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

[Omitted here is discussion of the Nixon administration’s efforts to defeat the Mansfield Amendment.]

Kissinger: I had another session for an hour and a half with Dobrynin.2 All nitpicks on language.

Nixon: On what? Which part? The news release? Dobrynin knows that that’s—

Kissinger: Just to conform it as much as possible to his text, because he’s got the problem that any major changes now have to go to the government. But then I read him a memorandum—

Nixon: Did you get this, “this year” put in? Did he buy that?

Kissinger: Yes, but the way they say it—what they want to say is, “to concentrate this year on working out an agreement,” rather than, “to concentrate on working out an agreement this year.” I think the average reader—that’s so elusive a point.

Nixon: Yeah. Right.

Kissinger: I got the “this year.” The next thing is: he says he’ll try to get them to change that word. If not, he has accepted—I’ve dictated and I’ve got the record of the telephone conversation, so if they screw us—

Nixon: In which you dictated—

[Page 645]

Kissinger: In which I dictated—I said, “I’m reading to you a memorandum that I’m putting into the President’s files, which I will hand to you a copy for your information,” in which I said: “Dr. Kissinger has proposed to Ambassador Dobrynin that we add a sentence indicating that the two—that the agreement and the understanding would be achieved simultaneously. Ambassador Dobrynin replied that, on instructions of his government, he could state that such a sentence was unnecessary, because it was fully covered and implicit in the whole text of the paragraph and was also covered in the public statement.”

Nixon: The public statement is what—

Kissinger: I agree.

Nixon: —I think, is most important. Now, their agreeing to the public statement—

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: I consider that part of the agreement.

Kissinger: Of course.

Nixon: Yeah, it is.

Kissinger: Well, it’s a Soviet Government statement.

Nixon: Well, a Soviet Government statement—

Kissinger: I’ve now set it, if that’s still agreeable to you, for—

Nixon: You see, the ability of the Soviet—the fact that that is a Soviet Government statement answers my question, because that’s an interpretation of the other.

Kissinger: Oh, yeah.

Nixon: To hell with them. If they’re going to nitpick that, we’ll just—we’ll screw them.

Kissinger: Now, we have to be—we have to do this precisely.

Nixon: Exactly.

Kissinger: He wants—I gave, I said—

Nixon: Pick a time. That’s right.

Kissinger: —we’ll do it at noon on Thursday.3 Or will you prefer 11?

Nixon: Sure. Pick either.

Kissinger: Well, he’d slightly prefer noon, because—

Nixon: Noon’s fine.

Kissinger: —because they have their big evening news at 7—

Nixon: Fine.

Kissinger: —and they want to have it the lead item on their radio.

Nixon: Fine. Good. Noon is fine. Just let him have his own time, because we don’t give a damn. Just so it’s before 4 o’clock.

[Page 646]

Kissinger: Noon here, 7 o’clock Moscow. And it will be on the radio at 7 o’clock sharp in Moscow.

[Omitted here is discussion of how to brief Rogers and Smith on the SALT “breakthrough” and of Nixon and Kissinger’s respective schedules.]

Kissinger: If we get 50 percent of the things we’ve now got cooking—if we get Berlin and SALT this summer, or this year, we’ve literally—we can then go back and remind them of the linkage problem.

Nixon: Yeah. Oh, well, look, [with] this SALT announcement, it’d look like we damn near got the SALT challenge. [unclear]

Kissinger: Well, now we do.

Nixon: Huh? It will read that way to most people.

Kissinger: And the beauty is that we got five weeks where no one can contradict it, because they will now recess and not reassemble until July 3d.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: And then, if we’ve got the summit coming up—well, we got to get the Chinese thing working.

Nixon: Yeah. Right. You got to hear from them.

[Omitted here is discussion of Vietnam and the Mansfield Amendment.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation 498–18. No classification marking. The editors transcribed the portion 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 6:05 to 6:28 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. No record of this meeting has been found. According to his Record of Schedule, Kissinger attended the President’s meeting on NATO forces from 4:40 to 6:13 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon, accompanied by Haig—not Kissinger—chaired the meeting, which was held in the Cabinet Room, from 4:31 to 6:03 p.m. Kissinger’s name, however, was included on an attached list of attendees. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) Although no direct evidence has been found, Kissinger may have left the meeting, or skipped it altogether, to meet with Dobrynin. During a telephone conversation with Nixon on May 17, Kissinger mentioned that he “got through talking to him [Dobrynin] at 6:00 on Thursday,” May 13. See Document 221. According to handwritten notations, a draft American letter was “delivered to Amb D” at 4:30; the text was “changed by K” at 4:45; and the revised text was “delivered to Amb D” at 5; a draft press release was also “delivered to Amb D” at 5. (All in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 491, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 6 [part 2])
  3. May 20.