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

[Omitted here is discussion of scheduling a meeting to consider the upcoming secret trip to China and a possible Soviet reply on the summit before Kissinger’s departure in the evening on July 1.]

Kissinger: We could do it Thursday morning.2 If you’d like to do it tomorrow night, I’ll cancel Dobrynin. I’ll do whatever you say.

Nixon: What’s this about? You already saw him, I thought.

[Page 788]

Kissinger: Well, I thought I’d review the whole sit—I just saw him for 15 minutes yesterday about the technical side.3

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: I thought I could review this whole situation with him tomorrow—

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: —and trigger a final response on the summit by next Tuesday.4 If we don’t get it by then, I’ll just go ahead on—and I thought I could do that best in a somewhat—

Nixon: If they really wanted it, they’d let you know already, don’t you think? Their summit thing.

Kissinger: No, I think they want it. Every indication we have is that they want it.

Nixon: Yet there seemed to be some reason though—

Kissinger: I mean, the fact that they told Charlie Bartlett.5 The fact that they haven’t—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —the fact that they haven’t published those papers.6

[Omitted here is discussion on arrangements for the meeting.]

Kissinger: Now I want you to know—

Nixon: Yeah?

Kissinger: —I have cancelled—I have sent out instructions that there are to be no backgrounders—

Nixon: I know.

Kissinger: —no meetings with the press.

Nixon: Sure.

Kissinger: Each of these ambassadors that you may run into may tell you—

Nixon: Oh, I understand. Sorry, I just want to—

Kissinger: —that that’s what they want for themselves.

Nixon: The play—I mean the play that we’re making—I’m not a damn bit concerned if we—if you were just taking a trip normally, I wouldn’t be concerned. But, boy, on this one, I just want to make that big play.

Kissinger: July 15th, Mr. President. It’s the big play.

[Page 789]

Nixon: Yeah. If we can make the new China on something.

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: My current thinking is still, if we don’t get the answer from Dobrynin—you’re going to tell him we’ve got to have answer by when?

Kissinger: Well, my thinking is we should be done by July 4th.

Nixon: And he’s got to inform Haig of that.

Kissinger: Yeah. You’re leaving here for the West Coast when?

Nixon: On the 6th. I’ll be here.

Kissinger: I’ll give him till the evening of July 5th.

Nixon: All right.

Kissinger: So that Haig can get it to me.

Nixon: That’s why [I] have him here. Well, can I just say we got to know by, you know, around the evening of July 5th? Good. Fair enough.

Kissinger: And—

Nixon: Then, in the meantime, if he doesn’t make a move, then we go.

Kissinger: Then we go this year. On the whole, Mr. President, I have to—my candid judgment is that the impact on Asia of immediately announcing this, announcing a summit, would really be a price we shouldn’t pay lightly, in terms of impression. I think it would help, if we can afford it, it would help your posture best, through ‘72, if we—you can be seen to have moved deliberately but decisively. We’ve been talking about a summit so long that we forget how it, big it will [be] even if we had to send a special emissary to Peking. But if we don’t get a Russian summit, we may be—

Nixon: We may have to, Henry.

Kissinger: If you feel you need it, nothing is more important—

Nixon: I understand. The impact on Asia, I know, is bad—I don’t want to complicate it—but we’re going to have to make some play [showing] that Nixon’s still in the arena.

Kissinger: I agree, Mr. President.

Nixon: That’s it.

Kissinger: And I’m just putting—

Nixon: I know the impact is going to be enormous.

Kissinger: The ideal: if we could get the Russian summit and if we could string the Chinese one into April—

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Kissinger: —with a Bruce visit before—and Bruce will play it so low-key that he won’t skim the cream off.

Nixon: In the meantime, though, you realize that others will go skim the cream off. They won’t wait that long.

[Page 790]

Kissinger: But they—

Nixon: I mean, I’m just thinking of what we got to think about, what is possible.

Kissinger: Yeah. But, you see, I think if we announce that we’ve had high-level conversations with—

Nixon: I should be the first; I should be the first to go after you do it this time. Other case—unless it’s Bruce. Right?

Kissinger: Well, you’ll have been the one that opened it.

Nixon: Yeah, I know—

Kissinger: You’ll have been the first one—

Nixon: —but that’s not the same thing. It isn’t the same thing. The first time an American politician goes there, that’s going to be it. Everything else will be encores.

Kissinger: Well—

Nixon: Maybe it’s a Presidential candidate, see? That’s what we’re up against. We’re up against the Kennedys, the Muskies, and the rest, panting to get over there—and knowing the Left, with all the rhetoric. And also, we got—we get into the election year and, you know, and the primaries, and so forth and so on—

Kissinger: Well, you—

Nixon: So I think you’ve got to weigh that too. I know—

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: —that everyone’s the other way but weigh this one briefly.

Kissinger: Well, first of all, we’ll have to see what they really have in mind.

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Kissinger: Secondly, if they’re very tough, and if it looks as if they’re going to play this into a humiliation, then it’s not in our interest to do it.

Nixon: Not at all. Oh, hell no. I know. I know.

Kissinger: But—

Nixon: That’s a different game.

Kissinger: But we got a message again from Pakistan today.7 They sent a navigator down, and they’re begin—going to start flying this weekend to handle it.

Nixon: Hmm.

Kissinger: Well, I will—well, we can—if we get a Russian summit, then we’re in good shape, as I understand it.

[Page 791]

Nixon: Well, I suppose. Yeah. Get a Russian summit for September, basically.

Kissinger: Right.

Nixon: That’s what we’re talking about. And then, we would play the Bruce thing up.

Kissinger: Then we’d play the Bruce thing. And we can still say that you’ve accepted a summit in principle.

Nixon: Yeah. “Ambassador Bruce will go.”

Kissinger: “To discuss the—”

Nixon: “The agenda.”

Kissinger: Well, and “to prepare the ground” and so forth. And we’ll have that phrase about peace in the Pacific and peace in Asia.

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Kissinger: And—

Nixon: Well, we’re in that curious, curious time. If we didn’t have an election coming up next year—if you have two years, it wouldn’t make any difference. But we’re in a curious time now when what we do is far—say is far more important than what we do. And we have to play to the galleries. It’s too bad. It’s the way the game is, Henry.

Kissinger: We just don’t want to get it completely unraveled.

Nixon: No. Oh, no.

Kissinger: That’s because playing the Russian—

Nixon: Very positive.

Kissinger: Playing the Russian and Chinese things simultaneously is—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —is going to be tricky as hell.

Nixon: And the Vietnamese too.

Kissinger: We need a strong announcement on July 15th to sock the Vietnamese between the eyes. That will really jolt—

Nixon: You mean about China?

Kissinger: Yeah. Whatever it is, it will jolt them [North Vietnamese].

Nixon: You won’t tell them, of course, when you see them at all then?

Kissinger: Oh, not a word.

Nixon: Not a word. All right. See you tomorrow at 9 o’clock. No, Thursday—

Kissinger: Thursday at 9 o’clock. Right?

Nixon: That’s good. You don’t think you’re going to appear anxious to Dobrynin though?

[Page 792]

Kissinger: Oh, no.

Nixon: I don’t.

Kissinger: I’m holding Bruce—I’m holding Rush,8 and I’m holding the trade thing. I’ve worked it out with Peterson9

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —so that we won’t agree to anything until after they answer on the summit.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation 531–27. 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 Oval Office from 4:21 to 4:31 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. July 1. During a telephone conversation at 4:16 p.m. on June 29, Nixon and Kissinger briefly discussed scheduling a meeting: “P: Henry, I have nothing to go over with you at this point. As you know, we want to have our talk. I have set time aside tomorrow or tomorrow night. K: I have made a tentative date with Dobrynin for 8:30 tomorrow night. But it is crucial that you and I talk. P: Where are you now? K: In my office. P: We can decide it now or do it on the phone. K: Why don’t I come over now? P: All right.” (Ibid., Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 10, Chronological File)
  3. See Document 265.
  4. July 6.
  5. Charles L. Bartlett, syndicated columnist.
  6. Reference is presumably to the Pentagon Papers.
  7. Not found.
  8. See Document 266.
  9. According to his Record of Schedule, Kissinger met with Peterson from 3:47 to 4:20 p.m., immediately before his meeting with the President. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76)