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

[Omitted here is discussion of the Pentagon Papers case.]

Nixon: I think that the whole business here with regard to the Soviet, on reflection, is the more that he—I’ve come closer to your view of it. First, it’s what I expected, because I just was, as I told Henry, I said, “Henry, what the hell do you think? What’s in it for them?” He says, “Well, we got Berlin.” He says, “I’ll tell them I’ll cut off this channel” and all that. But, anyway, he could get it.

[Page 820]

Haig: Yeah.

Nixon: There isn’t a Soviet [unclear]—you know what it’s like. Well, that’s why I’m for getting out of this Paris meeting.

Haig: Exactly.

Nixon: What’s in it for them, they get out anyway.

Haig: That’s exactly right.

Nixon: Do you feel he’s going to get out of this Paris meeting?

Haig: No, sir. I never have.

Nixon: Really?

Haig: No.

Nixon: Huh?

Haig: I had not. And I do not.

Nixon: No. I think he’s going to get a straight opinion. But the thing we’ve got to do with Henry on this is be very tough on him.

Haig: Exactly.

Nixon: “What’s done, Henry”—you know what I mean? He just can’t keep going over there and diddling around, because he gets too impressed by the, basically, the cosmetics. He really does. I mean, as much as he’s—as realist as he is, you know, it does impress him. Cosmetics usually impress him. Now, he’ll—

Haig: His background is a problem. He’s cut from that goddamn—

Nixon: That’s right.

Haig: —left-wing and he, even though he’s a hard-line, tough guy, he’s working for the [unclear] class.

Nixon: You see, he wouldn’t realize, for example, that when I write a letter to an astronaut, I’m not doing it for the goddamn Russians. Fuck them. I’m doing it because it would look awfully good here, right now. You see what I mean?

Haig: Yeah.

Nixon: People like to do that. But Henry’s just got to get him a little bit, got to be more—you know, he always has these long, goddamn tortuous meetings with Dobrynin, and it seems very interesting, very exciting, and all that sort of thing. Al, they’re suckering us along.

Haig: That’s right.

Nixon: —and I think you’ve got to be—now, it may be that their interests require a SALT agreement. Think so? Do they want a SALT agreement?

Haig: I think they want an improvement in relations because they think they can unravel the NATO alliance—

Nixon: Yeah.

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Haig: —and split Germany up.

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Haig: That’s what they’re after.

Nixon: They want a Berlin agreement? Right?

Haig: Yes, sir.

Nixon: Oh, we’ve got to screw that up. Now, that is, I mean, awfully clear to Rush. Is it?

Haig: Yes, sir.2 And it’s sufficiently complicated—

Nixon: Yeah. Sure.

Haig: —and still has a long enough way to go that we can do that. And this announcement, when it comes, will hit them right between the eyes. They’ll know goddamn well that they’re not fooling with people that are going to sit and get raped.

Nixon: Well, I just hope Henry gets in there.

Haig: Well, I think that—that’s what I’m concerned about. I think it will work fine. I—

Nixon: You haven’t heard from the Paks yet?

Haig: No. No.

Nixon: He said he thought there was another message here.

Haig: Well, I think he said that he had alerted his number two—

Nixon: Yeah.

Haig: —to convey additional messages because he felt there would be more.

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Haig: Because all they did was register their concern.

Nixon: Hm-hmm. Now, well, let me say this: if they—if it’s knocked down, if this one goes because of that, it was too tenuous to begin [with] anyway.

Haig: That’s right, sir.

Nixon: You see my point? If this—we better find out right now that if it ends because of some little pipsqueak story, they’re going to knock it down as too tenuous. Do you understand?

Haig: No, I think they want it, sir. They’ve really made a firm commitment.

Nixon: Well, he sort of thought that, Henry’s always felt, the Russians wanted it. You sort of felt so too, didn’t you?

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Haig: Well, I did. And I still think they do, but they want to suck us dry.

Nixon: I guess they think, they think they can get more out of us for it. They’re going to ass pick to pay a bigger price, which we have to consider.

Haig: No, that response was an effort to just suck us dry, not to turn it down.

Nixon: Yeah, that’s right—

Haig: They kept it open.

Nixon: “We hope our relations will improve. We’ve noted some positive things. What else are you going to do, boys?”

Haig: Exactly.

Nixon: Well, what we’re going to do is kick them right in the teeth.

Haig: Yeah.

Nixon: But the message to Henry is that no—I want him to be—and this is absolutely categorical—there is to be no intermediary. No Bruce trip.

Haig: I sent him that this morning, sir.3

Nixon: Don’t you agree?

Haig: Yes, sir.

Nixon: And you can see why, Al, that the Bruce trip is now irrelevant. I mean, why do it twice? And we will just announce that, as I already said, that I’m prepared to go. And that’s much more frank with them, and they—

Haig: Well, that’s one thing. You’re dealing with a more straightforward customer. They’re tougher. But I think the Chinese are more direct and honest. When they say something, they mean it. They’ve made a decision. Oh, I think that’s going to go. They never would have sent you the message, if they didn’t mean it. Now, they may ask a price that you may—might not be willing to pay.

Nixon: Christ, yeah.

Haig: That would be the complication on the Chinese. But the Soviets are just playing pussyfoot. They’re—

Nixon: Yeah.

[Omitted here is discussion of the military and diplomatic situation in Vietnam. During this part of the conversation, Nixon told Haig to advise Kissinger that in view of events on July 5—including the Soviet note on the summit and a North Vietnamese attack on Danang—his next meeting with Le Duc Tho in Paris “should be the last meeting.”]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation 538–13. 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 Haig in the Oval Office on July 6 from 11:26 to 11:45 a.m. The two men left the White House at 12:20 p.m., EDT, and, after a stop in Kansas City, Missouri for a briefing of Midwestern media representatives, arrived in San Clemente at 6:46 p.m., PDT. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. See Document 276.
  3. See footnote 6, Document 278.