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

[Omitted here is discussion of Kissinger’s schedule.]

Kissinger: He [Dobrynin], of course, was in no position to—

Nixon: I understand.

Kissinger: —give me an answer.2 He was extremely conciliatory and asked a lot about Berlin—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: He thinks we have Berlin on the way to the summit.

Nixon: Well, Henry

Kissinger: He—I told him we have made our last offer to the [North] Vietnamese. I mean, all these—Xuan Thuy gave an interview yesterday.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: And we’re getting in position, because yesterday, for the first time, he said that the political and military things didn’t have to be absolutely linked—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —which they always have sought. So now we’re on the same—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: But everything he’s saying publicly now is an answer to what we said to them.

Nixon: What did you say with the—

Kissinger: With respect to the summit?

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: With respect to the summit, I said that we have—

Nixon: Just laid it out.

Kissinger: Yeah. “We have been talking for more than 14 months. There’s no doubt about it: we’re making [our] final offer.” He said, “Would you be interested in coming by September or spring of next [Page 754] year? You have to recognize”—actually, I said, from the political, the President’s point of view, that we wanted it, but our strong preference was to have it be this year. And I said if they turned it down, it’d be a huge mistake, because the—we have the ball. He said Berlin’s linked to SALT. It’s the other way around.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: I still think the odds are three to one that they—

Nixon: Did you talk to him about the, you know, the Cubans?

Kissinger: Yeah. That they have actually—I talked to him about that two weeks ago.3 When the tender never went into Cienfuegos, I simply forgot to mention it. It ventured into Cuba, went to another port and it’s now on its way back. It never did any exercises—

Nixon: Don’t take any crap.

Kissinger: No crap. He said on SALT—very seriously, he said there would be an agreement by the end of the year. He said, “We regret it in one way that it was, that SALT had become the test case for our relations.” He said I might not believe that—the Foreign Ministry didn’t have a major input. Their military had a major role. And they don’t have—he said that he envied our system. He said, “It’s as if you had written directly to the Chiefs of Staff without any staff of your own—”

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Kissinger: “—and with the State Department, then had to make up your mind.” He said, “Brezhnev wishes he had a staff that he can call his own.” We have advantages.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: And he says that if it were anything in the Foreign Ministry’s bailiwick, he could almost guarantee success.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: But the military, he says, showed these briefings this year. It sounds plausible, because, God help them, they do it to us.

Nixon: Sure.

Kissinger: He said when he was there for the Party Congress, they showed the briefings and he said, “The Americans have this and who are you to contradict me?” But he said he thought there’d be an agreement by the end of the year on SALT. Brezhnev apparently is going to France in October.

Nixon: Yeah.

[Page 755]

Kissinger: But he [Dobrynin] was extremely, [laughter] absolutely—

Nixon: Yeah. He’s getting special treatment now.

Kissinger: We’re giving him special treatment.

Nixon: It was. Well, so he knows that this is the last offer on Vietnam. He knows that, as far as the, any summit meeting is concerned, we have to know by the 1st of July.

Kissinger: Right.

Nixon: And [unclear].

Kissinger: That’s right. I said, “I can’t guarantee you”—then he wanted to know, if for any reason it fell through for September, what would be a good month. Whether November would be possible—I said no.

Nixon: No.

Kissinger: Recognizing there has to be sufficient television coverage there in November in Moscow—

Nixon: And more after the New Year. They’ve got to do something more about, you know, whether or not we see them.

Kissinger: They have protected—the great temptation—what they—they’re playing a cute game now. They’re—if they can get us to settle Berlin for them—

Nixon: They wait for the election.

Kissinger: And then they go to France and they get vintage Pompidou. Well, but maybe then they’ll go all out.

Nixon: And wait for the election.

Kissinger: Their analysis now is that you’re sure of an economic crash landing. He said—well, he thought you were in trouble about three months before now.

Nixon: [unclear] Did you share it with him?

Kissinger: I don’t believe that they do prefer a Democrat to you.

Nixon: Oh? That’s what we and everybody else believes.

Kissinger: I’m not absolutely sure that they do prefer a Democrat.

Nixon: You said you don’t believe that they prefer a Democrat.

Kissinger: [unclear]

Nixon: [unclear] a hell of a lot more if you make that announcement Monday morning.4

Kissinger: Well, they’ll be practical. But when—

[Page 756]

Nixon: They better. If they turn us down, they’ll know they’re playing with Republicans. We’re not going to give them any crap.

Kissinger: When he said—when I told him about Vietnam, he said, well, suddenly the Chinese would have a little debt to settle.

Nixon: Is he all ready to settle?

Kissinger: Yeah. He said the Chinese always protested we are the worst people and he just doesn’t believe any political bargain is possible with them. And then he said that we’ll see.

Nixon: [laughter] Henry, these cooties, they’re up against some pretty clever people: the Chinese.

Kissinger: I told him about the trade restrictions. I was going to tell you yesterday, incidentally, I talked to Lovestone, and he’s bringing in Gleason, the head of the maritime union.5

Nixon: Gleason?

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: Play it hard: “We have to go along. We have to do this.” Just put it on the basis, that you want to say to them that bottoms—American bottoms—”We’re building all new ships among other things. What do you think? We’ll keep up but we just got to make this—”

Kissinger: No grain has ever gone in an American bottom. He doesn’t know that but—

Nixon: Sure. Sure.

Kissinger: —just as a way of keeping it out of—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: It hurts the farmer without helping the worker.

[Page 757]

Nixon: Yeah. That’s right. And also, look, [we] can’t argue at the summit. We want to stop.

Kissinger: Stop them?

Nixon: We can’t do a turn and so forth. But play it very hard with him, because we’re going to have to roll him.

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: We’re going to have to roll him. I think we—

Kissinger: I saw him yesterday.

Nixon: I swear, if we’re going to move in that direction, then—Hardin,6 I told him and Ford—he gave you a letter?

Kissinger: He gave me a talking.

Nixon: A talking?

Kissinger: But the enthusiasm—I saw Gerry Ford.7

Nixon: Good.

Kissinger: He said, well—he hesitated.

Nixon: They all seem to feel that this would mean a lot to the farmers.

Kissinger: That’s right.

[Omitted here is a brief exchange on Canada and Mexico.]

Kissinger: If we have the summit—if we have the two summits, then we can work this.

Nixon: Right. I understand that. If we have even one, as you know—I mean, some sort of election summit. If you have the summit ballgame: the Soviet [and] the Chinese. Good God, we have to hit them goddamn hard if we don’t get the summit.

Kissinger: We have given them every opportunity.

Nixon: Good God, yes.

Kissinger: What they’d like us to do now is to—

Nixon: Ho! Give them Berlin?

Kissinger: And—

Nixon: They cry—

Kissinger: —do the trade thing.

Nixon: [laughs] Yeah. Well, I’m not going to do that either.

Kissinger: Well, I—

[Page 758]

Nixon: Let me ask you what we can do on the—well, we’re holding something back, right?

Kissinger: Yes, we’ve given—we won’t give them any more now until we hear about the [summit].

Nixon: Right.

[Omitted here is discussion of Japan and Vietnam.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation 255–30. No classification marking. The editors transcribed the portions of the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon met Kissinger in the Executive Office Building on June 9 from 9:24 to 10:29 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. See Document 252.
  3. See Document 247.
  4. June 14.
  5. Kissinger called Jay Lovestone, Director of the AFL–CIO’s International Affairs Department, at 2:30 p.m. on June 4 to discuss the political implications of lifting the embargo on exporting grain to Communist countries. “We are trying to do some complicated things with the Chinese,” Kissinger explained. “It is not always clear you are supposed to support the stronger against the weaker. We are considering lifting the claims embargo on the shipment of wheat and in order to do that and have it mean anything, we would also have to lift the requirement that it go in American bottoms because otherwise it would not mean anything.” Lovestone suggested that Kissinger set aside “10 minutes” to talk to Teddy Gleason, President of the International Longshoremen’s Association. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 10, Chronological File) Kissinger met Gleason and Love-stone at the White House at 2:40 p.m. on June 9 and reported: “The reason for this move is to throw a bone to the Soviets. We are in a complicated ball game and are trying to keep them from going crazy. And we are doing this for impact on the Vietnamese situation.” “I have sat on exports to the Soviet Union in the face of screams from the business community for 2½ years,” Kissinger added. “We opened the faucet a little bit after the SALT announcement. We are dealing with this as a political problem, not a commercial problem.” (Ibid., RG 59, Entry 5027, Policy Planning Staff, Box 330, Director’s Files (Winston Lord), 1969–77, China Exchanges—July–Oct. 20, 1971)
  6. According to his Record of Schedule, Kissinger met Secretary of Agriculture Hardin and Secretary of Commerce Stans on June 8 from 4:40 to 5 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) No record of the conversation has been found.
  7. No record of Kissinger’s meeting with Ford has been found.