272. Conversation Between President Nixon and the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig)1

[Omitted here is discussion of the Middle East.]

Haig: Henry came back. He said that—he asked me to get your guidance.2 If we get an affirmative Soviet response on the summit, and if the Chinese insist on an early summit in December, we’ll have these two, and he wanted to know if you would authorize him to—

Nixon: Oh, sure. Oh, absolutely.

Haig: All right.

Nixon: Don’t hold it. I’ll see the Soviet then have a return Soviet visit next year.3 We got to get everything out of the way before July. Nothing can be done after that for this summit, see? You see, anything to do [with] foreign policy, because after the damn guy—

Haig: Exactly.

Nixon: —the other guy is nominated, the left-wing around here will try to say they got to go along. They never said that when I was nominated, I must say. They didn’t say the President ought to participate [et cetera].

Haig: No.

Nixon: Did the President allow me to participate in the bombing halt thing? No. Johnson just told me on the phone what he was going to do.4 But you know what they would do, these bastards.

Haig: You betcha.

Nixon: If they had a Teddy Kennedy or a Muskie, they’d say, “Well, he must go in the interest of bipartisanship. He must go.” You know what I mean?

[Page 805]

Haig: Exactly.

Nixon: We’re not going to have one damn thing after July. Don’t you agree?

Haig: Yes, sir. I do.

Nixon: Nothing must be after July. After that, we just got to brazen [it] through.

Haig: Yeah, he’ll have it by then.

[Omitted here is discussion of the peace talks on Vietnam in Paris.]

Nixon: I was thinking a little about this whole business of Henry will clear it up, whether he really oughtn’t to say to them—I just don’t know what the hell Chinese are going to say about what they want to do. I think he’s got to tell them, of course, that we’re—he’s got to be very forthcoming with regard to the fact that we’re meeting the Soviet.

Haig: That’s correct.

Nixon: I mean, you can’t just slap them, or they’ll say, “To hell with you,” and they’ll get tough.

Haig: Right.

Nixon: You got to be—but this thing with the Soviet, that son-ofa-bitch Dobrynin comes in, which I won’t—Henry thinks he will. I don’t. Well, I don’t know. I mean, I won’t guess on that.

Haig: I rather think he will. Your—

Nixon: Do you really think he’s going to come around? I want to know.

Haig: Yes, sir. Everything they’ve done the last six months has been very much in the direction of—

Nixon: Yeah, I know. But whether they want to have a summit, they may be thinking that they can knock me over. I think they’re petrified of the thought of my sitting in this place for another four years.

Haig: Oh, ho! No question about it.

Nixon: Yet, on the other hand, if they don’t get along with me now, they figure it’ll be worse.

Haig: Could be. The one thing is that we’ve got two alternatives, and maybe we can get both of them, which would be the ideal. But either one of them is a very significant achievement. Very significant.

Nixon: Isn’t the Chinese—? Now, in terms of what we’d accomplish, in the short term, the Soviet thing is infinitely more important. In other words, we got SALT, we got Berlin, and we got the Mideast that we can talk about.

Haig: Yeah.

Nixon: In terms of, on the other hand, what we can bring back from the Chinese thing is the biggest—

Haig: Much, much more imaginative, and much more than that.

[Page 806]

Nixon: Well, [unclear] people will be incredulous and that indicates—

Haig: That’s right, sir.

Nixon: —that anything is possible.

Haig: That’s right. But in the realities of the dangers of our position, the Soviet is—

Nixon: The Chinese is a long way off.

Haig: Long way.

Nixon: Although they should be our natural allies, interestingly enough, shouldn’t they?

Haig: They should.

Nixon: Against the Soviets, they need us. And also they need us against the Japanese.

Haig: Exactly.

Nixon: You know, we aren’t [but] they must be petrified of the Japanese, because the Japanese did it to them once before. And here sit the Japanese over there, needing breathing space. Who’s going to keep the Japanese restrained? Who, but America?

Haig: Who has all the economic power—

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Haig: This is very bad.

Nixon: God, they need us. If you really—if they really think straight, they need us desperately.

Haig: Yes, and very much back in the traditional power configuration there, where the United States has got to give them some hope, some kind of threat on Japan’s flank, and some kind of a threat on Russia’s. Well, I think it’s a natural alignment, but [there’s] no sense kidding ourselves about the ideological problem. Those bastards are tough.

Nixon: Oh, yeah.5

[Omitted here is discussion of foreign policy and domestic politics.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation 536–14. 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 Haig in the Oval Office on July 3 from 10:01 to 10:15 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. In message Tosit 2, July 2, Kissinger asked Haig to seek the President’s instructions on “whether I may accept second summit for December even if Soviets come through should my hosts insist.” (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 432, Backchannel Files, Very Sensitive Trip Cables)
  3. In message Sitto 23, July 3, Haig relayed the President’s instructions to Kissinger: “you should accept second event for December even if other party comes through assuming, of course, your host insists.” (Ibid.)
  4. During the 1968 election campaign, President Johnson regularly briefed the candidates—including Nixon, the Republican nominee—on his efforts to negotiate a settlement in Vietnam and arrange a summit in the Soviet Union.
  5. Nixon left the White House that evening to spend the July 4 holiday at Camp David. (President’s Daily Diary; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files) Before his return mid-afternoon on July 5, the President called Haig at 2:15 p.m. to ask about the status of the Soviet reply on the summit: “P: What was the deadline? H: The night of the 6th. P: You will be going out with us. H: Yes sir, but I have my Colonel here and he will call us on the secure phone if it is classified. There will be nothing to worry about the phone—it is a secure phone. P: All right.” (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 998, Alexander M. Haig Chronological Files, Haig Telcons, 1971 [2 of 2])