218. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) and Chalmers Roberts of the Washington Post 1

R: I have got a double problem—I have got to do something for Sunday2 on this Mansfield thing and on the flap it has created.3 Brezhnev has killed Mansfield at this point and you are all safe there.4

K: On deep background, we don’t have that hot line for nothing.

R: It seems to me that you didn’t get it on the hot line. I would have to see the traffic on that one. On this Brezhnev thing, he has introduced not just mutual balance force reduction but nukes, right?

K: Right.

R: Nuclear weapons in Western Europe and the problem of forward based systems based on SALT, you are prepared to take [tackle?] that issue in some form?

K: Right.

R: Is this an opening where they might lead us out of that deadlock?

K: I will have to say that what I am saying now is no better speculation than yours, at least that’s right.

R: This is something to explore. Have you got any general reflections on Mansfield with things as complicated by Brezhnev now, how does it look to you?

K: How does what look to me?

R: The whole smear between us and the Russians?

K: I was not surprised, what Brezhnev is doing is what you would have expected him to do after a Party Congress.

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R: Arbatov is going around telling people we have not been paying enough attention to what he said at the Party Congress.5

K: Sometimes I wonder about Arbatov.

R: At any rate, it will give this L[isbon Foreign] Ministers meeting6 something of a goose. How did we negotiate with the [omission in transcript] subcommittee of NATO and subcommittee of Warsaw?

K: Haven’t settled on it.

R: Has Gerard Smith seen the President yet?

K: He is seeing him Tuesday.

R: Is there any possibility of changing on the ABM position only do you think?

K: We are reviewing the whole SALT situation and the President doing next week and I don’t want to prejudge what he will do.

R: This Brezhnev thing—is there an additional reason not to go for ABMs only at this point?

K: [Not] Very likely to go for ABMs only in any circumstance.

R: Is there an NSC meeting on it next week?

K: No, next week we will just have a small group meeting and then there will be an NSC.

R: Is the actual negotiating going on on the part of SALT making progress?

K: Actually the negotiations are doing quite well.

R: When you say you are not surprised, that you expected the Brezhnev thing after the Party Congress, were you reading the Party Congress as pretty positive?

K: Well, I said on Air Force One and some of the newspapers picked it up—7

R: I know.

K: That I thought it would result as positive and constructive thing and I expected it to lead to some progress.

R: He hasn’t made a speech just on MBFR, he has introduced something else here.

K: Right.

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R: Do you think before Brezhnev that Mansfield had done you a lot of harm in Europe but now it might serve some useful purpose?

K: Had it passed in the Senate, he would have done us some harm but if it is stopped at this point, it will have been useful and we can go to the Europeans now and say we can’t continue to fight this each year. Chalmers, I really must run off.

R: All right, Henry.

K: Right, Chalmers.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 10, Chronological File. No classification marking.
  2. May 16.
  3. In his May 16 column, Roberts discussed the ramifications of Brezhnev’s speech and Mansfield’s amendment. “There is a possible tie here to SALT, as officials see it, since those talks are now deadlocked because of the American refusal to include such aircraft, either land-based or on carriers, in a SALT pact,” Roberts observed. “It was because of this deadlock that Moscow offered the ‘ABMs only’ proposal. Thus if negotiations can be arranged covering nuclear and conventional weapons, as well, as troops, as Brezhnev suggested, the SALT deadlock might be broken.” (Chalmers Roberts, “NATO: Old Order Changing; Spurns Compromise,” Washington Post, May 16, 1971, p. A16)
  4. See Document 217.
  5. See Document 207. In his May 15 column, Roberts reported not only Arbatov’s remarks but also Fulbright’s claim that “the Mansfield amendment had helped produce the Brezhnev proposal.” “But administration officials,” Roberts added, “said the Brezhnev statement was clearly a follow-up” to his Party Congress speech on March 30. (Chalmers Roberts, “U.S. Welcomes Moscow Move,” Washington Post, May 15, 1971, pp. A1, A12)
  6. The semi-annual meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers meeting was held in Lisbon June 1–6.
  7. See Document 175 and footnote 3, Document 169.