270. Conversation Among President Nixon, the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), and the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig)1

[Omitted here is discussion of Vietnam, including publication of the Pentagon Papers, and Kissinger’s secret trip to China.]

Nixon: Now, let me say, just a few other odds and ends as I read this thing.2 As I say, it is a brilliant job. You just tell your staff, get them [Page 796] together and tell them that I was enormously impressed; I’ve been reading the damn thing. Now, you’ve got to put in, more than you have here, a very real fear. Now, I want to say, “The President has been generous.” This general thing comes through as me being too soft and puts—it talks about [how] I’m a very reasonable man; I am not trying to do this; I am trying to have a position where we can have—

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: —less presence and more permanence, and so forth. That’s all nice and so forth and so on. But I want you to put in that this is the man who did Cambodia. This is the man who did Laos. This is the man who will be, who will look to our interests, and who will protect our interests without regard to political considerations.

[Omitted here is discussion of Kissinger’s trip, including instructions on how to handle Vietnam.]

Nixon: Now, I think without being obvious about it—I mean, without being, without saying in so many words, but you should put in a little more about the necessity for our moving toward the Soviet. In other words, “With regard to the Soviet, we have to realize”—I mean, “They [the Chinese, have to realize]”—”We are seeking détente with the Soviet. It is not directed against you. But we have—our interests clash in Europe. Our interests clash in the Mideast. Our interests clash in the Caribbean. We intend to protect our interests. But we are going to seek it. And our interests clash, of course, as we have competition on arms.”

[Omitted here is discussion of Kissinger’s trip, including instructions on how to handle Taiwan and Japan.]

Nixon: And, in the same vein, we got to make it—put in fear with regard to Soviet.3

Kissinger: Absolutely.

Nixon: We fear—we don’t know what they’ll do. We know, for example, that—one thing you didn’t have in there: we have noted that our intelligence shows that the Soviet has more divisions lined up against China than they have against Europe.

Kissinger: The one reason, Mr. President, I—

Nixon: You can’t put that in? [unclear], but why?

Kissinger: Well, they’re undoubtedly going to tape what I say, and I didn’t want them to play that to the Soviet Ambassador.

Nixon: Sure.

[Page 797]

Kissinger: But I’ve got some stuff in there—

Nixon: Well—

Kissinger: —about exchanging military information.

Nixon: Well, I’d just put it in, that there are reports in the press then. Put it that way. Not that we show what you want. Reports in the press indicate that the Soviet has—that it has this. We were aware of that. Just sort of a low-key way. And we are also aware of the fact that in the SALT negotiations the Soviet are against zero ABM because they are concerned about China. Put it in. I want to build up their fears against Chiang [Kai-shek]. I want to build up their fears against Japan. And I want to build up their fears of what will happen on Vietnam. Those things are going to move them a hell of a lot more than all of the gobbledygook about all—

Kissinger: Oh, no question.

Nixon: —about, you know, our being civilized—which, also, is important.

Kissinger: Well, that’s just—

Nixon: But, Henry, it’s excellent.

Kissinger: Yes.

Nixon: And it’s excellent for the historical record. And it might have some effect. I don’t know. But I’m just telling you that I—my own inclination is to feel that you got to get down pretty crisply to the nut-cutting. And, but—in other words, I like all that, but I would thin it down a bit so that you can get to the stuff that really counts very soon.

[Omitted here is discussion of Kissinger’s trip to China, including instructions on how to handle such issues as an agreement on accidental nuclear war.]

Kissinger: Well, I think, Mr. President, we have now positioned the Russians. I haven’t—didn’t have a chance to tell you.

Nixon: You had Dobrynin in. Did you tell him?

Kissinger: Yeah. From Dobrynin.4 I told him. He said—he said this: he thinks, his own guess is that the answer is, “Yes.” But, he says, Brezhnev was in Berlin until the 20th, and now he is afraid that the session they had scheduled today of the Politburo is going to be cancelled because of the cosmonauts.5 So he—

[Page 798]

Nixon: Well, you should tell him, “Look, we’ve got to have an answer—”

Kissinger: I said, “I’ve got to have an answer.”

Nixon: Or if he doesn’t have it, they’ll be embarrassed [by] what we do.

Kissinger: I said, “We’ve got to have an answer by the close of business on the 6th. And, if it comes in any later than that, I just want you to know, the President has already extended it. He may—he’s got to make other plans.” And so in a way now—

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Kissinger: —if they can’t—if they—the best way for us to get off the hook with them is to say, “Anatol, I’ve told you and told you. I told you June 10th we had to know it on June 30th—”

Nixon: Right. Right. Right. I know, you said that. You set it up now that we could go visit China, well, as far as the Russians are concerned.

Kissinger: If the Russians do not give us a summit, we could go in December or—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —late November, a summit to China—

Nixon: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Kissinger: Don’t you think, Al?

Haig: Yes, sir, I do.

Kissinger: And we can tell the Russians, and Anatol can go home and say, “You crazy-sons-of-bitches, you screwed it up.”

Nixon: Yeah. That’s right.

Kissinger: And—actually, technically, if we don’t get it by the 7th, it doesn’t make any difference what they decide.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: Al can’t get it to me fast enough.

Nixon: Yeah. The other point, of course, is this: if we don’t get it there [by] the 7th of—

Kissinger: On the other hand—

Nixon: You have to fear—you’ve got to figure that the Russians then, if we go to China, there is a chance that they’ll blow Berlin—no, they won’t blow Berlin—

Kissinger: Berlin they won’t blow, but—

Nixon: —we’ll blow that—but that they’ll blow SALT. And they’ll risk the summit.

Kissinger: The Russians—the risk we run with the Russians—

Nixon: On the other hand—on the other hand, this or this presents hellish problems for them.

[Page 799]

Kissinger: Well, if they blow SALT—they could blow SALT. They could—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: They could jack up the Middle East. And they could start—

Nixon: Definitely.

Kissinger: —raising hell in the Caribbean.

Nixon: That’s correct.

Kissinger: Now, of course, we can go hard right.

Nixon: They won’t do Berlin, because they want to get along with the Germans.

Kissinger: Yeah. That’s right. And, in fact, our major problem in Berlin now is we are coming up with—I know we’ll never get credit for it—but we are coming up with a really superb agreement on that—

Nixon: Yeah. I want to—

Kissinger: —which is actually an improvement—

Nixon: Can we still sink it?

Kissinger: Yeah, but, you know, they are, the Russians are making so many concessions now that it’s getting tough to—

Nixon: Yeah. Fine.

Kissinger: I’ve got Rush held until July 20th.6

Nixon: Yeah.

[Omitted here is discussion of Kissinger’s trip, including instructions on Taiwan.]7

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation 534–3. 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 and Haig in the Oval Office on July 1 from 9:54 to 10:26 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) Haig drafted a memorandum of the conversation; printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XVII, China, 1969–1972, Document 137. For his memoir account, see Kissinger, White House Years, pp. 734–736.
  2. Reference is to Kissinger’s briefing book for his secret trip to Beijing; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 850, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Briefing Book for HAK’s July 1971 Trip, Polo I. For excerpts from the briefing book—including Nixon’s handwritten notation on the title page, a scope paper, and talking points on India and Pakistan—see Aijazzudin, ed., The White House and Pakistan, pp. 159–170. Kissinger later recalled: “I cannot tell how thoroughly Nixon reviewed this material; his usual procedure was to concentrate on the cover memorandum and ignore the backup papers.” (Kissinger, White House Years, p. 735)
  3. In his handwritten notation in the briefing book, Nixon expressed this point as follows: “Put in fear R.N. would turn hard on V. Nam. Play up our possible move toward Soviet.” “Put in more fears re Japan.”
  4. See footnote 2, Document 269.
  5. After 24 days in the Salyut 1 space station, the Soyuz 11 spacecraft was destroyed on June 29 upon reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, killing its crew of three cosmonauts. Nixon called Dobrynin the next morning to express his personal condolences. A tape recording of the conversation is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation 6–40.
  6. See Document 266.
  7. Kissinger left Washington at 8 p.m. on July 1 for a 10–day tour of Asia. “I was to visit Saigon, Bangkok, and New Delhi,” he later recalled, “before landing in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan and springboard to my real destination,” Beijing. (Kissinger, White House Years, p. 736)