288. Memorandum of Conversation1

    • Henry A. Kissinger
    • Ambassador Dobrynin

The meeting took place at my initiative2 so that I could get a feeling for Dobrynin’s attitude following the announcement of the Peking Summit. Dobrynin was at his oily best and, for the first time in my experience with him, totally insecure.

I opened the conversation by telling Dobrynin that we might have a general review first. He thought it was a capital idea. Indeed, he said [Page 843] he had been so interested in seeing me that he had immediately left New York, where he had seen his wife off for a vacation in the Soviet Union, despite his intention to spend a day there. I said I would have been glad to reschedule the lunch. He said, “No, no, no. This is important.” I then turned to recent events.

U.S.-Soviet Summit

I said that I wanted to be frank with him. Perhaps in the first year of our Administration we had not always been forthcoming in improving relations with the Soviet Union, but ever since April 1970 we believe we have made an unending series of overtures. The Soviet response has been grudging and petty, especially on the Summit Meeting. They simply did not understand the President. The President thought in broad philosophical terms and had sincerely believed that his meeting with the Soviet leaders might open new vistas for cooperation around the world; instead, he found himself confronted with one evasion after another. As Dobrynin very well knew, I had urged him to have an answer by July 1st and even then it had taken till July 5th,3 and he had then been evasive again, saying that the meeting could take place in November and December. This was in effect a rejection, because I had already told him that November and December were highly inconvenient. Indeed, I did not know whether Dobrynin was even saying we should fix a date.

Dobrynin in reply was almost beside himself with protestations of goodwill. On the contrary, he said, he could tell me strictly off the record that a meeting between his leaders and the President was very much on their minds. What in fact had happened was that September did not seem possible, and now November was the earliest possible date. He was certain the Soviet leaders would be willing to set another date for a Summit, but now they did not know whether our meeting with Peking made it impossible. Would we be willing to come to Moscow before going to Peking?

I replied that it did not seem to me proper to go to Moscow before having gone to Peking, that we should go in the order in which the announcements were made. He asked whether we would be prepared to announce a meeting before having been in Peking. I said that that was a distinct possibility but that I would have to check this with the President and let him know later in the day.

[I called Dobrynin at 7:00 that evening after checking with the President and told him that we would be prepared to announce a meeting [Page 844] in Moscow after having set the date of a meeting in Peking but before we had actually visited Peking.]4

Other Bilateral Issues

Dobrynin then reviewed the international situation. He said he thought that our relationship actually was going very well. He had every confidence that the Berlin talks were proceeding well5 and that SALT too was going according to program,6 so it was a pity if there were any misunderstanding in our relationship. Following my request at the meeting of June 30,7 Dobrynin handed me some specific suggestions on the port security program which I promised him to staff.8

I also told Dobrynin that we might be able to do the foundry part of the Kama River Project separately, to the extent of $175 million, if this were of interest in Moscow. In short, it was quite possible for us to have a useful relationship. Finally I told Dobrynin that we were prepared to proceed with the accidental war treaty with the Soviet Union separately in order to mark some progress on our relationship.

All of this was greeted by Dobrynin with the oiliest of reassurances.

My Trip to China

Dobrynin then said it would be extremely helpful to his people in Moscow if he could tell them that he had been briefed about the meeting in Peking. I said I would be glad to do so. I said we had talked essentially in general review of the situation, and of course Taiwan was very much on China’s mind.

[Page 845]

He asked me whether the Soviet Union had come up. I replied that realistically it was obvious that we could do nothing to help Communist China against the Soviet Union. In any event to us the Soviet Union was a world power, while we recognized that China was primarily significant for Asian settlements. Dobrynin asked whether Chou En-lai had indicated any worry about a Soviet attack. I said there were practically no references to the Soviet Union except an occasional vague allusion, while it seemed to me that the primary fear of Communist China was Japan.

Dobrynin brightened considerably and said that this was exactly his conviction of Chinese priorities. He asked what there really was to talk about between us and the Chinese? Were we interested in Chinese domination of Southeast Asia? He had always thought that the Soviet interests and ours were much more nearly complementary with respect to the defense of Southeast Asia. I said that I wasn’t certain that the Chinese had aggressive tendencies in Southeast Asia but that in any event we would not favor Chinese expansion beyond their borders.9

India and Pakistan

Dobrynin then asked me about India and Pakistan. I replied I had heard some reports that the Soviet Union might encourage military adventures by India.10 Dobrynin answered that the Soviet Union was giving them political support but was strongly trying to discourage military adventures. I said my impression was that a war between India and Pakistan could not be localized to East Pakistan. He said that of course the Pakistanis consider East Pakistan an integral part of their country, just as the Soviets consider the Ukraine or we consider Alaska. I said that seemed to be my impression, and moreover the war might not be confined to the subcontinent. Dobrynin said that that was their judgment and this is why they were trying to localize it.

The Two Summits

As the meeting broke up, Dobrynin asked me again how my trip was affected by their summit decision. I said that in all candor I had always intended to go to China but if they had accepted the September summit we would have stalled a Chinese summit until much later. But that was water over the dam now. Dobrynin responded, “I wish you had given me some advance warning; it might have affected [Page 846] our decision.” I said that that did not seem to me possible and that he understood that we could not jeopardize the secrecy of the enterprise.11

Dobrynin agreed, and said he would stay here the better part of the summer to work on our relationship. I invited him to come to the West Coast at some point and I would give him a tour of a movie studio.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 492, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 7 [part 2]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Lord and Rodman forwarded this memorandum and another summarizing its “highlights” for the President to Kissinger on July 24. Kissinger approved both, which were then submitted to Nixon on July 27; a note on the “highlights” memorandum indicates that the President saw it. The meeting was held in the Map Room at the White House. According to Kissinger’s Record of Schedule, the meeting lasted until 2:55. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) For their memoir accounts of the meeting, see Kissinger, White House Years, pp. 766–767, 835–836, and Dobrynin, In Confidence, pp. 227–228.
  2. See Document 284.
  3. See Document 273.
  4. Brackets are in the original. A transcript of the conversation is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 27, Dobrynin File.
  5. In a July 14 special channel message to Kissinger, Rush reported that he had “encountered difficulties” in employing delaying tactics to postpone any new meeting with Falin and Bahr until after July 20. “The Chancellor and Bahr pushed me very hard to conclude the talks with Falin this week,” Rush explained. “This, of course, I insisted was unrealistic and your trip was cited as an important reason for delay.” (Ibid., NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 59, Country Files, Europe, Ambassador Rush, Berlin, Vol. 2) Kissinger replied on July 19 (presumably before his meeting with Dobrynin that afternoon): “As you can gather Berlin has not been at the forefront of our attention. You can proceed with deliberate speed but leave a little margin as long as you can. We still do not have Moscow’s reaction to the Peking caper.” (Ibid.)
  6. The fifth SALT round began in Helsinki on July 8.
  7. See Document 269.
  8. Dobrynin gave Kissinger an informal note stating that the Soviet Union “would welcome the signing of a general intergovernmental maritime agreement with the U.S. or, to begin with, the solution of more specific matters which stand in the way of broader economic relations between our two countries.” The note specified a number of items to improve Soviet access to American ports. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 492, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 7 [part 2])
  9. In a July 20 letter, Haig briefed Walters on this meeting, including Kissinger’s assurances to Dobrynin about his talks in Beijing. Walters passed this information to Huang Chen during a meeting in Paris on July 21. Haig’s instructions and Walters’s report on the meeting are published in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–13, Documents on China, 1969–1972, Documents 10 and 11.
  10. See ibid., volume XI, South Asia Crisis, 1971, Document 98.
  11. Kissinger later suggested that Dobrynin must have been in “deep trouble in Moscow for not having foreseen our move” in Beijing. (Kissinger, White House Years, p. 836) Dobrynin, however, recalled: “I felt we had allowed ourselves to be outplayed by the Americans and the Chinese, although I certainly did not let Kissinger know that.” (Dobrynin, In Confidence, p. 227)