229. Memorandum of Conversation1

    • Henry A. Kissinger
    • Anatoliy F. Dobrynin

The meeting was held at my initiative. Its purpose was to inform Dobrynin of some unilateral relaxations of trade restrictions. It was made necessary because I learned that we had already made the decision on authorizing the sale of the British computer.2 I at least wanted to get some political credit.

I told Dobrynin that the President had decided to authorize the sale of the Gleason Gear contract3 and also the sale of the British computer. I further told him that we would authorize the sale of some machine tools. Dobrynin said he was very glad about the computer which would have great symbolic significance, and also the machine tools would come in very handy.

Dobrynin then asked whether there was some possibility of a favorable decision on the Komarov request because of the Soviet need [Page 680] to allocate some resources and to start their planning process. He asked whether it was possible to have an answer by the end of June. I told him that was unlikely, but that I could give him some preliminary indication by the middle of July of where we were heading. He said that these were very positive indications and that they might lead to bigger things.

Dobrynin then turned to Berlin. He said he had tested Hillenbrand and realized that Hillenbrand didn’t know anything about our channel.4 I told him that it was really not very helpful to play these games—that he could trust me on giving him the correct information.

Dobrynin then raised the question of whether at some point a Foreign Ministers meeting might not be helpful. I said that I thought a Foreign Ministers meeting, given the variety of channels, would be highly ineffective at this moment. If there was to be an agreement, it would be through the Falin/Bahr/Rush channel, and we should give that an opportunity to work. Dobrynin said he thought matters were going along rather well.

Dobrynin then turned the conversation to the issue of Chinese representation. He said he did not understand why we did not accept the dual representation formula, since this was a good way out. He said they were not particularly eager to have China in the United Nations, especially since China would give them even more trouble than it would give us. On the other hand, he said it was better to have China in the United Nations, where it could learn first-hand some of the complications of international life, than have it in isolation taking abstract attitudes. I asked whether the Soviet Union might be switching to a two-China solution. He said, “No, that would be a big shift in our position, but we think it would be a good policy for you to take.”

Dobrynin then raised the issue of Vietnam. He asked why we did not give a deadline. I said in the past, the North Vietnamese skill had been to offer to talk in return for our making a substantive concession. He said that in this instance, this did not seem to him to be the case. He was certain that the North Vietnamese would release prisoners if we gave a deadline. I asked him how he knew. He said he had read the record of the Le Duan conversation in Moscow,5 and that was his definite impression. However, if I were interested, he would check [Page 681] and let me know. I told him if there were any interest, I would let him know.

We then discussed the formalities of the exchange of letters. He said he expected Kosygin’s letter within a few days and he would then call me to complete the exchange.6

  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. Kissinger forwarded this memorandum and another summarizing its “main points” to the President on May 28. The meeting was held in the Map Room at the White House. According to Kissinger’s Record of Schedule, the meeting lasted from 5:45 to 6:30 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76)
  2. On May 12, Nixon informed Heath by letter that an arrangement “should be possible” allowing the sale of two British computers to the Soviet Physics Laboratory at Serpukhov. The letter is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume IV, Foreign Assistance, International Development, Trade Policies, 1969–1972, Document 373. After further discussion of the details, the United States formally lifted COCOM restrictions on the transaction on June 25.
  3. See Document 230.
  4. No record of this conversation between Dobrynin and Hillenbrand has been found.
  5. Le Duan met with Brezhnev and other Soviet officials in Moscow on May 9 to discuss developments in the international situation and bilateral relations since the Soviet Party Congress. For the English text of the joint communiqué, published by Pravda on May 10 and Izvestia on May 11, see Current Digest of the Soviet Press, Vol. XXIII, No. 19 (June 8, 1971), p. 32.
  6. Dobrynin called Kissinger at 12:50 p.m. on May 25 and reported: “I received a letter signed by Chairman Kosygin. Anytime you wish, I could come today or tomorrow.” Due to the President’s absence, Kissinger replied that the formal exchange of letters would have to wait; he promised to call Dobrynin the next day to arrange a meeting. The two men agreed, however, that the letters should be dated May 20. As Dobrynin explained: “That’s the day of the announcement—for history.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 10, Chronological File)