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

[Omitted here is a brief exchange on the President’s schedule.]

Nixon: [Do] you see Dobrynin today?

Kissinger: Tomorrow night. But I’ll change it if you prefer.

Nixon: No, no, that’s fine, Henry.

Kissinger: I’m seeing him for dinner tomorrow night.

Nixon: [unclear] just lay down my ultimatum in front of them. Okay?

Kissinger: Yeah. And to review where we stand, and to put out a few carrots—not for the summit. But we really have, assuming they don’t give us the summit, and we do the, really, other thing, we need a big ploy. We need to have some carrots out there so that—

Nixon: For them?

Kissinger: —for them—

Nixon: It’s a crap shoot.

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Kissinger: —so that they don’t kick over the traces.

Nixon: [sighs] No way [unclear]—

Kissinger: [It’s a] dangerous game. On the whole, it’d be a hell of a lot better if we got—they just have no leg to stand on. If they give us a summit in Moscow, how can they object to our going to Peking? It will infuriate them, but the other one will just shock them to—and we just may have a year of absolute unshirted hell from them in the Middle East—

Nixon: That’s the problem.

Kissinger: —and elsewhere.

Nixon: On the other hand, let’s look at what you’re looking at though. You’re looking at the possibility that you’re not going to get any word on the summit. That’s why I just say to you: [after] tomorrow, the train—there’s going to be nothing you can do about the summit.

Kissinger: Well, the one advantage of our meeting on Thursday morning,2 Mr. President, is that I’ll have had the talk with him on Wednesday night. I don’t think he’ll have had an answer by Wednesday night because their Politburo meets on Thursdays. So he’ll probably get his answer, if he gets it, on Friday.

Nixon: We ought to—you think we ought to, we really ought to go for the summit?

Kissinger: I think, Mr. President, in their brutal, cheap, third-rate way, they’re a miserable bunch of bastards. I mean, if you look at—

Nixon: It’s terrible.

Kissinger: —the way the Chinese have done business with us, and the way they do business. You just don’t treat the President of the United States this way. Here is Gromyko sitting in here, inviting you to Moscow, and now they’ve been stringing it along, maneuvering, dancing around. And basically they’ve always been forthcoming when we scared them most.

Nixon: Hm-hmm. That’s true. [unclear] the truth.

Kissinger: Absolutely.

Nixon: Boy, if they only knew what the hell was coming up, they’d be in here panting for that summit, wouldn’t they? Huh?

Kissinger: I’m sure.

[Omitted here is discussion of Kissinger’s secret trip to China and negotiations on Vietnam.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation 531–31. 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 and Haig in the Oval Office at 6:29 p.m. Haig left at 6:54, and Nixon and Kissinger continued to talk until 7; the transcript printed here covers this conversation. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. July 1.