobrynin at 1:28 p.m., Kissinger reported that he had revised the English text of two documents: the draft letter from Nixon to Kosygin and the draft public statement. According to a transcript, the conversation included the following exchange: “K: I am sending you what I think is the text we agreed on. You look it over and call back. The President is still somewhat restless about that one thing. D: You mean on the public communication? K: No, the public is agreed to. We would like to add the word ‘this year.’ D: That’s all right. K: Also I might as well send you the text on the public announcement. I am still trying to figure out some way—are you committed to the sequences of the sentences? D: It’s the identical text. K: Could we move a sentence to the end? I will send you the text and then I will discuss with you a suggestion.” (Ibid., Box 10, Chronological File)
  4. See Document 207.
  5. No record has been found that Kissinger called Dobrynin that evening. Haig, however, called the Soviet Ambassador at 8:35 p.m. A transcript of the conversation records the following exchange: “H: Henry asked me to tell you that regarding the matter you discussed with him about the Trade Mission, Mr. Peterson is meeting with the group on Monday in New York. D: On Monday in New York. H: He is making a special trip to go up and Henry hopes you will let your people know this is a reflection of the White House’s attitude. D: Yes, thank you very much.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 998, Alexander M. Haig Chronological Files, Haig Telcons, 1971 [2 of 2]) See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume IV, Foreign Assistance, International Development, Trade Policies, 1969–1972, Document 332.